Herkimer County, New York is the latest location to register wind turbine noise complaints. The source? Iberdrola's Hardscrabble wind facility (37 turbines) that went online earlier this year. Studies are underway to determine if the project is operating outside legal sound limits, but the larger question is 'Why?'. Why, with over 1,300 megawatts of wind installed in New York today and an extensive body of evidence showing turbine noise is causing deleterious impacts on people living near the towers, was Herkimer County fooled into thinking it would be spared?
The answer is simple: Herkimer County residents were lied to.
Yes, we could use softer words to explain the situation. But given what sound experts already know about turbine noise, the time for niceties has past.
Predicted turbine noise at Hardscrabble
Prior to erecting a wind facility, project owners usually engage acoustic engineers to prepare models that predict sound level increases a community can expect from an operating project at certain reference points. These engineers rely on the CADNA/A software tool for their models. CADNA/A is based on ISO 9613-2, the international standard developed for sound prediction.
The CADNA/A tool generates predicted sound levels at various distances from the turbines. Developers present the sound levels as contour lines overlaid around the turbine sites. Each contour shows a sound level in decibels with the lines closest to the turbines having higher decibel levels.
The sound predictions developed for Hardscrabble showed that during periods of low wind conditions, non-participating residents closest to the turbines could expect to experience noise increases of less than 6 dBA over the presumed existing level of 35 dBA. During high wind conditions, modeled data showed property owners would experience slightly higher levels but most increases would still be under 6 dBA.
Prior to construction, Iberdrola insisted the facility would meet the New York state noise guidelines for most situations and would be in full compliance with local regulations that limited noise to 50 dBA.
CADNA/A and the ISO 9613-2 standard
Acousticians hired by the wind industry insist the ISO standard is an appropriate method for modeling wind turbine sound provided the correct input parameters are used. But what they do not admit is that the ISO 9613-2 standard, on which CADNA/A is based, was never validated for wind turbine noise. In fact, the standard is mainly applicable to situations concerning road or rail traffic, industrial noise sources, construction activities, and many ground-based noise sources. It does not apply to sound from aircraft in flight, to blast waves from mining, military, or other similar operations. And it was not designed to predict turbine noise.
The ISO Standard limits use of its methods to noise sources that are close to the ground (approximately 30 meter difference between the source and receiver height) and within 1 kilometer of the receiving location. A wind turbine with a hub height of 80+ meters exceeds the ISO height limit by 50 meters. Meteorological conditions are also limited to wind speeds of approximately 1 meter/second and 5 meters/second when measured at a height of 3 meters to 11 meters above the ground.
Only when all of these constraints are met by the situation being modeled can the predicted noise levels be assumed to be accurate within a +/- 3 dB range.
The constraints placed on the ISO standard having to do with wind speed, direction and weather conditions indicate just how limited the models are for anything other than simple weather conditions -- NOT the types of conditions that wind turbines need to operate.
The way sound spreads outdoors can be affected by temperature differences in different layers of the wind that cause sound waves to bend up or down at the boundaries just like water bends light. If a noise source is above a boundary then sound that would have gone down to the ground surface might bend up and dissipate. If the noise source is below a boundary layer then sound that might have dissipated upwards is bent down and added to the sounds that would normally be directed downwards. The current science of meteorology does not have precise ways to know what is happening right near any particular turbine.
Heinrich A. Metzen of DataKustik GmbH, maker of CADNA/A confirmed this fact in an e-mail where he stated:
"long range propagation including atmospheric refraction is not part of the standards used for (normal, "standard") noise calculations. It is known that atmospheric refraction may cause sound to be refracted downwards again and contributing strongly to the level at long distances. The atmosphere in the standards existing is just homogeneous above height."
Since there are no accepted algorithms to predict these refractions, sound propagation models cannot evaluate conditions that have vertical or horizontal turbulence even though we know they can add significant sound at the receiving location when present. As a result, predicted sound levels are understated.
Countries in the European Union are developing their own models for predicting turbine noise propagation because of their concerns with limitations of the ISO standard. Unlike the ISO 9613-2 standard, these newer models have been validated for turbine noise by peer-reviewed independent studies.
Iberdrola knows better
The first post-construction sound study in Herkimer revealed noise levels reaching 60 to 65 decibels, nearly 20 decibels above what was predicted for homes in the area. Iberdrola's Paul Copleman told the press the excessive noise levels were largely due to the wind rustling leaves and cannot be "attributable to the wind farm."
