Several articles in a privately-owned newspaper, the Working Waterfront, have touted the positive aspects of wind energy, particularly in relation to the Fox Island Wind project on Vinalhaven. A recent article which raises the question of What Works, www.workingwaterfront.com/online-exclusives/Long-View-What-works/13844/, might have been more to the point if entitled, What Works and for Whom?
The prospect of cheaper “green” electricity, even at significant cost to private citizens, appears to be totally acceptable to these entrepreneurial wind developers, and now with the Department of Energy in Washington DC involved, actually “exciting.” However, for many of the 106 Vinalhaven households within the 1.5 mile FIW noise umbrella, the daily turbine experience is vastly different. Our feelings of “excitement” would best be described as outrage.
There is no question that the FIW turbines were improperly sited. The arrival of National Energy Research Lab (NREL) experts from Colorado and beyond to our little island with the express purpose of solving our serious noise issue, confirms that the turbines should never have been built where they are. Over the long months since the turbines have been online, we have learned that FIW did not follow DEP guidelines for measuring ambient sound(http://www.fiwn.org/resources/ Fisherman’s%20Voice%20March%20’10.pdf).
We have also learned that FIW did not measure noise levels from property lines during the permitting process. And when asked to share their raw sound data with the Maine DEP, FIW initially refused and then provided incomplete information. Now why would that be? After going to the considerable time and expense of taking our own sound measurements, we discovered in short order that the turbines are frequently running out of compliance and against Maine state noise regulations. Our data has been sent to the Maine DEP and it gives irrefutable proof that the FIW turbines are often running out of compliance. For those of us “on the ground,” this came as no surprise. At times, the noise is so intrusive that it seems impossible that the state would ask individuals to live under such conditions.
One wonders, how should we define a responsible wind energy supporter? Is this someone who is eager to have wind turbines work within real communities? If wind energy is the altruistic solution FIW management wants us to believe, then they would join with those of us impacted by turbine noise and lobby for appropriate noise regulations and responsible wind turbine citing in Maine. As is, Maine’s noise regulations are woefully outdated. Crafted in the 1970s before industrial turbines were part of the landscape, the regulations do not address rural communities. Any sound expert will tell you that the 55 (day)/45 (night) dBA “quiet zone” noise regulations for Vinalhaven are totally inappropriate for a rural island community. In fact, the ISO, International Standards Organization, recommends wind turbine noise levels in rural areas as 35 dBA during the day, 30 dBA in the evening, and 25 dBA during the night. No wonder why those of us living near the FIW turbines are complaining!
It often goes unsaid that most of the 106 households within the FIW “noise umbrella” supported the wind project. We bought the hats, went to the informational meetings (where we were told noise would not be an issue), and watched with bated breath as the gigantic wind turbine parts arrived. Now it seems that we are being “blamed” as “naysayers” for the noise problems we did not create! We are the same people who have to pay out of pocket for a lawyer, sound expert, and sound equipment in order to demand that FIW follows the state law! We are amongst the growing vocal minority who are asking that Maine review their noise standards and cite wind turbines responsibly.
Does this mean we are “against” green energy? No, it does not! The wind turbine noise issue on Vinalhaven is a cautionary tale for every community in Maine and beyond. Do your homework. Ask hard questions. Demand clear answers. There is no free energy. The price you will pay for mistakes will be very high; your quality of life, the enjoyment of your property as well as loss in property value, sleepless nights, and headaches are all a distinct possibility if you live within a mile of turbines. We have not been the ones to give wind power a bad name. If the turbines had been cited responsibly on Vinalhaven, you would have not heard a word from me. The Working Waterfront could have continued to do all the talking.
Sally Wylie, Vinalhaven
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