As you consider the possible impacts to the Charlestown community of allowing the installation by Whalerock Renewable Energy, LLC, of two 410-foot Vestas V90 wind turbines, I thought you might be interested to know the Fairhaven, Mass., Board of Health on Monday voted unanimously to order the immediate nighttime shutdown of two similar (but slightly smaller) industrial wind turbines there.
The Board of Health acted after receiving over 400 citizen complaints about adverse health impacts from the two 1.5 MW wind turbines, including sleep deprivation, headaches, tinnitus, pressure on the ears and elevated blood pressure.
The Fairhaven Board of Health ordered the shutdown because of its belief that the wind turbines constituted a serious public health hazard.
The Fairhaven Board of Selectmen, in turn, officially notified the developer that the noise of the wind turbines not only violated state noise regulations, but also violated a contractual agreement with the Town of Fairhaven that the noise of the wind turbines at the nearest residences would not exceed 60 decibels and gave him 30 days to resolve the problem. Testing last August revealed the wind turbine noise did exceed 60 decibels to the nearest property.
As you may be aware, there are dozens of homes in Charlestown that would be as close, or closer to the proposed wind turbines there than distance between the wind turbines and the affected residences in Fairhaven.
As you may also be aware, the developer’s noise study for Fairhaven inaccurately predicted that the noise from the wind turbines there (which are smaller than the Vestas V90) would be in compliance with Massachusetts noise standards and that the wind turbine noise would not exceed 60 decibels at the nearest residences.
In practice, not only does the noise from the Fairhaven wind turbines exceed the estimates of the noise study, the allowable state noise limits and the 60 decibel limit contracted by the town; the wind turbines have been found to produce profound adverse health effects even when they operate in compliance with the state noise standards.
As you may also have read, the town of Kingston, Mass., recently determined that, as with the wind turbine installations in Fairhaven and in Falmouth, the wind turbine noise had significantly exceeded the estimated levels provided in the developers’ wind turbine noise studies and that the actual noise exceeded state noise limits.
As you are also no doubt aware, there have been hundreds of complaints about the wind turbine noise in all three of these locations.
The truth of the matter is that the real purpose of the noise studies provided by the developers is not to assess the impact on the community from such noise, but to enable the developer to obtain the necessary permits by providing false and misleading estimates that “prove” that the installation will be in compliance with applicable noise standards – which, in turn, are not particularly relevant to predicting harm from wind turbine noise.
I urge the Charlestown Zoning Board of Review to learn from the experience of other communities and avoid, at all costs, accepting these false reassurances at face value.
The Whalerock noise study – like so many before it – is based upon assumptions that are patently false (such as the notion that the ambient noise from wind in the trees will mask the increased noise from the wind turbines at higher wind speeds) and it ignores the fundamental characteristics of wind turbine noise that make it so intrusive and debilitating (such as the pulsing character of the noise referred to as amplitude modulation; the ceaseless repetition of the sound; its pervasive character; and the pernicious effects of low frequency and infrasonic noise, which do not attenuate (diminish) as readily over distance and which do penetrate structures).
The Charlestown noise study ignores research that shows that adverse impacts from wind turbine noise are much more pronounced at lower decibel levels (lower levels of loudness) than other, more familiar kinds of noise.
And most tragically of all, the Whalerock study – like all of the others before it – ignores hundreds and hundreds of existing examples of the devastating consequences of these installations – all over the world – and attempts to focus the attention of the Zoning Board on an arbitrary “standard,” which it strains to satisfy, on behalf of the developer, even as it declines to acknowledge the most troublesome aspects of the noise and omits any legitimate analysis of the likely consequences to the community.
There is a reason why this noise study was never signed by its authors – because, frankly, the study is grossly misleading and it is inconsistent with the professional ethics of the Institute of Noise Control Engineers, as presented.
I urge the members of the Zoning Board of Review to vote unanimously to deny this permit application unless the applicant can prove to the satisfaction of the board, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the project will not subject the residents in Charlestown to the same fate as residents in Falmouth, Kingston and Fairhaven, Mass., and hundreds of other locations throughout the region and the country.
Editor’s note: This is an open letter to the Charlestown Zoning Board of Review. It was accompanied by media reports about the Fairhaven, Mass., decision.
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