Seriously? Any guesses on the number of complaints filed over noisy leaves before the turbines were sited?
Use of a model that understates real-world operational sound levels is very likely the root cause of the problem at the Hardscrabble facility.
Acoustic experts who work for the wind industry, including Iberdrola, are well aware of the limitations of the ISO modeling. They are well aware that the standard is intended for ground-based sound sources and has never been validated for predicting wind turbine noise. They also know that literature on turbine noise dating back nearly a decade has shown that these models underestimate wind turbine noise levels. But here in the U.S., wind industry acousticians still use the CADNA/A tool without qualification.
Herkimer County residents are now suffering the consequences. And as stated above, the explanation is simple. Herkimer County residents were lied to.
 The CADNA/A software tool is written and sold by DataKustik GmbH of Munich, Germany.
 The 6 dBA figure comes from New York's published guidance which states "In non-industrial settings the [Sound Pressure Level] should probably not exceed ambient noise by more than 6 dB(A) at the receptor. An increase of 6 dB(A) may cause complaints."
 Email from H. Metzen, DataKustik GmbH, manufacturer of CADNA/A software, Nov. 16, 2006.
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Last November, the island community of Vinalhaven Maine celebrated the commissioning of the Fox Islands community wind energy facility, a 3-turbine project with an installed capacity of 4.5 megawatts. The $14.5 million project was overwhelmingly supported by residents on the island. But before the celebratory speeches concluded, those living within a mile of the facility made it clear the pulsating noise reverberating in- and outside their homes was unbearable.
A formal evaluation of noise levels was initiated and this week the Maine Department of Environmental Protection received a report from its third-party noise consultant, Warren Brown of EnRad. The conclusions and recommendations of Brown's e-mail to the Department are pasted below. (emphasis added) The full report and accompanying documents can be accessed here.
I find no 10 m meteorological, audible or L10-L90 basis for applying a wind speed/noise level adjustment to ML-C measurements or ML-A calculated sound levels.
I have attached measured sound levels at the Webster property (ML-C) and EnRad estimated sound levels at the property line of the Farnham property ML-A, which indicates that FIW exceeded the nighttime noise limit of 45 dBA for 7-10 minute intervals during the complaint period.
The July 17 & 18 complaint conditions were very similar with regards to surface wind speeds and WTG output or 80m wind speeds (May data) as FIWN complaints previously submitted for May 1, 4, 5, & 6 all of which reported sound levels between 46-48 dBA. Although these complaints were prior to the "FIW compliance protocol" in timing, nonetheless there exists a significant body of consistent meteorological and sound data indicating sound levels greater than applicable limits.
Substantial changes are recommended for FIW nighttime operations, limiting WTG sound levels at ML-A to 45 dBA.
Warren L. Brown
The families impacted by the noise issued this press release explaining their efforts in getting to this point.
Windaction.org is hopeful the State of Maine will act swiftly in requiring Vinalhaven's project operate within the limits of State law. Maine's nighttime noise limit for quiet zones is 45 dBA. However, the 45 dBA is still too high according to the World Health Organization (WHO). In its revised Night Noise Guidelines released last fall, the WHO stated:
"...adverse health effects are observed at the level above 40 dB Lnight,outside, such as self-reported sleep disturbance, environmental insomnia, and increased use of somnifacient drugs and sedatives. Therefore, 40 dB Lnight,outside is equivalent to the lowest observed adverse effect level (LOAEL) for night noise."
For communities facing proposed wind projects in their area, we recommend their residents and decision makers heed the solemn advice of Sally Wylie of Vinalhaven who wrote:
"The wind turbine noise issue on Vinalhaven is a cautionary tale for every community in Maine and beyond. Do your homework. Ask hard questions. Demand clear answers. There is no free energy. The price you will pay for mistakes will be very high; your quality of life, the enjoyment of your property as well as loss in property value, sleepless nights, and headaches are all a distinct possibility if you live within a mile of turbines. We have not been the ones to give wind power a bad name. If the turbines had been sited responsibly on Vinalhaven, you would have not heard a word from me."
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Acciona Energy's Waubra wind farm, located in western Victoria, Australia is the largest operating wind facility in the southern hemisphere. The site's 128 turbines (192 megawatts installed) started generating electricity in Spring 2009 and were fully energized by that July.
