“There is a fundamental difference between turbine noise and other forms of industrial disturbances” (Maine)

Aug 30, 2010

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—Alan Farago, Vinalhaven, ME (8/25/10)

I am one of the neighbors of the Vinalhaven wind turbines, misled by turbine supporters in 2008 and 2009 that “ambient sounds would mask the noise of the turbines.” As I write these words, the noise from the wind turbines churns in the background.

My home is 3000 feet from the turbines, and my experience is contrary to all the assertions that were made during the permitting process a few years ago.

At this hour of the morning, it should be peaceful outside, the quiet interrupted only by the calling crows or osprey circling. Some locals dismiss the noise complaints, saying that Vinalhaven had a diesel power plant for years. But to live near excessive noise is not the reason I chose to own property here. Also, as I have become familiar with wind turbine noise, it is more and more clear that there is a fundamental difference between turbine noise and other forms of industrial disturbances. Here, it is not just the constant noise, but the pulsing drone that makes the noise particularly hostile that is so disturbing. It is inescapable.

At a recent public hearing on Vinalhaven on turbine noise sponsored by the Island Institute, one neighbor—at the point of tears—said that she had been forced from her house when her chest began vibrating at the same syncopation as the turbines outside.

At that hearing I said I supported wind energy so long as the economic advantages to ratepayers were clear and so long as surrounding property values were not affected. The jury is out on the first point, but not on the second. The constant noise from the turbines, even at 3000 feet, has taken away a valuable part of my investment and a key part of my family’s well-being.

I never imagined my first waking thought would be: where is the wind blowing and how much noise are the wind turbines making now? But that is what happens in this formerly quiet, beautiful place.

At the public meeting in Vinalhaven, I asked a question: When would the natural quiet be restored and when would my property values be protected? There was no answer from the project supporters. Silence.

Neighbors’ complaints about turbine noise rose immediately after the three, 1.5 megawatt GE turbines were turned on last fall. A year after the Vinalhaven turbines were greeted with wide public acclaim, the turbine neighbors find themselves, through no fault of their own, in an extraordinarily difficult and expensive effort to demonstrate that the wind turbines do exceed state regulations.

The cost of wind turbines has been shifted onto neighbors who never imagined these kinds of burdens when the benefits of wind energy were sold to the public. It is wrong and it is unfair to impose both the noise and the uncertainty of resolution—or if there will ever be resolution—on a few nearby homeowners.

These inequities are predictable. They will multiply wherever wind turbines are placed within a mile and a half of residences, and under the State of Maine’s archaic noise regulations.

The State of Maine must provide some relief to neighbors of wind turbines. To start, a fund should be established from a utility fee imposed state-wide that allows citizens to access highly technical and expensive noise and acoustic measurement equipment and data and independent experts.

The collateral damage of wind turbines is the assessment of the noise they make. No one in authority admits this during the permitting process. They say, “The noise will be minor,” or “the sound of the wind blowing in the leaves will cover the sound.” That is simply not true.

The Vinalhaven neighbors have already spent tens of thousands of dollars to engage the local utility on the matter of measuring the churning noise. The costs are not trivial, but once turbines are erected in your neighborhood, their noise will be affixed to nearby property.

Be forewarned.

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