Developers’ noise assessments flawed, inadequate acousticians testify

Report on Environmental Review Tribunal Hearing on White Pines Wind Project

November 19, 2015


Henri Garand and Paula Peel, APPEC

​On Day Nine, APPEC expert witnesses Richard James and Steven Cooper provided acoustical evidence to the Environmental Review Tribunal (ERT) on the White Pines wind project.
The Tribunal qualified Mr. James as an acoustician on the basis of 40 years’ work experience and testimony at hearings in several American states and six ERTs.
James criticized WPD’s sound propagation modeling.  The computer model is based on a single turbine as opposed to a set of turbines, and though specifically limited to one kilometre, it is used for calculations at greater distances.  This leads to concerns about understating and under-predicting sound levels and under-representing the worse possible impact.  Adjusting for model uncertainty and other factors, James expected a significant increase of 4.2 dB(A) beyond regulations.
While the model suggests compliance with Ministry of Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) guidelines,  James believes that the project will put 23 non-participating noise receptors in excess of 40 dB(A).  Many more residences would fall outside MOECC guidelines because the summer/winter profile is flawed by not correcting for wind shear. Furthermore, since MM92 wind turbines have been the subject of a number of lawsuits, Mr. James contends that WPD’s modeling calculations are fundamentally too low.
James was equally critical of the MOECC guidelines and methods, which he said are not used by reputable acousticians.  For example, the effect of wind shear in relation to upwind turbines versus downwind turbines has been known since the 1980’s.  The MOECC relies solely on the dB(A) scale, which is inadequate for measuring Low Frequency Noise (LFN).  Adverse sensations from infrasound have been known since the 1980’s and refute the wind industry claim that LFN has no effect on humans.
Next, the Tribunal qualified Steven Cooper as an acoustical engineer on the basis of his professional work and research into aircraft and wind turbine noise in both Australia and the United States. Cooper summarized his 700-page report on the Cape Bridgewater Wind Farm in Australia.
The commissioned report is unique because it had the cooperation of the wind project operator and the extensive participation of six project residents who had complained of adverse effects.  The study undertook noise, LFN, and vibration measurements in relationship to specific wind speeds and turbine output, and correlated these with “sensations” and “vibrations” experienced by residents.  In 37 percent of incidents it found the most severe responses (including the necessity of leaving home) occurred when turbines had increased power by 20 percent or were operating at maximum power.  But even when turbines were not operating due to high wind gusts, residents had severe responses because of vibration emanating from towers.
Cooper censured WPD’s “Noise Assessment Report” because it cited noise levels but made “no assessment of the impacts of the development” in terms of what is an acceptable noise level in a rural location.  It was also flawed by relying solely on dB(A) measurements while ignoring inaudible but measurable infrasound.
Under cross-examination both Cooper and James were quizzed on isolated facts and opinions in their lengthy witness statements and numerous supporting documents, but they remained firm in the judgments that the combined effects of audible noise and infrasound are not safe for long-term exposure and that White Pines will cause serious harm to the health of many residents.
The ERT continues on Friday, November 20, 10 a.m. in the Essroc Centre.
For more information on the White Pines project and to donate toward this appeal please go to:
What's your reaction?


  • Lynda
    Posted November 20, 2015 9:17 am 0Likes

    Oh my goodness, finally some good news….accousticians with cojones standing up for what they know to be the truth! It reads like these guys are not wavering in their determination to get the real facts into the paperwork!

  • Sommer
    Posted November 20, 2015 9:45 am 0Likes

    I have done my utmost to bring this concern to the attention of all who are responsible in Ontario for this serious error in judgement regarding placement…to no avail.
    This article is much appreciated!

  • Pat Cusack
    Posted November 20, 2015 11:32 am 0Likes

    Let’s hope for the best!

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