Noise experts refute each other's evidence at Armow Wind hearing
By Liz Dadson
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The final days of testimony became a bit "noisy" at the Environmental Review Tribunal into an appeal against the Armow Wind development in Kincardine.
The evidence Tuesday (Jan. 14) at the hearing, held in Toronto, saw noise experts for the approval holder refute noise experts for the appellants.
Speaking as an expert witness for the approval holder, Samsung Pattern Armow Wind Ontario GP, was Shant Dokouzian, project manager, GL Garrad Hassan, Canada.
A professional engineer, Dokouzian is licensed in Quebec and Ontario, and has extensive experience in wind developments.
He explained that he worked on the Armow Wind development, completing the Noise Impact Assessment, as required under the 2008 Ontario Ministry of the Environment (MOE) guidelines.
Using the information provided by Siemens, he reproduced the sound levels, incorporated low and high frequencies, determined the receptors and noise sources, and adjusted for summer and winter wind shear.
That resulted in the maximum sound power level of the turbines, he said.
Dokouzian also considered the nearby wind farms - Underwood, Cruickshank and Ripley - which were reassessed under Renewable Energy Approval (REA) guidelines.
All that information was input into the modelling software, as recommended by the MOE, said Dokouzian, factoring in ground absorption.
And the resulting report was sent to the MOE where an engineer reviewed it. The approval holder also had the report reviewed, said Dokouzian.
"Were there changes required to the report?" asked Alexandria Pike, counsel for the approval holder.
"There were some changes made, mainly to the wording and presentation," said Dokouzian.
"Was turbulence considered?" asked Pike.
"That's part and parcel of noise measurement," said Dokouzian. "If you measure during a turbulent day, there is no belief that it increases the sound of the turbine."
He said contrary to testimony by Bill Palmer, an expert on acoustics who testified earlier at the hearing, turbulence from adjacent turbines does not result in an increase in sound.
Pike said that Palmer stated there would be difficulty measuring sound close to the turbine compared to far away.
Dokouzian said that minute changes in decibel levels cannot be detected a long distance from the turbine. "If you're a kilometre away from the turbine, you'll have trouble measuring those small changes to noise. The proper thing is to measure close to the turbines."
He said that Palmer "cherry-picked" the information for his paper. "You can't do that. There is no basis for cherry-picking. There are no guidelines."
Asha James, counsel for the appellants, Ken and Sharon Kroeplin of Kincardine, asked Dokouzian if he had received any complaints regarding the Ontario wind projects for which he had done the noise-modelling.
"I have not been made aware of any problems," said Dokouzian.
"Have acoustical audits been done on these projects?" asked James.
"They are required at the end of construction," said Dokouzian. "I"ve been involved in jobs where these are done, but in Ontario, no."
James asked if Dokouzian was aware that the Underwood wind farm had noise remodelling done in 2010.
"I was not aware of that," said Dokouzian. "I did not look at that remodelling. I don't need to know how to model the project. We looked at the turbines in their as-built locations."
"So, you don't need to look at the remodelling of the Underwood project in 2010?" asked James.
"No," said Dokouzian.
"If that project had an acoustical audit done, would you look at that?" asked James.
"I would look at an audit, if it were provided," said Dokouzian. "But it would show sound levels below what I modelled. As per the MOE guidelines, I modelled for the worst-case scenario."
He said that the Noise Impact Assessment does not require him to go out and measure sound from the turbines. His modelling is done based on the specifications from Siemens which is building the turbines for Armow Wind.
"According to MOE guidelines, I offer the predictable worst-case scenario," he said.
NOISE EXPERT BEN COULSON
Noise expert Ben Coulson also gave evidence Tuesday afternoon, refuting testimony by Palmer and acoustician Rick James.
"In my view, old adjustment factors are used for typical industrial sound," he said. "Wind turbines have a unique sound. There is the noise of the mechanical parts, and there is the aerodynamic noise from the wind blowing over the blades."
As for flow disturbance, Coulson said that in the Armow Wind development, there will be no line of turbines. In fact, that type of arrangement has not been used anywhere in Ontario.
Pike asked Coulson to comment on Palmer's remarks regarding turbulence.
"Behind the wind tower, there is a turbulent wake and there's energy in the moving air," said Coulson. "It's like 'white water,' there's turbulence in the water. In the air, there's turbulent energy and flow energy.
"It's a naturally-occurring thing. In the wake of the turbine, there is less energy and less wind speed and you could have a change in the turbulence climate."
"Mr. Palmer tells about adjusting for turbulence," said Pike.
"That's not appropriate," said Coulson. "Turbulence occurs naturally. It's not an increase in sound."
As for infrasound and low-frequency sound, Coulson said the sound from modern wind turbines does not produce low-frequency noise that is perceptible to most people.
"It's a question of interpretation of low-frequency noise by Mr. James and Mr. Palmer," said Coulson. "I have grave concerns that Mr. Palmer doesn't understand the measurements he's taken."
The hearing wrapped up Tuesday. The tribunal must now render a decision.
The appeal, launched Oct. 23 by the Kroeplins, is against the proposed Armow Wind Class 4 wind facility, a 92-turbine, 180-megawatt industrial wind development in Kincardine. It was approved by the director of the MOE through the REA process, Oct. 9.
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Thursday, January 16, 2014