In Australia, Senator John Madigan continues to expose the fraudulent goings on in the wind industry. This time he has demonstrated that a wind company used methodologically flawed acoustic test reports to secure planning permission for an industrial wind farm.
We desperately need a Senator Madigan in Ireland, where the monitoring of acoustic compliance is non-existent.
These are excepts from his address to the Australian Federal Senate on 15 September 2015 (Pacific Hydro is the wind developer, MDA (Marshall Day Acoustics) is the acoustic consultant, Delaire is the acoustic “expert”). The emphases are mine:
“Tonight I speak about corruption and fraud in the power generation industry.
“Avoiding noise from wind turbines is an expensive bother that does not hold any appeal to windfarm operators. Slowing down turbines increases costs and slows down profits.
So I was not surprised to learn that in the seven years of its controversial operation, the adjustments necessary to ensure Cape Bridgewater Windfarm operated in compliance with its planning permit have never been applied.
Mr President, wind farm operators have found a far less expensive and simple process to game the system. They employ compliant “experts.”
In 2006, Marshall Day Acoustics with consultant Christophe Delaire prepared a pre-construction Noise Impact Assessment for the Cape Bridgewater Windfarm.
The report predicted that compliance could not be achieved at Cape Bridgewater windfarm without operating 13 of 29 wind turbines in reduced operational noise modes.
Before it was even built, developers knew this windfarm would operate in breach of permit unless adjustments were made.
But Delaire told the committee of inquiry:
following measurements on site, it was found that noise optimisation was not required.
How did Delaire’s “expert” pre-construction and post construction reports come to draw such contrasting conclusions?
The answer is simple. Pacific Hydro didn’t noise optimise turbines at Cape Bridgewater because they knew they wouldn’t have to! They only had to commission a post-construction noise report to say the windfarm was compliant.
On both occasions, Pacific Hydro got exactly the report they wanted from MDA. But the compliance assessments were not compliant with the standard and neither were the reports!
Questions of multiple reports reaching opposite conclusions were raised at the Portland Hearing.
During the Cape Bridgewater windfarm’s noise monitoring program, measurements were taken every month and monthly noise reports were generated to assess compliance at dwellings.
Let’s look at a few from House 63.
October 2008: “windfarm noise levels exceed the NZ noise limits.”
June 2009: “the NZ limits are significantly exceeded”.
July 2009: “the NZ limits are significantly exceeded”.
MDA’s original reports identified noncompliance at multiple homes and every wind speed.
This didn’t satisfy the client.
On 22 July, MDA reissued revised monthly reports for every house and every month. These reports were to Pacific Hydro’s satisfaction (but not the permit’s.)
The reissued versions for October and July said: there is reasonable correlation between measured noise levels and wind speeds.
References to exceeding the NZ limits, erased.
Without incriminating original reports, MDA’s final report concluded:
noise emissions from the Cape Bridgewater Windfarm comply with the NZ noise limits at all houses and at all assessed wind speeds.
Pacific Hydro submitted it to the Planning Minister as “proof” the Cape Bridgewater Windfarm was compliant.
MDA combined all the reissued monthly reports and averaged them out for each property.
There is nothing in the 1998 NZ standard that allows acousticians to find “average” post- construction noise levels and yet Pacific Hydro told the Committee:
“Current noise standards require the average post-construction wind farm noise level.”
The Cape Bridgewater windfarm has never been compliant, despite the falsified conclusions drawn by MDA and the claims of its master, Pacific Hydro.”
“Delaire from MDA prepared Waubra’s Windfarm’s preconstruction noise report which predicted noise would exceed the NZ limits and would only comply if 50 of its 128 turbines were noise optimised.
Same preconstruction formula, same post-construction problems.
If not for that pesky peer-review, Acciona might have got away with it. They had never intended to operate noise optimise turbines in compliance with the limits.
WHY? Acciona had a MDA post construction noise report that concluded Waubra Windfarm operated in compliance with noise limits without needing to noise optimise any turbines, let alone fifty of them.
The Minister wrote to Acciona again a year later, stating that the MDA report it submitted showed non-compliance and that testing wasn’t undertaken in accordance with the NZ standard. The Minister queried “who it was that undertook the assessment and whether this person or people were qualified and experienced to do so.”
MDA’s website says Delaire graduated with an engineering diploma in 2002 after beginning with MDA as a work experience student the year before.
Delaire has prepared acoustic reports for 50 wind farms.
MDA’s website promotes its: “Proven record of successful wind farm approvals” and credits Delaire for developing a ‘specialty’ in wind farm environmental noise assessments.”
At the beginning of MDA’s reports there is an extraordinary disclaimer which acknowledges that reports are written to satisfy the client’s brief. It says their reports ‘may not be suitable’ for other uses.
MDA’s disclaimer proves they are not fit for purpose as independent compliance documents.
MDA is a member firm of the Association of Australian Acoustical Consultants whose Code of Professional Conduct requires that members avoid making statements are misleading or unethical and endeavour to promote the well-being of the community.
They must not knowingly omit from any finalised report any information that would materially alter the conclusion that could be drawn from the report.
MDA has clearly failed the community. Consistently.
There’s no doubt that MDA’s commercial arrangements with both Acciona and Pacific Hydro adversely affected the independence of reports and the legitimacy of conclusions.
This example alone shows exactly why we needed an Inquiry that examined the regulatory governance of wind farms and why the scrutiny of an independent, national wind farm commissioner is essential.
There must be arm’s length relationships between acousticians and windfarm operators. Independence would put a stop to the practice where false compliance documents allow operators to gain pecuniary advantage!”
“While Acciona and Pacific Hydro were busy breaching their permits to maximise their profits, residents were and still are often exposed to horrendously excessive noise. Twenty or more of these same people had sent affidavits to former Health Minister and current Victorian Premier, Daniel Andrews, in June 2010.
They reported severe sleep disturbances and a series of unexplained adverse health effects that were not present before the windfarm started operating. Local doctors and a Sleep specialist confirmed concerns of a correlation.
By December 2010, eleven families around Waubra alone had vacated their homes, citing noise nuisance as the reason.
But the Victorian government refused Pyrenees Council’s request for a Health Impact Assessment, citing the NHMRC’s Rapid Review. That very rapid review found that there was no evidence of adverse effects when planning guidelines were followed.
At Waubra, we know that they were not. A simple peer review would have found that they weren’t followed at Cape Bridgewater either.
With callous indifference, the Victorian government has consistently failed in its duty of care to these people.
These people represent the human cost of corporate fraud, regulatory failure and political indifference.”
The full video of Senator Madigan’s speech can be found here: