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SW Michigan town settles on 40dB night noise limit for turbines

Human impacts, News, Wind turbines Add comments

Riga, Michigan has adopted a wind farm ordinance that limits noise at nearby residences to 45dB during the day and 40dB at night, and the wind developer says they cannot meet these limits on the land they’ve leased.  The rules also establish a distance limit of 4x the height of the turbines; this amounts to a bit over a third of a mile. There’s a good chance that wind boosters will spur a township referendum to repeal the new rules.  Three other local townships where wind development is planned are working on ordinances, and there is some indication that they will come to a similar conclusion about acceptable noise levels.  It is not clear from initial press reports whether the Riga ordinance includes the option of obtaining permission from willing landowners to build closer or allow slightly more noise at their homes.

Joshua Nolan, director of the nonprofit Interstate Informed Citizens Coalition, said “The ordinance as it exists is probably the best compromise.” With many acousticians suggesting a 35dB night time noise limit (see recent AEI Wind Farm Noise 2011 report), and the industry more accustomed to building wind farms to meet a 45-50db threshold, the Riga ordinance is a moderate attempt to provide more noise protection for neighbors.  Yet it may also be a good illustration of the fact that such protection can indeed preclude development in some rural areas with more population density than the wide-open west.  Many towns and counties are attempting to find the middle ground where development can take place, but citizens are not unduly impacted by noise; in some areas, there may not be enough room to keep turbines far enough from homes to meet this goal.  In this situations, the localities will need to decide whether wind development or local peace and quiet is more important to them.  In some areas, it may be possible to find enough willing neighbors to accept louder noise at their homes to allow smaller wind projects to proceed, while keeping turbines noise to 40dB, or even 35db, at homes of those who wish to maintain the current rural soundscape.

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