ALBERTA LTD. (BLUEARTH) BULL CREEK WIND POWER PROJECT NOISE COMPLAINTS - JANUARY 17, 2018 - ALBERTA UTILITIES COMMISSION

 
Decision 22493-D01-2018

1646658 Alberta Ltd. (BluEarth)

Bull Creek Wind Power Project
Noise Complaints
January 17, 2018
Alberta Utilities Commission
Decision 22493-D01-2018
1646658 Alberta Ltd. (BluEarth)
Bull Creek Wind Power Project
Noise Complaints

Proceeding 22493
Applications 22493-A001 to 22493-A003

January 17, 2018

Published by the:
       Alberta Utilities Commission
       Fifth Avenue Place, Fourth Floor, 425 First Street S.W.
       Calgary, Alberta
       T2P 3L8

       Telephone: 403-592-8845
       Fax: 403-592-4406

       Website: www.auc.ab.ca
Alberta Utilities Commission
Calgary, Alberta

1646658 Alberta Ltd. (BluEarth)                                             Decision 22493-D01-2018
Bull Creek Wind Power Project                                                      Proceeding 22493
Noise Complaints                                              Applications 22493-A001 to 22493-A003

1           Introduction

1.     On March 19, 2017, Mr. D. Bonnefoy, on behalf of himself and Mrs. T. Bonnefoy
and their four children (the Bonnefoys), filed a noise complaint with the Alberta Utilities
Commission under Rule 012: Noise Control, regarding the noise at their residence arising
from the Bull Creek Wind Power Project owned by 1646658 Alberta Ltd., a subsidiary of
BluEarth Renewables Inc. (BluEarth). He made a second noise complaint on April 6, 2017,
regarding the noise at his place of work. On April 10, 2017, Mr. A. Hager, Ms. C. Hager,
Mr. B. Hager, and Ms. D. Hager (the Hagers) jointly filed a noise complaint relating to noise
from the same Bull Creek Wind Power Project.

2.     On April 20, 2017, all of the above-mentioned noise complaints from the Bonnefoys and
the Hagers (the complainants), were registered on the Commission’s eFiling System under
Proceeding 22493 to be considered jointly.

3.     As a result of joining these complaints and because of the nature of the complaints, the
Commission, in this decision, must decide only whether the Bull Creek Wind Power Project
meets the permissible sound level as determined in accordance with Rule 012 at the residences of
the complainants. Based on the evidence on the record of this proceeding, the Commission finds
the Bull Creek Wind Power Project to be in compliance with the permissible sound level at the
residences of the complainants and, therefore, dismisses the complaints.

2           Background

4.      On June 18, 2012, BluEarth filed an application with the AUC to construct and operate a
46 turbine, 115-megawatt power plant designated as the Bull Creek Wind Power Project (the
Bull Creek Wind Power Project or the wind farm), in the Provost, Alberta area. The Commission
held a hearing to consider the application and the wind farm was approved in Decision 2014-040
(Errata),1 Approval U2014-642 and Permit and Licence U2014-65.3 One landowner group, the
Killarney Lake Group, intervened in that hearing, and retained a number of experts, including
noise consultants. Mr. A. Hager, Ms. C. Hager, Mr. B. Hager,4 Mr. D. Bonnefoy and
Mrs. T. Bonnefoy were part of the Killarney Lake Group and appeared before the Commission at
the hearing.

1
    Decision 2014-040 (Errata): 1646658 Alberta Ltd. – Bull Creel Wind Project, Proceeding 1955,
    Application 1608556, March 10, 2014.
2
    Power Plant Approval U2014-64, Proceeding 1955, Application 1608556, February 20, 2014.
3
    Substation Permit and Licence U2014-65, Proceeding 1955, Application 1608556, February 20, 2014.
4
    Mr. B. Hager’s now wife, D. Hager, is not listed as a participant in the Killarney Lake Group.

                                                                      Decision 22493-D01-2018 (January 17, 2018) • 1
Bull Creek Wind Power Project – Noise Complaints                                         BluEarth Renewables Inc.

5.     In its approval of the Bull Creek Wind Power Project, the Commission placed a number
of conditions on the wind farm including Condition 7, which states:

         7. The applicant shall:

         a) Conduct baseline (pre-construction or post-construction with no turbines operating)
            and post-construction comprehensive noise studies, including an evaluation of low
            frequency noise, at receptors R086, R141 and the receptor located in NW 31-40-1-
            W4M under representative conditions, in accordance with Rule 012: Noise Control.

         b) File all studies and reports relating to the pre-construction and post-construction
            noise surveys with the Commission within one year of connecting the power plant to
            the Alberta Interconnected Electric System.

6.     Receptors R086 and R141 are the residences of the Bonnefoys and Mr. A. and
Ms. C. Hager.

7.     BluEarth subsequently filed an amendment to its wind farm from 46 turbines to
17 turbines totalling 29.2 megawatts. The Commission approved the amendment and issued
Approval 3520-D02-2015 (Errata), which included the condition listed above.5 The wind farm
was constructed and as of January 5, 2016, has been operational.

