Seventeen of Lowell Mountain’s 21 turbines are up and running. From concept to completion, it’s been a long haul for Green Mountain Power, the utility behind the 63-megawatt project.
“It is really exciting that we’re nearly done with the project,” said Dottie Schnure of Green Mountain Power. “We’re able to bring this wonderful resource to Vermonters, enough electricity for 24,000 homes is something that Vermonters have said clearly they want more of. So, it is very exciting,” said Dottie Schnure of Green Mountain Power.
With the sounds of blasting and construction over, all is quiet on the mountain. Or is it? On the eastern side of the ridgeline, a short 3.5 miles away, some neighbors in Albany– already critics of the project– have new concerns.
“I was shocked to hear them this far, especially that loud,” said Mike Nelson of Albany.
Nelson is within clear eyeshot and earshot of the ridgeline, and he didn’t like what he heard the weekend before last.
“I was about here and it sounded like a rushing, loud– like an airplane type of sound. And then you had the sounds of helicopter laid over that,” he said.
Dozens of others also claimed to have heard the loud whooshing sounds from the blades throughout the weekend. Thirty-three neighbors submitted a petition to the Department of Public Service, claiming the noise was “horrendous” even with only half the turbines running.
GMP officials say the noises were an anomaly.
“There are some very specific conditions if they happen at once– based on wind speed, weather conditions, moisture in the atmosphere– that can create noise,” Schnure explained. “So, when that happens we are able to modify our operations so we do not create a noise issue.”
Schnure says residents are encouraged to call up and report excessive noise, something that wasn’t done immediately in this case.
She said GMP’s permit requires that noise from the turbines not exceed 45 decibels and 30 inside.
“The 45 decibels is about the background sound of a library. So, we have very strict standards we have to meet,” Schnure said.
She said baseline sound measurements in communities have already been taken and that more monitoring will begin once full operations are underway.
Mike Nelson remains unswayed by GMP’s response to the noise incident.
“I don’t think anybody considered calling because of the way they’ve treated us,” he said.
Nelson says he knows neighbors that have lost sleep over the noise and even complained of headaches– symptoms that some wind opponents have come to call “Wind Turbine Syndrome.”
“If you’re looking at adverse health effects, I think the project is pretty much as worthless as we all thought it was from the beginning,” he said. “They aren’t going to be able to turn power or they’re going to turn the town into a ghost town.”
Whether adverse health can be chalked up to medical science or emotions running high in communities opposed to industrial wind, the verdict is still out.
“I don’t think there is anything you can do in this world that everybody loves, but I think it’s very clear that Vermonters– the vast majority of Vermonters– support wind power and we will operate this plant respectfully for everyone,” Schnure said.
Taking measure of wind on Lowell Mountain.
Aside from noise, GMP is also trying to reduce the turbines visual impacts. They are currently waiting for approval from the FAA to install a radar-activated lighting system on the towers that would allow them to get rid of the eight blinking warning lights that exist today.