Within weeks of the towers first being turned on, Noel Dean began suffering adverse health effects. Australian newspapers quoted Dean this way: "I was waking up two days in a row with headaches, I'd have to take Panadol but they'd be gone by dinner time. When the wind is blowing north I got a thumping headache, like someone belted me over the head with a plank of wood and I didn't know whether to go to the hospital or what to do. You couldn't really work." Other symptoms he and his wife experienced included general malaise, nausea, sleeplessness and general uneasiness.
By July, the Deans had packed up and left their farm.
Around the same time, an investigation of wind farm noise complaints was underway in New Zealand. Residents living near the towers in New Zealand were filing complaints of sleep disturbance, annoyance, anxiety and nausea. As more people in both Australia and New Zealand became comfortable in talking about their health concerns a picture began to emerge that researchers found unusual. There were compelling similarities between experiences in two totally different countries, totally different environments and totally different turbines.
Audible wind farm sound and consequential sleep disturbance, annoyance and anxiety responses were similar for people in both countries. These effects were also experienced even under situations of near inaudible wind turbine sound.
The concerns of the Deans and others living within 3500 meters of operational wind farms triggered more than twelve months of intensive study by a group of 4 qualified researchers.
The result is The Dean Report, a detailed peer-reviewed analysis of the sound levels near the Dean's properties and the potential adverse effects of wind farm activity on human health.
Dr. Robert Thorne PhD, who authored the report, based his findings and conclusions on extensive field work, personal investigations, case studies and the development of sound analysis methodologies. He told Windaction.org that "the Dean Report, in its various forms, has been placed in evidence subject to cross-examination before a Board of Inquiry and formal wind farm hearings for the purposes of peer-review and critique. A hypothesis as to cause and effect for adverse health effects from wind farm activity is presented."
In news reports today, wind farm operator, Acciona Energy, insisted "there is already enough existing credible evidence proving there are no health effects from wind farm noise."
We respectfully disagree. The Dean Report makes clear we are only just beginning to understand problem.
 Dr. Thorne is a principal of Noise Measurement Services Pty Ltd in Australia. He holds a PhD in Health Science from Massey University, New Zealand. His professional background is the measurement of low background sound levels and the assessment of noise as it affects people.
Windaction.org wishes to express its thanks to Dr. Thorne and Mr. Dean for sharing the Dean Report with us and permitting us to provide its content to our readers.
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Dr. Carl V. Phillips, an expert in epidemiology and related health sciences, submitted this important testimony to the Wisconsin Public Service Commission in reference to the Commission's effort to establish siting standards for large-scale wind turbines.
His testimony is significant in light of the report released by the American and Canadian Wind Energy Associations that asserted that "the number and uncontrolled nature of existing case reports of adverse health effects alleged to be associated with wind turbines are insufficient to advocate for funding further studies."
Following Dr. Phillips' detailed review of existing literature, he arrived at a very different conclusion:
There is substantial evidence to support the hypothesis that wind turbines have important health effects on local residents. If forced to draw a conclusion based on existing evidence alone, it would seem defensible to conclude that there is a problem. It would certainly make little sense to conclude that there is definitely no problem, and those who make this claim offer arguments that are fundamentally unscientific. But there is simply no reason to draw a conclusion based on existing evidence alone; it is quite possible to quickly gather much more useful information than we have.
I admit to being new to this controversy and my studies have been on the content and quality of the reported science, and so there may be something hidden or political that escapes me. I have witnessed other researchers naively wandering into fields I have studied for many years, and being tricked into believing the political propaganda rather than the science. Thus I am aware of the potential limitations of understanding when someone is new to a subject matter. But as someone who specializes in trying to sort out competing epidemiology-related policy claims, I find it difficult to see how the evidence could fail to be adequate to suggest that there is a serious problem worthy of further study. The only apparent scenario that would lead to a different conclusion would be if much of the reported evidence of health problems were basically manufactured (subjects or researchers were overtly lying, or subjects were so intent on being negative that talked themselves into having diseases). But since such a scenario could only be established with further research, so even such a story leaves it impossible to justify the call to avoid further research, other than for the most cynical of motives: trying to suppress unwanted discoveries.
Dr. Phillips' full written testimony can be accessed at this link. The information he provided orally to the Commission can be viewed here.
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Last September, Concerned Citizens to Save Roxbury and others filed an appeal of the Maine Department of Environmental Protection's (MEDEP) final order approving the Record Hill wind energy facility proposed for Roxbury, ME.
The appeal challenged the permit on a number of important issues including MEDEP's reliance, in part, on claims made by Maine's Center for Disease Control that there is "no evidence in peer-reviewed medical and public health literature of adverse health effects from noise generated from wind turbines other than occasional reports of annoyances."