8.      BluEarth, in accordance with Condition 7 listed above, filed post-construction
comprehensive sound level surveys (sound level surveys) with the Commission and the
Commission convened Proceeding 22270 to consider the results of those sound level surveys.
Mr. A. Hager, Ms. C. Hager, Mr. D. Bonnefoy and Mrs. T. Bonnefoy were granted standing and
participated in that proceeding and these participants retained FDI Acoustics Inc. as their noise
consultant to review the sound level surveys and related documents filed by BluEarth. In
Proceeding 22270, the Commission found that the sound level surveys submitted indicated that
the noise from the Bull Creek Wind Power Project, which was measured cumulatively to include
the ambient sound level and noise from existing energy-related facilities, did not exceed the
permissible sound levels specified in Rule 012.

3            Noise complaints

9.     In this proceeding, the Bonnefoys have made a noise complaint with respect to their
residence as well as Mr. D. Bonnefoy’s place of work. Mr. D. Bonnefoy confirmed in his
complaint that their residence is located in the northeast quarter of Section 10, Township 41,
Range 1, west of the Fourth Meridian. It alleges that at 3:20 a.m. on March 19, 2017, the
Bonnefoys experienced sleep disruption due to noise related to the wind farm. On
March 23, 2017, the Commission set up Proceeding 22493 to investigate this complaint.

10.    Mr. D. Bonnefoy made a second complaint on April 6, 2017, with respect to noise from
the wind farm around the facility where he works.6 On April 10, 2017, the Commission set up
Proceeding 22553 to investigate this complaint.

5
    Power Plant Approval 3520-D02-2015 (Errata), Proceeding 3520, Application 1610995, April 29, 2015.
6
    Exhibit 22493-X0007, Bonnefoy email to AUC.

2 • Decision 22493-D01-2018 (January 17, 2018)
Bull Creek Wind Power Project – Noise Complaints                                            BluEarth Renewables Inc.

11.     On April 10, 2017, the Hagers filed a noise complaint with respect to the wind farm.
They indicated that they were concerned with noise from the wind farm that was observed while
feeding cattle on the southeast quarter of Section 3, Township 41, Range 1, west of the
Fourth Meridian and the southeast quarter of Section 1, Township 41, Range 1 west of the
Fourth Meridian and while working outdoors in the yards close to the residence on the southeast
quarter of Section 3, Township 41, Range 1, west of the Fourth Meridian. On April 10, 2017, the
Commission set up Proceeding 22554 to investigate this complaint.

12.    As the above complaints all related to the Bull Creek Wind Power Project, on
April 20, 2017, the Commission merged Proceeding 22553 and Proceeding 22554 into
Proceeding 22493 to consider the complaints jointly.

13.     The Commission requested that the complainants, if they had not already done so, contact
BluEarth to discuss and endeavour to resolve their concerns.7 Further, the Commission requested
that complainants complete part 1 of the noise complaint investigation form as well as keep an
event log listing the details related to the sound from the wind farm that was causing them
annoyance and to upload both documents to the proceeding as soon as they were able to do so.

14.     Mr. A. and Ms. C. Hager submitted a completed noise complaint investigation form and
event log, dated April 22, 2017. Mr. B. and Ms. D. Hager submitted a completed noise complaint
investigation form and event log that was uploaded May 10, 2017.

15.    On May 11, 2017, the Commission held an information session in Provost, Alberta, to
provide interested persons with information about the Commission’s noise complaint process.

16.     In email correspondence from Mr. D. Bonnefoy dated May 30, 2017,8 Mr. D. Bonnefoy
stated that he would be uploading further documents relating to the noise complaints filed. In this
email, Mr. D. Bonnefoy stated that his family was moving because they could not tolerate the
wind turbines any longer and were exhausted from not sleeping.

17.      The Commission issued a process letter to deal with the complaints on May 31, 2017. In
its letter, the Commission acknowledged sound level surveys had already been filed on the
record of Proceeding 22270 for the Bonnefoys and Mr. A. and Ms. C. Hager residences, and
requested that BluEarth confirm that it did not object to those surveys and related information
request responses, being filed on the record of this proceeding. The Commission also directed
BluEarth to file a copy of the sound level survey completed for the Mr. B. and Ms. D. Hager
residence on the record of this proceeding.

18.    On June 16, 2017, BluEarth responded that it did not object to having the sound level
surveys and related information requests responses filed as part of this proceeding.

19.    On July 5, 2017, BluEarth submitted the sound level survey for the Mr. B. and
Ms. D. Hager residence, Receptor R103.9 BluEarth also submitted responses to the noise

7
    Exhibit 22493-X0004 and in Exhibit 22493-X0012.
8
    Exhibit 22493-X0016, Bonnefoy email.
9
    Exhibit 22493-X0049, R103 post-construction sound level survey.

