Opinion: NH SEC dismisses Antrim’s wind turbine issues

By ERIC WERME

Published: 06-10-2023 6:00 AM

Eric (Ric) Werme is a retired software engineer in Sutton with a life-long interest in science. See wermenh.com/wind for more information.

Ever since Antrim Wind Energy came online in late 2019, neighbors have been impacted by the project’s apparent failure to operate within the terms of the certificate granted by the NH Site Evaluation Committee.

In 2021, “the Committee voted to have complaints filed through December 31, 2021, investigated by a three-person subcommittee” and emphasized that it “recommend to the Committee the appropriate sound measurement analysis to be used in reviewing noise complaints.” Other complaints included a radar-based system that was promised to keep aircraft warning lights off nearly all night long and an annoying seasonal “shadow flicker” phenomenon involving 100 mph shadows from wind turbine blades during sunrise and sunset.

In March 2022, 15 residents and other members of the public (not including me) chartered a study by Rand Acoustics, LLC to try to document examples of excessive noise at a homeowner’s lot. The study collected data continuously for three weeks. It captured two events that woke up the owners after midnight and the report concluded the events “exceeded the NH SEC [nighttime] 40-dBA noise limit by 13 dBA, and exceeded Epsilon’s predicted “Worst Case Sound Level” of 35.7 dBA by 17 dBA.”

Subsequent subcommittee discussion centered on the averaging period for noise samples. They adopted such a long period that noise sources like motorcycles, fireworks, and possibly the samples recorded by Rand Acoustics would not break the noise limits.

The subcommittee contracted with Harris Miller Miller & Hanson Inc. (HMMH) to conduct another study. Ultimately it found no noise violations, but among its many severe flaws was sampling being done on merely three afternoons and nights, often from places that had never filed complaints.

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I analyzed the weather maps and temperature trends of all five days and found both Rand events had very good radiational cooling with a high pressure system a little east of Antrim. That permitted sound to be refracted to ground level and brought enough wind to generate the objectionable noise. The weather on the days HMMH chose had very different conditions and was unlikely to exceed limits. Incredibly, one day “was chosen for forecast low wind conditions in the study area.”

Ultimately in May 2023, the subcommittee voted unanimously to accept the HMMH report and that “the facility was not out of compliance with the terms of the certificate through 2021, and to recommend that the full SEC not undertake any enforcement action.” No one championed the shadow flicker complaints. They did no investigation of their own about the aircraft warning system and discarded a neighbor’s documentation that the lights were on essentially all night long. They essentially ruled that the documentation was a complaint and dismissed it because it was collected after the end of 2021 and hence not the subcommittee’s concern.

At the end of the month, the final subcommittee report was published. While it acknowledged criticism about the HMMH report with respect to locations used and lack of background noise measurements, it made no mention of my analysis of weather conditions or the Rand Acoustics, LLC study.

I am certain that the full committee will accept the subcommittee’s conclusions in its hearing on June 7th. The net result is that neighbors of the project will continue to have their lives disrupted by wind turbine noise. I expect any complaints will be dismissed with reference to the execrable HMMH report. Complaints about the warning lights will continue to be shrugged off.

The big winners in all this may be wind power developers. Proposed projects in the Newfound Lake / Mt. Cardigan area were withdrawn and could resurface at any time. I once calculated that to meet New Hampshire’s Renewable Portfolio Standard with wind power we would need some 2,000 wind turbines. Mt. Sunapee and Mt. Kearsarge are close to me, as are various hills in walking distance for me like Wadleigh Hill and Meetinghouse Hill.

While all these may be potential sites, I don’t expect them to be developed. However, I no longer expect the Site Evaluation Committee to stand in the way.

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