TOWNSHEND – Tears welled up in Larry Lorusso’s eyes and his voice began to crack as he spoke about the environmental impacts the Hoosac wind project has had since it first went online last year.
“My mountain was out back,” he said taking a moment to try to collect himself. “It was the enchanted forest. I loved going up there and [it was] a very beautiful place and I watched them wreck it little bit by little bit. So, I understand something was taken from us. Part of it is the noise, our peace and quiet.”
Lorusso was part of four person panel that met at the United Church of Christ on Friday for a forum that attracted about 60 people for a discussion that focused largely on the noise and health impacts of industrial wind power.
Iberdrola Renewables – which is headquartered in Spain – recently built two test towers (MET towers) in Windham and one in Grafton on land owned by the New Hampshire based Meadowsend Timberlands Limited. It is believed by some that the towers are precursors to an application for a large scale wind development project in Windham County – a view that Jeremy Turner the managing forester of Meadowsend Timberlands Limited is puzzled by.
“MTL does not understand how this organization can be telling people where turbines will be built when we haven’t even collected enough data to determine if wind is a viable resource to help us meet our long-term conservation goals,” Turner said via email.
“It is our reasonability to future generations as stewards of this land to investigate all possible options to create a sustainable future for Stiles Brook.”
If representatives of Iberdrola Renewables were present at the meeting, they did not identify themselves or ask questions.
However, if a project were ultimately come to fruition – even though the Town of Windham prohibits the construction of wind turbines under the bylaws of their town plan – the most affected areas would vary from 2 to 3.5 miles.
“They would be basically parallel to the Windham Hill Road and therefore parallel to much of the settlement in Windham and certainly two of the villages close to that,” said state senator Peter Galbraith (D-Windham District). “It would then veer to the east to Townshend Road in Grafton and it would come into Townshend with sort of a direct impact on the Acton Hill area. Now this project, if it is built, would be the wind project that is in the most densely populated area of any wind project so far built in Vermont.”
Galbraith continued to say that within two miles there were 500 residences in the towns of Windham, Grafton, Townshend, Andover, Chester and Londonderry. Within three miles there would be 1,000 residences effected in the aforementioned towns as well as in Jamaica, he said.
Michael Fairneny who lives about a half mile from the Hoosac site said that he did not have an idea about the impacts in terms of the noise of the project. He figured at three miles away on a ridgeline in the town of Florida – which is where 10 of the 19 wind turbines were placed – would be a safe distance away, but now realizes he was wrong.
“Now it’s like living near the airport. The sound does change,” said Fairneny. “My wife’s ears ring whenever she’s at home. She has tinnitus never had ear problems and we’ve been traveling up and down this mountain for 29 years. Never any issues with going up and down the mountain and we don’t know what we’re going to do yet.”
Fairneny said that he and his wife are now considering leaving their home at least for part of the season.
When the project was first announced, Lorusso said he was in favor of it, believing it to be clean, renewable and sustainable energy – a view that changed once construction got underway.
“It is not clean,” he said. “They blasted. There were swamps there. There were the beautiful trees, the wildlife. It’s a hard thing because I have not been able to get to terms with what was taken from me.”
Since the turbines have been put up, Lorusso said a significant amount of the wildlife has since left the area.
As for him, Lorusso, who lives a mile away from the project, said that he is now experiencing sleep disruption as a result of the project. Prior to the project going online, Lorusso said it was difficult to wake him up. During the summer, Lorusso said he had to sleep with the windows closed to reduce the noise from the turbines.
The wind project that Iberdola constructed in Groton, N.H. has 24 turbines. Another panelist, Laurie Lerner from Bridgewater, N.H. said that there are now three other projects looking to site themselves in the area of Newfound Lake, which would increase the number of turbines from 24 to over 100. To give an idea of what the sound is like, Nancy Watson took a marble and slowly rolled it around the inside of a bowl. While that is the sound she says that some hear, she hears a sound that she says is more like the cycling of a refrigerator that never shuts off.
Stephen Ambrose, the principal consultant for SE Ambrose & Associates, a civil engineer and a member of the Institute of Noise Control Engineering, said that by placing wind turbines on ridgelines the sound is channeled and he likened it to a sound going down a very long hallway.
At the beginning of the meeting, Galbraith also touched on the potential of the projects to impact the value of not only various towns grand lists, but the value of individual homes – something that will be the subject of the next meeting, which is scheduled for Jan. 17.
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