RIGA – Two acoustics experts discussed the sound produced by wind turbines and whether it poses a health threat to nearby residents during a special meeting April 19 at the Riga Fire Hall. Present were members of the Riga Township board and planning commission, dozens of Blissfield area residents, and representatives of both wind energy developers and the Interstate Informed Citizens Coalition (IICC), a local group of wind development opponents.
Peter Guldberg of environmental consulting firm Tech Environmental was first to present. Guldberg’s firm was contracted by Exelon Wind to conduct an acoustics study of the areas in which the developer plans to erect wind turbines.
Guldberg, who has a mathematics degree from MIT and a master’s degree in atmospheric science from the University of Michigan, says he has performed studies on more than 40 wind energy projects and served as an independent consultant for townships where developments have been planned.
Based on the results of the acoustics study he and his team conducted, Guldberg said wind turbines would not significantly change current noise levels in Riga Township. Wind developers Exelon Wind and Great Lakes Wind say sound produced by their wind turbines would not exceed 45 decibels near residences whose owners had not signed easement agreements. Guldberg compared this sound level to a quiet suburban area.
When Guldberg was finished, Kevon Martis, director of the IICC, introduced Rick James, an expert hired by the IICC to speak at the meeting. James has provided acoustics consulting for both companies and communities for over 35 years. Much of his work has dealt with wind turbine noise. James said the sound levels promised by wind developers are insufficient to protect residents from irritation or even certain adverse health effects, including stress and sleep deprivation.
“The characteristic of wind turbine noise is such that people are more annoyed with it than they are with other common community noise sources,” said James. “One of the things that I routinely hear is that people are annoyed by the blade swish. … It isn’t that it’s so loud. It’s that it’s repetitive and it does not stop. When you have multiple turbines, you then begin to get competing ‘swishes.’ … This is one of the reasons why it is more annoying.”
According to James, a recent European noise study found that 25 to 33 percent of people are “annoyed” by sound levels of 45 decibels outside their homes, while 10 to 20 percent are “highly annoyed.”
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