                                                                      Decision 22493-D01-2018 (January 17, 2018) • 3
Bull Creek Wind Power Project – Noise Complaints                                           BluEarth Renewables Inc.

complaints filed by Mr. A. and Ms. C. Hager, Mr. B. and Ms. D. Hager, and a response to
two noise complaint filings made by the Bonnefoys.10,11,12

20.     The Commission issued information requests to BluEarth on August 8, 2017 with respect
to the sound level survey submitted for the Mr. B. and Ms. D. Hager residence, as well as
BluEarth’s responses to the noise complaints. On August 25, 2017, BluEarth provided a response
to the information requests.

21.     On September 3, 2017, the Bonnefoys submitted a large volume of emails. Due to the
nature of the information submitted, there was a delay in uploading these documents to the
proceeding. The emails and corresponding attachments were uploaded to the eFiling System on
September 13, 2017.13 The Bonnefoys also requested more time to submit information requests
to BluEarth.14

22.    On September 14, 2017, the Commission granted a time extension to all parties to
provide information requests to BluEarth and set the due date to do so as September 22, 2017.15
The Commission set the due date for information request responses from BluEarth as
September 29, 2017, and the date for final submissions from complainants as October 3, 2017.

23.    On September 20, 2017,16 Ms. C. Hager requested more time to submit information
requests to BluEarth and to file further information pertaining to the complaints. Ms. C. Hager
explained that the reason for her request was due to the time demands of their harvesting
operations, which she expected to be completed by October 31, 2017.

24.     On September 27, 2017, before ruling on Ms. C. Hager’s time extension request, the
Commission invited submissions from BluEarth regarding the time extension request by
September 29, 2017.17 BluEarth responded that it was opposed to the time extension request on
the basis that it was unreasonably long and unclear when Ms. C. Hager proposed to file
information requests and evidence.18

25.    Ms. C. Hager later withdrew her time extension request19 and filed the majority of her
submissions by the October 3, 2017 deadline, an additional 13 exhibits on October 5, 2017, and
two additional exhibits on October 19, 2017.

26.   The Commission considers the close of record for this proceeding to be
October 19, 2017.

10
     Exhibit 22493-X0046, Post-Construction Acoustic Audit for the Bull Creek Wind Project at R141 – Complaint
     Conditions.
11
     Exhibit 22493-X0047, Post-Construction Acoustic Audit for the Bull Creek Wind Project at R103 – Complaint
     Conditions.
12
     Exhibit 22493-X0048, Post-Construction Acoustic Audit for the Bull Creek Wind Project at R86 – Complaint
     Conditions.
13
     Exhibit 22493-X0057 to Exhibit 22493-X0122.
14
     Exhibit 22493-X0057, Bonnefoy email to AUC 9/3/2017 10:09 PM.
15
     Exhibit 22493-X0123, AUC Ruling on time extension.
16
     Exhibit 22493-X0124, Hager request for time extension 2017-09-20.
17
     Exhibit 22493-X0125, AUC letter to parties re Response to time extension request.
18
     Exhibit 22493-X0126, Bluearth letter to AUC re further time extension request.
19
     Exhibit 22493-X0127, AUC email to Ms. Hager re withdrawal of time extension.

4 • Decision 22493-D01-2018 (January 17, 2018)
Bull Creek Wind Power Project – Noise Complaints                                       BluEarth Renewables Inc.

4            Authority to investigate noise complaints

27.     The Commission enacted Rule 012 to govern the noise emissions from power plants.
Rule 012 also contains a process for noise complaints. As per Section 5 of Rule 012, if a noise
complaint is filed by a resident of a dwelling near the facility20 after the facility is in operation,
the licensee must meet the permissible sound level as determined in accordance with the rule.
When a noise complaint is filed with the Commission, the Commission may require the licensee
to conduct a comprehensive sound level survey to determine compliance with this rule.

28.     If a facility is found to be non-compliant, the licensee must provide both a detailed noise
control mitigation plan and a timeline as to when compliance will be met. When the facility
meets the requirements in this rule, the Commission investigation is complete. If conditions at
the facility change, a new complaint may be filed.

29.     When a noise complaint has been filed, licensees must first attempt to resolve the issue
through direct contact by way of telephone calls or meetings with the complainant(s) to
understand the concerns and establish a dialogue. Licensees must make every reasonable attempt
to resolve any noise complaint in a timely manner.

30.      Rule 012 states the requirements for noise control as they apply to all operations and
facilities under the jurisdiction of the Commission. The rule also provides background
information and describes an approach to deal with noise emissions. Rule 012 attempts to take a
balanced viewpoint considering the interests of both the nearby residents and the licensee. It does
not guarantee that a resident will not hear noises from a facility; rather, it aims to not affect
indoor noise levels adversely for residents near a facility.

5            The Bonnefoys’ noise complaint

31.     The Bonnefoys submitted two noise complaints with respect to the wind farm – one with
respect to their residence, and one with respect to Mr. D. Bonnefoy’s location of work.

