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PUC asks for second sound study for wind farm in Codington, Grant, Deuel counties

Elisa Sand  


    The South Dakota Public Utilities Commission has asked for an additional sound testing for a wind farm development in Codington, Deuel and Grant counties.

    Xcel Energy was open to completing a follow-up study for its Crowned Ridge II development following a hearing with the commission on Aug. 30. During that hearing, landowner Greg Wall requested a second sound study. Both Wall and his sister live near turbines in the development.

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    One turbine is 1,840 feet from his sister's place and 2,600 feet from his home. A second wind turbine is 2,750 feet from Wall's home, according to testimony at the meeting.

    In his comments to the commission, Wall said the initial sound study was completed in June or July, which is when the turbines are at their quietest. The turbine sound wasn't studied when the humidity was higher, which is when Wall said they are noisier.

    "When it's foggy out, it's ridiculously loud," he said, describing both an alternator squeal and the "woof, woof" sound from the blades.

    Darren Kearney, one of the PUC staff analysts, said there were concerns raised about the sound study happening in the summer as opposed to the fall or winter. But, he said, no further analysis was requested by concerned individuals until Wall contacted the PUC office, which is why the request was back before the commission.

    Ryan Hawk, who spoke on behalf of RSG, the company that completed the sound study, said he disagrees that a study in a different season would make a difference, although he did note that local and regional weather make a difference. In explaining that further, he said, substantial wind from the south, for instance, would mean higher wind energy production and more sound from the turbines.

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    Asked about another study, Wall said, this summer would have been an optimal time as there were several high-humidity days. Those are the days where the turbines are the noisiest, he said, also questioning the results of a study from a company hired by Xcel.

    Kearney said the company completing the study is an expert in the field and its data is credible.

    Pat Flowers, manager of environmental services at Xcel Energy, agreed to a follow-up study, but asked if it would make sense to have someone evaluate the data that was collected for the first study.

    Kearney said that could be an option, but it wouldn't address Wall's concern about the seasonal nature of the sound and how it changes.

    PUC Commission Chairman Chris Nelson said any data collected in a follow-up study would be subject to review by a second company.

    "We just need to know if this project is in compliance or not," he said.

    Nelson directed Xcel to work with Wall and other concerned parties on the details of the second study.

    Wall also noted concerns about an increase in pickup traffic on his township road and said he'd prefer company employees use the county road instead as the added traffic creates more dust. Commissions said now that the project is complete, there aren't any restrictions on which road the company uses.

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    The PUC also heard concerns about the sound study completed for Crowned Ridge I. But since the docket on that issue is closed, those raising the concerns were told a complaint docket must be filed.


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