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First Wind noise report says turbines are within PSB Levels

SHEFFIELD – According to a 52-page report prepared for First Wind by a Virginia consultant, the sound signal that emanates from the 16 wind turbines at the Sheffield Wind Farm are “quite weak,” the company stated in a report filed with the Vermont Public Service Board.

A nearby family disagrees and says the wind farm’s noise has changed their family.

Luann Therrien, who lives with her husband Steve and their two small children, three-quarters of a mile west of the nearest tower, is worried about the long-term effects on her family.

In a letter to the editor this week, Therrien wrote “Just months after the towers started running, we were wondering, ‘how bad is this going to get?’ We are experiencing: shadow flicker, the whoosh, whoosh, whoosh of the blades; at times hearing what sounds like a jet hovering overhead for three days straight (this is in the house, windows closed, TV on, and a 2-year-old running around,” she wrote.

First Wind’s analysis of the latest report, the first of four seasonal reports on sound testing, says that the farm is in full compliance with the PSB sound standards.

Steve Therrien said, depending on the wind, it’s either not bad or it sounds like a large piece of machinery or “a jet hovering overhead.” He said the noise is sometimes incessant, for days on end.

He said he was accepting of the wind project. Now he is concerned for the health of his family.

The Therrien’s land has been in Steve’s family since the 1970s. The couple is converting a former hunting camp into their residence. They said they are among just a handful of year-round residents who live this close to the wind farm. Most of the nearby structures are seasonal camps.

“If it wasn’t for the noise and the possible side effects, I guess I wouldn’t have a problem with them,” said Steve Therrien. In light of plans he’s heard about other wind farms in the Kingdom he urges property owners to be cautious and vigilant about how close to their homes turbines may be sighted. He believes, based on the view and noise, that his property value has gone down.

The Therrien’s live off the grid.

Annette Smith, executive director of the Vermonters for a Clean Environment, has been in contact with the couple. She said Wednesday there are several property owners concerned about noise from the wind farm in Sheffield. Paul Brouha, of Sutton, has filed a formal complaint with the state, Smith said.

Smith said she has written to state officials with concerns over what the Therrien family are experiencing. She said there needs to be independent study done of the noise. There are questions, she said, about where the noise studies have been located to collect their data.

The Therriens, Smith said, were offered to have an interior monitor. They declined because of privacy, she said.

The monitor would have picked up all noise in the home, conversations, et al., and not simply the turbine noise. Vermonters for a Clean Environment are working now to try to establish a “protocol” to address turbine related concerns.

John Lamontagne, the corporate communications spokesman for the Boston-based First Wind, said the recent “testing was done by an outside sound expert following the sound testing protocols approved by the Vermont PSB.” Lamontagne wrote in an email Tuesday that the test “involved testing in four different locations, with the testing done over a two-week period to ensure a range of operating conditions.”

The report said that “The tests showed that the sound levels were significantly below the 30 dBA interior level set by the PSB. The results show that the sound signal from the project is quite weak at each of the principal test positions, and, in most cases, is largely indistinguishable from, and not detectable above, the natural background level.”

Lamontagne, speaking for First Wind, added, “We’re pleased with the results of the testing. The results of the first round of sound monitoring indicate full compliance with the PSB sound standards. We will continue to monitor the sound levels at the Sheffield project.”

The report and study was completed by David M. Hessler, an engineer and the principal consultant for Hessler Associates, Inc., based in Haymarket, Virginia. His business provides consulting in engineering acoustics, the report notes.

Lamontagne said First Wind cannot comment on specific complaints but he said the firm has received only one about noise around the Sheffield wind farm since it began operation last October. He said First Wind has a toll-free number for people to phone in concerns.