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."