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Tempers flare over wind turbine noise

Despite efforts to repair wind turbines in Juniata Township, Blair County, they still are generating unbearable noise to some residents.

Tempers flared at a Juniata Township supervisors meeting Monday night as residents voiced their frustrations.

Supervisors agreed to contract Paul Heishman, a professional engineer, to conduct an independent noise study by Jan. 30, when all repairs are expected to be complete.

Babcock and Brown, owners and operators of the turbines in the township and neighboring municipalities, have repaired half of the turbines and will repair the rest by Jan. 30.

‘‘There was some tape that was put on the trailing edge of the turbine blades. That tape was peeling off and causing a noise,” said Matt Dallas, public relations officer for Babcock and Brown. “Ironically, I think the tape is put on to make them quieter. They either used the wrong kind of glue or not enough was used, which is causing the noise.”

Gamesa built the turbines two years ago; in June, Babcock and Brown bought the wind farm that has four turbines in Juniata and several others in Greenfield and Portage townships.

The problem has not been fixed, said Jill and Todd Stull, who live near the turbines.

‘‘You know when you’re standing outside and you hear a plane coming about 30,000 feet overhead, then it goes off in the distance? It sounds like those planes are 5,000 feet above your house and circling and never land,” Jill Stull said.

‘‘It sounds like a jet. I know it’s going to make some noise, but a lot of times, it sounds like a jet,” resident Myrle Baum said.

According to a study conducted in December by Epsilon Associates, a company contracted by Babcock and Brown, the noise level of the repaired turbines was below the township ordinance noise level of 45 decibels.

However, Jill Stull said she borrowed a noise meter from Penn State University, which reads above 45 decibels on windy or cloudy days.

‘‘You got us a bad study. The information is garbled. It’s dishonest. We might as well put it in here,” resident Brian Baum said, pointing to the bathroom.

Once repairs on all the turbines are complete, Dallas said the noise problem should be fixed.

‘‘We really want to fix this and be a good neighbor. We’re in this for the long haul,” he said.

The Stulls said they could move, but they aren’t going to.

‘‘We’re not going anywhere. I just want them to be quiet. I’m not going to jump on the ‘I hate windmills’ bandwagon because I don’t,” Jill Stull said. ‘‘I’m just tired of nobody listening. My point is what is your peace of mind worth? I can’t play outside with my kids back at the pond in the woods because it gives me a headache.”

Sixteen more wind turbines are being built in Juniata Township as part of phase two of the Allegheny Ridge Wind Farm.

Dallas said the company has 20 other wind farms across the country and has not had a noise issue elsewhere.

By Kristy MacKaben, For the Mirror

Altoona Mirror

10 January 2008