Entries in wind shadow flicker (21)
2/27/11 WINDKILL: How "Green" is a bird and bat killing machne? AND No matter what language you say it in, wind turbine shadow flicker is intolerable
[Note: Illustrations and photos on this post added by the BPWI Research Nerd]
WIND FARMS AND DEADLY SKIES: TURBINES ON TEXAS COAST KILLING THOUSANDS OF BIRDS AND BATS EACH YEAR
SOURCE: San Antonio Express-News, www.mysanantonio.com
February 27, 2011
By Colin McDonald,
SARITA — The 260-foot-tall wind turbines of the Kenedy Ranch stand like a steel forest along the edge of the Laguna Madre and pump out hundreds of megawatts of emission-free electricity.
The spinning blades, alongside some of the most important habitat in Texas and one of North America’s largest migratory flyways, are killing thousands of birds and bats each year.
How many isn’t publicly known because, unlike California counties, Texas and the federal government don’t require turbine operators to make public reports, according to state and federal officials.
Aside from the quantity of bird and bat deaths, a more complicated question remains unanswered as more wind turbines are put up along the Texas Coast: Have the turbines changed the ecosystem and displaced wildlife?
For the first time, Pattern Energy, which owns 118 turbines on the ranch, and Iberdrola Renewables, which owns 168, voluntarily released results of their first yearlong studies.
Pattern estimates up to 921 birds and 2,309 bats were killed between Aug. 24, 2009, and July 31; Iberdrola’s estimates: 1,812 birds and 3,087 bats for the same period.
While the bird killings match the national average, one researcher found the bat killings much higher than expected.
Those who opposed the wind farms are not convinced the studies are credible or conclusive.
The work was paid for by the companies and not peer-reviewed. In their reports, biologists wrote about the challenges of collecting good data with rattlesnakes biting their search dogs and cows that would not leave. The researchers estimate scavengers removed half of the bird and bat carcasses before they could be found.
They also could not get federal permits to collect the species they did find, so many had to be marked as unknown.
After more than a year of submitting forms, the companies received a collection permit last month, said Rick Greiner of Pattern Energy.
But of the species identified, none were endangered.
“We think there is a low impact to T and E (threatened and endangered species) because we have not found any,” he said.
The reports state the wind farms had a bird mortality rate of three birds per megawatt, which is in the middle for the national average of one to six birds, according to the American Wind Energy Association, a trade group. A national average for bats killed per megawatt is not well-established.
In addition to average bird mortality, the companies point to the high-tech radar systems they voluntarily installed that will trigger a shutdown of the spinning turbines during fog or low visibility when a mass of birds or bats is approaching.
As of the end of 2010, a shutdown had not occurred.
“At every stage of the project’s life, Iberdrola Renewables has gone above and beyond what has been required by the state of Texas and federal government to conduct extensive studies and monitor the outcomes of our wildlife protection measures,” said Jan Johnson, a spokeswoman for Iberdrola.
More than numbers
One who disagrees the studies have been extensive is David Newstead, an environmental scientist for the Coastal Bend Bays & Estuaries Program in Corpus Christi and president of the Coastal Bend Audubon Society.
He believes mortality rates are an incomplete measurement of the effect of wind farms. The numbers do not reflect how turbines could be changing behavior of birds and bats by forcing them out of their habitat and putting them under greater stress.
“Cumulative effects are practically never discussed by wind developers,” Newstead said. “At the end of the day, the most important numbers, for the sake of the wildlife, is how many of what species of birds and bats are being not only killed, but displaced.”
Newstead is one of most vocal challengers to the construction of wind farms along the Texas Coast and was part of an unsuccessful lawsuit to stop them, funded in large part by the King Ranch, which borders the Kenedy Ranch.
“There is no other place in North America that plays such an important role for so many species during some part of their lives,” Newstead said about the Laguna Madre and surrounding grasslands. “Collision mortality can thus affect any of more than 400 regularly occurring species.”
Newstead’s concerns for the coast only grow as more turbines are built, following the lead of the Kenedy Ranch.
Since the Kenedy turbines came online in 2009, Iberdrola has added more, and the Papalote Creek Wind Farm with 196 units was built outside Corpus Christi, according to AWEA.
When operating at capacity, the Kenedy Ranch turbines in total can generate close to 680 megawatts, or enough electricity to meet the needs of 135,000 to 170,000 homes, according to CPS Energy, which buys power from Iberdrola.
That power is produced during the day when consumer demand is the highest, and it can be delivered via uncongested transmissions lines, said CPS Energy spokeswoman Lisa Lewis, adding that effect on wildlife was not considered when it signed the contract.
Working with wind
For now, wind companies face few consequences for killing wildlife, explained Paul Schmidt, assistant director at the Migratory Bird Program for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
While it’s against federal law to kill or harm any endangered, threatened or migratory bird species, the agency has not prosecuted any wind farm owner.
Instead, the service is working with the wind industry, scientists and conservationists to establish guidelines for how wind companies should place and operate a wind farm, Schmidt said.
A draft of those guidelines was released for comment this month.
Once the guidelines are adopted, the Fish and Wildlife Service will have a basis to decide which companies to investigate, Schmidt said.
“It’s just like you’re driving down the highway and the speed limit is 55,” he said. “You can go 60, probably 62, but at some point you are going to get caught.”
Schmidt said companies that volunteer information will avoid the scrutiny given those that do not.
Pattern and Iberdrola have regular communication with the service. But the reports they send are marked “privileged and confidential,” so they can’t be shared.