The near identical conclusion was published in the industry-funded report released earlier this month which stated that while noise and vibrations emitted by industrial wind turbines may be annoying the towers posed no risk to human health and any allegations of adverse health effects were as yet unproven.
We were particularly struck by how both sources characterized turbine noise as merely 'annoying' prompting us to investigate further.
According to Dr. Michael Nissenbaum, the word 'annoyance' has been "misinterpreted by the wind industry and the Maine CEC to mean an inconsequential disturbance" thus failing to comprehend the health significance or severity of the 'annoyance' in medical terms.
"Substitute 'disturbance' for the word 'annoyance'", he said, "and things look different."
Dr. Alice Suter, the distinguished acoustician in the area of hearing conservation and noise control appears to support Dr. Nissenbaum's position. In her 1991 paper entitled "Noise and Its Effects" she wrote:
"Annoyance" has been the term used to describe the community's collective feelings about noise ever since the early noise surveys in the 1950s and 1960s, although some have suggested that this term tends to minimize the impact. While "aversion" or "distress" might be more appropriate descriptors, their use would make comparisons to previous research difficult. It should be clear, however, that annoyance can connote more than a slight irritation; it can mean a significant degradation in the quality of life. This represents a degradation of health in accordance with the World Health Organization's (WHO) definition of health, meaning total physical and mental well-being, as well as the absence of disease."
We asked acoustics expert George Kamperman, who has over 50 years of experience in the area of community noise, to help us understand what Dr. Suter meant by her statement that other descriptors "would make comparisons to previous research difficult."
He responded with this important historical perspective:
In the mid-50s (last century) BBN performed numerous community noise surveys. Residents were requested to answer a simple questionnaire to rate their outdoor environmental noise exposure on a scale from one to five. A rating of "1" meant the noise level was acceptable and a rating of "5" was recorded by persons very upset with the noise level outside their home prompting repeated calls to complain.
Two different noise acceptance rating scales evolved from the noise surveys. The initial presentations showed the percent "Highly Annoyed" (%HA) versus noise level (dBA). The field survey responses at "1" translated to 0% HA and responses of "5" became 100% HA. Over the next couple of decades the percent "HA" evolved into "Community Reaction" ranging from 'No Overt Reaction' to 'Vigorous Actions with Threat of Legal Action'.
Fifty years ago noise 'annoyance' seemed an appropriate term.
This was also a couple of decades before OSHA. We were not exposed to jet aircraft except in the military. We did have guns and drop forge hammers but very little ear protection was even available. Our primary concerns were adequate sound isolation in multifamily housing and commercial office buildings plus good speech communication in lecture halls.
Mr. Kamperman added: "Dr. Nissenbaum has suggested wind turbine noise generates sleep 'disturbance' and not simply sleep 'annoyance.' I find this to be a very accurate distinction. The CanWEA report has sidestepped the obvious difference between noise annoyance and the noise disturbance associated with wind turbine noise immission."
According to Mr. Kamperman, Dr. Suter, Dr. Nissenbaum, and the WHO, the word 'annoyance' is an important technical term whose meaning should not be taken lightly. It would seem both MECDC and the wind industry are missing this point entirely.
Nonetheless, using the nomenclature offered by Mr. Kamperman, most would agree the individuals cited in this story are '100% HA'.
 Mr. Kamperman is a Bd. Cert. Member Institute of Noise Control Engineers, Fellow Member Acoustical Society of America, and Member National Council of Acoustical Consultants.
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On March 27, 2009, residents of Mars Hill living within 3600 feet of First Wind's wind facility filed a civil complaint in Maine's Superior Court seeking relief from the "significant harm" caused by First Wind and others by the construction and operation of the site. Medical professionals recognize the health problems related to the turbines at Mars Hill are valid.
The past two and one-half years have been a trying and difficult time for the families of Mars Hill and their decision to file the suit was not an easy one. But it is also clear to Windaction.org that the State of Maine has washed its hands of Mars Hill, placing its pursuit of wind energy development ahead of the health, welfare, and safety of its residents. And the State's continuing down this path in Roxbury, Maine.
