...residents at last night's meeting crafted talking points and planned strategies to address wind turbine noise. Suggested courses of action included attending every town hearing related to wind power projects to hiring a lawyer to force the town to compensate homeowners for lower property values.
FALMOUTH – They described the sound as a jet hovering or an old boot tumbling in a dryer.
But the noise from Falmouth’s wind turbine doesn’t have to be loud to be disruptive, resident Todd Drummey said last night.
“A mosquito isn’t loud either when you’re trying to sleep,” he said at a meeting in a private home located about one-third of a mile from the nearly 400-foot tall turbine that started operation in March. “It’s irritating.”
A group of about 20 residents talked last night about the noise that has kept many of them awake since the turbine near the Falmouth Wastewater Treatment Facility began spinning. And they discussed ways to stop a second town-owned turbine now under construction at the same 300-acre treatment facility complex.
Wind turbines have been hugely controversial on the Cape this year, with Harwich and Wellfleet officials rejecting plans for turbines after hearing concerns from neighboring property owners.
In Falmouth, however, it seemed wind turbines were popular. Planned since 2005, voters overwhelmingly approved the wastewater facility windmills at a town meeting, Drummey said.
But some neighbors who live in the sparsely populated, wooded area around the treatment facility were horrified when they heard the noise.
“It’s destroyed our capacity to enjoy our homes,” Kathy Elder said.
Elder said the noise surrounds her residence, alternating between a jet’s whine, thunder and a thumping that sometimes can be felt.
Ann Cool, who hosted last night’s meeting, pointed to her well-tended backyard. She said her husband wants nothing more than to come home from his job and work in the yard.
“But when he comes back inside and his head is hurting, you know something’s wrong,” she said.
Assistant Town Manager Heather Harper said six people have formally complained to the town about the turbine. To address their concerns, Vestas, the company that built the turbine, investigated the complaints yesterday to try to find out if anything is out of alignment that could raise the noise level.
Harper advised residents who are bothered by the noise to describe what they hear in great detail, and note the time and weather conditions. The observations will help engineers diagnose the problem, she said.
“We didn’t expect no sound,” Harper said yesterday. “But it should meet all governmental standards.”
As a consolation to concerned residents while Vestas is investigating, the town has been turning the turbine off during periods of high wind, when it is the loudest, Harper said.
Yesterday, the blades were rotating slowly and noiselessly. Cool said she suspects the windmill will stay that way until after the town election Tuesday.
Harper said the good news is that the turbine has already generated enough electricity to power the average American home for 48 years. Since the $5.3 million construction cost was funded mostly by grants, the town will be able to sell the energy and invest in improvements if necessary, she said.
“We are meeting our financial goals,” Harper said, though she could not put the savings for taxpayers into a dollar figure last night.
She said the town will not ignore residents’ concerns over the turbine.
“This has been a community project from the beginning,” Harper said. “We’re genuinely concerned and we take the complaints very seriously.”
But residents at last night’s meeting crafted talking points and planned strategies to address wind turbine noise. Suggested courses of action included attending every town hearing related to wind power projects to hiring a lawyer to force the town to compensate homeowners for lower property values.
Residents who successfully fought off turbines in Wellfleet and Harwich offered advice as well.
Jim Rogers of Sandwich, who owns property in Wellfleet, said property values near a turbine typically drop 20 to 40 percent.
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