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Resource Documents: Massachusetts (47 items)


Unless indicated otherwise, documents presented here are not the product of nor are they necessarily endorsed by National Wind Watch. These resource documents are shared here to assist anyone wishing to research the issue of industrial wind power and the impacts of its development. The information should be evaluated by each reader to come to their own conclusions about the many areas of debate. • The copyrights reside with the sources indicated. As part of its noncommercial effort to present the environmental, social, scientific, and economic issues of large-scale wind power development to a global audience seeking such information, National Wind Watch endeavors to observe “fair use” as provided for in section 107 of U.S. Copyright Law and similar “fair dealing” provisions of the copyright laws of other nations.

Date added:  March 28, 2015
Massachusetts, NoisePrint storyE-mail story

Infrasound Measurements of Falmouth Wind Turbines

Author:  Bahtiarian, Michael; and Beaudry, Allan

Noise Control Engineering, LLC (NCE) was retained by Senie & Associates P.C. to evaluate the acoustic impact at the home of Neil and Betsy Andersen at 211 Blacksmith Shop Road, East Falmouth, Massachusetts. The goal of the evaluation was to determine if the three nearby wind turbines were detectable within the interior of the home. These wind turbines are all Vestas, model V82 at 1.65 megawatts. Two wind turbines are owned by the Town of Falmouth; known as “Wind #1” and “Wind #2”. The third turbine is privately owned by Notus Clean Energy and referred to as the “Notus” turbine. Wind #1 is the closest to the Andersen home at a nominal distance of 1,385 feet. The other two wind turbines are more than double that distance.

Soon after the first wind turbine was operational, complaints were filed by the Andersens and other neighbors. In the following years, evaluations of audible sound were performed by various organizations including NCE, consultants for the Town, consultants for Notus, and even the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MADEP). Various results were reported with some evaluations showing compliance and some showing non-compliance.

The study reported herein differed in a number of ways from previous evaluations performed by NCE and others. The major difference is that the primary measurements reported here is infrasound. Briefly, infrasound is sound pressure levels with frequency below 20 hertz which is generally considered an inaudible frequency range. Another difference is that measurements were taken both inside and outside the home. All previous tests were performed at exterior locations due to the fact that State regulations and local ordinance were only applicable at outdoor locations.

The methods used herein allowed for the collection of infrasonic sound pressure levels within the inside of the Andersen residence. Inspection of this data shows that there is a readily identifiable acoustic signature that is attributable to the Wind #1 Turbine, and to slightly lessor extent the Wind #2 turbine both inside and outside the Andersen home. These results are similar to results from other international researchers with references given in the report.

Based on our experience, NCE can unequivocally state that the infrasonic signature captured inside the Andersen residence with the wind turbines operational is 100% attributable to one or both of the Town’s Wind Turbines. To put the conclusions more commonly, this study finds that the wind turbine(s) produce acoustic emissions which are “acoustically trespassing” into the Andersen home.

February 27, 2015
Noise Control Engineering, Billerica, Mass.

Download original document: “Infrasound Measurements of Falmouth Wind Turbines

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Date added:  February 27, 2015
Law, MassachusettsPrint storyE-mail story

Drummey et al. vs. Falmouth et al. – appeals court order

Author:  Cypher, Elsbeth

We are asked to decide in this case whether the town of Falmouth (town) was required to obtain a special permit from the zoning board of appeals of Falmouth (ZBA) for the installation of a wind turbine on town land. We conclude that, under the town’s zoning by-law (by-law), a special permit was required.

Background. The plaintiffs are Falmouth residents who live between 1,300 and 3,200 feet from a wind turbine known as “Wind 1,” installed in 2009 on town land at its wastewater treatment facility (WWTF). Alleging significant distress from sound pressures and noise from the operation of Wind 1, Neil Andersen and Elizabeth Andersen (collectively, the Andersen plaintiffs), on August 25, 2010, sought an enforcement action by the town’s building commissioner asserting that the town was in violation of the by-law by operating Wind 1 without a special permit. The building commissioner denied their request in a letter dated September 24, 2010, and the Andersen plaintiffs appealed to the ZBA, which affirmed the building commissioner in a decision dated March 3, 2011. Separate actions for relief under G. L. c. 40A, § 17, were filed in the Superior Court by the Andersen plaintiffs and by the remaining plaintiffs. After consolidation of the cases below, and a bench trial, a judge on June 18, 2013, ordered that judgments enter affirming the decision of the ZBA.

