David Libby lives in rural Ontario, unfortunately within 700 metres of a wind turbine. He complained to the Ontario MOE about the noise and in December of 2011 they dispatched some noise and weather-measuring equipment to his home. Whenever the noise bothered him, he could press a button and a 10-minute detailed recording period would start. During the 7+ days the equipment was in place he pressed the button 9 times. The MOE ran off and after a while dutifully reported back that the operator was substantially in compliance. Libby released that report to the public back in January 2012, which got a posting on Ontario Wind Resistance. John Harrison then took a look at it, and now we can see just how complicit the MOE is in harming people in order to protect this industry.
Harrison’s conclusion is iron-clad: the turbines were operating out of compliance. And not by just a little, nor just occasionally. Their own measurements indicate going over the limits by as much as 7 dB, with at least 8 of the 9 samples going over the limits. The chart below, by Harrison, shows just how much over the limit they were.
However they somehow came to the opposite conclusion. Harrison published a report on his findings, which Wind Concerns Ontario posted. John’s a nice guy; he simply suggested “I also conclude that there needs to be more supervision of those making turbine noise compliance measurements.” I’m not so nice. There are apparently no limits to what the MOE will do to allow wind turbine operators to continue harming people and the Libby report shows just how far they will go to bend their own (already inadequate) rules to protect the turbine operators.
Lets start at the top and work our way down to see just how low the MOE can go. Below is the noise recording covering the entire 7-day period. The dates are along the bottom, and I’ve added M (midnight) and N (noon) indicators. The long vertical lines are the 9 periods that Libby triggered the detailed recordings, and note that his selections agree fairly well with the noisiest times. The Ontario limit starts at 40 dBA and goes up to 51 dBA. You can readily see that the noise he experiences goes well above that for hours at a time.
The Ontario wind turbine noise regulations are contained in the 2008 Noise Guidelines for Wind Farms (aka the Interpretation). Those guidelines are quite specific and are substantially presented in one chart:
Note the dashed line above – it represents the Ontario standard rural ambient noise level. It starts at 30 dBA and with increasing wind it tops out at 44 dBA. The noise limit of the wind turbines is the greater of 40dBA or 7 dBA above the Ontario standard ambient. There’s a footnote: “The measurement of wind induced background sound level is not required to establish the applicable limit. The wind induced background sound level reference curve, dashed line in Figure 1, was determined by correlating the A-weighted ninetieth percentile sound level (L90) with the average wind speed measured at a particularly quiet site.” A 30-dBA ambient is pretty quiet, but many areas of rural Ontario are routinely below that. No matter – the regulation is quite clear. Unless there’s some exception (and there’s none that apply to Libby’s locale) those limits are absolute.
You might argue that a location with a higher ambient noise level should have the wind turbine limit raised accordingly. For the sake of discussion, let’s apply that logic to Libby. Again looking at the 7-day noise level recording the period around December 17-18 (in the oval) looks to be representative of ambient conditions. I don’t have the actual data, but an Leq(90) for that period (which is how the ambient is determined) would be somewhere in the 32 dBA range, and you could certainly make a case for less than that. So if we add 2 dBA to the MOE limits in their Figure 1 above you’d still have the turbines out of compliance. This logic, by the way, is what Kouwen uses in his studies of ambient and turbine noise. And even with this raising of the ambients, his locations and Libby are all consistently over the limit. But keep in mind the regulation says nothing about allowing this.
I’m guessing the MOE has an “understanding” with turbine operators that they will protect them. So the MOE has a problem. Might there be an out? There’s another document that lays out the Compliance Protocol. It contains the procedures for how to set up the tests with Part D covering the Detailed Acoustic Measurements that were used at Libby. Fortunately for the MOE, in that section there is this: “Following the determination of the overall Leq and the background Leq at all applicable wind speeds and conditions, the ambient Leq is subtracted from the overall Leq to determine the Leq produced by the wind turbines.” Subtraction! So a glimmer of hope! Unfortunately: “Ambient noise measurements shall be carried out at a point of reception with all turbines in the vicinity of the receptor point parked.” There is no indication that the MOE ever went through this step and I’d be surprised if the turbine operator would ever agree to park anything. But, fortunately, the increase of noise with increasing wind is fairly well measured, both by the MOE (per Figure 1 above) and confirmed by Kouwen’s measurements. So maybe we can infer the ambient. Unfortunately, subtracting the ambients as shown by the MOE’s own measurements won’t bring the noise down enough to be compliant. As an example, in the first recording, the MOE measured 54.5 dBA at a wind speed of 9 m/s. The reference ambient at that wind speed is about 42 dBA. Subtracting 42 from 54.5 gives 54.2 (logarithms, remember?). Even bumping the ambient by 2 dBA to 44 only reduces the turbine’s portion to 54.1. All of these are still above 49. Keep in mind this manipulation is only possible if you disregard the basic regulation as contained in the Interpretation. And even then it doesn’t work. This was indirectly noted by Kouwen as well.
What to do? The MOE’s solution, as Harrison says, is nonsense. They declare the limits (not the dashed line) per Figure 1 above to be the ambients and subtract them! Honest! Look at their spreadsheet to see how they did it. This is really cheeky. They must think we are truly dull, to not figure this one out. And even with this brazen lie, there are still several periods of non-compliance. They employ two additional techniques to dispose of these peskies. First, they notice that the humidity is above 90% for a couple of them, so they arbitrarily throw them out. I say arbitrarily since nowhere in any regulation is excess humidity cited as a criterion. Alas, there are still 2 non-compliant periods, which are disposed of with this comment: “Wind noticeable from audio. It is hard to say, it is wind or wind turbine. Maybe we need to repeat measurement due to high humidity and rain.”
Whew! Problem solved. At least for the turbine operator. For David Libby, it is now too late. I found out just today that he has abandoned his home.