32.     With respect to the noise complaint relating to their residence, the Bonnefoys submitted a
completed noise complaint investigation form dated March 19, 2017.21 The form stated noise is a
problem during both daytime and nighttime and the noise is annoying both inside and outside
their residence. With respect to weather conditions, the form noted extreme cold and hot
temperatures and all directions of wind when the noise is most noticeable. Furthermore, the form
stated frozen conditions and spring thaw/freeze seem to be conditions that make the noise effects
worse. With respect to representative conditions of their noise complaint, the Bonnefoys
conveyed that all wind directions, wind speeds and directions were representative of their
concerns.

33.     On September 13, 2017, the Bonnefoys filed 65 exhibits that contained submissions
relating to the Commission’s process, event logs, as well as diary entries on noise and
health-related concerns.

20
     Facility is defined in Rule 012 to include power plants.
21
     Exhibit 22493-X0005, Noise complaint investigation form.

                                                                 Decision 22493-D01-2018 (January 17, 2018) • 5
Bull Creek Wind Power Project – Noise Complaints                                      BluEarth Renewables Inc.

34.     Exhibits 67 to 73 include event logs listing the details relating to the sound from the wind
farm and contained specific times that the Bonnefoys were concerned with or annoyed by the
noise. The event logs capture the time period of March 18, 2017 to May 12, 2017, and the time,
noise characteristics, weather and ground cover conditions during this period when noise was
annoying to the Bonnefoys. The event logs state that during the dates and times when noise was
most annoying, the ground cover was wet or frozen at night.

35.     The evidence submitted also included diary entries completed by Mr. D. Bonnefoy from
March 15, 2017 to May 14, 2017. These diary entries relate to the family’s sleep quality and
health-related concerns, as well as including turbine operating conditions and weather conditions
experienced on specific days.

36.      With respect to health-related concerns, on March 21, 2017, Mr. D. Bonnefoy wrote:
“Today I had eye pressure, ear aches, chest pressure, jaw tension and pain and dizziness / nausea.
I felt physically ill most of the day.”22 And on May 5, 2017, Mr. D. Bonnefoy wrote: “Still
exhausted – Everyone is. We never sleep well anymore. Kids are getting sick more often. Tired
of being tired. Don’t even know which end is up anymore. Living in a fog.”23 On May 14, 2017,
the last diary entry uploaded, Mr. D. Bonnefoy stated: “We are done with this – started moving
to town.”24

37.    The details of the noise complaint filed by Mr. D. Bonnefoy regarding noise from the
wind farm around the facility where he works were contained in an email to the Commission. In
his email, Mr. D. Bonnefoy stated that his work is located in Legal Subdivision 15, Section19,
Township 41, Range 1, west of the Fourth Meridian and the closest wind turbine is located
approximately 260 metres from the office where he works. He stated: “When I am at work I
often get head aches, nausea, ear aches, ears ringing, eye pressure, tightness in my chest,
shaking, and dizziness. I have tried wearing ear plugs and the way I feel does not change.
Specifically I am complaining about the noise level and how the turbines were making me feel
on April 5, 2017. The wind was from the South East and the turbines were very loud and
spinning fast.”25

6            BluEarth’s response to the Bonnefoys’ noise complaint

38.   BluEarth responded to the Bonnefoys’ March 19, 2017 and April 4, 2017 noise
complaints in a summary of the noise complaint investigation prepared by its noise consultant,
Aercoustics Engineering Limited. The summary stated:

          Acoustic measurements at receptor location R86 spanned from June 15 to July 6, 2016.
          Results of the acoustic audit are detailed in the report entitled “Bull Creek Wind Power
          Project – Post-Construction Comprehensive Noise Survey” and dated December 9, 2016.

          Aercoustics was provided the operational data and on-site wind conditions for the wind
          project by BluEarth Renewables for each period of time there was a Noise Complaint

22
     Exhibit 22493-X0081, Bonnefoy image attachment 21.
23
     Exhibit 22493-X0115, Bonnefoy image attachment 55.
24
     Exhibit 22493-X0122, Bonnefoy image attachment 62.
25
     Exhibit 22493-X0007, Bonnefoy email to AUC.

6 • Decision 22493-D01-2018 (January 17, 2018)
Bull Creek Wind Power Project – Noise Complaints                                              BluEarth Renewables Inc.

          reported. Aercoustics has reviewed the date, time and landowner observations during
          complaints as well as the on-site operational data and wind conditions. This information
          was then used for a comparison with conditions measured during the acoustic survey.