Discussion. At trial, the plaintiffs argued that the building commissioner and the ZBA incorrectly interpreted the by-law to allow the issuance of a building permit for Wind 1 without a special permit, citing § 240-166 of the by-law which provides that a petitioner may apply for a special permit to allow construction of a windmill. The judge, however, deferred to the opinion of the building commissioner, affirmed by the ZBA, that the by-law “does not apply in the limited circumstance where the Town itself desires to construct and operate a windmill for municipal purposes in a district where all such purposes are permitted as of right.”

Interpretation of the town’s by-law raises a question of law. Goldlust v. Board of Appeals of N. Andover, 27 Mass. App. Ct. 1183, 1184 (1989). We “review the judge’s determinations of law, including interpretations of zoning bylaws, de novo.” Shirley Wayside Ltd. Partnership v. Board of Appeals of Shirley, 461 Mass. 469, 475 (2012). The judge and the ZBA affirmed the building commissioner’s decision without modification; therefore we examine that decision to determine whether the building commissioner’s interpretation of the by-law was correct.

In reaching his decision that a special permit was not required, the building commissioner determined that Wind 1 is a “municipal purpose[]” that falls within the enumerated community service uses permitted as of right in § 240-30B of the by-law, which includes: “All municipal purposes, including the administration of government, parks, playgrounds, recreation buildings, Town forests, watershed, water towers and reservoirs, beaches, fire and police stations and armories.” We think that this interpretation of the by-law to include Wind 1 as a permitted community service use was error.

As in other districts of the by-law, windmills are specifically designated in the public use district as an accessory use by special permit. Therefore it logically follows that windmills could not have been intended to fall within the more general municipal purpose as of right within § 240-30B of the by-law. See Miles-Matthias v. Zoning Bd. of Appeals of Seekonk, 84 Mass. App. Ct. 778, 789 (2014) (canon of construction “inclusio unius est exclusio alterius” provides that “statutory expression of one thing is an implied exclusion of other things omitted from the statute”), quoting from Harborview Residents’ Comm., Inc. v. Quincy Hous. Authy., 368 Mass. 425, 432 (1975). Furthermore, § 240-18 of the by-law states that where an activity might be classified under more than one of the within uses, “the more specific classification shall govern; if equally specific, the more restrictive shall govern. Uses not classifiable under any category listed for the applicable district are prohibited, except that a use listed nowhere in Articles V through XIII may be allowed on special permit if the Board of Appeals determines that it closely resembles in its neighborhood impacts a use allowed or allowed on special permit in that district.” Furthermore, § 240-17 of the by-law states: “No building or structure shall be erected, altered or extended and no premises shall be used, except as provided in Articles V through XIII, [the] district use regulations.”

The judge noted in upholding the building commissioner that the list of municipal purposes in § 240-30B of the by-law was illustrative and not limiting. While that is an accurate characterization of the list, it does not adequately consider the weight that must be given a specific by-law provision that has been drafted to take into account the public welfare. The classification of windmills as a permitted municipal purpose fails to consider § 240-33G(5), which is part of a comprehensive scheme to include wind turbines in the by-law and control their placement and impact in the town. We are not to look at provisions of a by-law in isolation; we must read them contextually. Livoli v. Zoning Bd. of Appeals of Southborough, 42 Mass. App. Ct. 921, 922 (1997). Windmills were added as art. XXXIV of the by-law by an amendment authorized by a vote of the town meeting on September 10, 1981. The public use district, identified as art. VII, was amended to include windmills as a special permit use in § 240-33G(5) of the by-law, and the ZBA is the permit-granting authority.

Because the by-law does not contain any exemption for the town from its provisions, contrast Sinn v. Selectmen of Acton, 357 Mass 606, 608 (1970), it is apparent that the decisions of the ZBA and the Superior Court judge, which relied on an incorrect interpretations of the by-law, are not entitled to deference. See Mauri v. Zoning Bd. of Appeals of Newton, 83 Mass. App. Ct. 336, 342 (2013), and cases cited. And we conclude that those decisions are based on “a legally untenable ground, [are] unreasonable, . . . [and are] arbitrary.” MacGibbon v. Board of Appeals of Duxbury, 356 Mass. 635, 639 (1970).