When Pattern gave its reports to the San Antonio Express-News, it called them public but then requested it preapprove anyone who saw them and that they not be posted online.
“Clearly we have a problem with transparency with the wind and wildlife issues, and I think we have a ways to go,” said Edward Arnett, director of programs at Bat Conservation International, whom Pattern approved to review its studies.
With wind farms across the country reluctant to share data openly, the understanding of the cumulative effect on wildlife and the best way to minimize it are stunted, Arnett said. This is especially true of bats.
At 150 feet long, the wind turbine blades move between 100 and 180 mph at their tip. The pressure change on the trailing edge is enough to cause internal hemorrhaging in bats, according to Bat Conservation International.
Before the Kenedy wind turbines went in, Arnett had expected low bat mortality, as there were no known concentrations of bats in the area. Since so little is known about bat movements, he is not surprised the numbers turned out to be higher.
Before wind turbines were built, little was known about bat movements.
It isn’t possible to know what is and isn’t working, he said.
“Until we have the information published in a credible fashion that is publicly shared and published in journals, it is going to be unknown,” he said.
SECOND FEATURE:WIND TURBINE SHADOW FLICKER MAKES DANES MISERABLE
WIND TURBINE SHADOW FLICKER MAKES BADGERS MISERABLE
8/14/10 TRIPLE FEATURE: The problem with the "successful" community wind project touted by Wisconsin wind siting council member AND Another chapter of "Wind Developers Behaving Badly": What part of "Conflict of Interest" don't you understand? AND Wisconsin looks in the mirror and keeps seeing Maine
NOTE FROM THE BPWI RESEARCH NERD: At a recent Wind Siting Council meeting Vinalhaven was touted as an example of a "community" wind project that was working.
Residents now trying to live with "community" turbine noise have a different view.
Noise controversy over Vinalhaven wind turbines heats up
SOURCE: The Free Press, freepressonline.com
August 12, 2010
Vinalhaven sits 15 miles off the coast and just over an hour’s ferry ride from Rockland, but it has an old-fashioned sense of community rare on the mainland these days. Every driver waves as they pass and it’s common for an islander to leave the keys in the truck in case anyone needs to borrow it.
It was with that sense of community that the islanders welcomed the three wind turbines to Vinalhaven last year. Not only did the turbines promise reliable electrical service, which was something long-term residents did not take for granted, but wind power would lower electric rates for everyone.
Islanders turned out in strength last November to see the turbines started up, watch the 123-foot-long blades sweep the air and watch grade-school children do a windmill dance to the tune of “I’m a Little Tea-Pot.”
Even with some initial start-up glitches, rates have gone down when averaged across the year (the estimated average rate is now five to six cents per kilowatt hour, with variations from month to month, according to Fox Island Electric Cooperative; the national average rate was 11.36 cents per kilowatt hour in 2008).
Most of the 1,200 or so residents on Vinalhaven approve of the turbines. But within days of start-up a handful of Vinalhaven residents who lived within a mile of the wind turbines on the North Haven Road reported noise problems.
Nine months later, people have taken sides. Fingers are being pointed. Frustration levels are rising. There are rumblings about complainers and how they should move off the island if they don’t like it. There are accusations of misinformation and biased noise data collection.
Jeanne Bineau-Ames, whose house is near the swimming quarry in the middle of the island, summed it up.
“It’s an island. We are only as strong as the smallest link. We have to work as a community,” she said. Bineau-Ames lives far enough from the wind turbines not to hear them, has a relative on the board of the electric cooperative who strongly favors them, and sympathizes with those affected by the noise.
“I hate to see this go to mistrust and anxiety,” she said. “We have to work at this. We have to work this out.”
Bothersome noise related to wind turbines is hardly new.
“Wind turbine noise is becoming a bigger issue in the U.S.,” said Patrick Moriarty, an aeronautical engineer for the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, Colorado. NREL belongs to the U.S. Department of Energy and is the primary research and development site for energy efficiency and renewable energy, including wind power. Moriarty is a senior engineer at the lab.
“It’s been a big issue in Europe for a while because their wind farms have been up longer and they are in more densely populated areas,” Moriarty said.
In Maine, the Mars Hill wind farm in Aroostook County and the turbines in Freedom in Waldo County have elicited similar complaints by nearby residents who say the repetitive whump, whump, whump sound of the blades turning causes sleeplessness and anxiety. Some research suggests those symptoms could be related to low-frequency sound waves that impact people as a pressure wave.
Sound seems simple enough: you hear it or you don’t; it’s audible or it isn’t. It turns out that sound is far from simple: not only can a noise that is alarmingly loud to one person be a minor note to another, but some people appear to be affected by low-frequency sound-the bass notes-while others aren’t. And the really low frequency sounds (below 20 hertz), the inaudible sound waves, which elephants and whales use to communicate over long distances, can travel hundreds of miles without fading. It’s this silent sound that may make birds and beasts aware of earthquakes and tsunamis ahead of any apparent danger, and it may be the cause of a laundry list of human complaints that include sleeplessness, anxiety, exhaustion and depression.
Or it may not be. The jury is out.
Dora Anne Mills, the medical doctor for the state of Maine, reviewed the medical and acoustics research on wind turbine noise and issued a 2009 report stating that the current research on health effects was inconclusive. Mills concluded there was insufficient evidence to change state noise compliance standards.
