KINGSTON – It got noisy, so the town filed for and was granted a noise abatement.
It got hit by lightning, which fried a controller and caused a shutdown.
Then the town realized it needed even tighter restrictions on noise output, so a modified abatement was filed.
The company appealed that.
Today, the wind turbine off Exit 8 isn’t spinning; it got too noisy again.
The ongoing saga of Kingston Wind Independence LLC, the owner of the turbine, or KWI, and the town of Kingston, which leases the property on which it sits, continued last week with a shutdown, this time for an indefinite period of time.
The turbine’s yaw system, which adjusts the angle of the blade’s rotation around its vertical axis, has a defect.
“There’s a problem and they can’t quite figure it out,” Town Planner Thomas Bott said. “It’s making too much noise.”
The shutdown and the attending silence was music to turbine neighbor Doreen Reilly’s ears.
“I thought it was a wonderful thing until they turned it on,” she said, reliving the turbine’s maiden voyage back in May of 2012. “Once they turned it on it was hell. It was Mother’s Day weekend and I will never forget that weekend. We had no idea what that noise was. I hope the thing sits there forever and never runs again. Let them all look at it. It made our home a place you didn’t want to be. My kids would leave to go the library or go to my mother’s house because of the flicker.”
It’s unclear just how long it will “sit there” motionless.
“We have been trying to restore the turbine to a normal operating state via multiple repair attempts and a major component replacement, but we have yet to succeed,” writes KWI Operations Manager Benjamin Cleaves in an email to Bott. “At times the problem appeared to go away, only to resurface a few hours later.”
Hyundai, the manufacturer of the turbine, has sent three technicians to the site on two occasions, Cleaves added, and the turbine remains inoperative.
“Given the extent of our effort and the inability of the manufacturer to repair the defect, we have no choice but to shut the turbine down and declare it as defective until such time as the manufacturer and designer can resolve the situation,” Cleaves writes.
What happens if they can’t fix the problem?
Bott said he’s simply not sure. The project is bonded for hundreds of thousands of dollars that would cover the cost of dismantling the structure, he said, but the company has until 2017 to start socking money away into an escrow account for that purpose. In the meantime, some neighbors are crying foul that the bond isn’t in place now and are asking how long the behemoth will sit there with its blades stationary.
Kingston agreed to lease land to the company back in 2012 so the KWI could install the 2,000 kilowatt turbine, which looms 404 feet from the ground if you measure the highest point of the blades to the base.
“We lease the land to them and have a power purchase agreement,” Bott said. “They’re paying us lease payments, and we're getting some tax on the personal property.”
The town’s agreement doesn’t make allowances for shutdowns, however, so KWI is on the hook for paying Kingston regardless of whether the blades are spinning, he added.
The shear size of the turbine combined with its noise and shadow-flicker impacts have left some neighbors furious the town agreed to the project in the first place.
The state has yet to recognize health hazards to the general population pertaining to shadow flicker, or the impact of the shadow and light play on residents as the blades turn. So far, the state acknowledges that shadow flicker from wind turbines can adversely affect those suffering from epilepsy, Bott said, but only if the turbine is spinning at 60 revolutions per minute; the Kingston turbine’s rotation comes in at around 17 or 18 revolutions per minute.
Noise is another matter, however, and has been shown to have an impact on health. A department of environmental protection noise study on the site confirmed that the turbine was not in compliance for sound output. Armed with that study, the Board of Health issued an abatement of nuisance order in August of 2014. The order required the turbine be shut down under various conditions to minimize the noise output. KWI is in compliance with that order.
Later, in October of 2015, however, the Board of Health issued a Modified Order for Abatement of Nuisance, requesting even more restrictions on the turbine’s operations in order to further minimize noise. KWI appealed that order, and a judge has yet to rule on the issue.
That’s a moot point if the turbine's yaw system can’t be repaired, apparently. But town officials anticipate the issue will be resolved.
“Renewable energy is important,” Bott added. “And it’s important to mitigate for its effect as the town has done with its first, and now second, abatement for noise.”
Reilly said she’s all about renewable energy and is in favor of turbines, but only if they are sited in the right location, away from residential areas. Now that the turbine is shut down, Reilly said she and others in her neighborhood are breathing a sigh of relief.
“I live less than 1,000 feet from the turbine,” she added. “It has harassed me and my family since May of 2012 and this is the best news we could have ever gotten. We are just so happy to have our home back.”