The plaintiffs also assert that the town failed to obey the use permit requirements in § 240-166D of the by-law. The requirements of § 240-166D […] pertain to considerations of potential impacts on neighbors as well as safety in the operation of windmills, and it appears that many of the requirements are specific to wind turbines and are not found in local or Massachusetts building codes. The building commissioner testified that he issued a conventional use and occupancy permit and did not assert that such a permit indicated compliance with the requirements of § 240-166D. Compliance with those requirements must be made in the course of an application for a special permit.

Conclusion. For the reasons given, we vacate the June 18, 2013, judgments of the Superior Court. The matter is remanded to the Superior Court, where new judgments shall enter consistent with this opinion.

So ordered.

Download original document: “TODD DRUMMEY & others vs. TOWN OF FALMOUTH & others

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Date added:  October 9, 2014
Contracts, Massachusetts, Noise, SafetyPrint storyE-mail story

“To move forward the manufacturer requires your understanding and acknowledgement of these risks”

Author:  Mabbott, Bruce

Due to the sound concerns regarding the first wind turbine installed at the wastewater treatment facility, the manufacturer of the turbines, Vestas, is keen for the Town of Falmouth to understand the possible noise and other risks associated with the installation of the second wind turbine.

The Town has previously been provided with the Octave Band Data/Sound performance for the V82 turbine. This shows that the turbine normally operates at 103.2dB but the manufacturer has also stated that it may produce up to 110dB under certain circumstances. These measurements are based on IEC standards for sound measurement which is calculated at a height of 10m above the base of the turbine.

We understand that a sound study is being performed to determine what, if any, impacts the second turbine will have to the nearest residences. Please be advised that should noise concerns arise with this turbine, the only option to mitigate normal operating sound from the V82 is to shut down the machine at certain wind speeds and directions. Naturally this would detrimentally affect power production.

The manufacturer also needs confirmation that the Town of Falmouth understands they are fully responsible for the site selection of the turbine and bear all responsibilities to address any mitigation needs of the neighbors.

Finally, the manufacturer has raised the possibility of ice throw concerns. Since Route 28 is relatively close to the turbine, precautions should be taken in weather that may cause icing.

To date on this project we have been unable to move forward with signing the contract with Vestas. The inability to release the turbine for shipment to the project site has caused significant delays in our project schedule. In order to move forward the manufacturer requires your understanding and acknowledgement of these risks. We kindly request for this acknowledgement to be sent to us by August 4, 2010, as we have scheduled a coordination meeting with Vestas to discuss the project schedule and steps forward for completion of the project.

Please sign in the space provided below to indicate your understanding and acknowledgement of this letter. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to call me.

Bruce Mabbott, Project Manager
Solaya, a Division of Lumus Construction

August 3, 2010

Mr. Gerald Potamis
Wastewater Superintendent
Town of Falmouth [Mass.] Public Works

Sumul Shah, Lumus Construction, Inc.
Stephen Wiehe, Weston & Sampson
Brian Hopkins, Vestas

Download original document: “RE: Falmouth WWTF Wind Energy Facility II ‘Wind II”, Falmouth, MA – Contract No. #3297

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Date added:  April 19, 2014
Massachusetts, NoisePrint storyE-mail story

Wind Turbine Noise Complaint Predictions Made Easy

Author:  Ambrose, Stephen

Part 1

Acousticians have known for decades how to predict the community reaction to a new noise source. Wind turbine consultants have chosen not to predict the community reaction as they have previously done for other community noise sources. If they had, there would be far fewer wind turbine sites with neighbors complaining loudly about excessive noise and adverse health impacts.

In 1974, the USEPA published a methodology that can predict the community reaction to a new noise. A simple chart can be used that shows the community reactions (y-axis) versus noise level (x-axis). This chart was developed from 55 community noise case studies (black squares). The baseline noise levels include adjustments for the existing ambient, prior noise experience, and sound character. The predicted wind turbine noise level is plotted on the ‘x-axis’ and the predicted community reaction is determined by the highest reaction, indicated by the black squares. Here are some examples: 32 dBA no reaction and sporadic complaints, 37 dBA widespread complaints, 45 dBA strong appeals to stop noise and 54 dBA vigorous community action, the highest.


The International Standards Organization (ISO) determined that 25 dBA represents a rural nighttime environment. The World Health Organization (WHO) found that noise below 30 dBA had no observed effect level (NOEL) and 40 dBA represented the lowest observed adverse effect level (NOAEL) for noise sources that excluded wind turbines. Wind turbines produce strong low frequency energy that may reduce the WHO cautionary levels by 5 dB, thereby showing closer agreement with the 33 dBA recommendations.

