To see what the future could look like and sound like here in Rock County, you don't need a crystal ball. You just need to head north by north east about a hundred miles, to Byron, Wisconsin, in Fond du Lac county, where the Invenergy wind farm has been in operation since March 3rd. Residents of our area did just that and share their experience with us here.
The map below shows the locations of the 86 turbines that make up the wind farm. Each red dot represents a turbine that is forty stories tall and has a wing span wider than a 747. There is only one building in the state of Wisconsin that is taller than 40 stories and it's in Milwaukee.
The changes these machines have brought to those must live with them have been unbearable for many, Those who are getting money to host the turbines have an easier time putting up with the noise they make. For others, however, the change has been devastating. Though wind developers downplay the issue of noise it's the number one complaint for those who live inside of a wind farm. Since the turbines went on line in March of this year, for many families in Byron, their peaceful days and quiet nights are gone.
There may be a place for industrial machines of this size, but it is not 1000 feet from our homes and this is the reason Magnolia township adopted an ordinance which gives residents a safer setback of 2640 feet. (To download this ordiance, click here) There are those of us who believe even this isn't an adequate setback to protect our community, but it's better than the 1000 feet the developers want to force upon us. Unless your township has an ordinance this is just what they wil do. (To read a day-by-day noise log kept by a family living in this wind farm click here)We thank the Rock County residents who traveled up to Byron for sharing this report with us here. The photos below were taken during the winter during another Rock County resident's visit.
Visit to Byron Wisconsin to view existing Wind Turbine Facility.
Our trip to Byron was on June 6 and 7 of 2008
We came prepared with a sound meter provided by the Evansville Police Department and a camera.
Once past Horicon Marsh area, which has a 2 mile setback for the migratory birds, you could see Industrial Wind Turbines wherever you looked. There are 86 in the area.
We started with a turbine located on a hill off the main highway.
This was located approximately 1000 feet off the road. It was a fairly windy day and all the turbines in this area were turning. The meter registered between 58 and 68 DBA from the roadway.
While at this location, a local sheriff stopped and asked it we needed assistance. We said we were just gathering information for our Township on the turbines.
When asked what he thought about these, he stated he didn’t know anyone personally who had one but that they were definitely noisy.
After he left, the farmer who owned this particular turbine came by. He was very open when we asked him questions concerning the turbine placement and the noise they created. He was accustomed to loud noise as he ran his corn dryer for 3 weeks straight in the fall and that was close to his home. He also stated you had to stay away from them in the winter due to the falling ice. You can really feel it when the chunks land around the area..
He was willing to put up with the noise, he had a daughter just entering to college and the extra money will help out.
His biggest concern was the roads.
They were ripped up by all the heavy equipment and still hadn’t been fixed. He stated the town and the developer were arguing over who should fix then. There is a construction company in town, Michaels and he had hoped they would step up and do the repairs, but they wouldn’t do anything until they knew who would be footing the bill. This is another reason it is important to document the road conditions before the work begins and make it clear in the ordinance who will repair and in what timeframe it is to be completed.
Taking another road in the area we viewed a group of 3 turbines to the southwest of a home. The sound measurements here were between 58 and 64 DBA on June 6th. We stopped and spoke to the owners. They had attended all the informational meetings and still felt they were going to be too close to homes, but their township chose to ignore the concerns of the local residents. Shadow flicker was going to be a big concern in the winter months as the sun shifts and the shadow from these 3 turbines blanket this home. The flicker was currently only reaching their garden space but the sun was just about at its northern most axis. They were told at their meetings the size of the turbines would be smaller than what was ultimately installed
At the invitation of Gerry Meyer we visited his home. He lives at 6249 County Road Y, Brownsville WI 53006-1103 which is about ¾ of a mile East of South Byron. Turbine #4 is 1560 feet behind his house. Turbine #3a is about 500 feet mostly east and a little north of turbine #4. Turbine # 6 is about ¾ of a mile to the northwest of his home. Across the road mostly south and slightly west is turbine #73 and across the road at 2480 feet, down the hill to the west is turbine #74a which is about ¾ of a mile away. We could hear all of these turbines and the distance ranged from 1560 ft to ¾ of a mile. The sound was like driving down a highway with your windows down and passing another car, only you never get past them. The readings here were in a range of 59 to 67 DBA on June 6th and slightly lower on the 7th. 57 To 64 DBA.
Our draft ordinance suggested ½ mile as a starting point and this is too close for the health of local residents who would be living within this area to cope with 24/7 and 365 days a year for 30 years.
Stopping at the local convenience store we spoke to the cashiers. One woman said coming into the area at night was like coming into an airport with all the lights blinking. She stated the noise was much louder than the developers led the community to expect.
The young man, 16 years old, said he was just a kid and his opinion didn’t matter, but they made a lot of noise at night. His folks were not in favor of the short setbacks but again the township didn’t concern itself with protecting its residents.
We traveled many of the roads in the area on both days, stopping wherever it was possible to take measurements. In all, we took readings of around 36 different turbines.
The lowest measurement was 48 DBA and the highest 69 DBA
We observed the condition of the roads all through out the “wind facility” and they were in poor condition. The corners were rounded and filled with large rock. The roadways were cracked and rutted. Driveways leading into the fields were everywhere and not always at a straight shot to the turbine. Hill and valleys dictated they go at an angle for visibility and this took up large chucks of the fields.