New England News
12:30 pm
Thu July 31, 2014

Report Finds Hoosac Turbines Out of Compliance

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

Studies done earlier this year show noise levels coming from wind turbines at the Hoosac Wind Project in northwestern Massachusetts were out of compliance with state regulations. People living in the area have complained of adverse health impacts since the turbines began spinning in 2012.

Nineteen turbines each with the ability to produce 1.5 megawatts of energy comprise the Hoosac Wind Project in the towns of Monroe and Florida. Following noise complaints in early 2013, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection required Iberdrola Renewables, the owner of the turbines, to conduct noise studies. Ed Coletta is a spokesman with DEP.

“They did complete that study last year and we felt after looking at it that there were two areas that really needed to be retested or further tested,” Coletta said. “So that’s what we required them to do in this latest round that was released earlier this spring.”

Working with DEP, Resource Systems Group completed additional testing this January and February at Moores Rd. North and Tilda Hill South. On February 20, noise from turbines at those sites was 17 decibels above background noise. The state limit is 10 decibels above ambient sound. A letter from Iberdrola to the DEP attributes that high level to icing on turbine blades. The DEP’s Coletta says Iberdrola is taking steps to correct the issues.

“Things like the installation of what’s called trailing edge serrations on turbine blades that will help to reduce the noise levels,” Coletta explained. “They also are going to adjust the operational protocols during icing events to reduce the sound levels.”

Testing in January found levels were less than 1 decibel above the 10 decibel limit. Coletta compared 18 decibels of sound to wind in a forest and 83 decibels to noise of an average city street. Michael Fairneny lives on Moores Rd. about 3,000 feet from the nearest turbine. He says the turbines do get louder when iced over, but doesn’t have faith in the reactionary measures.

“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. I mean they are quiet a few days here and there. But the majority of the days when they’re not tested, if I’m not getting pounded the people on Tilda Hill are getting pounded.”

Fairneny is one of a group of residents and activist organizations who have complained of headaches, dizziness and loss of sleep resulting from increased noise and infra or low-frequency sound. Fairneny says he is feeling defeated at the lack of action to ensure the safety of the roughly 30 homeowners and neighbors to the wind turbines. He says he’s denied payment from Iberdrola in exchange for not talking about the ill effects. The company did not make a representative available for this report, but speaking with WAMC News in 2013 spokesman Paul Copleman addressed the topic.

“Our lease language with landowners in Massachusetts and with dozens of other projects across the country has no such language,” Copleman said. “We encourage all of our landowners at our projects to communicate with us and with others, including outside parties, if they have any concerns about the project operation.”

Fairneny also says residents have been offered a “good neighbor” agreement to keep quiet.

“I know I never considered wanting to move, but at this point it’s definitely been in the topic of conversation,” said Fairneny.

The DEP’s Coletta says turbines have been found out of compliance and adjustments have been or are being made in Falmouth, Fairhaven, and Kingston. Turbines in Falmouth were ordered shut down during the night, but residents voted against funding their dismantling. Governor Deval Patrick has set a goal of developing 2,000 megawatts of wind capacity by 2020.