Library filed under Noise from USA
Editor’s note: This commentary is Mark Whitworth, who is president of Energize Vermont, a statewide organization that supports sustainable energy development that protects our environment and respects our communities.
The board has proposed limits of 35 decibels at night and 42 decibels during the day, as measured outside neighboring homes. Most turbines today are subject to a 45-decibel sound limit outside neighboring homes and a 30-decibel limit measured inside neighbors’ homes.
The board released its draft version of the new rules in March, and the board members held four meetings this week to hear from the public and from wind and sound experts as they get ready to finalize the sound standards.
Prospective neighbors of wind turbines heard all the promises: “Quiet as a library.” “Like a baby’s breath.” “The same decibel level as a refrigerator.” The more brazen wind developers claimed “you will not hear them.” Then the four hundred and fifty foot wind towers with their bus-size nacelles and three-bladed fans were built. Sixteen in Sheffield, four on Georgia Mountain, twenty-one in Lowell. And neighbors learned the truth. Yes, you can hear them. They sound like “a jet plane that never lands,” or “sneakers in a drier,” or there is a “thump thump thump” or a “whoosh whoosh whoosh” as the blade passes the tower, causing something called amplitude modulation.
'We've become a dumping ground for wind turbines'
A request by wind farm developer Avangrid Renewables to expand the wind overlay zone was not agreed upon by the board, according to Jody Wentzel, vice chairman of the Hopkinton Wind Advisory Board. The board is also considering setting 24-hour decibel limits for the wind towers, different than what the Town of Parishville is considering. Parishville has opted for two 12-hour periods ranging from .25 to .45 decibels.
Councilwoman Karen Carlson, who said she receives at least two complaints about the turbines per day, visited West Log Bridge Road to see for herself what her constituents had been talking about....she could hear the noise emanating from the structures. “I can understand how it makes people crazy,” she said. “Honestly it was like this drone of a jet that just kept going.”
If the new rule is adopted as proposed, sound could not exceed 42 decibels during the day and 35 decibels at night. ...The new rules also require turbines to be at least 10 times their height from the nearest home. A 500-foot turbine, for example, would have to be 5,000 feet from the nearest home.
An El Paso County commissioner said Thursday that safety and health concerns regarding the Nextera wind farm in Calhan may never be resolved to everyone's satisfaction. ..."I had to move away because I was sick," said Jeff Wolfe.
Jeff Wolfe, who lives close to NextEra Energy's Golden West wind farm, said he's experienced nausea, dizziness and migraines since it began operating in fall 2015. He attributes the symptoms to the low-frequency sound waves, known as infrasound, emitted by the 145 windmills. "This is poisoning people. It's poisoning animals," said Wolfe.
NextEra's Golden West Wind Energy Center sited in El Paso County, Colorado was required under the County permit to conduct a noise impact study after the project was placed in service in October 2015. Acoustician Robert Rand was asked by residents living near the turbines to review the noise impact study as prepared by NextEra consultant, Epsilon Associates. Mr. Rand's report, included here, identified several material errors with Epsilon's report and also found that the project appears to be operating outside the noise limits permitted by the County and the State. The Golden West Wind Energy Center consists 145 1.72-megawatt GE turbines for a total installed capacity of 249.4-megawatts Mr. Rand's executive summary is provided below. The full report can be accessed by clicking the document icon on this page.
“Our dream of sitting outside behind our house enjoying some peace and quiet no longer exists,” said a resident of Flat River Road. “We sit on the deck at night and all we can hear are the windmills. We open our bedroom window and all we can hear are the windmills. There is not one day that goes by that we don’t hear it.
State regulators have proposed new sound limits for wind turbines that some renewable energy proponents say would effectively ban new utility-scale turbines from Vermont.
“Vermont Wind has deflected its non-compliance since 2011 and Mr. Brouha’s proposal to adhere to Vermont Wind’s original methodology ends the pretense,” argues Anderson. As the independent sound monitoring firm hired by the DPS, Acentech confirmed, Anderson argues, “…if Vermont Wind had tested with windows open, Mr. Brouha and the State of Vermont would not be here today. The proof of compliance is in the proper execution of the method and using the methodology that Vermont Wind used to get us here should be the one that ends this inquiry.”
Critics of industrial-scale wind farms say the Vermont Public Service Board’s new sound standards are a step in the right direction but ultimately may not help Vermonters. “On the surface it is a big improvement over the current standard, and over the first draft, but there will be more public process, and the industry will fight against what I view as still inadequate to address all the issues,” said Annette Smith, director of Vermonters for a Clean Environment.
"[Police] Officer confirmed that turbine noise in bedroom was excessive," the officer reported, but because the noise was coming from Plymouth, Plymouth police were called. Plymouth police told them to call the board of health, which passed the call along to the building inspector.
The Public Service Board has issued its draft rules on wind turbine sound that, if adopted, would put much stronger restrictions on wind development in the state.
Town Supervisor Don Bilow said that the town would be seeking an independent third party to conduct noise tests for the Chateaugay portion of Jericho Rise wind farm. Twenty-nine of the wind farm’s 37 turbines are located in Chateaugay, with the other eight in Bellmont.
"During the big windstorm two weeks ago the sound of the blades was plainly audible inside my home, and my house actually vibrated," McGrath said. "My wife had to steady a television on the dresser upstairs as it moved toward the edge." McGrath says he doesn't want to make this personal. He wants data to be gathered, analyzed, and appropriate action taken.
Editor’s note: This commentary is by Annette Smith, of Danby, who is the executive director of Vermonters for a Clean Environment.