For Patrick Flynn, some of the wind turbines included in the proposed Timbermill Wind Project are just too close for comfort.
Specifically, one of the wind turbines proposed as part of the 300-megawatt wind energy generation facility being developed in Chowan and Perquimans counties by Charlottesville, Va.-based Apex Clean Energy Inc. is only about six-tenths of a mile from Flynn's home on Paradise Road.
In interviews last week at the Edenton Coffee House and at the family home – a wooden structure built around 1770 and known as Paradise Plantatation – Flynn expressed concern about the effects that sound from the nearby wind turbine could have on his and his family's health.
“This is really going to affect my wife,” Flynn said, explaining that his wife, Belinda, has vertigo and is greatly affected by sound. Sounds that might not bother other people can disturb her equilibrium because of the vertigo, he said.
“So she really is going to be affected by this healthwise,” Flynn said.
He added that he himself has sensitive hearing, often commenting about sounds that are bothering him only to have others around him insist they don't hear anything at all.
“My hearing is very sensitive so I'm sure I'm going to be affected, too,” Flynn said.“I have very sensitive hearing and I am outside and I hear a very high-pictehd sound and I ask people, 'do you hear that?' and they say 'no.'''
Flynn said he has attended hearings in both Chowan and Perquimans on the proposed wind energy project and has heard testimony about sound from the expert witnesses called by Apex.
But he said he also began doing his own research when he learned that some of the planned turbines would be located near his home. That research pointed him to studies identifying possible health concerns related to sound beginning just beyond 35 decibels.
The local wind energy ordinance establishes a sound threshold of 55 decibels.
Flynn said that based on the latest trends in European siting on wind energy facilities, the sound limit should be 35 decibels and the setback for the turbines should be one mile. European nations currently are increasing setback requirements to two kilometers, which is a little more than a mile, he said.
“I'm not against wind energy but I'm against things that affect my family's health,” he said.
Flynn is one of the property owners who is represented by an attorney in opposing the proposed Timbermill Wind Project at the permit hearings currently being held by the Chowan County Board of Commissioners.
In addition to the health concerns, which he said are what troubles him most, Flynn also is bothered by the way the turbines could detract from his enjoyment of the home's rural setting, where they have plans to keep a few animals and raise some vegetables.
He stood in the yard last week and pointed to where he understands the closest of the turbines would be. But he also pointed to other locations on three sides of the house where he expects turbines to be visible from his home once the project is completed.
“The visual impact – these things are going to destroy my sunset views,” Flynn said.
When Weyerhauser harvests the trees that currently provide some visual screening the visual impact will be even greater, he said.
“But I'm going to see it at a little over half a mile,” Flynn said.
He noted he and his wife have invested a lot of time and effort in the home.
“We're working on the house,” Flynn said.
They have cleared an area and are working toward getting a few animals and planting some vegetables. With a barn on the property, they have talked about boarding horses.
When they bought the house about six years ago they did a lot of work, including raising the foundation, he said.
“We've got all the hard work out of the way,” Flynn said.
Now he worries the work could have been in vain because of the development of the wind energy project nearby.
“We don't want to abandon our house,” he said.
Flynn said that ever since the meeting of the Chowan County Planning Board in July, during which the proposed Timermill Wind Project was discussed and public comment was heard, he has been reading about wind energy facilities.
“Everything I have read and looked at has been triggered by the planning board meeting,” Flynn said.
He has looked especially at the health information. One of the things he has concluded is that the facilities affect people differently, based partly on pre-existing conditions they might have and how that affects their sensitivity to sound.
“The experts are trying to reassure everybody that everything is going to be fine, but I would have to question how it's going to be for people living close,” Flynn said.
He said he also is concerned that environmental concerns are being left largely to state and federal agencies and that local officials are making a decision on the Conditional Use Permit for the Timbermill project without adequate information about possible environmental impacts.
Flynn keeps coming back to the stricter development standards that European countries are moving toward.
“The thing that stands out is we really need to look at what other countries that have had wind energy longer than we have are doing,” Flynn said. “I have no problems with wind turbines in the (Albemarle) Sound (or) in deserts. But when you're putting those things around people you're introducing a lot of problems.”