Here's the history: Shortly before the Mars Hill wind project went online in March 2007, problems of intrusive sound levels were reported despite repeated assurances by developer, First Wind, and town officials that there would be no noise. Andrew Fisk of the Bureau of Land & Water Quality at the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (ME-DEP), the agency which approved the facility, responded by requiring First Wind to conduct sound surveys during four seasons of operation to determine whether the project was in compliance with its permit. The permit allows the project to produce nighttime noise levels of 50 decibels at sensitive receptors near the homes. Resource Systems Engineering (RSE), who designed and conducted the pre-construction noise modeling study for First Wind was also engaged to conduct the subsequent monitoring studies.
When RES delivered its first sound survey report in June 2007, the residents, and others, raised questions related to the protocols used. ME-DEP hired Warren Brown of EnRad Consulting to peer-review and validate the survey work. Mr. Brown identified problems with the methodology employed by RSE but determined the findings to date were still substantially in compliance with the permit conditions.
RSE implemented some adjustments and the last two surveys were conducted in winter and spring 2008. It was not until December 5, 2008 that Warren Brown issued his final report to the State; the families received their copy of Brown's report on December 17, 2008 one day prior to a face-to-face meeting scheduled between the Mars Hill residents, First Wind representatives and Andrew Fisk to discuss Brown's findings. Other attendees at the meeting included Richard James of E-Coustic Solutions , an acoustics engineer engaged by the families to help sort through the noise issues, and Lisa Linowes of Windaction.org.
Despite having only one day to review Brown's findings, the families were well aware that doubts about the project's compliance remained. Even in his vaguely worded report, it was apparent Brown still had concerns:
"It is the opinion of the reviewer that this 4th assessment of the project demonstrates compliance at nearly all bordering protected locations, except the protected location adjacent MP-8, as established in the Control of Noise rules and the variance given in Department Order L-21635-26-A-N/L-21365-TG-B-N, dated June 1, 2004. ...In instances where operation levels approach or exceed regulatory limits testing methodologies have not been sufficiently refined to adequately isolate operation sound levels."
And Rick James raised the point that RSE's sampling of turbine noise at 5 second intervals, outside the protocol defined under Maine State law which requires 1/8 of a second intervals, would mute, or even mask short duration repetitive sounds (thumping, whooshing, popping) generally accepted as a characteristic of all modern industrial wind turbines.
Despite these and other serious questions regarding the adequacy of the sound surveys, Fisk announced at the outset of the December 18 meeting that he had approved and mailed on that day, a letter to First Wind notifying the developer that the project was in compliance with its permit.
We disagree with Mr. Fisk.
And it's quite possible so does Mr. Brown. Meeting minutes taken during a March 5, 2009 conference call with Maine's Public Health Director Dr. Dora Mills, Andrew Fisk, Warren Brown and others reveals a very different situation. Here, Mr. Brown highlights concerns with existing studies and states "Wind turbine noise needs more investigation!" (exclamation included).
What's more intriguing from the meeting minutes are the statements by Dr. Mills who appears to be quarreling with Brown over whether turbine noise has any adverse health effects. While Mr. Brown is steadfast in raising his concerns, it is disconcerting to see how Dr. Mills carefully scripted her June 21 public comments after knowing what she was told just three months before.
Today we learned that the Record Hill wind energy facility in Roxbury Maine received conditional approval by the Maine DEP to proceed. Based on the brief glimpse afforded us by the meeting minutes, we can only guess what the internal debates were like within ME-DEP prior to ‘green-lighting' this project. What is obvious, however, is that Maine has picked its sides, and we can expect Roxbury to be a repeat of Mars Hill.
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The divide between wind energy proponents and those seeking to protect the health and welfare of individuals from the ill-effects of the towers is increasing.
News accounts are published almost daily from around the world highlighting the serious problems of turbine noise and related adverse health effects, yet wind proponents like Ryan Schryver of Clean Wisconsin insist such reports are the work of a small, but vocal minority of people hell-bent on keeping turbines out of their viewshed. In an interview with Wisconsin Public Radio's Joy Cardin, Schryver dismissed health and safety concerns as exaggerated and argued that the focus on the issue was merely a tactic by wind power opponents in Wisconsin to encumber future proposals.
Perhaps Mr. Schryver is unaware that the health problems reported are not limited to Wisconsin. Or worse, he may believe there is a worldwide underground effort to coordinate the voices of those harmed by the turbines. We hate to disappoint, but there is no grand conspiracy in the works. The fact is there are legitimate problems with turbines sited too close to where people live. And the failure of governmental permitting agencies to acknowledge and address the issues will not silence those seeking to protect their families and communities.