          It was concluded that complaint conditions were captured during the post-construction
          acoustic audit at receptor location R86. The measured sound levels during complaint
          conditions are consistent with those reported. Based on these results, all indications are
          that the Bull Creek Wind Project are compliant with the sound level limits at this
          receptor.26

7            The Hagers’ noise complaint

39.     On April 10 and April 13, 2017, the Hagers filed noise complaints with respect to the
noise from the wind farm. The April 10th noise complaint related to noise while feeding cattle on
the southeast quarter of Section 3, Township 41, Range 1, west of the Fourth Meridian and in
the southeast quarter of Section 1, Township 41, Range 1, west of the Fourth Meridian and
stated: “While working outdoors in the yards close to the residences on SE-3-41-1-W4 and
SW-3-41-1-W4 the noise is awful. By 9 am., I, Charlene Hager, was experiencing eye
pain/pressure and headache.” The April 13th noise complaint related to noise while feeding cattle
on the southeast quarter of Section 3 and the northeast quarter of Section 3, Township 41,
Range 1, west of the Fourth Meridian, feeding cattle on the northwest quarter of Section 1,
Township 41, Range 1, west of the Fourth Meridian, checking the fence on the east side of the
southwest quarter of Section 2, Township 41, Range 1, west of the Fourth Meridian. The noise
complaint further stated that inside Mr. B. and Ms. D. Hager’s house (Receptor R103), with an
open window the turbines are clearly audible and in the yard of Mr. A. and Ms. C. Hager
(Receptor R141), the turbines are clearly audible as well.

40.     Mr. A. and Ms. C. Hager submitted a completed noise complaint investigation form and
event log on April 22, 2017.27 The noise complaint investigation form was dated April 10, 2017,
and stated that noise is a problem both daytime and nighttime, the noise is annoying both inside
and outside and further described the noise. The form stated: “Turbines are clearly audible in our
yards, houses when the windows are open and fields when feeding cattle and doing general work
on our farm. Experiencing eye pain, headache, jaw tension, woke several times in night.”

41.     Mr. B. and Ms. D. Hager submitted two noise complaint investigation forms and event
logs, uploaded on May 10, 2017.28 The first noise complaint investigation form was dated
April 28, 2017, and stated noise is a problem during the daytime, the noise is annoying outside
and further described the noise. The event log for the April 28th complaint detailed that sound
from the facility was annoying to them at 7:30 a.m. while feeding horses north of the house. The
second noise complaint investigation form was dated May 4, 2017, and stated noise is a problem
during the nighttime, the noise is annoying outside and further described the noise. The event log
for the May 4th complaint detailed that sound from the wind farm was annoying to them at
11 p.m. while working outdoors.

26
     Exhibit 22493-X0048, Bull Creek - Post-Construction Acoustic Audit Letter - Complaint Conditions - R86.
27
     Exhibit 22493-X0013, Hager - noise investigation form - April 26, 2017.
28
     Exhibit 22493-X0015, Ben and Deandra Hager noise complaint investigation forms and event logs.

                                                                        Decision 22493-D01-2018 (January 17, 2018) • 7
Bull Creek Wind Power Project – Noise Complaints                                      BluEarth Renewables Inc.

42.    On September 20, 2017, Ms. C. Hager requested more time to submit information
requests to BluEarth and to file further information pertaining to the complaints. Ms. C. Hager
explained that the reason for her request was due to the time demands of their harvesting
operations, which were expected to be completed by October 31, 2017. Ms. C. Hager later
withdrew her time extension request and filed the majority of her submissions, 12 exhibits, on
October 3, 2017, an additional 13 exhibits on October 5, 2017, and two additional exhibits on
October 19, 2017.

43.    Ms. C. Hager’s submissions included the following: diary entries regarding weather,
noise and health concerns;29 articles, press releases and presentations on wind turbine noise and
human health, animal health and vegetation (research documents);30 correspondence between
Ms. C. Hager and her noise consultant, James Farquharson of FDI Acoustics Inc.,31 email
correspondence explaining the late filing of documents;32 and indexes for her submissions
including an index with comments relating to the research documents.33

44.     Ms. C. Hager’s diary entries spanned from January 24, 2017 to February 6, 2017, and
April 10, 2017 to June 20, 2017, and included details such as the time, place, weather conditions,
turbine operating conditions and health-related concerns pertaining to the specific date when
noise was a concern.

45.    The documents submitted by Ms. C. Hager, containing correspondence between her and
James Farquharson of FDI Acoustics Inc., including results from a micro barometer survey set
up in her home in 2016. In the correspondence, James Farquharson stated: “The results from the
micro barometer survey indicate the presence of tones when the wind turbines were in operation.
The tones correlate closely to expected blade pass frequency of the wind turbines in the area
when those turbines are in operation.”

46.    Research articles submitted by Ms. C. Hager included topics such as health impacts of
wind turbines, infrasound and turbine noise assessments.

47.    In her index for her submissions, Ms. C. Hager concluded with the following final
statement:

          To date there has been no meaningful suggestions to remedy the consequences that
          Bluearth Renewables Inc. have knowingly imposed upon the families of the Killarney
          Lake Group-(BECAUSE THERE ARE NONE OTHER THAN SHUTTING THE
          TURBINES DOWN) Included in the group are Heather and Doug Buck, who left their
          home before the turbines were operational because of a pre-existing medical condition,
          that they could not risk becoming worse and now carry two mortgages because no one
          will buy their acreage in the vicinity of the Bull Creek wind project.

