TRURO - Monitoring the noise levels of industrial wind farms is going to be more complicated and expensive than originally anticipated by Colchester County council when it updated a wind turbine bylaw last year.
"Hand held devices are not going to cut it," senior planner Paul Smith told council during a recent meeting.
"We need to do a full-fledged sound study."
Council initially enacted a wind turbine development bylaw in 2009 and then updated it last fall to address concerns expressed by residents. The updated version changed the setback distance of a turbine to the nearest residence from 750 metres to 1,000 metres (one kilometre) and also included a maximum sound tolerance of 36 decibels for any turbine operating within the county.
Turbines found to be operating above that level can be ordered shut down.
At the time the bylaw was written, however, council was acting on staff advice that the sound monitoring could be conducted simply by using a hand-held device.
Further research by staff, however, has determined that hand-held sound monitors cannot distinguish between the noise from a turbine's blades and wind moving through the trees.
Sound studies cannot be conducted until a turbine is operating and Smith told council they would have to be conducted by sound experts at a cost of between $7,000 and $10,000 for the type of study required to fully assess how much noise is being generated.
Under the terms of the bylaw, an initial sound study must be conducted within a year of an industrial wind turbine becoming operational. Further studies could be required each time the municipality receives a legitimate complaint from a resident living within close proximity to a turbine.
"We are the pioneers in this," Smith said, given that no other Nova Scotia municipality has established a sound policy.
The cost for conducting such studies is to be paid by the developer/owner of a given wind farm.
"I can foresee this becoming a very expensive venture for somebody," Coun. Wade Parker said. "I think this is going to become very complicated. Very, very complicated."
Council committee passed a motion to recommend to council to make revisions to the municipality's sound monitoring compliance policy for wind turbine developments based on the new information.
The policy is also to include a complaint resolution process for residents.
"This is the highest level of assurance that we can provide," Smith said, of the proposal for wind turbine sound studies.