As wind energy farms prepare to sprout in Tippecanoe County, some residents are fighting a proposal that would allow for more noise – and they fear nuisance – from the developments.
“This is not just a ‘I can’t stand that mosquito’ kind of noise,” said county resident Julie Peretin. “This is about quality of life.”
Peretin and other concerned neighbors are fighting a move being considered by the Tippecanoe County commissioners that would allow turbine noise to be as loud as 50 decibels any time of day, up from the current 45-decibel limit.
That’s the allowable noise level – about the sound of quiet dishwasher – as measured 25 feet from the dwelling of a non-participating landowner.
A non-participating landowner is one who has not permitted construction of a wind turbine on his or her property and who has not contractually granted rights to a wind farm developer, under the ordinance.
The board was due to vote on the proposal Monday, but the decision is being pushed back to the Dec. 20 meeting while further research is done on the issue. Commissioner Tom Murtaugh said the county is getting additional input from an acoustic consultant out of Chicago.
That extra consideration is one of the steps residents like Peretin have been pushing for.
The commissioners approved an ordinance in August that set the wind turbine noise limit at 45 decibels. Peretin said she and others had wanted the limit set at 35 decibels.
Lobbied for change
After the 45-decibel limit was set in August, representatives of wind energy companies sought the change to 50 decibels. Commissioners said even at 50 decibels the county’s wind ordinance would remain one of the strictest in the state.
Murtaugh hopes the consultant review will help decide if the county’s sound limit is still in an OK range “so we can put this issue to bed.” The commissioner said ordinances often need to be changed after the fact, but he doesn’t expect the county would have to make many substantive changes beyond the ones being considered.
Official plans for Tippecanoe County’s first wind farm were announced in early September.
Carmel-based Performance Services plans to build a 25-turbine wind farm on about 2,500 acres in the northwest part of the county.
In the southwestern part of Tippecanoe County, Invenergy Wind LLC of Chicago is planning a wind farm with 133 turbines.
Greg Leuchtmann, development manager for Invenergy’s project, spoke in support of the proposed noise limit changes at last month’s meeting.
According to Purdue’s audiology department, 50 decibels of sound equates to the noise of soft talking, a washing machine, a quiet air conditioner or an electric toothbrush.
But the sound levels are not the only issue in play, according to Carmen Krogh.
Krogh, a board member with The Society for Wind Vigilance in Canada, is helping collect information from people worldwide who’ve reported adverse health impacts from living close to wind turbines.
Krogh is a retired pharmacist who used to work with a group that monitored symptoms and reports after new drugs were released on the market. Now she’s trying to carry that practice into the study of wind energy developments, which she and others believe merit further scrutiny.
“We’re finding the number one issue (being reported) is sleep disturbance,” Krogh said. “If it’s chronic, that can lead to sleep deprivation, and medically it can lead to a lot of other conditions,” such as anxiety, stress and cognitive issues.
Debra Preitkis-Jones, a spokeswoman with the American Wind Energy Association, said wind plants are generally quiet and that developers try to be good neighbors.
And she pointed to a report from the chief medical officer of health in Ontario – where Krogh and others are collecting information – that found no scientific evidence demonstrating a direct causal link between wind turbine noise and adverse health effects.
But Krogh said there’s simply too many unknowns. In the absence of human health studies, she said, companies have been relying on computer models to determine proper setbacks and noise levels.
“We would never put out a new drug without figuring out the impact to the human body,” she said. “Our position (on wind turbines) is we really need to pause and conduct the human health studies that correlate.”
Tippecanoe County officials dismissed a request residents made earlier this year to put a moratorium on wind farm developments here.
But Peretin said she’s still optimistic that the county will work with acoustic professionals through this process to make sure the quality of life for residents is protected.
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The Tippecanoe County commissioners will discuss and vote on the wind energy ordinance when they meet at 10 a.m. on Dec. 20.
The board also will meet at 10 a.m. Monday, and it takes public comment at all commissioners meetings.
The meetings are held in the Tippecanoe Room of the County Office Building, 20 N. Third St. in Lafayette.
Some of the symptoms that have been linked to living in close proximity to wind turbines include:
# Sleep disturbance
# Dizziness, vertigo
# Ear pressure or pain
# Memory and concentration deficits
# Irritability, anger
# Fatigue, loss of motivation
Source: Audiology Today