Recently the Wisconsin Public Service Commission rejected a wind project based on a noise study conducted at the Shirley
Four consultants participated in the Shirley study. Hessler Associates, Dr.Paul Schomer,Bruce Walker and Rob Rand.
The Shirley Wind farm study demonstrated conclusive evidence that Low Frequency Noise (LFN) is a significant emission from industrial wind turbines.
In the direct testimony before the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin Dr. Paul Schomer said that it is fair to say that the range of acceptable noise limits of 33.5 dBA as recommended by me and 39.5dBA as recommended by Hessler for the Highland Project should be considered a target range for promoting the health and safety of Town residents and definitely should not be exceeded.
OFFICIAL FILING BEFORE THE PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSION OF WISCONSIN
DIRECT TESTIMONY OF TOWN OF FOREST PAUL D.SCHOMER, P.D. ON IMPLICATIONS OF THE SHIRLEY STUDY
Q. Please state your name, employer and business address.
A .Paul D. Schomer, Schomer and Associates Inc., 2117 Robert Dr., Champaign, Illinois, 61821.
Q. Have you previously filed testimony in this docket?
Q. what is the purpose of your testimony today?
A. The purpose of my testimony is to report findings of the Shirley wind farm study that I performed with four (4) other acousticians which was completed and signed by all the scientists on December 21, 2012.
Q. what was the purpose of that study?
A. The study was a collaborative effort funded by the PSC, Forest Voice and the Town of forest to attempt to measure levels of infrasound at the Shirley Wind Farm for the purpose of correlating health impacts experienced by the three (3) Shirley families that have abandoned their homes and to make recommendations to the PSC with respect to the implications of the Highland Project.
Q. Are there similarities between the Shirley Wind Farm and the Highland in project?
A. Yes. The most striking similarity is the fact that Highland is proposing to use turbines very similar or identical to those employed at Shirley, which have a generating capacity of about 2.5 MW.
Q. Why is the size of the wind turbine significant?
A. Recent studies have shown that as turbines grow larger, the amount of sound and infrasound energy increases. In general, this increase is a function of the turbine rotor diameter. In other words, the bigger the turbine, the more energy that it generates, and coupled with increases in electrical power generation are corresponding increases in the acoustic energies and a lowering of the acoustic spectra. Attached as Exhibit 10 is a recent paper by Moller and Pederson which documents this phenomena.
Q. Why is this significant?
A. Although the science is developing in this area with respect to wind turbines, there is clear correlation between the infrasound produced by wind turbines and the health effects experienced by people in the vicinity of wind turbines – health effects such as nausea, headaches, dizziness, feeling not well, drowsiness, fatigue and insomnia.
Q. What was your investigative approach for the Shirley testing?
A. The first thing we did was agree to work on a collaborative basis. Each of the acousticians brought a great deal of wind turbine and general low – frequency noise expertise, including expertise in health effects. We all found ourselves contributing significantly to a collaborative approach on this complex topic. We all agreed that we would make our best efforts to sign a joint report with as much consistency as possible so the PS C would get a consensus rather than conflicting opinions.
Q. How were you able to work collaboratively?
A. Five consultants representing four firms worked together performing the testing as Shirley from December 4 through December 7, 2012. It became clear that two consultants, George Hessler on behalf of Hessler Associates and I, were going to play a greater role than the others in making recommendations with respect to the Highland project. George Hessler took the lead in developing the main report that also includes appendices by each of the four firms. This was and iterative process where George would send out drafts to all the acousticians and we would make suggested changes until everyone was in agreement.
Q. Was there a point at which you and the other acousticians signed a document that was the full
extent of your evaluation, research and recommendations?
A. Yes. It is attached as Exhibit 11 that was finalized on December 21, 2012. I considered it a final report subject to revision is new information came to light.
Q. After signing this document, did anyone ask you to remove or delete any information in the report?
A. Yes. I received an e-mail from Katie Nekola of Clean Wisconsin requesting the acousticians to delete our reports because it contained confidential information. See Exhibit 12.
Q. Did your report contain any confidential information?
Q. Did you delete your report as requested?
A. No, I did not. Since it was a final document I had already sent it to the other attorneys.
Q. After the report was signed, did anyone ask you to edit or reject the recommendations made by you and George Hessler on the Highland project?
Q. Are you aware that Clean Wisconsin requested that the Highland recommendations made by you and George Hessler be deleted?
A. Yes, I am. I understand that Clean Wisconsin requested a redaction of the Highland recommendation.
Q. Did you agree with this modification of the signed report?
Q. Are the opinions you expressed in the report the same opinions you hold today with respect to the Highland project?
Q. In the report it indicates that one of the firms is more conservative than the other. Can you explain?
A. In the report, I am taking the more conservative stance because of my belief that if the Highland project is approved as proposed, the same problems that have occurred at Shirley will likely occur in the Town of Forest. My work with infrasound in other contexts convinces me that this will probably happen. I believe that George Hessler is less concerned because he has not encountered problems like those in Shirley in other wind turbine project. I think it is fair to say that the range of acceptable noise limits of 33.5 dBA as recommended by me and 39.5 dBA as recommended by Hessler for the Highland project should be considered a target Range for promoting the health and safety of town residents and definitely should not be exceeded.