But the thing to understand, said Moriarty, is that the sound coming from the wind turbines is broadband noise; that is, it has all frequencies mixed together. It appears not to be the volume of the turbines, but the rythmic nature of the noise, the whomp, whomp or whoosh, whoosh, whoosh-what Moriarity refers to as the modulation-that is problematic, but no one is really sure.
“Noise ordinances are now based on amplitude [volume],” said Moriarty. “Some people think modulation noise [repetitive, rhythmic noise] could be more annoying.”
“It’s an open question if noise regulations should be adjusted for modulation. It’s at the bleeding edge of research at the moment and it’s where technology and sociology overlap,” said Moriarty.
That’s cold comfort to some residents who live close to the wind turbines.
Britta Lindgren lives about a half mile down the Northhaven Road from the turbines.
“Initially, the animals went off their feed when the turbines started up. During the first few days after they started, I found an eider duck hiding in the corner of the porch, cowering. You never see eider ducks out of the cove. I’ve never seen that. During the first two or three weeks, it was really loud.”
“The animals don’t do that now. Truthfully, most of the time it’s not a problem,” said Lindgren, referring to the volume. “There are trees between us and the sound varies in intensity. It’s a whomp, whomp, whomp sound.”
They may not be so loud, but the sound pulses rythmically. Lindgren believes the repetitive noise is what is creating sleep problems in her family and, she says, it isn’t something that you just get used to, as some islanders have suggested.
“It feels like a constant wearing down,” she said. “It’s like when you have an itch. It’s nothing to scratch it, but then it keeps itching and you keep scratching and before you know it you have a hard, raw spot. It hurts. You’re always aware of it.”
A half mile in the other direction, Erin Creelman and her family are more acutely aware of the wind turbines. Their house sits on high ground across from them and all but one of the family members are having problems sleeping.
“We left our storm windows in this summer, and we have thermal panes,” said Creelman. “We didn’t put in the screens. We have a well-insulated house with wood panels and sheetrock. We have blown-in fiberglass. You can still hear them. You can feel them, really. It’s a pressure thing more than a noise. It’s like a whomp, whomp, whomp.”
Creelman said she supported construction of the windmills and doesn’t want them taken down; she wants the sound issues solved.
Lindgren agreed, but shook her head at the possibility of a solution.
“It’s gotten quite divisive,” said Lindgren. “How do you deal with that? I don’t know.”
Sally Wylie, another neighbor of the wind farm who lives less than a mile away from the turbines, didn’t parse her words. She was thoroughly frustrated.
“They said it would sound like the humming of a refrigerator. That didn’t seem so bad,” said Wylie.
But Wylie said it isn’t like a refrigerator.
“It sounds like a jetport,” said Wylie, referring to the noise in the windy winter months. “It’s unbelievable. It vibrates right through the house. It ricochets off the neighbors and comes back. It echoes.”
The Neighbors & The Man Behind the Machines
“There are about 15 to 20 year-round houses located within three quarters of a mile of the turbines,” said George Baker, who is the CEO of Fox Island Wind, a private enterprise that is a subsidiary of the Fox Island Electric Cooperative (FIEC) and that was formed to allow the wind turbines to be built.
Notably, the wind turbines have overwhelming support from Vinalhaven residents; only a handful of people are affected by the noise.
“I live with 4 a.m. lobster boats,” said Donna Payne, who owns the Payne Homestead bed-and-breakfast in town. “These are the sounds of people going to work. That’s what it takes to live on an island.”
The wind turbines can’t be heard in town.
“What noise?” said Pete Gasperini, when asked what he thought about the wind turbine noise. “We love them.”
Carla Harris, who sat next to Gasperini at a public forum, agreed.
“We’ve gone up close to hear them and we’ve gone further away,” said Harris. “This is not unbearable noise. It’s like ambient sound.”
Annette Philbrook also agreed.
“The old power plant made ten times more noise than these,” said Philbrook.
Nans Case, a 20-year resident of Vinalhaven who lives in town, said she’s a fan of the lower electric rates.
“My rates have gone down 25 to 30 percent,” said Case. “That’s something for someone on a fixed income.”
But those who are bothered are really bothered. Some of those who live close to the turbines sought legal advice, citing bad faith on the part of Fox Island Wind in adhering to a tolerable noise level and in not addressing their concerns as a serious community issue.
Wylie is one of the neighbors who became vocal about the need to address the noise problem.
“We were big supporters of the project, but we were told the ambient noise would mask the sound of the turbines, so when the turbines were turned on, I was completely in shock,” said Wylie. “I called George Baker and said, please, can you turn them down?”
“He said ‘I can’t do that. We have to study the sound
issue,’ ” said Wylie, who thought the impacts of the nearby neighbors were part of the equation for how the turbines should operate.
“We believed what they told us,” said Wylie.
Now she thinks Fox Island Wind considers the neighbors a nuisance.
“We were totally naive,” she said.
Wylie and others bothered by the turbine noise formed Fox Island Wind Neighbors (FIWN) and launched a website to share information.
“During the first two and a half months after the start-up, I spent hours every week talking to the neighbors,” said Baker, who in addition to being the face of Fox Island Wind is a professor at Harvard Business School who has been on an extended leave of absence so he could serve as the vice president of Community Wind at the Island Institute in Rockland.
“I gave them a whole bunch of detailed financial information and technical information,” said Baker. “Probably stuff I shouldn’t have given. I told them I wasn’t talking to my lawyers, because I knew if I did, my lawyers would say: ‘Don’t talk to them.’ I didn’t want it to be like that.”
