The Ohio Power Siting Board (aka SayYestoBigWind Board) will have to clean up its rules for siting wind and there will certainly be a focus on the OPSB’s on again-off again adherence to the law. A filing by Greenwich Neighbors United concerns the failure of the OPSB to accord Huron County citizens the right to due process. The wind developer intends to modify the turbine models and has not filed an application that would trigger an evidentiary hearing. One of the three models being proposed is the G.E. 2.5MW – 120 turbine. In May, 2015, GE published a brief report noting that “The designers had to solve a number of challenges. The rotor of each turbine, for example, is as large as the giant London Eye Ferris wheel, so big that the wind whips the blade tips at different speeds when one is 650 feet high in the air and another 25 stories below. This could be a problem, but the team found a clever way to alter the pitch of the blades as they spin. Much like the sail of a sailboat, the changing pitch allows the turbine to capture and concentrate the wind, even when it’s not blowing too much.” GNU contends in their filing that the new models under consideration will have different and perhaps more significant environmental impact than those models previously approved. We think even GE would agree.
On New Year’s Eve, Union Neighbors United filed an appeal of the Buckeye Wind I certificate extension in which the OPSB gave EverPower three more years, until 2018, to build the first phase of its Champaign County project. Like GNU, UNU claims that the OPSB had a duty to process the extension as an amendment to the certificate and hold a hearing on possible environmental impacts. This is the third appeal filed by UNU in the Ohio Supreme Court. UNU lost its first appeal by one vote. The second appeal was heard earlier in December and a decision will not be forthcoming for five or six months. The appeal of the extension is the third appeal.
Why should the OPSB have held a hearing on the Buckeye Wind I extension? The request is an amendment of the previously approved certificate. Amendments trigger the new setbacks from property lines. Given that the legislature increased the setbacks since Buckeye Wind I was first approved, it is reasonable to think the current approved setbacks are not protective. In the OPSB hearings, EverPower’s noise expert and UNU’s noise expert pretty much agreed on what the background noise levels in the project area are. They are in a 30 to 35 decibel range for audible noise. No readings of sub-audible noise were considered. Interestingly, GE issued a report on audible noise in August of 2014 which UNU has only recently discovered. READ the report below! Acousticians agree that an increase of 5 decibels above background should be the limit to avoid problems. Ten decibels – from 33 to 43 decibels – will be highly annoying for residents. The OPSB has denied this type of published manufacturer information from consideration. The OPSB’s failure to establish a rule limiting noise as required by Ohio law also deprives Ohio residents of protection and due process….
…some complaints have been made that they can cause too much noise for residents living within a mile of the blades. So just how noisy are these turbines?
The closest that a wind turbine is typically placed to a home is 300 meters or more….
At 500 meters (0.3 miles) away, that sound pressure level drops to 38 decibels. In most places, according to Keith Longtin of GE Renewable Energy, background noise ranges from 40 to 45 decibels, meaning that a turbine’s noise would be lost amongst it. For the stillest, most rural areas, Longtin says the background noise is 30 decibels. At that level, a turbine located about a mile away wouldn’t be heard….