Few satisfied with new Vermont wind power sound rules

Vermont utility regulators’ efforts to settle the issue of how much noise neighbors of industrial wind projects should put up with ended up upsetting both proponents and opponents of wind power.

Proponents of using industrial wind projects as part of Vermont's long-term goal of getting 90% of its power from renewable sources by 2050, say the new wind rules will make achieving that goal more difficult, if not impossible, The Associated Press reported.

"These rules will certainly have a chilling effect on wind energy in Vermont," Austin Davis, a spokesman for the renewable energy trade group Renewable Energy Vermont, told the AP. "However, that doesn't do away with the fact that wind energy currently is the cheapest renewable energy available to New England."

Opponents counter noise levels are still too high and even at a level that is among the lowest in the country would create an unreasonable burden for people who live near the turbines, Kallanish Energy understands.

"The wind noise rule as … approved is not going to protect Vermonters from the harm that we have already experienced from industrial wind turbines," said Annette Smith, the head of the group Vermonters for a Clean Environment and a long-time critic of industrial wind projects, the AP reported.

Last week, Vermont's Public Utilities Commission gave final approval to rules that set a daytime limit of 42 decibels of sound from turbines near a home, and 39 decibels at night.

The rules grew out of a 2016 law that directed the commission to set sound standards. The new rules only apply to new projects.

The decibel level measures sound intensity. Experts say 40 decibels is the rough equivalent of a library, while a rural area is about 30 decibels, the AP reported.

The noise debate is something that has followed industrial wind power as it has spread throughout the New England states of Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine.

While scientific studies have shown no link between wind turbine noise and human health, it can be annoying, especially to people who were accustomed to living in quiet areas.

The wind power industry says developers nationally work to ensure projects are sited so the sound doesn't bother neighbors, and thousands of people across the country live near wind farms without any issues, Mike Speerschneider, senior director of permitting for the American Wind Energy Association, told the AP.

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