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Packer wind farm testimony continues

Published May 31. 2019 12:09PM

The hearing on the proposed windmill farm atop Broad Mountain got its fourth session before the Packer Township’s Zoning Hearing Board on Wednesday. Broad Mountain Power Company proposes a 21-wind turbine project on privately owned land in southwestern Packer Township.

About 70 people plus the developer’s team and press attended. A growing percentage of the audience is from the Nesquehoning area.

Sound expert Michael Hankard of Madison, Wisconsin, took the stand. He explained that the windmill units proposed for this project would emit “less that 40 decibels at the property lines,” then demonstrated what that would be by remaining silent while the audience listened to the noise made by the room’s air circulation system. The rules about this development are that sound from these units cannot exceed 50 decibels at the property lines.

During cross-examination, Hankard stated that these bigger turbines run slower, and so are quieter. He was asked about the manufacturer’s specs on the units to be erected, and answered that the International Electrotechnical Commission shows 106 decibels for the big turbines and 104 for the smaller, measured within “500 feet” though shorter distances were also mentioned.

Attorney Robert Yurchak, representing Packer Township, asked it the sound is “cumulative” — if the sound is of all the units running. That answer was yes.

Attorney Bruce Anders, representing some 200 people opposed to the proposal, picked at the report Hankard submitted, comparing it to a far more extensive one also prepared by Hankard in 2018 for a wind farm proposed in New York state. Anders noted that a baseline sound analysis was done there, but not here. The same with an ambient noise survey.

Attorney Greg Mousseau, the meeting’s chairman, representing the zoning hearing board, asked about the level of detail in this report. Hankard explained that the detail is asked for by the client, Broad Mountain Power. The New York report was the most complicated of his work.

Zoning board member Barbara Genetti asked Hankard whether turbine height makes a difference. He said that smaller units than those proposed might be louder, adding that “it all depends on how fast they spin.”

Questions from the audience included whether ice buildup can increase the sound.

Hankard said yes, but added that the condition is “just being studied” now. Hankard’s testimony was then wrapped up.

A short break brought Dennis Jimeno back to the stand. He is a Senior RF Engineer for Comsearch of Ashburn, Virginia, and was admitted as an expert in radio frequencies and effects. He added an updated version of his report from April to the record.

A summary of his testimony includes: the proposed towers on the site do not obstruct microwave paths, though eight of these paths pass close. They do not affect UHF and VHF frequencies used by emergency services. There is a possible effect to over-the-air television transmissions, with “potential degradation” of distant signals due to reflecting off the towers. In instances where this occurs within the affected area, the company has been known to send a service team to resolve a problem.

The meeting ran a little long to allow questioning of Jimeno to wrap up.

The board asked Broad Mountain Power representatives about the board’s request for balloons at the sites to the height of the proposed windmills, as well as a simulation of the shadow flickering. Their reply is that consultants are now involved, and written answers on both requests will be given soon.

This hearing continues at 6 p.m. June 12, in the Weatherly Area High School gymnasium, a new location. Dates for continuing sessions are June 18, 24 and 27.

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