GLENCOE, Pa. — Tammy and Joe McKenzie believe they live in the “dark, deep depths of hell” beneath the shadow flicker, high- and low-frequency sounds emitting from wind turbines that are part of the EverPower Twin Ridges Wind Farm.
The wind farm is located on the Big Savage Ridge area near the Maryland-Pennsylvania border.
Some of the 68 wind turbines that are part of the farm can be seen from Cumberland when looking through the Narrows and from Frostburg and Mount Savage.
The project went into operation in late 2012.
“It causes a lot of problems because I’m not leaving here," said Tammy McKenzie, who was visibly upset during a recent interview at her home. "This is our dream (home) and we should not have to give it up ... We have lost the enjoyment of our home and our property — something we have worked our entire life on.”
The sound of the wind turbines causes Joe McKenzie to feel pressure in his head and he can sense whether the turbines are turned on without looking due to ringing in his ears, Tammy McKenzie said.
The McKenzies say they measured decibel readings as high as 87 but were told those results aren’t accurate because they didn’t use a professional meter.
The company's engineer who conducts the noise abatement analysis uses a meter that filters out background noises and measures just the sound of the wind turbines, said Michael Speerschneider, chief permitting and public policy officer with EverPower.
Tammy McKenzie said the wind turbines emit more noise in the winter during high wind season.
“The sound emanated from the wind turbines is the same no matter what time of year it is,” said Speerschneider, who attributes the louder sound in the winter to background noises.
Occasionally, the McKenzies complain to the company about the noisy wind turbines and someone will come out to inspect them and turn them off for a few hours, Tammy McKenzie said.
EverPower does receive some complaints, said Speerschneider.
“It’s something we take very seriously. In those cases we are very open and work with residents, with townships to offer whatever solution makes sense,” said Speerschneider. “We are concerned with how wind farms mesh with the community and work to ensure that the impacts are minimal.”
The McKenzies say they also deal with shadow flicker, which is likened to a strobe light, for 30 to 45 minutes a day if the sun is out beginning in September and lasting into the first part of November.
Somerset County has an ordinance that says shadow flicker can’t occur more than 30 hours per year.
The Somerset County Commissioners stated in a March 11, 2013 letter to the McKenzies that EverPower complied with the county’s Subdivision and Land Development regulations concerning wind turbines.
“It is important to note that individual townships have the ability to adopt stricter wind turbine ordinances than the county’s, and six or more townships in Somerset County have done so,” states the letter. “To the best of our knowledge, Southampton Township has not adopted their own ordinance, and they continue to rely on the county’s regulations.”
Before the project went to construction in 2011, EverPower worked with local townships and counties to develop agreements and they adhere to industry standards, said Speerschneider.
“That was the first and most important step. We did it meticulously throughout the project. In most cases we exceeded those standards,” said Speerschneider.
Tammy McKenzie feels like she has nowhere to turn for help; an attorney would be too expensive, it would be too late to start a petition and continually filing complaints, about 20 in total, hasn’t worked to change much.
The McKenzies placed two signs at the end of their driveway to warn passersby of what it’s like to live in their version of hell beneath the wind turbines.
The McKenzies aren't the only ones who complain about the wind turbines.
Tammy McKenzie received several letters from her neighbors and they voiced some of the same concerns she has.
“The only noise I want to hear when I walk outside is the birds and the crickets. No blades of some ungodly windmill,” wrote Tammy Rohrs.
Alan and Joyce Gindlesperger echo McKenzie’s sentiments that the wind turbines cause a lot of heartache and said they haven’t been able to sleep with their windows open.
“In my opinion, they have taken away the beauty of our area and what God has created to be the country,” the Gindlespergers wrote.
The Gindlespergers state they weren’t told about the turbine project until construction commenced.
Officials for the project asked if they wanted sound barriers placed in their house.
“My house is the way I want it to be, not the way they want it to be. Nothing could ever compensate for (sights) of the wind turbines that we have to look at every day,” wrote the Gindlespergers.
AJ Jarosz, who lives on Wills Creek 1.5 miles away from six wind turbines, can hear a constant hum and considers relocating out of state.
“The beauty of our mountains have been compromised,” wrote Jarosz. “Quite a few of the windmills are on land owned by absentee landowners. They couldn’t care less about what local people have to deal with. Greed is a driving force of these people.”
Tammy McKenzie said wind energy companies should provide information on the exact noise level effect of wind turbines on neighboring homes and should meet personally with land-owners and outlying community members.
In some cases community members weren’t informed of local meetings that were held, she said.
“It is a shame that we cannot all work together to save ourselves from destruction and ill will,” Tammy McKenzie said.