The owner of Scituate's wind turbine will conduct the first acoustical tests of the 400-foot- tall device Wednesday night, a move that has locals riled up rather than relieved.
“Your rush to test this evening and tomorrow morning is extremely curious,” said Tom Thompson, executive director for neighborhood group the Alliance for Responsible Siting of Alternative Energy Installations, in a release. “…Not only does this wind direction not impact the majority of your selected locations, these higher wind speeds create a biased background noise level (rustling leaves and branches) that will clearly impact the integrity of these test results.”
Thompson and others have been criticizing the testing methods enacted by turbine owners since they were developed and agreed to by the Board of Health this past spring.
Though neighbors have sought more expansive tests and different testing conditions, the Board of Health and owner Scituate Wind have moved along a narrower path.
Even as residents rallied against Wednesday night’s test, turbine owner Gordon Deane defended them.
“When this was put together, we had a working group of the Board of Health, community representatives, and Scituate Wind, and they proposed specific monitoring locations, specific wind directions, and specific wind speeds. It was written into the protocol, discussed by the Board of Health, and blessed by the Department of Environmental Protection. We’ve been trying to follow that protocol,” said
Sampling will take place over four different nights – at high and low tides with the wind coming from the west and winds coming from the east.
Though engineers have had months to start testing, Deane said the weather has made things difficult.
“Not having it rain, and we know what June was like, has been slowing it down. The turbine got hit by lightning at the last June storm. That took the turbine down for about three weeks,” Deane said.
Since then, the wind speed or direction hasn’t been optimal, he said.
Yet before testing even begins, Thompson said the results are bound to be flawed.
“We were disappointed they missed an opportunity to work in an environment that is optimal test: 5-7 mph on the ground, which means there is no background noise,” Thompson said, noting that during the evening of May 30, such conditions were met. “All they have done here tonight is enjoy higher wind speeds, higher background noise, and a lack of integrity to the test.”
Though Deane said he would be open to testing under different conditions, and would even send out his acousticians at the direction of the community group, Board of Health Chairman Russell Clark said it wasn’t that easy.
The Department of Environmental Protection specifies wind speed for acoustical testing. And while testing would have been optimal in the dead of winter, committee members want results as soon as possible.
“It’s a tough spot,” he said. “We want to test it right and do what Department of Environmental Protection says, what the residents are asking, to do all that in one shot is tough.”
Residents have not budged in their request, however, and said they might bring in their own acoustician to test within the conditions they say the turbine is most problematic.
initially, the residents intended to conduct more expansive tests with their own acoustician alongside the turbine owner’s test. With less than 12 hours notice, Thompson said it was impossible to make that happen.
In the meantime, the Alliance has requested access to the testing results as soon as they are available.
“We reiterate our earlier stance that we expect to be provided with both the sound level measurements and Scada data resulting from Tech Environmental’s activities this evening /tomorrow morning, which will be required for a proper independent, peer review of your firm’s analysis and conclusions,” Thompson wrote in the release.
Deane is already prepared for the critique.
“I’m sure no matter what happens we’ll be criticized by the opponents,” he said. “If it comes out that we are in compliance, they are going to say, ‘Well you didn’t sample in the winter time.’ Or, ‘You didn’t sample the night I heard it.’ ”
The disagreement is likely far from over. In Fairhaven, similar acoustic testing has been ongoing for a year.