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2/1/12 Wind developer to sleepless residents: I can't snap my fingers and make the noise go away

From West Virgina


Elaine Blaisdell,

Via Cumberland Times-News, times-news.com

January 31, 2012 

“When the wind comes from the west, you get the real low-frequency noise. You can feel the pressure waves in my ears. You can’t sleep with it.

KEYSER, W.Va. — A majority of those in attendance at the Community Advisory Panel meeting on Monday night agreed — there is an issue with noise emitting from the wind turbines at the Pinnacle Wind Farm on Green Mountain.

Green Mountain residents described a variety of noises from a hammer, to a whoosh, to a low-pitched, consistent vibration.

“I don’t like it better anymore than you do,” said Brad Christopher, Edison Mission Energy project manager. “I’ve stayed up there; I know what you are talking about. I wish I could snap my fingers and it would go away, but I can’t.”

Richard Braithwaite, a Green Mountain resident, said he has been hearing the noise since November.

“Nobody has mentioned the other noise that (Christopher) has heard himself — the prop turning. It sounds like a train or hammer,” said Braithwaite. “When the wind comes from the west, you get the real low-frequency noise. You can feel the pressure waves in my ears. You can’t sleep with it. The low-pressure noise can hurt you according to medical journals.”

A whoosh is emitted from the cooling fan and the blade when the turbines turn from the other direction, according to Braithwaite.

“I don’t know of anything that can be done for blade noise,” said Christopher. “As far as the fan noise, that we can approach from the louver system.”

A test louver system is being ordered from Mitsubishi but it is not expected until March, according to Christopher.

“The louver system will go on the back of the nacelle on the head of the cooling-fan air intake on one of the wind turbines,” said Christopher. “We will do a noise study.”

A nacelle is a cover for all the generating components in a wind turbine.

If the louver system reduces the noise, more will be ordered for the 22 remaining wind turbines, according to Christopher, who said the system would most likely redirect air noise.

“You don’t know how much I hope this will work,” said Christopher. “I don’t like sites with issues. We are trying to get it quick as we can and get it resolved.”

If it doesn’t work, other options have to be researched such as changing the motor speed, according to Christopher.

“Charley (Parnell, vice president of public affairs for Edison Mission Energy) said we were within code,” said Donnie Ashby, a member of CAP.

“I would like to know what the code is. What are the guidelines — the Public Service Commission doesn’t have any and the EPA doesn’t have any.”

Before the project began, a sound expert was hired to study a wind turbine model that was created to predict what sound the wind turbines would make, according to Dave Friend, vice president and director of the US Wind Force Foundation. It predicted well below what is being heard, said Friend.

“It would imply that it would be half of what you are suggesting,” said Friend, who agreed after visiting the site that the noise is annoying. “As irritating as it is, unfortunately I can’t go back and say, ‘Click, it’s gone.’ But if you could bear with us I think we could find a solution.”

Ashby questioned whether models at other sites had noise complaints.

Neither of the wind farms that have Mitsubishi turbines in Sterling, Texas, and Telugu, Okla., has had complaints about noise, according to Christopher. However, both are located on mostly flat ridge lines and Christopher isn’t aware of any other Mitsubishi wind turbines that are located on mountains.

“I’m very displeased that a representative is not here at the meeting from the corporate office,” said Ashby. “If I asked my neighbor to turn it down, they would turn it down. A lot of people are displeased. I spoke up for the project and now I look like a idiot.”

Currently there are seven Mitsubishi employees at the Pinnacle Wind Farm, two of whom are local hires, according to Christopher.

“Mitsubishi does have a permanent site manager now, which I think makes a big difference,” said Christopher.

Two-thirds of the project went online Dec. 21 and the remaining one-third went commercial Jan. 13, with power being sold to the state of Maryland and the University of Maryland, according to Christopher.

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