          Dan and Tracey Bonnefoy and their four children had to leave their home because of
          unbearably severe health impacts that this project has imposed on them. They now carry
          two mortgages and have yet to sell their property.

29
     Exhibits 22493-129 to 139 and 151.
30
     Exhibits 22493-141 to 149.
31
     Exhibits 22493-150 and 152.
32
     Exhibit 22493-156, Hager email re Submission Part 2 2017-10-13.
33
     Exhibits 22493-140 and 157.

8 • Decision 22493-D01-2018 (January 17, 2018)
Bull Creek Wind Power Project – Noise Complaints                                             BluEarth Renewables Inc.

          My journal of experiences living near the wind project lists the adverse health effect I
          have had imposed upon me.

          Our family now includes two new additions, which are particularly vulnerable, and there
          is considerable anxiety about the risk that this project imposes upon them. To make
          matters worse, Benjamin and Deandra Hager(receptor 103 at SE-3-41-1-w4), the new
          parents, are 1182 meters from the nearest turbine. They are the residents CLOSEST TO
          WIND TURBINES IN THE WHOLE PROJECT.34

8            BluEarth’s response to the Hagers’ noise complaint

48.    BluEarth responded to the April 10, 2017 noise complaint at Mr. A. and Ms. C. Hager’s
residence (Receptor R141). BluEarth retained its noise consultant, Aercoustics Engineering
Limited, to provide a summary of the noise complaint investigations at receptor R141 during the
reported complaint conditions. That summary provided:

          Acoustic measurements at receptor location R141 spanned from June 15 to July 6, 2016.
          Results of the acoustic audit are detailed in the report entitled “Bull Creek Wind Power
          Project – Post-Construction Comprehensive Noise Survey” and dated December 9, 2016.

          Aercoustics was provided the operational data and on-site wind conditions for the wind
          project by BluEarth Renewables for each period of time there was a Noise Complaint
          reported.

          Aercoustics has reviewed the date, time, landowner observations during complaints as
          well as the on-site operational data and wind conditions. This information was then used
          to compare conditions measured during the acoustic survey.

          It was concluded that complaint conditions were captured during the post-construction
          acoustic audit at receptor location R141. The measured sound levels during complaint
          conditions are consistent with those reported. Based on these results, all indications are
          that the Bull Creek Wind Project are compliant with the sound level limits at this
          receptor.35

49.   In response to the Hagers’ submissions, BluEarth referenced its letter dated
September 28, 2017, which stated:

          Health concerns were extensively considered during the hearing for the Project from
          October 28 to November 22, 2013. During the hearing, the AUC considered the evidence
          submitted by BluEarth and intervenors (including the Applicants). On March 10, 2014,
          the AUC issued a decision concluding that adherence to AUC Rule 012, and the project’s
          40 dBA Leq nighttime permissible sound level (PSL) will protect nearby residents,
          including children, the chronically ill and the elderly from sleep disturbance and other
          health effects related to turbine noise. To ensure compliance with AUC Rule 012 and the
          PSL, the AUC included conditions for noise monitoring.

34
     Exhibit 22493-X0157, Hager Submission Part 2 2017-10-03.
35
     Exhibit 22493-X0046, Post-Construction Acoustic Audit for the Bull Creek Wind Project at R141 – Complaint
     Conditions.

                                                                       Decision 22493-D01-2018 (January 17, 2018) • 9
Bull Creek Wind Power Project – Noise Complaints                                           BluEarth Renewables Inc.

          With respect to pre and post-construction noise, the AUC considered submissions from
          BluEarth and interveners (including the Applicants) in Proceeding 22270. On June 29,
          2017, the AUC concluded that the post-construction sound level survey indicates that the
          noise from the Project measured cumulatively does not exceed the permissible sound
          level specified in Rule 012. As a result, the AUC confirmed that BluEarth fulfilled its
          approval condition to conduct preconstruction and post-construction sound level surveys
          for the Project.36

50.     BluEarth further stated that the Commission’s March 10, 2014 decision and approval for
the project also considered the potential effects on vegetation and animals and, in BluEarth’s
view, the above decision reasonably addressed Ms. C. Hager’s health and noise-related concerns.

51.    BluEarth responded to the April 10th, April 28th and May 4, 2017, noise complaints at
Mr. B. and Ms. D. Hager’s residence (Receptor R103). Aercoustics Engineering Limited
provided the following summary of the noise complaint investigations at receptor location R103
during reported complaint conditions:

          Acoustic measurements at receptor location R103 spanned from June 15 to July 6, 2016.
          Results of the acoustic audit are detailed in the report entitled “Bull Creek Wind Power
          Project – Post-Construction Noise Survey – R103” and dated March 20, 2017.

          Aercoustics was provided the operational data and on-site wind conditions for the wind
          project by BluEarth Renewables for each period of time there was a Noise Complaint
          reported. Aercoustics has reviewed the date, time and landowner observations during
          complaints as well as the on-site operational data and wind conditions. This information
          was then used to compare conditions measured during the acoustic survey.

