September 20, 2019

Wind sound limit proposal stirs controversy

VPIRG: Rules create ‘a functional ban on wind power’

The Vermont Public Service Board finalized a noise cap proposal last week for future wind energy projects in the state. The rule would regulate wind turbines based on their size through application of a decibel limit. The proposal was met with opposition from renewable energy advocates.

It is currently under review by the Legislative Committee on Administrative Rules.

Under the new rules, large turbines — with a capacity of more than 150 kilowats — must not exceed 42 decibels during the day and 39 decibels at night measured from nearby residences. Large turbines must also be set back from the nearest residences a distance of at least 10 times the total height of the turbines, though developers may seek a waiver of this requirement.

Medium- and small-sized turbines must not exceed 42 decibels during the day or night at nearby residences. The requirements can be waived by agreements between developers and neighbors of wind energy generation facilities.

The rules are a balance between minimizing any negative impacts on residents living near wind generation facilities and not impeding Vermont’s transition to renewable energy, a Public Service Board press release said.

The Vermont Public Interest Research Group called the regulations “a functional ban on wind power.”

Renewable Energy Vermont also panned the proposal.

“We could power more than half of Vermont’s homes with cost-effective wind energy and grow our economy, but not under these proposed rules,” the Montpelier nonprofit said in a press release. “The latest proposed regulations set unreasonable requirements on farmers and landowners interested in helping lower our electricity costs with pollution-free community and utility wind projects.

“Regulating at a level that forecloses the most cost-effective way to meet our 90 percent renewable energy commitment makes no sense. Libraries, streams, refrigerators and air fans all exceed the proposed sound levels.”

VPIRG’s Sarah Wolfe said the Public Service Board ignored public calls for fact-based sound limits and a commitment to Vermont’s clean energy economy.

“We need policies that will grow good jobs here while helping to end our dependence on fossil fuels,” she said. “Instead this board has proposed the most hostile state policy in the country to wind energy.”

                             – Observer staff report

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