Sunday, July 16, 2017

Vermont Is Currently Enacting Some of the Most Restrictive Rules on Wind Energy in the US

A new rule says wind turbines can’t be louder than a quiet library.  It will stifle Vermont’s wind industry.  Conservationists love it.

The Georgia Mountain Community Wind project in Georgia, Vermont. (Credit: Georgia Mountain Community Wind) Click to Enlarge.Vermont is currently enacting some of the most restrictive rules on wind power in the country, even as it pushes for some of the biggest cuts to carbon emissions. In May, Vermont’s Public Service Board issued a new rule for wind projects that includes strict setback requirements and noise limits.
“None of the projects that have been built in Vermont to date could meet this standard,” said Olivia Campbell Andersen, executive director of Renewable Energy Vermont.

The updated rule will make it much harder for the state to hit its renewable energy targets. Vermont aims to build up to 750 megawatts of wind power as part of a plan to source 100 percent of the state’s electricity from renewables by 2050. There are 120 megawatts of wind power currently installed — and that was under the old rule.

The new rule requires a setback distance of ten times the turbine height — so a 500-foot turbine would be set back nearly a mile.  This is the most restrictive part of the rule, according to the Vermont Environmental Research Associates, a wind power consulting firm and one of the partners on the Dairy Air Wind project.  The setback requirement will leave just 0.2 percent of the state available for wind power.

The new rule also sets noise limits for large wind turbines at 42 decibels during the day and 39 decibels at night.  To put that in perspective, 40 decibels is about the volume of a refrigerator or a quiet library.
The Vermont Department of Public Health reviewed the scientific literature and found “there is no direct health effect from sound associated with wind turbine facilities.”  Researchers at MIT also conducted a review of the literature on turbine noise.  They wrote that “no clear or consistent association is seen between noise from wind turbines and any reported disease or other indicator of harm to human health.”

The research has made little difference to lawmakers.  Last summer, the state legislature passed a bill requiring new noise rules for turbines.  The state’s Public Service Board set the sound rule to be “protective of public health,” and “reduce annoyance levels that some people might experience from turbine sounds.”  Wind advocates could fight the rule in court or push the legislature to revise it, but they face an uphill battle.

Read more at Vermont and the Meaning of Green

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