An Altamont rancher urged Alameda County planning staff and consultants to be sure they don’t overlook the impact of wind turbine noise on nearby residents.
Eric Sweet, member of a longtime ranching family whose home is on North Flynn Road, said that in preparing an EIR for two turbine repowering projects in the Altamont, the county needs to keep in mind the noise impacts on neighbors. He made his remarks at an EIR scoping meeting at the Dublin Library on Sept. 2.
Sweet said he did his own checking about noise on his property, and found it to be over 100 decibels (dB). Information on the Wikipedia site shows that 100 dB is the level for a jackhammer at one yard, or a jet engine at 100 yards. Hearing loss can occur from sounds over 85 dB, not necessarily with constant exposure, he stated.
Sweet told the Independent later that typically in the windier months, the turbines operate about four days out of seven, around the clock.
Sweet noted that when he held parties out in his yeard, owners of the nearby turbines have been nice enough to shut them down, when he has called. He said he wants to work with all concerned for a balanced solution, and does support clean energy.
Sweet said at the meeting that he could not obtain an answer in earlier conversations with county staff about how big a setback is required for turbines in residential areas.
Assistant county planner Sandy Rivera assured Sweet that there are setback requirements. She will provide them to Sweet.
‘WIND TURBINE SYNDROME’ RAISED BY SOME
Later, Sweet told the Independent that noise might not be the only impact on neighbors. He has read about Wind Turbine Syndrome, which neighbors in some locations in the United States, Canada and Australia have said are linked to their vertigo, migraines, motion sickness and other problems.
The “syndrome” was coined by New York pediatrician Dr. Nina Pierpont. It holds that the vibrations from the low frequency sounds of the big blades are impairing health of nearby residents, said Sweet.
A look at the issue on the internet shows that Pierpont and others have raised this question. Anti-turbine political activity seems to be especially sharp in Ontario, Canada. Pierpont reported at least 12 different health effects on a website that promotes her book on the topic. Most of the subjects obtained relief when they moved away from the wind power area, she said.
However, some discount the theory. One article, appearing on businessgreen.com, quotes a British wind power association as saying that Pierpont’s study is flawed, because of insufficient data. It said that she interviewed only 38 people in 10 families.
TWO FIRMS WANT TO REPLACE OLD TURBINES
In preparing the EIR for two firms’ plans to repower major areas in the Altamont, county staff held the scoping session in Dublin to hear what the public would like to have studied.
One area of 7650 acres would be repowered by Altamont Winds, LLC, which wants to dismantle and remove hundreds of old turbine towers and replace them with with 60 turbines, rated at 1600 kilowatts each.
The idea is to produce more power with fewer turbines, thanks to technological improvements since the 1980s, when the Altamont wind farm was first installed.
Altamont Winds’ project would be south of Interstate 580 in a designated area that covers approximately 7600 acres.
The new towers would be 262 feet tall, compared to the current towers, which range from 60 to 140 feet in height.
The other project, by NextEra, would be phased in between 2012 and 2018. It would be at locations both north and south of Interstate 580 on 8950 acres. Up to 59 new turbines would replace hundreds of old ones. Each turbine would be capable of producing 2.3 megawatts. Their height would be 428 feet.
The staff report about repowering the two projects is available at the county planning website at www.acgov.org/cda/planning, with further directions on the site itself. The report is also available on a CD-ROM from the department, which may be reached at (510) 670-5400. Public comment period on the draft ends at 5 p.m. Oct. 8.
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding