Below is a letter/article which culminates from a round of correspondence I have had with the Ontario Ministry of Environment re: the specific (non)application of their noise rules to wind turbines. I have attached the relevant documents and letters to this e-mail for your reference. The letter I wrote below is essentially a condensed version of the MOE’s rationalization of their stance – in all its ridiculous behavior. The sad thing is that there is deliberate action to protect the wind industry, and not the residents. I have tempered the wording as much as I can without losing sight of meaning. The issue raised is an important one, as a 5dB penalty would effectively double current setback distances to over 1000 m.
To summarize, please note these facts:
1) Ontario Reg. NPC-104 proscribes a 5 dB penalty to be assessed when, “..an audible variation in sound level such as beating or other amplitude modulation…” is present. The reg is very clear that either “beating or other amplitude modulation” will do.
2) In the MOE workshop that was organized as an information gathering session, of June 17, 2008, acoustical consultant, John Coulter, P.Eng., who is one of the original authors of NPC-104 stated that the sound of wind turbines was a cyclical sound of the nature the authors were considering when preparing NPC-104. This is on record as it was a public meeting, and noted to me by a retired Ontario Hydro engineer, Wm. K. G. Palmer.
3) New Zealand has a noise standard that regulates “cyclic noise” and applies a penalty up to 6dB, contrary to the MOE letter to me which states, ” To our knowledge, no jurisdiction is incorporating an additional penalty for the “swish” sound (aerodynamic modulation) in the planning/approval of wind turbines.” So says Doris Dumais, Director of Approvals Program – a position that paid $141,000 salary in 2009. For that kind of salary, I would expect accurate information. Her research is lacking.
So, if you’ve followed me this far, I expect you too have questions for the MOE. After all, at the rate they are erecting these machines, it won’t be long before everyone in rural Ontario has a view of them.
Is it Beating or Swishing for the MOE?
The good people at the MOE love to engage in titillating word-play for fun and amusement. Last summer I had the audacity to actually write the Minister of Energy and the Minister of Environment and put it to them that the MOE was not properly dealing with the “cyclic noise” of wind turbines – you know, the swooshing, swishing, whumping sounds that many residents complain about – especially when it occurs at night and they cannot sleep. If you have a dripping tap, you fix it. – but you can’t turn off the wind turbine; and no one else will, certainly not the man in a control room located somewhere in California. Now there are regulations for just this sort of thing. In Ontario it is Reg. NPC-104 which states that any industrial machine that produces a “cyclic” noise, one that repeats over and over as long as the machine operates – for example, a punch press in a metal stamping plant – is subject to a 5dB penalty to its noise limits. A 5dB penalty would effectively double current setbacks from wind turbines to over 1000 m – it is an important issue. Well, the wind industry kvetched, whined and moaned that there was no way they could survive with such a penalty, so the MOE, like the gimp show it is, wrote a directive that exempted the industry. Voila, a free pass to avoid a rap on the knuckles! No other industry gets that exemption, only the wind industry. Usually the MOE won’t even respond if the subject is brought up – but this time they did admit what they’ve been thinking about!
The letter from the Director of Approvals, dated Dec.1, 2010, states that the reason for the exemption is , oh how to put this, – it’s because wind turbines don’t beat, they swish and as such, “…the adjustment (5dB) was not designed to apply to sounds exhibiting the temporal characteristics such as the “swish” of wind turbines.” The Director admonishes me as to the true nature of beating. You can see this was written with a very wide smirk on the face – the MOE must love swishing and beating – the way the words rolls off the tongue – how delicious.
For the record noise regulation, NPC-104 states, ” If a sound has an audible cyclic variation in sound level such as beating or other amplitude modulation…”note that swishing is, “other amplitude modulation” – pretty easy to read and understand – but not for the wind industry and its guardian, the MOE.
So, all you poor deluded people who live in a wind project or the rest of us who soon will live with the noisy beasts – everywhere; be comforted to know that wind turbines are not BEATERS, they are SWISHERS!