"Hard lessons from the Fox Islands Wind Project" (Maine)

Dec 12, 2009

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—Sally Wylie, Op-ed in The Working Waterfront (12/8/09)

“Although our group overwhelmingly supported the project, we now live with the daily presence of turbine noise, 24/7. As one of the Fox Islands Wind Neighbors (FIWN) recently noted, ‘We support the windmills, but not the noise.’ The noise is as constant as the wind, building in intensity according to wind speed and direction. It can be a low rumbling, whooshing, grinding background noise that one can just hear above the sound of the trees, or it can build to an in-your-face noise, like jet engines roaring combined with a grinding and pulsating sound that echoes in your head, keeps you awake at night, and beats on your house like a drum.

"Fireweeds," Wini Smart
“Fireweeds,” by Wini Smart (Vinalhaven, Maine)

“As neighbors of the wind turbines, we find ourselves in the midst of an unexpected, unwanted life crisis. When GE flipped the switch and the turbines began to turn, island life as we knew it evaporated.

“As I watched the first rotation of the giant blades from our deck, my sense of wonder was replaced by disbelief and utter shock as the turbine noise revved up and up, past the sound of our babbling brook, to levels unimagined. It was not supposed to be this way!

“From where we are sitting, it seems that the industry standard for turbine noise in rural areas is absolutely wrong! I cannot speak for all the Fox Islands Wind Neighbors on this, but my husband and I feel that, on a local level, well-meaning individuals made a critical miscalculation. Depending on wind speed, wind direction, etc., we estimate that households within a mile to a mile-and-a-half radius of the turbines are impacted by the sound.

“This is a very serious issue that affects many homeowners on Vinalhaven and could also, due to diminishing property values, affect the tax base of the town. In an island community, such as Vinalhaven, where people sincerely care about and support one another, we are in the position where economic gain in the form of reduced electrical rates/wind turbine debt could be pitted against community well-being. How willing will the Fox Islands Wind Cooperative and the community be to share the burden of this major miscalculation? Rather than bringing us together, the noise from the turbines has the potential to tear our community apart.

“Before any other island community takes the step towards wind power, come to Vinalhaven and see for yourselves the consequences of those actions. Come to our meetings. Come stand on our porches, listen to the nonstop roaring, thumping, whooshing, grinding sounds of the turbines, and compare it to the quiet you currently experience. Watch how our community struggles with this issue and see how we resolve it. Look at the compromises we make and decide if those trade-offs are worth it for you and your neighbors. For many islanders, a cohesive, caring community and good quality of life are of critical importance. Don’t let the wind blow it away.”

Click here to read the entire article, excerpted above.
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