From the East Coast to the West Coast, complaints about wind turbine noise continue to pour in, but is anybody listening?
Windmills in Ore. generating complaints about noise, possible health effects
6 April 2009
Wind turbines may supply power without pollution but they are also generating complaints in Eastern Oregon about noise and even possible health effects for people who live near them.
Wind turbines may supply power without pollution but they are also generating complaints about noise and even possible health effects for people who live near them.
Dan Williams says the 240-foot-tall turbines he can see from his hilltop home near Boardman in Eastern Oregon make so much noise they keep him awake at night.
Williams is among neighbors along Highway 74 demanding that Morrow County enforce state noise regulations on the Willow Creek Wind Energy Project or revoke its land-use permit.
The 40-year-old construction contractor told The Oregonian newspaper in Portland that wind-energy companies downplay the noise.
“They said this is going to be about as loud as your refrigerator in your house, which is a crock,” he said.
With Oregon on track to triple its wind-energy production in coming years, concerns are likely to increase.
Oregon wind farms already generate 1,000 megawatts, enough to power as many as 300,000 homes, said Lou Torres, spokesman for the Oregon Department of Energy.
Wind farms to produce an additional 2,000 megawatts are in the works, he said, giving the state a total of about 2,000 turbines, many taller than the Statue of Liberty when blades are pointed up.
“When that (work) is completed in the next couple of years, we will probably be fourth or fifth in the country on wind energy,” Torres told The Oregonian.
Many are planned for Columbia Plateau in Morrow, Sherman, Gilliam, Wasco and Umatilla counties.
The Oregon Facilities Siting Council last July approved a 909-megawatt farm with 305 turbines spread over 32,000 acres in Gilliam and Morrow counties, being developed by Caithness Energy of Chicago.
But the backlash is getting some attention.
In January, a Massachusetts company yanked plans for a wind farm outside The Dalles after opponents complained that it would be too close to homes, ruin spectacular Columbia River Gorge vistas and put wildlife at risk.
Other critics, including some in Oregon, cite work by a New York doctor who coined the term “wind turbine syndrome” to describe effects such as headaches, dizziness and memory loss of living near the machines.
“This thing is not rare,” Dr. Nina Pierpont of Malone, N.Y., said of the syndrome.
Industry representatives dismiss such talk.
Shawna Seldon, spokeswoman for the American Wind Energy Association in Washington, D.C., said her group is unaware of any peer-reviewed research linking wind turbines and negative health effects.
Likewise, Mike Logsdon of Invenergy, the 6-year-old Chicago company that built the Willow Creek farm, also said there is no evidence suggesting the turbines cause health problems.
Still, another resident of the area, Mike Eaton, agrees with Williams and other neighbors who complain about the noise and vibrations from the turbines.
The retired 61-year-old furniture maker said the turbines give him nausea by aggravating inner-ear and balance problems he’s had since a 1966-67 tour in Vietnam subjected him to the constant pounding of an Army 155-mm artillery piece.
“I cannot live where I’m living now with these decibels and vibrations,” he said.
Carla McLane, Morrow County planning director, said health issues never came up during planning for the 72-megawatt Willow Creek project. The county approved the farm in 2005, and turbines began operating this past December.
But Ryan Swinburnson, an attorney for Morrow County, said officials take the complaints seriously.
“The county’s position is if there is a violation, the violating party needs to correct it,” he said.
Wind turbine noise fuels frustration in Oklahoma
By Randy Ellis
3 April 2009
Roger Mills County resident Scott Shillingstad said the noises emitted by wind turbines on a neighbor’s property are worse than annoying.
“It sounds like we have an international airport next door to us,” Shillingstad said. “Our health is being threatened. We’re about ready to abandon our property.”
Shillingstad said he lives within 2,000 feet of the nearest turbines, which emit both high- and low-frequency sounds.
“We hear the thumping and swooshing all night long,” he said, adding that some noises sound like the combination of a high-pitched jet engine roar and the rhythmic thumping of a Laundromat.
“It rattles the windows,” said Shillingstad, 56. “My blood pressure has gone through the roof. I’ve been getting headaches, and I’ve never had headaches all my life.”
Shillingstad said he has called every state agency he can think of seeking help and now is communicating with the Environmental Protection Agency.
“All I’m trying to do is bring a little attention to our plight,” he said. “This phenomenon is going to be happening all over the state of Oklahoma. Right now, there are no state or federal regulations. They don’t take into consideration anybody’s right to privacy or right to peace.”
Cohocton not dealing with leaseholder noise complaints
The Town of Cohocton announced Monday it will no longer be dealing with any noise complaints generated by residents who lease property with wind energy developer First Wind.
The town board sent an open letter to the media Monday afternoon outlining its intentions on monitoring noise generated by the 50 wind turbines erected in the town in 2008 following complaints by residents and leaseholders involved with the project.
“Over the past few weeks, a resident of the Town of Cohocton, Hal Graham, has been lodging complaints with First Wind, the owner of the Town of Cohocton’s two wind farms, members of the Town Board, other State and local elected officials, and the Town’s Code Enforcement Officer concerning noise levels at his home,” the letter states.
Under the town’s wind law, the letter states, there is a distinction between participating landowners — like Graham, who has several turbines on his property — and non-participating landowners.
“The town wanted to allow those persons in the town signing leases or setback waivers to make their own decisions about the use of their land, without constraining any particular landowners’ ability to negotiate with First Wind,” the letter states. “Participating landowners are viewed under the Town’s local laws as, in essence, First Wind’s co-applicants.”