“I did tell them if they retained a lawyer, I’d have to talk to my lawyers and I knew what they would say,” said Baker. Fox Island Wind’s lawyers said what Baker expected: stop talking to the neighbors who retained legal counsel.
“There is no lawsuit. I desperately hope there isn’t one. but we got into that lawyer thing and I hate it,” said Baker. “So, no, I won’t talk to them.”
Wylie sees it differently. She says there is no intention to sue, nor was there, ever.
“We needed legal advice. Our lawyer advised us to keep working with the DEP and the community,” she said. “To keep talking.”
“There’s an ethical question here,” said Wylie. “Do you sacrifice the small part of the population or just focus on what the majority wants? Why didn’t they just say, ‘Guess what? This isn’t really working. This is a lot louder than we thought and it’s not a good thing.’?”
“We need to make it work,” she said. “We’re a community. We have a problem, but we’re part of the community package. It’s not like you can throw us out with the laundry.”
Baker, whose unbounded enthusiasm for the Fox Island Wind project comes across without restraint, reined in when it came to talking about the noise controversy.
“I can’t tell you how frustrated I am. I have an enormous stake in this. I’m not making a dime on this project, I hope that is clear,” said Baker, who does not get a salary for being CEO of Fox Island Wind. Baker’s Harvard Business School scholarship recently focused on negotiating and contracts that are built on trust and secured by the reputation of those involved, not on legal enforcement.
“I care deeply about getting this issue resolved, with community involvement,” Baker said. “My reputation is at stake.”
Compliance with State Sound Standards
The state of Maine has noise compliance standards that are pretty straightforward for windmills. When it comes to frequencies and decibels, they take their measurements from the middle range, with attempts to correct for the low-frequency part of the range.
Under Maine state law (Title 38, Sec. 343), wind turbines sited in a quiet location like Vinalhaven cannot operate any higher than 45 decibels at the property line of abutting landowners. Communities like Vinalhaven can adopt more restrictive local ordinances. Vinalhaven had a more restrictive noise ordinance, but voted it out in favor of the state standards.
“Sound is measured between May 1 and August 31, during the inversion period,” said Becky Blais of the Maine Department of Environmental Protection. Blais monitors compliance for the Fox Island Wind site. Inversion is the term for when there is wind aloft and it is calm near the ground. The premise is that sound will carry farther during the summer inversion period; though, on the island, wind blows much harder in the winter.
“All we are measuring is state compliance,” said Blais. The DEP asks Fox Island Wind to collect data using a DEP- approved method. That raw data and initial analysis is sent to DEP for further checking of accuracy and analysis. Complaints from neighbors, with specific time frames attached to the complaints so they can be correlated to sound collection data, also go into the mix for analysis.
The state, in essence, is measuring volume using a standard approach used by federal agencies for measuring industrial noise. They are not measuring low frequencies, which tend to travel farther and in lots of directions. Higher frequencies, in contrast, tend to travel in one direction for much shorter distances.
Fox Island Wind Neighbors takes issue with the state compliance standards of 45 decibels at the property line of an abutting property. They think it should be lower. Even so, FIWN wanted to determine for themselves if the turbines complied with existing state sound standards, so they took the intiative to collect their own sound data from an abutting property, starting this past April. It’s a nonscientific study, but it does indicate that the turbines routinely exceed 45 decibels. FIWN shared their information with the Maine DEP in an effort to bolster their position that the turbines are louder than they should be.
Several sound studies have been done on Vinalhaven or are in the process of being conducted.
Study #1: Turning the Turbines Down
The Noise Reduction Operations (NRO) studies, which were undertaken at the request of Fox Island Wind last spring, included randomly turning down the turbines to see if there was any effect on nearby residents. Only nine participants submitted logbooks noting when they heard turbine noise and how they felt; but 200 responses came from those people.
Ben Hoen of the Berkeley Naitonal Laboratory at the Department of Energy was the principal researcher.
Hoen said the small sample size was, to some extent, offset by the number of responses received.
“There is no silver bullet when it comes to a solution here. It’s all shades of grey,” said Hoen. What the study did do was indicate that the complaints of sound effects, which were recorded with a date and a time, were correlated with wind speeds at the wind turbine site and at a buoy 10-15 miles away.
“The study method worked,” said Hoen. “We hope to come back a second time. Ideally, you want every single person to participate.”
Study #2: Cancelling Out the Noise
Conquest Innovations, an acoustics consulting firm based in Washington state, approached Baker of Fox Island Wind to see if they could set up an experimental study to attempt to fine-tune existing technology so it would work to cancel out the sound of the wind turbines.
Baker secured a $12,000 matching grant from the Maine Technology Institute to kick off the experiment to explore the use of noise-cancellation technology on wind turbine sound.
“We’ve been looking at the full sound spectrum, with the focus below 250 hertz,” said Steven Bradbury of Conquest Innovations. Active Noise Cancellation is based on recognized principles. Bose has used it in its noise-cancellation headphones and Honda has used it inside the cabin of some of its models to cancel out engine noise.
Bradbury explained how noise cancellation works.
“You ever been out on a boat? You know when two boat wakes come from two different directions… say, each wave is six inches high. When the crest of the two waves meet, they double and the peak is about 12 inches high. Now take the same two waves, but instead of the crest of one wave hitting the crest of an oncoming wave, it hits the trough.”
Anyone who has crossed to Vinalhaven has seen it. When the crest of one wave hits the trough of an oncoming wave, the water briefly flattens out. The waves essentially cancel each other out, creating a momentary calm.
