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Noisy wind turbines stir up protests

IKATA, Ehime Prefecture – Though wind turbines offer the exciting promise of a clean source of energy, they also create another form of pollution – noise.

Residents here have complained that noise from newly installed wind turbines perched atop a ridge of the Sadamisaki Peninsula has been rattling their homes and plaguing them with sleepless nights.

Misaki Wind Power Co., which operates the Misaki Wind Park, has been forced to stop nighttime operations of four of its 20 wind turbines. Considering the business vantage, the company wants to keep all 20 turbines running 24/7.

But residents living near the rackety turbines are demanding their dismantling or a relocation of operations.

No quick fix to the conundrum is in sight.

Misaki Wind Power is a joint public-private venture that was established via the collaboration of Marubeni Corp., Shikoku Electric Power Co., based in Kagawa Prefecture, and the town of Ikata.

With subsidies from the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization, the company built the 4.7-billion-yen Misaki Wind Park project.

The wind farm’s 20 turbines dot a 4-kilometer stretch from Yobokori to Kushi, in Ikata along the Sadamisaki Peninsula.

Test runs began last December, and the wind farm was completed at the end of February. Commercial operations began March 1.

The Misaki Wind Park will be able to generate 50 million kilowatt-hours a year, enough to power 14,000 households. Shikoku Electric is already buying power generated at the wind farm. Misaki Wind Power’s estimated annual earnings are about 500 million yen.

However, the company must now deal with complaints raised by residents who live in the Nada and Sazaebaya hamlets, both of which are just below the four turbines in the middle section of the wind farm.

Nada has 14 homes, while Sazaebaya has four.

According to the residents, since the turbines began turning in December, they have been tormented by the booming sounds from the generator and the swooshing of the fan blades.

The noise is enough to drown out the audio from their television sets.

Some said they could not sleep at night while others complained of health problems due to the racket.

The residents asked town officials at the end of December to find a solution to their quandary.

The residents, company executives and town officials finally met to discuss the issue. It was agreed that, for the time being, the four wind turbines would be shut down every night from 6 p.m. to 8 a.m.

According to a town official, nighttime operations for three of the four wind turbines were stopped from March 1, and the fourth stopped nighttime operations 10 days later.

“When I checked the noise level with a sound measuring device, it recorded a high of 60 decibels. The average noise level exceeded 50 decibels. That’s the noise level of an airport runway, or a Shinkansen bullet train,” said Yasuhisa Oiwa, 44, whose home is near a wind turbine. “The company says it wants to go fully operational but we just can’t allow that. We have asked that the wind turbine be relocated.”

Ikata town official Kazutoshi Abe commented: “We are still compiling data from the noise level tests we conducted in March. But we need to conduct a year-long survey. When the results are in, we’ll consider implementing appropriate insulation measures such as aluminum sash window frames and double-plated windows.”

Seijiro Chiba, a Marubeni official, said of the “curfew” on operations: “Halting nighttime operations for four wind turbines means that a fifth of our fleet of 20 wind turbines is unprofitable. That has a big impact. We hope to keep negotiating with the residents and solve the matter as soon as possible.”

Noise complaints related to wind farms are cropping up in other places, including wind turbines set up by another public-private joint venture company in Awajishima island in Hyogo Prefecture.

Asahi Shimbun


15 May 2007