By LeAnn R. Ralph
TOWN OF FOREST — The Forest Town Board has approved moving forward with the development of a “resident sound monitoring” system.
At a hearing before the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin regarding the Highland Wind Farm application, Jaime Junker, town chair, said he had asked PSC commissioners how residents would go about making noise complaints after the wind turbines are built.
Junker spoke about the resident sound monitoring system at the Forest Town Board’s October 15 meeting.
PSC commissioners said that if they received a noise complaint about wind turbines from a resident, there would be nothing they could do about it because there would be no proof, Junker said.
The Public Service Commission of Wisconsin approved the Highland Wind Farm application to build up to 44 wind turbines in the Town of Forest on September 26.
Junker told the town board that there are sound experts from around the world who would want to help develop the resident sound monitoring system for the Town of Forest.
With a sound monitoring system in place, the PSC would not have a problem knowing if Highland Wind Farm had exceeded the allowable decibels, he said.
Monitoring sound from the wind turbines would be done in the interests of the health, safety and welfare of residents in the Town of Forest, Junker said.
Expert witnesses who had been hired by the Town of Forest to testify during the PSC hearings about Highland Wind Farm said the company’s plans for curtailment — slowing down or turning off the wind turbines at certain times of the day or under certain weather conditions — would fail, and the township would need some way to measure and test for sound, he said.
Developing and manufacturing the sound monitoring system could be paid for by Forest residents who want one in their home, the Town of Forest, and/or from town revenue raised through the wind turbine project, Junker said.
The sound monitoring systems also could be used for measuring sound from mining activities, he said.
Everyone in Forest who is willing to participate would have a sound monitoring system, and it would be “the first of its kind,” Junker said.
Once the turbines are built and Highland Wind Farm has completed the testing of its curtailment plan, then township residents would have the sound monitoring systems, he said.
Highland may have four or five monitors, but Forest residents would have 60 or 70 or 80 monitors, Junker said.
Investors in Highland Wind Farm would know that the system can be shut down if the wind turbines are not in compliance, said Pat Scepurek, town supervisor.
Residents in the Town of Forest cannot rely on Emerging Energies/Highland Wind Farm to take the data and monitor the noise, he said.
According to minutes from the PSC’s September 26 meeting when the Highland Wind Farm project was approved, “HWF has demonstrated by the sound modeling results it prepared using the WindPro modeling software that implements the ISO 9613-2 standard, by directivity analysis it completed, and the turbine programming proposal it submitted that the Project will comply with applicable noise limits.”
The PSC included a number of conditions with the approval, including a noise monitoring plan that will require four fixed monitoring locations and one roaming monitor in the Town of Forest.
Highland Wind Farm also will be required to do noise tests in response to individual complaints and will be required to perform month-long post-construction sound measurements four times per year for three years, and two of the four testing periods shall include mid-March to mid-May and mid-October to mid-December.
Conditions included in the PSC’s minutes note that while there is limited evidence regarding a causal link between self-reported medical conditions negatively impacted by noise, “the Commission accepts HWF’s agreement to apply a 40 (decibel) limit at six residences occupied by potentially sensitive individuals during the nighttime hours from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.”
The Forest Town Board unanimously approved a motion to move forward with the resident sound monitoring system and to pursue bids from engineers to investigate and develop the system.