          It was concluded that complaint conditions were captured during the post-construction
          acoustic audit at receptor location R103. The measured sound levels during complaint
          conditions are consistent with those reported. Based on these results, all indications are
          that the Bull Creek Wind Project are compliant with the sound level limits at this
          receptor. 37

Commission findings

9            Evaluation of the post-construction comprehensive sound level surveys

52.     For the reasons that follow, the Commission finds that the sound level surveys completed
for the Bonnefoy’s and Mr. A. and Ms. C. Hager’s residences met the regulatory requirements of
Rule 012 and were adequate in the circumstances. As stated above, the Commission concluded in
Decision 22270-D01-201738 that the sound level surveys completed for these residences
demonstrated that noise levels from the Bull Creek Wind Power Project met the daytime and
nighttime permissible sound levels. The Commission notes that the turbine technology is the
same that was applied for and approved by the Commission and any modification to the wind

36
     Exhibit 22493-X0126, BluEarth Letter to AUC re further time extension request.
37
     Exhibit 22493-X0047, Post-Construction Acoustic Audit for the Bull Creek Wind Project at R103 – Complaint
     Conditions.
38
     Decision 22270-D01-2017: 1646658 Alberta Ltd. (BluEarth) – Bull Creek Wind Power Project Pre-and
     Post-Construction Sound Level Surveys, Proceeding 22270, Application 22270-A001, June 29, 2017.

10 • Decision 22493-D01-2018 (January 17, 2018)
Bull Creek Wind Power Project – Noise Complaints                                               BluEarth Renewables Inc.

turbines that would materially affect their sound emissions would require Commission approval.
The Commission, therefore, finds that the only question that it must address in this proceeding
regarding the sound level surveys completed for the Bonnefoys and the Mr. A. and Ms. C. Hager
residences, is if the sound surveys submitted were appropriate for the purposes of this complaint
proceeding.

9.1           The Bonnefoy’s noise complaint
53.     The Commission reviewed the noise investigation forms completed by the Bonnefoys as
well as the additional evidence submitted by the Bonnefoys to determine whether or not the
sound level survey completed by Aercoustics Engineering Limited at this residence captured
conditions of the noise complaint.

54.    The Commission acknowledges the statements from the Bonnefoys that noise from the
wind farm is audible at their residence and notes that prior to the wind farm’s construction, the
sound levels in the area were quieter. However, in assessing whether the complaint should be
dismissed, the only factor that the Commission can consider in this proceeding is whether the
requirements of Rule 012 have been met. To do otherwise, by imposing additional conditions
upon a project that has already been approved following a full hearing and decision process
would amount to a collateral attack on the original decision to approve the project.39

55.     With respect to ground conditions, the Commission notes that the Bonnefoys had listed
ground conditions as freeze/thaw for some of the times when noise was most annoying to them.
When the ground is covered in water, and the water freezes during the nighttime, this provides
ideal conditions for the sound of the wind turbines to be reflected by the ground and can lead to
an increase in noise at a receptor. The Commission notes Rule 012 provides an adjustment in
such circumstances. Specifically, in the case of a wintertime noise complaint, a +5 dBA Leq
adjustment may be used in determining the permissible sound level; and wintertime conditions
are defined as: if there is snow, ice, or frozen ground cover and temperatures below zero degrees
Celsius. As such, during wintertime conditions, the Commission recognizes that residences may
experience a change in what they hear from a facility due to a change in ground cover conditions
and Rule 012 includes an adjustment to the permissible sound level to account for wintertime
conditions. As a result, the Commission is not persuaded by the evidence submitted that noise
from the wind farm is greater than the permissible sound level for wintertime conditions.

56.    Although not determinative, the Commission notes the Bonnefoys did not dispute the
conditions of the sound level survey completed at their residence as not representative of their
complaint. As such, the Commission accepts the results of the sound level survey, which were
completed during summertime weather conditions, as required in Rule 012 for noise monitoring.

57.     Based on the above, the Commission finds that the sound level survey completed at the
Bonnefoy residence captured representative conditions of the Bonnefoys’ noise complaint
relating to their residence and, therefore, may be used to determine the compliance of the
Bull Creek Wind Power Project for this noise complaint proceeding.

39
     To re-open the original decision requires an application for a review under Rule 016: Review of Commission
     Decisions. The Commission has the discretion to hear an application for a review notwithstanding that the
     timeline specified in that Rule has passed.

                                                                        Decision 22493-D01-2018 (January 17, 2018) • 11
Bull Creek Wind Power Project – Noise Complaints                                            BluEarth Renewables Inc.