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Earlier this month, Dr. Michael A. Nissenbaum, a radiologist at the Northern Maine Medical Center, conducted interviews with fifteen people living near the industrial wind energy facility in Mars Hill, Maine. The purpose of the interviews was to investigate and record the health effects on those living within 3500-feet of industrial-scale turbines.
On March 25, 2009, Dr. Nissenbaum presented his preliminary findings before the Maine Medical Association. The data, which he characterized as alarming, suggest the residents are experiencing serious health problems related to shadow flicker and noise emissions from the turbines near their homes. The onset of symptoms including sleep disturbance, headaches, dizziness, weight changes, possible increases in blood pressure, as well as increased prescription medication use, all appear to coincide with the time when the turbines were first turned on (December 2006).
Every individual interviewed by Dr. Nissenbaum reported that his or her quality of life had been negatively affected by the turbines. The residents all expressed new or increased feelings of stress, anger, irritability, depression, anxiety, and hopelessness. Quotes cited in the presentation included "Nobody will help us", "No one cares", and "It's very hard watching my child suffer".
While some deficiencies exist in the study as Dr. Nissenbaum details in his presentation, aspects of his findings stand out as being immediately significant. In an interview with Windaction.org, Dr. Nissenbaum asserted "The results for sleep disturbance, headaches, anger, feelings of hopelessness, and incidence of depression symptomatology in this group are so high that despite the small number, and the lack of a control and tests of statistical significance, they jump out at physicians as obviously being significant. The statistical significance tests would just be confirmatory in this case - gilding the lily, if you will".
He added "I did not even get into the issue of the sixteen children who live there. The WHO (World Health Organization) has identified children, along with the elderly, as being particularly susceptible. This would require a fair amount of time, and special expertise, as children manifest in many ways besides, or instead of, simple sleep disturbance including disturbed learning, acting out, etc."
The Medical Staff of Northern Maine Medical Center released a statement in March 2009 calling for the careful siting of wind turbines. Dr. Nissenbaum included an excerpt from that statement in his presentation as follows: "The State of Maine has a vast, unpopulated hinterland. There is little need to site industrial wind developments in proximity to residential communities if there is a risk of negative health effects. Quality of life, quality of place, and a healthful environment should be the right of all residents of Maine, including those of the rural north".
On December 18, 2008, Andrew Fisk of Maine's Department of Environmental Protection informed the residents the State had sent a letter to First Wind stating the wind facility was “currently in compliance with the Control of Noise rules". The State of Maine has washed its hands of the problems of Mars Hill, leaving the families to suffer.
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PPM Energy's Horse Creek Wind Farm proposal, now suspended while NY State officials evaluate the potential high bat mortality from the turbines, is the center of a sobering debate concerning preconstruction sound study reports. The proposed project consists of sixty-two industrial wind turbines spanning the towns of Clayton and Orleans in upstate New York. Over 1000 residents reside within the project's proposed footprint.
In January 2007, shortly after the Town of Clayton adopted its Wind Energy Facilities Ordinance (Local Law 1) governing placement of turbines in the town, PPM released its Noise Analysis report on the project prepared by Global engineering giant CH2M HILL. The report's summary states: "The facilities steady state noise levels are predicted to comply with the Town of Clayton's Wind Energy Facilities Ordinance limit of 50 dBA at offsite residences." It further adds "the facilities noise level may exceed the existing levels by 6 dBA at lower wind speeds but maintains compliance with the Town of Clayton's Wind Energy Facilities Ordinance limit of 50 dBA". New York State guidelines suggest that sound level increases over existing background should not exceed 6 dBA.
Serious and substantial complaints filed by Clayton residents regarding possible excessive and harmful noise impacts from the turbines prompted the Planning Board to hire acoustic engineering firm Cavanaugh Tocci Associates (CTA) of Sudbury MA to evaluate the CH2M HILL report. CTA was specifically requested to "re-evaluate noise impact per NYSDEC guidelines and Town of Clayton Local Law 1 2007 Wind Energy Facilities".
The completed CTA report was received by Clayton officials, Town Supervisor Justin Taylor and Planning Board Chairman Roland Baril, on or around February 15, 2008 but never released to other Planning Board members or the public. Apparently, CTA's report was deemed "too complicated" for review. Three Freedom of Information requests were filed with the town, including one from the local newspaper, and all were denied. Clayton Supervisor Mr. Taylor announced through the Town's engineering consultants Bernier & Carr Associates that CTA's report was sent back with the request that an executive summary be provided to help explain CTA's findings. CTA complied and delivered a 2-page summary on August 25. This summary was again held by Taylor and Baril.
