DUNCANSVILLE – The owner/operator of the Allegheny Ridge Wind Farm said Monday it has discovered at least some of the turbines at the Cambria-Blair county line are noisier than anticipated, and a solution is being worked on.
But residents upset by the noise, including some in Portage Township, said they are weary of excuses and have proof the turbines are operating at noise levels far exceeding the 45 decibels allowed by local law. For comparison, The World Almanac 2007 says 40 decibels is the sound of light traffic.
“However you describe it, it’s noisy,” said Jill Stull, a Juniata Township resident, of sounds coming from windmills in Portage, Juniata and Greenfield townships.
“They say it is squeaky. That’s not the noise we’re talking about.
“It’s all about how close you are and the lay of the land,” Stull said. Wind speed and direction also affect the noise level, she said.
Matt Dallas, spokesman for Babcock & Brown, owners of this first phase of the planned three-phase wind farm, said Monday the problem appears to be in the rotor of some of the turbines manufactured by the Gamesa Inc. plant outside Ebensburg.
“We’ve conducted testing and we’ve determined a noise problem under certain conditions,” Dallas said. “The manufacturer of the rotors had a problem and we’re just waiting to hear from them,” he said.
A Gamesa spokesman referred inquiries to Babcock & Brown.
Word of the rotor problem is doing little to appease the Blue Knob-area residents, who say the noise generated by the turbines at times far exceeds the decibel level – described as similar to a running refrigerator – spelled out in the ordinances in the three townships.
They said they have proof it exceeds 70 decibels at times.
“It doesn’t give me any hope of anything happening in the near future,” said Stull, whose home looks out on six of the turbines and is at a point where Juniata, Greenfield and Portage townships meet.
Sound from the turbines is so loud at times that Stull and her husband, Todd, must run a fan in order to sleep, even with doors and windows closed. The problem has been ongoing since the farm started operation earlier this year, she said.
The Juniata Township supervisors agreed Monday to hire Paul Heishman, a sound engineer of Harrisburg to document sound levels from the windmills. In addition, letters will be sent to Babcock & Brown and Gamesa seeking immediate action to quiet them.
Similar action will be requested of Greenfield Township officials tonight and a similar request is expected at December’s Portage Township meeting.
“Regardless (of the reason), there is a violation of the ordinance. We want the ordinance enforced,” Stull said.
The Portage Township supervisors have received no formal complaints about noise from the windmills and no complaints have been brought to Washington Township officials.
Washington Supervisor Jamie Hartline – whose Mountain Road home looks out on six turbines – said he can hear a “swish” at times, but the noise is not excessive.
His home is a few miles from Blue Knob.
By Kathy Mellott
12 November 2007
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