Decibels from hell (Maine)

Feb 13, 2011

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Editor’s note:  Art and Cheryl Lindgren have been much in the News.  They have become the anguished face of a well-intentioned community project gone terribly wrong.

On a crisp autumn day filled with speeches, hot dogs, and much applause, Fox Islands Wind cut the ribbon and powered up its 3 GE 1.5 MW turbines on the island of Vinalhaven. Within seconds, the home of Art & Cheryl Lindgren—mere yards away—turned into a living hell.

A year and a half later—a massive heart attack later—much acrimony and expense later—nothing is resolved.

Hell, like the preacher says, is forever.

The Lindgrens and their neighbors desperately hope the preacher’s wrong.  The turbines, agrees the State of Maine, are at least occasionally “out of compliance” with State noise standards. Fox Islands Wind disputes this, and says it’s a question of whose measurements one believes.  And there the matter rests—deadlocked.   Lawyer eyeball-to-eyeball lawyer.

Meanwhile, the Lindgrens and the Wylies and Faragoes and others live in torment, and, as if that were not enough, endure the malice and taunts of neighbors.

Behold the torn asunder community of Vinalhaven, ME.

Monitoring the noise levels of the wind turbines outside their window has turned into both a heroic campaign and a nightmare.  Hell, with whistles & bells.  For the past year, Art has set about to prove unequivocally that the noise/vibration from the machine, seen below, exceeds even the wholly out-of-date State standards.

Here is his report.

View from the Lindgren home, Vinalhaven, ME

—Art Lindgren, Vinalhaven, ME

In an effort to restore peace and health in our lives, our neighbors and we formed Fox Islands Wind Neighbors (FIWN).  One of its objectives has been to document noise compliance violations by taking certified sound level and MET tower measurements and submitting them as formal “complaints” to the Maine Dept of Environmental Protectoin (MDEP).

We have met with limited success.

The problems with this method and our current set-up are the following.  I offer these observations to communities who find themselves, sooner or later, in the same predicament as ours:

  • it is very expensive and labor intensive for us to collect all this data, perform the analysis and submit it through our lawyer to the MDEP.
  • FIW’s measurement site is across the street and down the road and behind some trees, so all measurements must be extrapolated to get the sound levels at the resident boundary.
  • FIW is the only entity with access to the data, so all data we or the MDEP get to see from them is suspect.
  • the State compliance protocol currently only requires FIW to submit twelve (a dozen!) 10-minute periods (for the year!) which meet all the protocol specs and demonstrate “compliance.”  Their data is easily cherry-picked and therefore compliance easily met.

So, here’s what we’re working on:

  • clarifying the measurement protocol and perfecting our (FIWN’s) measurement technique.
  • working with MDEP to require FIW to place a sound meter and MET tower on our most critical (nearest) residential boundary.
  • requiring FIW to make the noise meter and MET data freely and directly available to us and the MDEP via wireless Internet connection.
  • asking MDEP to require a monthly report from FIW which details all instances of non-compliance over the reporting period.
  • working with MDEP’s sound consultants EnRAD on the model being used. We can show the model is incorrect and that wind shear is being improperly accounted for. FIW’s argument that they are in compliance is based on this model, which we know is horribly wrong, and which claims that what we’re hearing and measuring is simply “ambient” noise and not the turbines.

George Baker, CEO Fox Islands Wind

If you live where a wind company is trying to ruin your life, but which has not yet succeeded, it’s time to plan for what you’re going to do if they do manage to force their way in.

  • take measurements for pre-construction noise now.
  • start fund-raising now.
  • contact your State Dept of Environmental Protection (DEP) to find out what measurements you may have to take to protect your property from the wind company breaking the law.
  • ensure the burden of proof will be on the wind company (and not you) to show they are “not out of compliance”—ever!  This is vastly different than showing they are “in compliance.”
  • I warn you, your State DEP doesn’t have the money to afford to monitor the installation to protect you and all other sites.
  • if the burden is not on the wind company to prove they are never out of compliance, you won’t be able to protect yourself from extreme noise levels, the high cost of measurement, sound consulting and legal fees, meetings with the DEP, etc.

Good luck!  You will need it!
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The raw nastiness and downright brutality of the Comments which WTS.com received from Vinalhaven residents in response to this posting was astonishing.  Not surprisingly, we did not post them.

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