During the Oct 1 regular meeting of the Clayton Planning Board, Planning Board Chairman Baril informed the attending residents as well as the Planning Board that it was the recommendation of Bernier & Carr Associates that CTA's report again be refused as too technical for public review and that CTA's executive summary would be the ONLY document released to other Board members. Taxpayers were welcome to a copy of the summary via a Freedom of Information request submitted to the Clayton Town Clerk.
According to the CTA executive summary, there are serious problems with the methodology employed by CH2M HILL in conducting its noise analysis whereby estimated background sound levels were overestimated. CTA also makes clear that participating property owners, those who've entered into lease agreements with PPM, should update their real estate deeds to reflect noise easements. CTA is clear that noise emanating from the turbines, even if compliant with Clayton's Local Law 1, will affect future property owners who might occupy a dwelling.
The problem of Wind Turbine noise is becoming more pronounced as turbines are built close to where people live. Windaction.org is tracking noise issues in numerous locations including Mars Hill, ME, Lowville, NY, Brownsville, WI, McLean County, IL, and Blair County and Meyersdale, PA, in the UK and Canada. In each of these cases, the question of noise was either never raised prior to the towers being erected or the residents were informed there would be no issue. It's remarkable the lengths PPM and some Clayton officials are going to just to avoid the question. Denying a problem exists in the face of growing evidence is unproductive and will ultimately harm the wind industry and its proponents.
Update: At Clayton's town board meeting on Oct 8, Supervisor Justin Taylor announced the CTA report would now be released to the public.
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The State of New Hampshire, long recognized for respecting local governance, stepped over the bounds last month when the Governor signed into law HB 310, a statute oddly described as “allowing municipalities to regulate small wind energy systems”. In fact, the law is designed to deliberately remove authority from municipalities by establishing prohibitions on what a community can and cannot regulate.
HB 310 asserts that any “ordinances or regulations adopted by municipalities to regulate the installation and operation of small wind energy systems shall not unreasonably limit such installations or unreasonably hinder the performance of such installations”. The statute defines unreasonable limits as those including:
1) restricting tower heights through a generic ordinance that does not specifically address small wind energy systems.
2) establishing turbine setbacks from property lines larger than 1.5x the system height (tower plus blade).
3) defining noise level limits lower than 55 decibels, as measured at the property line, or not allowing for limit overages during utility outages and severe wind storms.
In an apparent attempt to show its “green” credentials, the State of New Hampshire demonstrated surprising ignorance of the facts and arrogance in its authority. Had the bill’s sponsors bothered to look, they would have found a large body of stories nationwide detailing cases where other States wrestled with small wind systems.
Consider these four recent news reports:
Coming soon to a neighbor near you, a 200-foot wind tower?
Wind turbines found to cause sickness
Neighbor's windmill lowers property value, civil board rules
Trees Block Solar Panels, and a Feud Ends in Court
The last article tells the story of a California man who sued his neighbors because their redwoods cast shadows on his solar panels. The court found in favor of the plaintiff and ordered the trees cut. Similar wording in HB 310 could easily create similar unfortunate circumstances.
Windaction.org has no issue with small wind systems if properly regulated and the health, safety, and welfare of surrounding property owners protected. As written, the State failed to comprehend the implications of HB 310 at the peril of New Hampshire residents. But worse, the State’s actions portend comparable reckless efforts to force industrial-scale wind turbines on rural New Hampshire communities.
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Logan County, IL is conducting public hearings on the 67-turbine Rail Splitter wind facility proposed by Horizon Wind. During hearings last week, public testimony was presented by Ed and Nancy Knittle, a couple now living within the view shed of Horizon's massive 240-turbine Twin Grove site in neighboring McLean County.
Prior to building their new home, the Knittle's testified they were assured by Horizon (then Zilkha Renewable Energy) the turbines "wouldn't be a disturbance" and that no more than one turbine would be visible from their home.
Based on these assurances, the Knittles signed an easement agreement with the developer, purchased a house lot, and built their new home. The agreement offered the Knittles $1000 per year and in exchange, Horizon secured permission to create "audio, visual, view, light, vibration, air turbulence, wake, electromagnetic, ice or other weather created hazards or other effect of any kind whatsoever resulting directly or indirectly" from the turbines over the Knittle's property. A confidentiality clause prohibited disclosure of the terms of the agreement.
