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Expert speaks on wind turbine noise in Sumner

SUMNER – The Wind Power Committee held an emergency meeting on short notice Sunday to take advantage of an audio expert who testified Thursday in Augusta before the state committee considering stronger noise regulations on industrial wind power for the Department of Environmental Protection.

Richard James, a mechanical engineer who focuses on environmental engineering, has been working with sound for 42 years. He worked with General Motors for several years and has been to Asia and Europe as a consultant on wind turbine sound.

“I’m not anti-wind if it is done right,” James said. “I am anti-peers,” he said, adding that his peers in the business need to be more honest with people about turbine wind noise.

James said many times when people are worried about sound from new factories, airports or highways, they eventually come to realize that sound was not going to be a problem.

“Not so with wind turbines,” he said. “That’s when you have a problem with noise.”

James said the mistake many people make when they go to visit wind turbines is they go during the day. “The normal noises of daytime activities help to cover the turbine sound. People should go for a visit in the middle of the night,” he said. “That’s when people have trouble.”

Steve Perry, one of the 14 committee members present, asked what made the sound different from other sounds such as sawmills, as people is Maine were used to such noises. James replied that it was the low-frequency sounds that were different and annoyed people in their sleep more.

Selectman Maryann Haxton asked how the sound problem could be corrected. James replied that guidelines of 35 decibels should be set for turbines and to require them to be located a mile and a half away from homes.

Someone asked how much the sound would be affected with the proposed turbines on Mount Tom because they were just above Pleasant Pond. James replied that they would be three decibels higher because sound travels more easily across water.

Someone asked about home appraisals and James said real estate agents were no longer appraising any homes near windmills.

Art Lindgren, a former resident of Vinalhaven, spoke to the group about his problems. They were unable to stay in their home after the turbines were up and running. He said they believed what they were told about sound before the turbines were installed.

James told of a mother from Freedom who had testified on Thursday that before her children went to bed she asked not only if they had brushed their teeth, but if they had taken their sleeping pill as well.

Jeff Pfeifer, who chaired the meeting, asked what recommendations James would have for the committee in writing up their ordinance.

“Number one, you should write the ordinance in such a way as to protect the health of nearby residents,” James said. “Next you should make the company involved commit to promises they make and set 35 decibels as a maximum at night. Have the setbacks one and a half miles from any residents if the turbines are on hard ridges. One and a quarter miles, otherwise.”