RENEW opposes Calumet County wind ordinance

Posted on January 8, 2008. Filed under: Wind |

January 7, 2008

Calumet County Board of Supervisors
Attention: Beth Hauser, County Clerk
206 Court Street
Chilton, WI 53014

Julie Heuvelman
Director of Planning, Calumet County
206 Court Street
Chilton, WI 53014

Dear Calumet County Board of Supervisors and Ms. Heuvelman:

During an October meeting of the Calumet County Towns Association, Mr. Glenn Stoddard referred to a recent report issued by the National Research Council (NRC) entitled Environmental Impacts of Wind Energy Projects, published by the National Academies Press in May 2007. In his remarks he stated that the report’s findings support longer setbacks than what is currently embedded in Calumet County’s zoning ordinance.

I invite you to read the relevant section of NRC’s report (pages 156-162—see accompanying document). I am confident that if you do that, you will share RENEW’s view that Mr. Stoddard’s statement is baseless. Here is what the NRC says about sound impacts.

The sound power level from a single turbine is usually around 90-105 dB(A); such a turbine creates a sound pressure of 50-60 dB(A) at a distance of 40 meters (this is about the same level as conversational speech). Noise (sound-pressure) levels from an onshore wind project are typically in the 35-45 dB(A) range at a distance of about 300 meters (BWEA 2000; Burton et al. 2001). These are relatively low noise or sound-pressure levels compared with other common sources such as a busy office (~60 dB(A)), and with nighttime ambient noise levels in the countryside (~20-40 dB(A)). While turbine noise increases with wind speed, ambient noises—for example, due to the rustling of tree leaves— increase at a higher rate and can mask the turbine noise (BLM 2005a).

Here are two relevant excerpts on shadow flicker.

Shadow flicker is not important at distant sites (for example, greater than 1,000 feet from a turbine) except during the morning and evening when shadows are long. However, sunlight intensity is also lower during the morning and evening; this tends to reduce the effects of shadows and shadow flicker.

In the United States, shadow flicker has not been identified as causing even a mild annoyance.

Mr. Stoddard also stated that the NRC book recommends setbacks of one-half mile. That assertion is utterly false. Here’s what the report actually says.

Noise produced by wind turbines generally is not a major concern for humans beyond a half-mile or so because various measures to reduce noise have been implemented in the design of modern turbines.

RENEW Wisconsin has testified on several occasions in favor of the wind ordinance as currently written. In November 2006 we submitted testimony in opposition to various amendments that would have imposed longer setbacks and required the preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement on any wind development regulated under the ordinance. We would like the record of the January 15 County Board meeting to reflect our opposition to the changes proposed by Wind Turbine Ordinance Ad Hoc Committee.

Also attached is a RENEW commentary that is highly relevant to your consideration of that committee’s recommendations.


Michael Vickerman
Executive Director


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