Saturday October 13, 2012

PHIL DEMEERS

North Adams Transcript

FLORIDA, Mass. -- New wind turbine information still surfacing in the commonwealth and elsewhere has some residents concerned that their recently constructed, 340-foot neighbors could be noisy ones.

Residents and town officials were joined by representatives from Iberdrola Renewables at a Selectmen's meeting Wednesday night, where conversation about the Hoosac Wind Project, which has constructed 10 turbines on Bakke Mountain, was renewed.

Florida, Mass., meeting

Resident Michael Fairneny, of Moores Road, led the way, reflecting a request many in attendance shared. "All we're asking is that an independent, sound study be done," Fairneny said.

With turbines slated to begin spinning by year's end, Fairneny was joined by several others in wondering what effect their operation may have on residents.

Fairneny cited local and statewide examples of noise complaints from residents near industrial-size turbines, including the Berkshire Wind Project and developments in Plymouth and Falmouth. He asked that "someone approved by us do [the study] to help protect us as residents and taxpayers."

Neil Habig, of Iberdrola, said the company collected ambient sound data -- data collected under normal conditions -- that covered the entire area during the development process. However, data concerning noise created by a particular wind turbine development can't be gathered until it's operational, Habig said.


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Referring to the project's decade-long history, resident Stephanie Pare expressed frustration with the meeting. "We're going back to a debate that went on nine years ago, followed by eight years in court," Pare said. "We've done this and we've been here. The time to talk was nine years ago when they [permitted the project]."

Habig added that the positioning of the turbines was originally detailed to be of "prudent distance" from homes. At the meeting's close, Habig encouraged residents who, once the project is active, still have complaints to register them with Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). The DEP would then be obliged to investigate and could require Iberdrola to fund a detailed study.

DEP regulates noise and has authority to identify violations. The special permit the town granted Iberdrola states noise must not exceed 65 decibels. If DEP tightens it's still-evolving policy toward noise violations, Iberdrola will be obliged to comply with the new state regulations as well.

Paul Copleman, a spokesman for Iberdrola, added that the noise issue is frequently on the company's radar. "We look at the issue very closely and take it very seriously," Copleman said.

Hoosac Wind Project

Iberdrola recently tested a proprietary noise reduction system for its 37-turbine wind farm in Fairfield, N.Y., after nearby residents complained. The resulting study found that noise from the turbines was consistently over the acceptable level, according to National Wind Watch.

The Hoosac Wind Project comprises 10 turbines in Florida and nine in the adjacent town of Monroe. Iberdrola has leased the land for 35 years. The towns each stand to gain roughly $10 million through the combined revenues of lease payments and a payment in lieu of taxes contract agreed to by the developer.

DEP funded a January 2012 Wind Health Impact Study, conducted by an expert panel that found "little evidence" regarding wind turbine noise and adverse effects to human health.