The board heard complaints on noise generated from the 50 turbines on top of Pine, Lent, Dutch and Brown hills around Cohocton at its Feb. 23 meeting. At the meeting, Graham — a Lent Hill resident — addressed the board and asked if there was anything the town could do about the turbines on his property.
“They (First Wind) told us we wouldn’t hear anything at 900 feet,” he said at the meeting. “The noise is so great that my windows are vibrating.”
The letter Monday said it will not be dealing with Graham’s problems.
“While we are hopeful that First Wind will be responsive to Hal’s concerns and the concerns of any other ‘participating’ landowners, the Town will not compromise its ability to address legitimate complaints received from the owners of ‘non-participating’ parcels by taking on a ‘participating’ parcel owner’s problems,” the letter states, continuing to explain that the town’s laws on wind noise do not apply to participating landowners and they must file their complaints with First Wind.
Non-participating residents’ complaints will receive the town’s attention, though.
The current procedure for complaints is to call a toll-free number belonging to First Wind, which rings into the office located on Main Street in Cohocton. From there, First Wind officials will schedule a time for the town’s and the company’s wind turbine noise consultants to test the property and determine if there are violations of the wind law.
“If First Wind does not adequately respond to your complaint, then follow up with the Town’s Code Enforcement Officer,” the letter states.
Calls to Cohocton town Supervisor Jack Zigenfus, who sent the letter to The Evening Tribune, and Graham were not immediately returned.
By Bob Clark
Windmills a sound investment?
April 6, 2009 by Mary Perham in Corning Leader
Editor's note | This is the first part of a two-part look at developing concerns over wind farms in parts of Steuben County.
Bath, N.Y. - In early January, the blades in the 53-turbine First Wind project in the town of Cohocton began to spin. It was the first project in Steuben County to generate renewable energy and one of five under consideration in the county.
Within weeks, dozens of Cohocton residents went to the town board in neighboring Prattsburgh to warn that the machines were proving to be noisy and harmful.
"Don't let (the developers) buffalo you," Cohocton resident Hal Graham told the Prattsburgh Town Board in late February. "You know, I wanted to do something for the environment. And now I can't sleep at night."
Graham initially supported wind farm development.
Prattsburgh is the site of two wind farms planned by developers First Wind and EcoGen. Other projects have been proposed in the towns of Hartsville and Howard.
Since wind farms in Steuben County were first proposed in 2002, developers have admitted it's hard to miss seeing the 400-foot-high turbines, but insisted they sound no louder than a refrigerator's hum.
The projects have been promoted throughout the largely rural county as a quiet, inexpensive and environmentally-friendly way to provide renewable energy.
Environmental studies for Cohocton and Steuben County led to restrictions of the turbines' sound to a maximum comfort level of 50 decibels. Setbacks were established to assure both noise and other potential dangers such as shadow flicker and flying debris were lessened.
Yet the promised "refrigerator hum" of the turbines was a falsity as residents began to compare the sound to the roar of a jet engine, according to Graham.
The Cohocton residents are among a growing number of people across the nation complaining the noise made by wind turbines is intrusive and disturbing. Medical professionals have compiled studies showing the noise can pose health hazards.
And the wind industry is beginning to take notice.
In Maine, where the state welcomed renewable energy, the Mars Hill project has been widely criticized for being noisy.
According to a March 26, 2008 report by the Daily News in Bangor, Maine, UPC Wind president and CEO Paul Gaynor said the company would do a better job in the future about letting local residents know what to expect from wind farms.
"I know there was an expectation (in Mars Hill) about what these were going to sound like," Gaynor told the Daily News. "These are big structures and they do make sound."
Shortly after Gaynor spoke to the Maine newspaper, the firm changed its name to First Wind. It was formerly known as Global Winds Harvest/UPC.
Local officials said they have relied on the best information available and worked to ensure the safety of residents.
Steuben County Industrial Development Agency Executive Director James Sherron said the agency has regulatory standards based on data from the state Department of Environmental Conservation and state Energy Research Development Agency.
The Steuben County IDA has established minimum distances that wind turbines can be to a residence, called a setback. There are also limits on decibel levels.
But Sherron said he has heard reports of 110 decibels in Cohocton -- twice the accepted limit - and added any violations would go through a process of sound studies to decide the best way to solve the issue.
"We have a responsibility with the developers, they have to meet the criteria," Sherron said. "They could be asked to slow down the turbines, find alternatives. It could mean the unit would be removed."
Sherron said another factor in the noise may be the model of machine used in Cohocton.
While SCIDA initially reviewed 1.5 megawatt turbines, the five wind farm developers looking to do business in the county indicated they would be installing 2.3 megawatt turbines. The larger turbines were approved because SCIDA's consultants said there was no significant difference in their impact, Sherron said.
But all models under consideration are capable of exceeding 100 decibels at a maximum speed of 30 feet per second, according to a report to SCIDA by developer EverPower.
Typically, the blade rotation is reduced to lower speeds.
Yet some sound experts charge the current "acceptable" range of 45-50 decibels is excessive, and twice as loud as some background rural noise recorded at 20-25 decibels.
Acoustical engineer Richard James warned the noise is not only nerve-wracking, but poses health risks now being studied in the U.S. and in Europe, where wind farms have operated for nearly 20 years.
James likened the potential long-term effect of wind farms to the now-notorious region near Buffalo, where officials paved over the toxic waste which later poisoned residents.
"This is like Love Canal," he said.