Q. When the study was conducted did you interview the residence?
A. Yes. The two most significant things the residents told us were as follows:
1. The direction and orientation of the wind turbines with respect to the home did not noticeably change the adverse health effects experienced by residents, and there was little to no change in the health effects experienced by a resident, from one location in a house to another location in a house, and;
2. Except the residents of the closest home, most residents did not hear the turbines. Rather, they were able to sense when they were on or off by the physical reactions of their bodies.
Q. why is this significant?
A. This is significant for two reasons. First the residence found only small variations in the health affects the experience with respect to their location in their house or any changes of orientation or operation of the wind turbine itself, other than shutting down or going to very low power. This indicates that the source of the problem is at very low frequency – less than five Hz. Second, their response indicates that they are experiencing physical effects caused by low – frequency infrasound – not audible noise. This indicates that there is no “noise annoyance” that could be a contributing factor to the health effects that they have experienced.
Q. Are there any attributes possessed by those who suffer from the health effects of wind turbines from infrasound?
A. Yes. It appears that most individuals, who are sensitive to infrasound, also suffer from motion sickness.
Q. How do symptoms of motion sickness compared to the symptoms of individuals that suffer from the health effects caused by low – frequency infrasound?
A. The symptoms from both seasickness and infrasound are almost identical. Exhibit 13 compares the symptoms of seasickness and low-frequency infrasound sickness from published literature, which are strikingly similar. The only real difference is that the extent of the sickness at sea can be so great that there is frequent vomiting, sweating, pallor, and increase in salivation. So essential symptoms do not change, but the intensity may differ. In addition to nausea and vomiting, the effects from both seasickness and exposure to low frequency sound includes dizziness, headache, drowsiness and, fatigue, and not feeling well.
Q. Did you confirm the presence of low-frequency sound in the testing at the three residences?
A. Yes. The testing conclusively showed very low- frequency infrasound beginning at the blade passage frequency of about 0.5 to 0.7 Hz (more typically 0.7Hz) and harmonic tones at multiples of 0.7 Hz (i.e., 1.4, 2.1, 2.8,3.5,4.2, 4.9, etc.). The energies generally die away above 8Hz.
Q. Why is this significant?
A. Studies by the Navy, attached as Exhibit 14, show that accelerations below 1Hz mark the onset of seasickness – like health problems. It is termed the nauseogenic region. In this situation, the proposal for Highland is to use Nordex N100 wind turbines, which would be identical to those in Shirley or to use a quite similar alternate in the 2.5 MW range. Because of the size and rotational speed of the wind turbines , which in the Highland and Shirley cases are among the largest ever placed in residential areas , the lowest- frequencies generated are down in the 0.5 to 0.7 Hz range, mainly 0.7 Hz . The important point is that at 0.5 to 0.7 Hz, the turbines are going deep into the nauseogenic region established by the Navy. It is these larger wind turbines that were used at Shirley, and are proposed for use in Forest, that present the greatest threat. Smaller turbines, generally with a smaller rotor diameter, turn more quickly, and therefore produce higher frequency sounds that, from experience, and from the data in the Navy report, should not cause the kinds of problems encountered in Shirley.
Q. The joint report indicates that more research at Shirley is needed. What do you recommend?
A. My first recommendation would be to seek the cooperation of Duke Energy which has the ability to turn the turbans on and off. This will help clearly identify the infrasound coming from the turbines and should be used to test the assertion by the affected residents that they can sense the turbines turning on and off.
Q. Is there any other research you feel is appropriate?
A. Yes. It would be relatively easy to conduct an experiment by first exposing residents who are more sensitive to wind turbine noise to low-frequency noise in a laboratory setting. If the testing produces results that duplicate those found in Shirley then field testing should be done using volunteers.
Q. Is it important that sound be heard for it to be hazardous to your health?
A. No. Similar to the experiences at Shirley, referred research by Dr. Alec N. Salt has established that infrasound can be hazardous to your health whether it can be herd or not. (Exhibit15). Like at Shirley, the low-frequency infrasound is “sensed” but not heard.
Q What are your final conclusions from your study at Shirley and your knowledge of the design of the Highland Wind Farm?
A. It is my opinion that the residents living near the Shirley project are experiencing the adverse health effects of very low- frequency infrasound generated by the 2.5 MW turbans in the project. The physical reactions to infrasound are well- known and have been occurring at other low- frequency infra- sound sites since the 1980s or earlier, as I have testified previously. It is my opinion to a reasonable degree of professional certainty that if the Highland project is approved as designed, it is very likely that a significant number of nearby residents will suffer the same adverse health problems as those in Shirley.
Q. Does this mean that the Applicant, Emerging Energies is without any options to build a wind farm in the Town of Forrest?
A. No, not at all. The sound levels that George Hessler and I recommended in the final report can be achieved by using smaller turbines which produces substantially less infrasound.
Q. Are all of your opinions given to a reasonable degree of certainty?
Schomer's findings in Cape Vincent contradict the studies done by Hessler Associates Inc.