By Ellwood Shreve, Chatham Daily News
Wind turbines make more noise at night, according to acoustics expert Rick James.
James provided testimony during the second day of an Ontario Environmental Review Tribunal, held in the council chamber of the Chatham-Kent Civic Centre. He testified on behalf of appellants Katie Erickson and Chatham-Kent Wind Action Inc., who are opposed to the approval of the Kent Breeze Wind Farm in Thamesville, owned by Suncor.
An appeal has been launched against the wind farm project, which is the first to be approved under the Ontario Green Energy Act, on the basis it will cause harm to human health such as sleep disturbances, stress or psychological stress, headaches and loss of enjoyment of life.
James said he has measured differences in sound levels at night and the daytime at other wind farms as well as examined other studies on how the wind speed affects turbine blades at different levels in the rotation.
“It’s not that the wind speed changes, it’s that the difference in the wind speed at different points in the blade’s rotation may be great enough that it’s not possible to set that blade at an angle that is optimal for energy extraction,” James said.
He said in engineering terms, noise is wasted energy.
“When we get to where the blade is in those positions where it’s not at the optimum angle to extract energy we get a little extra noise off of it,” James said. “The more out of alignment the more noise we get.”
He said in the daytime a blade being out of alignment only increases noise by one, two or three extra decibels.
At night, when there are less sounds from other sources to mask the noise, the difference in wind speeds hitting different points in the blade’s rotation can create a thump or a deep whoosh sound, much more intense than what is experienced in the daytime. He noted this could be a 10- to 14-decibel increase.
James studied the Kent Breeze Wind Farm area and figures more than 100 homes in the area of where the eight turbines are to be located will be above the 40-decibel at nighttime, if the increased noise level is factored in.
Albert Engel, lawyer for Suncor, said if the company or another proponent finds that a turbine is exceeding an acceptable noise level, action can be taken to reduce the noise.
James said he is not aware of any mitigation efforts that have reduced the increase in nighttime noise caused by wind turbines.
Andrea Huckins, co-counsel for the Ministry of Environment, pointed out James doesn’t have the medical qualifications to make any conclusions that human health will be impacted by the Kent Breeze Wind Farm.
James said he doesn’t need a medical designation to know people who have been put in a similar situation have made health complaints.
Both Engel and Huckins tried unsuccessfully to convince the tribunal to not allow James to stand as an expert witness, claiming his bias as a board of director of the Society for Wind Vigilance, and the fact he has testified on behalf of several clients opposing wind farms.
The tribunal will resume Feb. 9-11 in Toronto, before returning to Chatham Feb. 15-16. The tribunal will be held in Toronto March 2, 4,11, 25, and move back to Chatham March 22, 23, 29, 30 and 31.
Some of the testimony by witnesses for the appellants will be done in-camera.
Eric Gillespie, lawyer representing the appellants said some information that certain witnesses would like to present is part of a study recently completed in Maine, which looked at the relationship between the location of industrial turbines and health effects on residents.
Noting it is believed to be a first of its kind, Gillespie said the authors of the study want it to try to have it published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal. He added if the information is publicly disseminated through a legal proceeding or other mechanism it could hinder having it published, because it becomes “yesterday’s news.”