A couple living roughly 5000 feet from a proposed 5-turbine wind farm has appealed the project’s approval by the town of Clifton, Maine, citing quality of life concerns due to the likelihood that they will hear the turbines from their home and farmlands. “Our land is our home. We work here. We farm here. We recreate here and we restore our souls here,” said Peter Beckford. Beckford and his wife Julie run an organic flower business on a sixty-acre property, which also includes several small cabins where farm apprentices and other visitors live.
The proposed wind farm, on Pisgah Mountain, was designed to include 4000-foot setbacks from homes, but the Beckfords say that their cabins and other buildings used for their business were improperly excluded as protected or occupied structures when the setback was applied.
The Beckford’s challenge is notable in that it is making a quality of life argument that audible turbine noise is an inappropriate addition to the local soundscape. The appeal rests on several permitting issues, including the outbuilding distance and other aspects of the town’s planning process, but their statements indicate that the turbine noise is the crucial issue for them. Their challenge is perhaps the strongest expression yet of the feeling by some rural residents that any noise intrusion is unacceptable; several more cautionary acousticians have recommended noise limits, at least at night, of 30-35dB, and setbacks of a mile to a mile and a half, in acknowledgement that any turbine noise readily audible above quiet rural background sound levels will trigger significant annoyance in some neighbors.
Most previous challenges of wind farm approvals have attacked siting standards that placed turbines much closer than a half mile, or noise standards that could allow intrusive sound levels (15dB or more over ambient) at some or many homes. In saying that three-quarters of a mile is not far enough away, the Beckfords are standard-bearers for rural residents who want wind farms to be far enough away to be effectively inaudible. For people living deep in rural areas, it’s an understandable desire; some towns have have banned tall industrial turbines altogether, to assure local soundscapes will remain unblemished. Other towns, aiming to be somewhat more welcoming to wind projects, have set half-mile to 4000-foot setbacks in order to reduce the severity and frequency of noise intrusions. Time will tell whether new wind farms built with these larger setbacks will be more easily accepted by rural communities.
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