Sound waves are not exactly like water waves.
“But this is a great way to visualize what we are trying to do,” said Bradbury.
Lower-frequency sound waves have crests that are farther apart than high-frequency waves; simply, they are less frequent. Think of the sound of the bass on the subwoofers coming out of a car passing on the road in the summer, with the music turned up high. The low-frequency sound comes right through the walls. It goes in all directions; the thumpa, thumpa, thumpa of the bass, until someone says out loud, “Jeez, can’t that kid turn that down?”
The crests of the low-frequency waves are farther apart, thus giving Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) technology room to emit a sound that will flatten the wave. To cancel out three windmills will take three carefully calibrated speakers that are programmed to respond. The result: no more thumpa, thumpa, thumpa. ANC doesn’t mask the sound wave; it meets it and gives the thumpa right back to it.
“We’re pretty excited about this,” said Bradbury. “The principles of active noise cancellation are proven. We know it works.”
According to Bradbury, the direction and speed of the wind shouldn’t make much difference in the effectiveness of noise cancellation.
“What isn’t clear is whether the sound that is bothering people is just low frequency,” said Bradbury. Noise cancellation won’t work on high-frequency sound as effectively: the sound waves are too close together to flatten out across large areas. They are also directional and don’t go through house walls as effectively as low-frequency sound.
So, what happens if the bothersome noise is partially low-frequency and partially high-frequency sound waves? Or even a resonance effect created by extremely low frequency sounds essentially shaking the walls of a house and creating new sounds.
“It may not work,” said Bradbury. It won’t take much longer to find out. The sound data has been analyzed, a sound profile is being created, and Bradbury said a bench-top demo model will be ready in under two months.
Study #3: The Colorado Department of Energy Lab
On March 1 of this year, Baker requested that the National Research Energy Lab come out to Vinalhaven because he thought the lab could help FIW better understand the sound issues. NREL agreed and committed an initial $30,000 to pay for the studies.
Moriarty of the NREL/DOE lab in Colorado and Ben Hoen of the Berkeley DOE lab in California have been looking into the effects of the wind turbines and trying to tie them to specific sound signatures. The data from the Noise Reduction Operation are their starting points, but they got a more complete assessment of impacts than the survey done by Fox Island Wind, said Moriarty.
“The idea was to be independent from Fox Island Wind and to maintain objectivity, ” he said. “Of course, we wouldn’t identify the people who spoke to us.”
Moriarty stressed, again, that the turbines create broad- band noise across low to high frequencies.
“The noise is definitely related to speed. The dominant noise comes from the blades. The faster they spin, the louder they are, but the faster they spin, the more electricity they produce,” said Moriarty, noting there will be a trade-off between reduced noise and electricity generation.
What NREL is looking for is specific symptoms or noise irritation (sleeplessness, irritation from loudness, etc.) at specific times, so they can tie them to the sound data. The NREL team plans to correlate that social data with a variety of other factors, including wind speed, turbine volume, humidity, inversions, and modulation.
What they found in their initial data collection on Vinalhaven was that noise annoyance didn’t necessarily correlate with proximity to the turbines.
“There may be lots of sociological factors, from not wanting to be perceived as a bad guy in the community, to some people working away from home during the day while others are at home gardening. I think that was a big factor,” said Moriarty.
Some other research questions have come up. How does proximity to the ocean, where the atmosphere almost traps the noise, come into play? Another is the base rock the turbines are built on top of.
“One question that came up at Vinalhaven is that the turbines are connected to granite. That’s not very common anywhere in the world. It’s a solid connection and it may be a more efficient transmitter of noise. Here in Colorado, we have the exact same turbine that is on Vinalhaven. You can hardly hear it. But the soil is very different here.”
The next step will be to break down the sound signature and try to isolate the cause of the noise that annoys people at specific times.
“Is it the blades, the rotor? Is the reduced noise operation working the way it should? That’s what we’ll be looking at,” said Moriarty. “Then we’ll brainstorm mitigation potential, and costs and effectiveness. We may recommend reducing speed; even more expensive is a new blade design. They may be able to reduce the operation so much and pay so much more for electric. Then we present it back to the community: Here’s what we found. It’s your island. What would you like to do?”
But what about the sounds that are so low they can’t be heard? Called infrasound, the super low frequency sounds that register below 20 hertz.
Moriarty launched into a cautionary tale. A large experimental windmill was built in Boone, North Carolina, in the 1970s, with the wind at its back in order to maximize energy generation. But the low-frequency noise created pressure waves that were amplified by a number of factors.
“It created a pressure pulse low enough that you couldn’t hear it, but it was similar to the resonance frequency of houses and the sound wave shook the houses and increased the amplitude. Body cavities have a similar resonance frequency, too, so people were getting seasick and dishes were falling off the walls.”
“That’s the number-one reason wind turbines are now designed to work upwind. Infrasound is much less of an issue. Recent measurements on infrasound of GE turbines on Vinalhaven found there isn’t much infrasound coming from those turbines and they satisfy national standards,” he said.
Moriarty said that everything he has seen on infrasound seems to indicate that the noise-related problems are not due to infrasound.
But noise problems are real and the industry is paying attention.
“Sound is a focus across the wind industry,” said Melissa Rocker, the global communications manager for General Electric, who manufactured the wind turbines on Vinalhaven.
“We’ve been talking to Fox Island Wind since last November on how to reduce noise,” said Rocker.
