PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — Turbines at a wind-electricity production site in northeastern South Dakota are noisier than state permit conditions allow, according to a complaint that several landowners in the area filed more than a year ago. Now a lawyer for Crowned Ridge Wind is trying to convince state regulators that they shouldn’t consider most of what one of the complainants intends to present later this month.

The lawyer, Miles Schumacher of Sioux Falls, represents NextEra Energy, a Florida-based utility that owns the Crowned Ridge operation in Codington and Grant counties. He has asked the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission to disregard nearly everything being submitted by landowner Amber Christenson of rural Strandburg.

Schumacher claims that Christenson doesn’t qualify as an expert witness and wants her treated as a lay witness, which would sharply limit her testimony. Christenson along with Linda and Timothy Lindgren of rural South Shore allege that Crowned Ridge isn’t meeting sound requirements. Christenson opposes Crowned Ridge’s request, saying she shouldn’t be silenced, and wants the commission to wait to decide the value of what she is presenting.

The commission will consider the two sides’ arguments at its next regular meeting October 10. The evidentiary hearing on the complaint is set for October 11-12.

Schumacher in his motion stated, “Ms. Christenson is not an expert in the specialized field of conducting post-construction sound studies on wind turbines, nor does she profess to be an
expert.” He added, “It is axiomatic that conducting post-construction sound studies on wind turbines requires specialized knowledge, skill, experience, and training. On their face, the highly technical 2020 and 2021 sound studies submitted by Epsilon Associates, Inc. (‘Epsilon’) and the studies submitted by Hessler Associates, Inc. (‘Hessler’) reviewing the Epsilon studies demonstrate the high degree of scientific and technical knowledge needed to opine on the sound produced by wind turbines and whether the wind turbine sound is within the Commission’s sound thresholds. It is undisputable, therefore, that the field of post construction
wind sound studies is not one a lay person can testify on with regard to the validity of the sound study, the techniques applied in the sound study and the results of the sound study, for example.”

Christenson, who is representing herself, said in her response, “Crowned Ridge keeps telling you that I am just a lowly lay person. This lay person wants to hold their feet to the fire. This lay person wants you, the Commission, to remedy the noise problem here where we live. WIOM (winter ice operation mode) doesn’t solve it, and I don’t have to be an expert to read the spec sheet. I don’t have to be an expert to know that when turbines run at full power, they are louder than when they run at low power; not only is that common sense, that has been testified to you in hearings.”

She continued, “I have to believe our South Dakota Commissioners want the truth in this issue. I have to believe our Commissioners want what is best for the residents of South Dakota. I have to believe you meant what you said and ordered when you allowed Crowned Ridge to be permitted and built.”