58.      With respect to the Bonnefoys’ work-related noise complaint, the purpose of Rule 012 is
to ensure noise from a facility, measured cumulatively with noise from other energy-related
facilities, does not exceed the permissible sound level calculated in accordance with the rule.
A permissible sound level is determined for a dwelling, and does not apply to work places.
The Commission has the discretion to place conditions on a project’s approval if it was
determined that such conditions were in the public interest. However, in this case, no further
conditions were placed on the wind farm’s approval in Decision 3520-D01-2015 (Errata).40

9.2          The Hagers’ noise complaint
59.     In its review of the evidence as filed on the record of this proceeding, the Commission
notes that the Hagers found the wind farm noise most annoying during the daytime period and
while outside of their homes. While the Commission has not specified the noise level that may
be present in yards, the Commission considers that compliance with the permissible sound level
should offer some protection to landowners working in and around their yards. The Commission
considers that in Decision 3520-D01-2015 (Errata), there were no additional conditions with
respect to noise levels, beyond the requirements of Rule 012. Therefore, the Commission
dismisses the complaint relating to the Hagers’ yard sites.

60.     Taking into account the concerns raised, the Commission accepts BluEarth’s submissions
that the sound level survey completed at Mr. A. and Ms. C. Hager residence (Receptor R141),
which took place from June 15, 2016 to July 7, 2016, captured representative conditions of the
Hagers’ noise complaints. The Commission, therefore, finds that this survey may be used to
determine the compliance of the Bull Creek Wind Power Project for this noise complaint
proceeding.

61.    The Commission must also determine if the sound level survey completed at the
Mr. B. Hager and Ms. D. Hager residence meets the regulatory requirements of Rule 012 as this
sound level survey has not been previously evaluated by the Commission.

62.     In the sound level survey completed at Mr. B. and Ms. D. Hager residence (Receptor
R103), which took place from June 15, 2016 to June 23, 2016, the minimum amount of valid
data required by Rule 012, three hours, was collected during a single nighttime period. On
June 19, 2016, a total of 5.0 hours of valid data was obtained during the nighttime period with a
resultant isolated sound level of 37.0 dBA Leq, which is below the nighttime permissible sound
level of 40 dBA Leq. On June 21, 2016, a total of 3.1 hours of valid data was obtained during the
daytime period, with a resultant isolated sound level of 47.1 dBA Leq, which is below the
daytime permissible sound level of 50 dBA Leq. The Commission finds that the evidence on
record for this proceeding shows that the measured cumulative sound level of the Bull Creek
Wind Power Project is below the permissible sound level for both the daytime and nighttime
periods at the Mr. B. and Ms. D. Hager residence.

63.    Based on the above, the Commission finds that the sound level survey completed at the
Mr. B. and Ms. D. Hager residence meets the regulatory requires of Rule 012 and captured
representative conditions of the Hagers’ noise complaints and, therefore, may be used to

40
     Errata to Decision 3520-D01-2015, Alteration to Bull Creek Wind Project, Proceeding 3520,
     Application 1610995, April 29, 2015.

12 • Decision 22493-D01-2018 (January 17, 2018)
Bull Creek Wind Power Project – Noise Complaints                                            BluEarth Renewables Inc.

determine the compliance of the Bull Creek Wind Power Project for this noise complaint
proceeding.

9.3          Health-related issues

64.     With respect to health-related issues raised by both the Bonnefoys and the Hagers,
health concerns were considered during the hearing for the wind farm from October 28, 2013 to
November 22, 2013. During the hearing, the Commission considered the evidence submitted by
BluEarth and interveners, which included expert evidence on the correlation between noise and
health. Ms. C. Hager’s medical conditions was the subject matter of that expert evidence. On
March 10, 2014, the Commission issued Decision 2014-040 (Errata) with a number of findings
with respect to health effects from audible wind turbine noise including the following, in
paragraph 399:

         Having regard to the foregoing, the Commission finds that adherence to the 40 dBA Leq
         nighttime PSL for the project will protect the members of the community surrounding the
         project, including children, the chronically ill and the elderly, from health effects related
         to audible noise produced by the project. The 40 dBA Leq PSL is practically consistent
         with the WHO 2009 guidelines of lowest observable adverse effects for nighttime noise
         and is also generally consistent with the nighttime noise levels set in other Canadian and
         international jurisdictions.

65.    The evidence on the record of this proceeding was anecdotal evidence pertaining to
alleged health effects. For clarity, no expert evidence was tendered in support of this position.
The Commission finds that anecdotal evidence relating to noise and health cannot be relied upon.
Therefore, the Commission is not persuaded by the evidence filed with respect to health in this
proceeding.

                                                                     Decision 22493-D01-2018 (January 17, 2018) • 13
Bull Creek Wind Power Project – Noise Complaints                            BluEarth Renewables Inc.

10           Decision

66.    For the above reasons, the Commission finds the Bull Creek Wind Power Project is
operating in compliance with Rule 012 requirements at the Bonnefoy residence, the Mr. A. and
Ms. C. Hager residence and the Mr. B. and Ms. D. Hager residence and dismisses the noise
complaints in this proceeding.

Dated on January 17, 2018.

Alberta Utilities Commission

(original signed by)

Henry van Egteren
Commission Member

14 • Decision 22493-D01-2018 (January 17, 2018)
You can also read
Next slide ... Cancel