“Every site is unique, with different geographic conditions, weather conditions and ambient sound levels,” she said. “GE is working on various technologies….When those technologies are ready, Fox Island would be a strong candidate for testing.”
The Sculptor at the End of the Lane: Kitty Wales
Fred Granger, who works at a small quarry cutting granite for countertops and benches using a diamond-bit granite saw, hasn’t been drawn into the conflict or paid much attention to the studies.
“I love them,” he said of the wind turbines. He works in the shadow of the windmill blades and the sound of his granite saw is loud enough to drown out any turbine noise.
“They’re beautiful machines that take air and make electricity,” he said. “But I don’t live on the island.”
And then he walked past the numbered blocks of fine-grained granite to the edge of the North Haven Road and pointed down a long lane bordered by hay-scented fern and bayberry bushes.
“There’s a sculptor lives down there,” he said. “Close enough, but a little further away than the rest. She might be one to talk to. I don’t know what she thinks of them. I don’t know that she’s been asked.”
I started walking down the sunny lane, breathing in the summer island scent of sweet fern, hay-scented fern and wild roses. Jim Cogswell was clearing brush on the side of the lane a quarter mile in and stopped for a chat. Cogswell lives on the Peaquot Road on the other side of the island.
“What do I think of them? Anything to get us to use less oil from the Arabs, I’m for them,” said Cogswell. “It’s funny, though. You can hear them from farther away than you can when you are right up close to them.”
The sculptor at the end of the mile-long lane turned out to be Kitty Wales, who is on the island for five months. It’s where she gets her sculpting work done; the rest of the year she teaches in Boston.
No one had asked her what she thought.
“The sound varies wildly,” said Wales. “Some days I can’t hear it at all. Other days it’s this engine sound, whomp, whomp, and a rattling sound on a really bad day. Sometimes there is this low vibration. But I’m three quarters to a mile away and it’s only when we are in the lee of the wind that I hear it.”
“It’s basically too close to residential, too close to homes…and it’s done. For me, it’s tolerable. I don’t want it to affect my work, so I put it out of my mind as much as I can. I don’t think they will be able to make it quieter, but they seem to be trying.”
“Have you gone up the lane, with the pristine look of the bayberries and the hay-scented fern and there they are?” asked Wales. “Rising up in front of you? They are so beautiful. As a sculptor, I think they’re amazingly cool.”
State probing officials at Cape: Misconduct alleged in wind development
SOURCE Watertown Daily Times, www.watertowndailytimes.com
August 14, 2010
By Brian Kelly, Times Staff Writer,
CAPE VINCENT — The state attorney general’s office is investigating allegations of misconduct by “certain” town officials in connection with the development of wind farms.
John T. Milgrim, spokesman for the attorney general, confirmed that a letter was sent to the town and its attorney Friday afternoon informing them an investigation had been launched.
Mr. Milgrim also confirmed that two senior members of Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo’s staff, Deputy Chief of Staff John B. Howard and Henry M. Greenberg, executive division counsel, were in Cape Vincent about two weeks ago conducting interviews of “parties interested in wind power.”
Mr. Milgrim declined comment on details of the investigation, including what prompted it or which town officials may be its focus.
According to the letter, obtained by the Times, the attorney general has told the town it must preserve all town documents, including those of the Town Council and Planning Board, and the town is not to delete or purge any records until the investigation is complete.
The attorney general’s office is specifically requesting information about any present, past or future wind farm development or siting of the farms, as well as all information regarding wind turbines, wind power and related facilities or wind power projects.
The office wants all information about wind farm development compiled since Jan. 1, 2005, “whether considered, planned, attempted or completed, including, but not limited to permitting, licensing, construction and energy production.”
By Aug. 28, the attorney general’s office wants:
■ All documents relating to town action on wind farm development, including, but not limited to, board minutes, board packages, resolutions, voting records, communications, permits, applications and licenses.
■ All communications between or among town officials and any company engaged in wind farm development.
■ All documents concerning any financial relationship between a town official, or their relatives, and a company engaged in wind farm development, including, but not limited to, any financial disclosures filed with the town and any board minutes reflecting any such disclosures.
The attorney general’s office is asking that town Supervisor Urban C. Hirschey and Planning Board Chairman Richard J. Edsall, as well as members of the Town Council and Planning Board, be made available for interviews. The office also wants to talk to anyone else who served on either board since Jan. 1, 2005.
Acciona Wind Energy USA has proposed a 51-turbine St. Lawrence Wind Farm for the town and BP Alternative Energy has an active application for the 62-turbine Cape Vincent Wind Farm. The proposed projects have caused controversies between pro- and anti-wind advocates, including allegations of conflicts of interest among town officials.
Open Access to Paperless Records
SOURCE: The Times Record, www.timesrecord.com
August 13, 2010
Maine’s Freedom of Access Act is based on the principle that government best serves the public when it operates in the most open manner possible. Without open meetings and access to public records citizens won’t know what their government is up to — and democracy can’t function properly.
So it should be a matter of grave concern to all Maine citizens — not just the press — that the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting essentially had a roadblock thrown in its path this spring when it requested documents from the Maine Public Utilities Commission as part of its research into the 2008 law to fast-track wind turbine development in the state.
As reported by the center’s Naomi Schalit in the three-part series that ran this week in The Times Record and several other Maine newspapers, the Wind Energy Act of 2008 implements a set of recommendations made unanimously by a task force named by Gov. John Baldacci in 2007.
