Wind industry rules and the interest of Vermont citizens

Dear Editor,

I read Representative Michael Yantachka’s commentary, in the November 1 issue of The News, on Vermont’s new turbine noise rules with interest. Rep. Yantachka is a member of the Legislative Committee on Administrative Rules (LCAR), which gave its final approval to the noise rules over the objections of the wind industry on Oct. 19.

Never, during the LCAR deliberations, were the interests of Vermont citizens given consideration. It was always about how the new regulations would impact the wind industry. Is this because the only side of the debate that Mr. Yantachka heard was that presented by wind industry lobbyists? It may be easy for a legislator to hear only one side of the debate when the turbine impacts are only theoretical—when his constituents are unaffected.

I would like to see Mr. Yantachka put his enthusiasm for wind energy to work by proposing Mt. Philo as a site for the new “quieter” 790-foot turbines that Danish manufacturer Vestas has unveiled. Mt. Philo is a great site with good wind and good proximity to the electrical load. It would also give Mr. Yantachka an opportunity to investigate his theories about wind turbines without leaving his legislative district.

For example, Mr. Yantachka objected to turbine setbacks, saying, “the majority of LCAR members agreed that a distance requirement was arbitrary because there is no direct correlation between distance and sound levels.” Yet later in the same paragraph he states: “The sound levels in general decrease with distance, but the amount of decrease depends on topography, atmospheric conditions, temperature and season.” A Mt. Philo turbine would provide him with a convenient opportunity to determine which of his statements is true.

Mr. Yantachka said, “The sound level limits themselves were considered to be somewhat arbitrary in that there were various studies that specified different attenuation estimates from outside to inside. Unfortunately, the conservative application of the nine-decibel exterior-interior attenuation was not changed.”

Measurements performed at a turbine neighbor’s home in Sutton showed outside-to-inside noise attenuation of only three decibels. A Mt. Philo turbine would provide an opportunity to see if the physics in Charlotte is the same as the physics in Sutton.

Mr. Yantachka noted “LCAR’s objections with modification to the rules to clarify modeling and monitoring protocols.” LCAR members were particularly interested in models that reflected the use of Noise Reduction Operation (NRO). Under NRO, wind operators can reduce the noise output of their turbines. But NRO also reduces the output of electricity and thus NRO reduces revenue. Neighbors of Vermont’s existing turbines are skeptical about NRO. Does it work? Or perhaps it’s never used.

A Mt. Philo turbine would provide an opportunity for Mr. Yantachka to investigate the willingness of wind operators to forego revenue with NRO.

Until Rep. Yantachka starts advocating for utility-scale electric energy in his own district, his enthusiasm for turbines is just a lot of wind.

Dustin Lang, Franklin, but soon to be a non-resident of Vermont.