Massachusetts Issues Consent Order On Hoosac Wind Project

Feb 9, 2015

Iberdrola Renewables owns and operates 19 turbines as part of the Hoosac Wind Project.
Credit Michael Fairneny

The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection has issued an administrative consent order on the Hoosac Wind project. The order against Iberdrola Renewables comes after the company failed to implement sound reducing measures for its 19 wind turbines in the towns of Florida and Monroe.

MassDEP laid out the consent order after Iberdrola did not complete actions it had agreed to make in order to reduce noise coming from some of its turbines. People living near the wind project have complained of adverse health effects and sleep deprivation since the turbines started spinning in 2012. Testing in January and February 2014 by analyst firm Resource Systems Group and DEP found that at times noise from turbines at Moores Rd. North and Tilda Hill South was 17 decibels above background noise. The state limit is 10 decibels above ambient sound. A letter from Iberdrola to the DEP attributed that high level to icing on turbine blades, something that was supposed to be addressed by the end of 2014. Paul Copleman is a spokesman with Iberdrola. He says a protocol is in place to limit noise when the blades ice over, but manufacturing delays have prevented Iberdrola from putting serrated blades on turbines.

“Specifically the serrated edge attachments – we were not able to meet our self-imposed deadline before winter weather set in,” said Copleman.

The consent order says Iberdrola must install the serrated blades by July 1, 2015. Larry Lorusso lives about a mile from the nearest turbine in the neighboring town of Clarksburg. Over the past two years, Lorusso says he and his partner Lois have developed high blood pressure and sinus issues.

“What’s really most disturbing is not what you can hear, it’s what you can feel,” Lorusso said. “It is having an impact.”

Lorusso says he can’t be certain those issues have been brought about by the turbines. Lorusso noted the turbines were shut down for about a week this winter due to icing, something that hadn’t been done in the past. He says the consent order is a good step, but his expectation is that the turbines be in compliance all the time.

“Yes it is frustrating because I see this consistency which is things not getting done,” Lorusso said. “It seems to be the method.”

Lorusso has made it a point to email lawmakers and reporters raising his concerns about the turbines whenever he can’t sleep, something he attributes to the blades spinning. He says he gets little to no response from government.

“Why aren’t you responding to me?” Lorusso said. “Is it not your place? Is it not your job? Do you care?”

As part of the consent order, Iberdrola has set up a 24-hour complaint hotline for those in the East Road, Tilda Hill and Moores Road area. It requires a response by a third-party sound monitoring agency contracted with Iberdrola. The company owns and operates about 60 wind projects and Copleman says noise complaints are taken seriously at every single one.

“It’s something that we study,” Copleman said. “It’s something that we’re very mindful of in terms of the placement of turbines in our outreach with the communities, both during the development and once we reach operation. I would say our track record is good, but obviously it’s an issue that we’re continually vigilant about, take very seriously and monitor continually.”

If Iberdrola breaks the consent order, it must pay Massachusetts $1,000 for each day in violation. Lorusso sees this as a slap on the wrist.

“Iberdrola being fined $1,000 is not going to give the neighbors peace and quiet,” said Lorusso.

Michael Fairneny lives on Moores Rd. about 3,000 feet from the nearest turbine. Along with Lorusso, he’s been complaining about the turbines for some time.

“Forget this mitigation,” Fairneny said. “I would want curtailment…these things shut down. If they’re found to out of compliance then I want something real done about it. I don’t see them ever being in compliance.

Lorusso hopes the turbines can at least be shut down at night as has been ordered at a wind project in Falmouth. Further sound testing at the Hoosac Wind Project is required between October 2015 and March 2016 under similar conditions as the 2014 testing.

“We’ve worked with the DEP to establish the corrective actions that are spelled out,” Copleman said. “We believe the agreement will allow us to show we are in compliance once we’ve made the modifications and conduct appropriate testing. We’ll continue to cooperate with the DEP."