The resulting legislation wasn’t even debated when it was approved unanimously by the Maine House and Senate. As Schalit notes in her first article, it “was a special interest bill justified at the time in the name of jobs, energy independence and climate change.”
Not surprisingly, given the lack of debate and scrutiny as the bill flew through the Legislature in 2008, it took time for the public to grasp what the Wind Energy Act’s ambitious goals of constructing 1,000 to 2,000 turbines by 2020 actually means … and the impact that might have on Maine’s western mountains.
What Schalit has done is raise important questions about the process by which this major piece of legislation became law. Key among them is how the governor’s task force created a map showing where wind turbines could go to receive fast-track consideration. What she discovered is that it’s not clear from the official record, largely because summaries for the task force’s last two meetings don’t exist.
The lack of a paper trail is an obvious red flag, and dogged reporter that she is, Schalit used the obvious tool for any Maine citizen curious about how laws and policies come about: She filed an FOAA request with the Maine Public Utilities Commission, whose former chairman, Kurt Adams, had accepted a job with the wind power company First Wind in April 2008.
Schalit sought e-mails from 2005 to 2007 between Adams and First Wind, between Adams and Baldacci (for whom he had previously worked as legal counsel), and between Adams and several wind power attorneys employed by Verrill Dana. Given Adams’ role as PUC chairman, his close ties to Baldacci and subsequent employment with First Wind, the requested documents would seem germane to the public’s interest in the deliberations of the governor’s wind power task force.
How germane? We might never know. That’s because Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting initially was told it would cost upwards of $10,000 for the PUC to search for the requested information on backup discs of its e-mail records.
The center asked for a waiver, as allowed in the FOAA. The state refused and amended its cost estimate to $36,239.52.
Clearly, that’s “access” in theory only.
If the state’s computer archiving system is so inefficient that it cannot retrieve requested electronic records easily or at minimal expense, the public loses its ability to keep track of what’s going on. Government becomes, then, less accountable.
It’s not likely that this is an isolated failure, given the push for “paperless” records at all levels of government.
Maine’s Freedom of Access Act needs to be brought into the 21st century, with provisions added that would prevent state, county and local governments from creating de facto barriers of difficulty and cost when the records being sought are only available in electronic form.
"Evidence does not support the conclusion that wind turbines cause or are associated with adverse health outcomes"
"Gaps remain in our knowledge of the impact that wind energy may have on human health"
-Dr. Jevon McFadden, "Wind Turbines, a Brief Health Overview", slide 76 Prepared for the Wisconsin Wind Siting Council. Dr. McFadden delivered a shorter version of this presentation to the council on May 17th, 2010
Ontario Health and Environmental Officials Agree: On-the-ground sound measurement is needed near wind farms.
SOURCE: The Acoustic Ecology Institute, aeinews.org
May 28 2010
Over the past week or so, two reports from Ontario have spurred a fair amount of notice and comment among those following wind development issues.
First, the provincial health office responded to the public’s concerns about health problems reported by some wind farm neighbors, framing its answer carefully and narrowly: ”According to the scientific evidence, there isn’t any direct causal link between wind turbine noise and adverse health effects,” said Dr. Arlene King, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer, as reported by the Vancouver Sun.
It is no real surprise that the sound levels near wind farms aren’t loud enough to directly cause physiological damage or effects, though it seems clear that annoyance and sleep disruption may well contribute to health effects; the report acknowledges the likelihood of some annoyance, and notes too that while low-frequency sound is below generally perceptible levels, some people who hear these frequencies better than most may be bothered.
While the report itself is brief and lacks the detail of the recent industry-funded AWEA/CanWEA report, which reached the similar conclusions in the same narrowly-focused task, King’s report frames the results with two crucial but under-reported observations:
By way of introduction, the report explicitly states a simple fact that is rarely acknowledged: “Little information is available on actual measurements of sound levels generated from wind turbines and other environmental sources.
Since there is no widely accepted protocol for the measurement of noise from wind turbines, current regulatory requirements are based on modelling.” Indeed, sound models are used to determine what distance a turbine needs to be from nearby homes in order to meet local statutory noise limits (which stand at 40dB in Ontario).
And in its final words, the report stresses the corollary to this observation: “The review also identified that sound measurements at residential areas around wind turbines and comparisons with sound levels around other rural and urban areas, to assess actual ambient noise levels prevalent in Ontario, is a key data gap that could be addressed.
An assessment of noise levels around wind power developments and other residential environments, including monitoring for sound level compliance, is an important prerequisite to making an informed decision on whether epidemiological studies looking at health outcomes will be useful.”
Actual rural ambient noise levels are often very low, so that wind farm noise becomes bothersome at lower levels than industrial or transportation noises prevalent in urban and suburban areas; and, as noted in the body of the report, most of the case studies and other reports of health effects lack any clear information on how loud the turbine sounds are in the homes of those being affected.
So while this report is in large part another seemingly definitive, yet stubbornly partial, assessment of the health effects reported near wind farms, it also lays the groundwork for much-needed on the ground assessment of noise patterns around wind farms.
On a similar note, Ontario Ministry of Environment officials confirmed this week that they do not have the capability to record or assess the noise near wind farms where noise complaints arise.
According to the Windsor Star, “Although hundreds of wind turbines have already been built in Ontario, Michael Parker, district manager for the environment ministry, said staff have not yet been given noise-monitoring equipment. The ministry is responsible for ensuring that wind turbine noise reaching a residence doesn’t exceed 40 decibels, he said.
