Oregon Relaxes Wind Power Noise Regulations

Oregon’s Governor Ted Kulongoski announced that recently approved streamlined rules for siting wind energy facilities will help accelerate the development of renewable energy, while maintaining Oregon’s commitment to the environment.

Salem, Oregon – May 26, 2004 [SolarAccess.com] “By removing unnecessary barriers that stood in the way of locating innovative renewable energy facilities in Oregon, these streamlined regulations are a perfect example of our comprehensive approach to making Oregon the national leader in renewable energy and sustainable agriculture, forestry and manufacturing,” said the Governor. “Sustainable development is good for our environment and good for our economy. We are working to attract and recruit innovative businesses that will create new living-wage jobs, produce green products with a global appeal and keep Oregon healthy and vibrant for future generations.” Oregon is quickly becoming a national leader in wind energy and wind power is an important new source of economic development in Oregon’s rural areas. According to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) Oregon currently has an installed wind capacity of 259.4 MW. The streamlined rules establish new procedures for demonstrating wind energy facility compliance with existing noise control standards. These standards are used by the Oregon Energy Facility Siting Council to evaluate the location of new energy facilities. The original noise rules were created in 1974, before wind energy facilities were considered a potential noise source. Oregon Department of Energy Director Michael Grainey says noise regulations could have become an unintended barrier to wind energy development if they had not been amended. The Oregon Environmental Quality Commission adopted the new noise standards on May 20. Background In Oregon, noise is subject to regulation “to provide protection of the health, safety and welfare of Oregon citizens from the hazards and deterioration of the quality of life imposed by excessive noise emissions” (ORS 467.010). Commercial wind energy facilities are subject to Oregon Environmental Quality Commission (EQC) regulations that apply to new industrial or commercial noise sources located on a previously unused industrial or commercial site. The old noise rules did not address key differences between wind energy facilities and other sources of industrial noise, such as gas-fired power plants. Unlike other industrial noise sources, wind energy facilities produce noise only when the wind speed is high enough at the wind turbine to allow the turbine to begin generating electricity. Under high wind conditions, residents of the noise-sensitive property would be indoors with windows shut, and other atmospheric sound produced by the wind itself would overshadow the noise produced by a wind turbine. Further, the developer of a wind energy facility had to provide noise measurement data under very specific wind conditions before and after the installation of a wind energy facility. It is often difficult to predict when those conditions will occur, and therefore difficult to know when to send noise consultants out to the field to collect noise data. Consequently, these procedures can be very time consuming and costly. In order to take account of these key differences and to eliminate unintended barriers to wind energy development, the Oregon Department of Energy began a rulemaking process to amend the noise rules in 2003. The department held an informal comment period from August through October, 2003. Based on comments received during that period, the department proposed amendments that establish new procedures for demonstrating wind energy facility compliance with existing noise control standards. The department took public comments on the proposed amendments from January 1 through April 9, 2004. The final amendments were adopted by the Oregon Environmental Quality Commission on May 20. Farmers and ranchers interested in putting wind energy generators on their land expressed their appreciation for the decision. In a letter of support, John Guynup of Currydale Farms in Langlois said, “I am very interested in putting wind generators on our property so we can afford to keep the ranch for future generations.” Leases from farmers to allow wind turbines on their land can amount to as much as US$8000 a year per turbine. Multiply that by enough turbines to make up a wind farm, and it becomes clear why farmers are keen on adding another “crop” to their mix.
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