Three families in eastern Oregon upset about the noise generated by a wind farm are taking their case to the Land Use Board of Appeals.
They claim the noise from the Willow Creek Wind Farm’s 48 turbines exceeds the state’s standard of 36 decibels – 59 percent of the time – and hired a noise consultant to prove their case.
Insisting the noise has impacted their health and quality of life, they petitioned Morrow County, demanding that Invenergy, the energy company that owns the wind farm, turn off the turbines at night.
However, Morrow County’s Board of Commissioners disagreed. The Board decided the noise was loud enough only in the case of a fourth family. Invenergy may appeal the decision; otherwise it has six months to comply..
“As a committed neighbor and significant contributor to the ongoing economic development of Morrow County and the state of Oregon, Invenergy looks forward to reaching resolution of the current noise issues,” according to its statement.
Angered by Morrow County’s decision, Sherry Eaton, who’s been impacted by the noise, thinks the Board is “highly biased because of the money [the wind farms] brings into the county’s coffers.”
Eaton and her husband haven’t gotten a good night’s sleep in two years because of the wind farm, which is located less than half a mile from her home. “They make us sick,” she said.
The turbine’s sounds and vibrations cause Sherry to wake up multiple times each night. She sleeps fitfully. “Sometimes I wake up and feel jittery on the inside like I’ve had lots of caffeine. You can’t think or function the next day.”
Her husband, who didn’t want to be interviewed, is a Vietnam veteran and suffers from vertigo and nausea because of the wind turbines, his wife said. They’re both on prescription sleeping pills. Sometimes they help; sometimes they don’t. “I absolutely hate it, because you’re addicted to them,” Sherry Eaton said.
The Eatons aren’t alone. Other people in eastern Oregon think wind farms may cause sleeplessness, migraine headaches, anxiety and nausea.
“Health is a real issue out here,” said Dennis Wilkinson, founder of an anti-wind farm group called Friends of the Grand Ronde Valley.
Wind farms are made up of multiple wind turbines that harness electricity, and are quickly becoming an important component of eastern Oregon’s economy because of their tax revenue.
Shepherd’s Flat Wind Farm, a $1.48 billion project, will be the world’s largest wind farm when completed in 2012. It will span 30 miles across Gilliam and Morrow counties and produce enough electricity to power approximately 235,000 homes each year.
The Public Health Division has begun taking notice. In November, it conducted three “listening sessions” in La Grande, Pendleton and Arlington and collected public comments about the health impact of wind farms.
Sheree Smith, director of Morrow County’s Public Health Office, who attended the La Grande session, heard people complain about sleeplessness, problems urinating and other health effects.
The Division is using those comments and reviewing research to develop a health impact study that will be available for public comment next month, with the final version released in June.
The Division lacks regulatory authority to decide where wind farms can be located; that authority rests with the Department of Energy.
Meanwhile, a decision by the higher court could take up to six months, leaving the Eatons and other families with the wind turbine noise at night. “It’s been an emotional roller coaster ride,” Sherry Eaton said. “It’s been horrible.”
To Learn More
For more on the Division’s assessment of health impacts of wind energy click here.
For more on the science of wind turbine noise click here.
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