At the hearing last week, the Knittles spoke out. "We can hear turbines while brushing our teeth. And we see flickering lights on our fireplace. It's extremely upsetting. ...They [Horizon] never told us about blade flicker or red flashing lights ... it's devastating. ...We were falsely misguided. I tried to honor and respect the company and keep this confidential, but I just can't do it anymore."
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Last August, DeWayne and Elaine Wilkie purchased a home in Jefferson County in upstate New York, moving back to the area of Mrs. Wilkie's youth. They decided to move for medical reasons, as the constant noise and attendant vibrations surrounding Mr. Wilkie in his former community, Fort Lauderdale, FL, might negatively affect the pace maker/defibrillator inserted in his chest.
The Wilkies learned only after moving into their new home that they lived within the Horse Creek Wind Energy project site, a wind farm proposed by Iberdrola/PPM. The 130 megawatt, 62 wind turbine project is slated to span 11,800 acres in the towns of Clayton and Orleans.
No one disclosed to the Wilkies that their new home would be surrounded by turbines. While feeling betrayed and financially limited in their options, the Wilkies have not faced their biggest fear-- and the fear of their doctors.
Mr. Wilkie's doctors consulted with electrophysiologist Dr. Osman, as Mr. Wilkie's medical report states : "[Dr. Osman] has concerns that low frequency noise range of these wind turbines could interfere with the proper functioning of Mr. Wilkie's AIC defibrillator leading to shutting down of the device".
The American Wind Energy Association dismisses the hazard, stating it "does not have scientific information to prove and establish that it [low-frequency noise] is a widespread problem".
Windaction.org asserts the comments by the electrophysiologist pertaining to Mr. Wilkie's pace maker cannot and should not be ignored. Without established legislation regarding wind turbine noise, vibration, and other possible turbine emissions, reviewing boards should take great care in determining setback distances between wind turbines and human occupied buildings. The town boards of Clayton and Orleans are now aware of Mr. Wilkie's situation. The question is whether they will knowingly allow the wind turbines to be sited within harms way and become life threatening to Mr. Wilkie and others like him.
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The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) and wind energy developers insist a modern wind facility at a distance of 1000 feet produces a sound no louder than a kitchen refrigerator. This comparison is recited over and over in public hearings throughout the U.S. and worldwide. The residents of Mars Hill, Maine have pages of documentation from UPC Wind highlighting the developer's assertion that the 42MW, 28-turbine facility would not produce noise.
Having now "lived" with the turbines for four full seasons of the year, the Mars Hill residents within 3000 feet of the turbines have a consistent refrain: "Noise is a real problem". Residents of Mars Hill recently submitted letters to the towns of Byron and Roxbury Maine, who were considering changes to their land use regulations to permit turbines.
The developers proposing the Byron/Roxbury wind facility made similar statements to those of UPC Wind in Mars Hill ("Wind turbines are usually audible only within a few hundred feet." )
Windaction.org encourages everyone to read these letters, written by people who would have no reason to publicize their plight except to inform others who may learn from the mistakes made by the Mars Hill community.
In a recent press article, Paul Gaynor, CEO and president of UPC Wind stated: "I know there was an expectation [in Mars Hill] about what these were going to sound like. These are big structures and they do make sound." We wonder if Mr. Gaynor understands that it was UPC who set the expectation about sound. It is now time for Mr. Gaynor to accept responsibility for the problems at Mars Hill, to proactively resolve the issues and to speak publicly about the risks in building turbines too close to where people live.
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Several important studies pertaining to noise and utility-scale wind turbines are listed below. Others can by found on www.windaction.org by searching on the keyword 'noise'.
Health effects of wind turbine noise - Dr. Nina Pierpont, March 2006
The sound of high winds: the effect of atmospheric stability on wind turbine sound and microphone noise - G. P. van den Berg, May 2006
Wind Turbine Syndrome: Noise, shadow flicker, and health - Dr. Nina Pierpont, June 2006 (see pages 7-14 out of 20)
Location, Location, Location - The UK Noise Association, July 2006
Wind Turbines, Noise and Health - Dr. Amanda Harry, Feb 2007
Infrasound and low frequency noise dose responses: Contributions - Mariana Alves-Pereiraa and Nuno A. A. Castelo Branco, Aug 2007
Public health and noise exposure: the importance of low frequency noise - Mariana Alves-Pereiraa and Nuno A. A. Castelo Branco, Aug 2007
Wind Farm Noise and Regulations in the Eastern United States - Hilkat Soysal and Oguz Soysal, Sept 2007
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