Pederson & Waye (2004) research found that when wind turbine noise levels reached 35 dBA, 6% of the population was highly annoyed, and this rapidly increased to 25% at 40 dBA. Independent researchers recommend that noise levels should not exceed 33 dBA, which is near the upper limit for sporadic complaints, or a maximum increase of 5 dB, whichever is more stringent.

Part 2

People react in a predictable manner to changes in sound level and frequency content caused by a new noise source. Wind turbines are the cause for numerous complaints about excessive noise and adverse health effects. These complaints will continue to be a public health hazard as long as modern acoustic instruments are used without a person listening to identify the sound sources or by manipulating computer prediction models to provide acceptable results. Wind turbine predictions are based on meeting a specific noise level. Regulatory boards and agencies are not assessing noise levels consistent with how people hear.

The wind turbines at Falmouth Massachusetts clearly show why there are so many neighbors complaining. An effective way to evaluate a sound source is by comparing the ON operation to OFF. The graph below shows wind turbine ON fluctuates from 35 to 46 dBA and when OFF decreases to 27 dBA.


Using the USEPA (1974) community noise assessment methodology adjusted for a quiet area, the predicted public reaction for wind turbine noise indicates widespread complaints and threats of legal action, as shown by the shaded box. Massachusetts DEP noise regulation limits the wind turbine ON maximum levels to no more than 10 dB above the ambient background (L90, exceeded 90% of the time) when OFF. The sound level increase is 19 dB for wind turbine operation.

Part 3

Sleep interruption and disturbance indicates the real potential for causing significant public harm from nearby wind turbines. A peer-reviewed research paper has investigated residents living near GE 1.5 MW wind turbines. Dr. Michael Nissenbaum, Jeffrey Aramini and Christopher Hanning published “Effects of industrial wind turbine noise on sleep and health” in the peer-reviewed bi-monthly journal Noise & Health, September-October 2012 [LINK].

The study focused on sleep quality as defined by the Pittsburg Sleep Quality Index (PSQI), daytime sleepiness by Epworth Sleepiness Score (ESS), and general health according to SF36 ver2; Mental Component Score (MSC) and Physical Component Score (PSC). Residents received questionnaires based on participant-inclusion criteria for individuals living within 1.5-km (4921-ft) of the nearest 1.5 MW wind turbine(s). Baseline random samples were collected from residents living 3 to 7 km (9840 to 22,965- ft) away. The study conclusion has a strong recommendation for a separation distance of 1.4-km (4593- ft) away from a 1.5 MW wind turbine. This would be especially true for wind turbines located in quiet environments.

An aerial photo shows the locations of Falmouth’s Wind 1, 2 and NOTUS turbines as red pins. The above sleep study-recommended separation distance of nearly 4600 ft is shown as red circles. The Falmouth Board of Health’s health study (June 11, 2012) confirms the sleep study’s conclusion for complaints inside the red circles with yellow pins inside.


Part 4

Wind turbine developers promote wind energy for financial benefit for communities when they are built on municipally-owned properties as in Falmouth, Kingston, Scituate and Fairhaven. In return, towns relax their bylaw restrictions to permit loud industrial-type noise sources on municipal land often near quiet residential areas. Town planners approve wind turbine development without performing proper reviews as required in the bylaws. Towns understand they can build a municipal project in any land use zone. However, these projects still need to comply with the zoning bylaws.

Zoning bylaws are enacted to control community development to minimize conflicts between abutting land uses. Industrial and commercial development often produces more traffic, noise, smoke, odors, etc. than residential use. Industrial and commercial facilities are limited to districts with large lots and setback distances. Residential district restrictions protect neighbors’ expectations for peace, tranquility and protection of public health and wellbeing.

Bylaws are implemented to provide guidance to town officials and regulatory boards. Public officials are required to perform their duties in a consistent manner. Boards review new developments for appropriate economics, engineering and environmental impacts. Decisions can become emotional when there are disputed considerations for public good versus public harm. Boards are required to enforce their bylaws and should not alter rules, grant waivers or create amendments to benefit a project under consideration.

Too many towns have adopted changes to encourage wind turbine development, changes which were later proven detrimental to public health, safety and wellbeing. Large wind turbines produce loud noise levels that travel thousands of feet and could not comply with existing town bylaw noise limits.

Download original document: “Wind Turbine Noise Complaint Predictions Made Easy

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