If a complaint about turbine noise is made to the ministry, two environment officers are sent to the area to listen for the noise and contact the turbine owner, Parker said, noting that the ministry could still intercede with turbine owners even without hard data on the noise levels.
In some cases, turbine speeds have been scaled back or the turbine shut down completely.”
In January, the Ministry of Environment issued two Requests for Proposals seeking advice and technical standards to use in assessing wind farm noise.
The RFPs said that “The Ministry requires a consultant to assist in the development of a measurement procedure to assess noise compliance of existing wind farms with the applicable sound level limits,” noting that ”Unlike typical industrial noise sources, measurement of audible noise from wind turbines in general raises technical challenges.”
At that time, the Ministry acknowledged that its “Noise Guidelines for Wind Farms…do not contain a measurement method for assessing the actual noise impact.”
When is a conflict of interest not a conflict of interest?
When an official who stands to make some money says it is not and just 'leaves it at that'
Click on the images below to watch news stories about what happens when those who make the rules anticipate financial gain.
For those of us following the proceedings of Wisconsin's Wind Siting Council, this is an issue very much on our minds. It is impossible not to notice a clear majority of the council members have direct or indirect financial interest in the outcome of the siting guidelines they are helping to create. CLICK HERE TO SEE WHO IS ON THE COUNCIL
VIDEO SOURCE: http://www.wnem.com
Shadow Flicker: "Similar to flicker experienced when driving"
-Dr. Jevon McFadden, slide 15, 5/17/10 presentation to Wind Siting Council.
Click on image below to see Wind turbine shadow flicker video taken in a PSC approved wind project Fond du Lac County home at 6:30 am on Tuesday April 28th,
More shadow flicker from Fond du Lac County
Click on the image below to watch Better Plan's audio interpretation of shadow flicker
Click on the image below to see shadow flicker in a home in DeKalb County
The family living in this home is keeping a diary about their life with wind turbines. CLICK HERE TO VISIT THEIR WEBPAGE
Sunday, May 23, 2010
Saturday, May 22, 2010
last night there was no sound from turbines. slept through the night and woke up rested. this morning it was a good day to be outside, beautiful weather and some turbines off and some lightly spinning. the winds are picking up (winds from the S, 11mph) this afternoon and the blades are starting to feather out which is creating the low droning. one moment there is peace and the next is filled with this annoying background chopping/low frequency sound. these turbines are too close to our home. how irresponsible of the wind companies to erect these machines so close...this is happening all over. so many people have to suffer. this could be solved by placing the turbines at least a mile away.
5/28/10 Why was this home abandoned? Who used to live here? What did the PSC say about their turbine related troubles?
Note from the BPWI Research Nerd: The Fond du Lac County home in the photo below appraised for $320,000 in 2007, the year before the Invenergy turbines went on line.
In 2009 the family abandoned the home because of turbine noise and vibration.
A few weeks ago it was sold at a sheriff's sale. The opening bid was $107,000. There were no takers.
A New York bank paid less than the opening bid and now owns the empty house.
STATE PANEL DISMISSES WIND FAMILY'S WIND FARM COMPLAINT
May 27, 2010
A family seeking payback for health, business and property losses allegedly caused by a wind farm suffered a setback Thursday when the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin rejected the complaint.
PSC Chairman Eric Callisto said the commission is not the proper forum for personal injury claims and said Ann and Jason Wirtz, who now live in Oakfield, should take their case to circuit court.
The Wirtzes in April filed their complaint arguing the Forward Wind Energy Center in Dodge County, which went online in 2008, caused sleep deprivation, headaches and stomach problems as well as the loss of an alpaca-breeding business and a decline in their property value. The Wirtzes moved from their home in Brownsville in September 2009 without selling it.
The family directed its complaint at wind farm developer Invenergy LLC, Chicago, though the Wirtzes have not specified how much money they want from Invenergy. The Wirtzes did not comment on the project prior to PSC approval in 2005.
Madison-based attorney Ed Marion, who represents the Wirtzes, said they chose to go to the PSC first instead of suing because the commission regulates energy companies and is charged with protecting the rights and interests of the public.
“We’re disappointed by the decision,” he said, “but not entirely surprised.”
Marion said he does not know what the family will do next. He said a lawsuit is the likely option, though the family could appeal the PSC decision.
The PSC’s decision Thursday was good news to wind developers. Joe Condo, Invenergy’s vice president and general counsel, said the PSC was right to stay out of a personal injury claim filed by a family.
“I’m not going to speculate on what they’re going to do or how we’re going to respond,” he said. “This is not a normal course of action for us.”
Jim Naleid, a managing partner for Holmen-based AgWind Energy Partners LLC, which was not involved in the Forward Wind Energy project, said allegations of health problems, such as those claimed by the Wirtzes, simply were not an issue in 2005 when the PSC approved the Forward project. He said he doubts such allegations will attract attention from state wind farm regulators.
“The claims of physical impacts are a recent phenomenon and something that comes from the anti-wind folks in particular,” he said. “If there was merit on a wide-scale basis, I don’t think the PSC would issue these permits.”
The Wirtzes’ complaints came too late to merit PSC consideration, said Commissioner Mark Meyer. The family, he said, has the right to make its statement for PSC consideration of an upcoming 100-turbine wind farm Invenergy proposes for Brown County, but he said the PSC’s review of Forward ended a long time ago.
“The commission,” he said, “is not in the business of handling private causes of action against utilities.”