TOWNSHEND – “The neighbors count, no matter what.” That was the message Stephen Ambrose brought to a discussion on the negative impact of wind power Friday night, hosted by Vermonters for a Clean Environment.
Ambrose also brought 35 years of environmental noise-consulting experience to the United Church of Christ, where he was joined by local politicians, as well as Massachusetts, Vermont, and New Hampshire residents, all affected by the construction of windmills near their homes.
Ambrose explained that the system by which companies like Iberdrola Renewables perform noise studies is often flawed. Turbulence and decibels are often recorded near the base of trees where levels are lower, along with distances as close as 50 feet away. Ambrose says the correct way to monitor the sound output of wind turbines is to use hemispherical divergence, which shows a drop of six decibels by every distance doubled. “You need to get away by 400 feet before you can start to listen,” said Ambrose. “At nighttime you need to be 1,000 feet away.”
The forum was spurred by fears of possible wind project sites being built in Windham and Grafton in the near future. Sen. Peter Galbraith says this would affect several towns, including Windham, Townshend, and Jamaica, and almost 1,000 residences. Galbraith said legislation he introduced would have restrained the Public Service Board from being able to approve large-scale wind projects unless the affected towns approved.
The bill garnered 14 votes, two shy of passing. Galbraith said this is essential, as towns, and individuals, see their property rates drop due to wind developments. “Real estate value in towns with wind turbines could result in a loss of one-third in their grand list, and this is lost to property owners who are not compensated.”
Ambrose also brought a presentation on the Hoosac Wind Project, constructed by Iberdrola Renewables in Florida and Rowe, MA, and finished in 2012. Ambrose presented the position of town officials of Florida, who stated that the wind project “Will be in harmony, and is not detrimental to the established or future character of the neighborhood, and or the district and town.”
But for some residents, the end result has been nothing close to harmony. Michael Fairneny lives a half mile from the Hoosac wind turbines, and says that he didn’t expect either the audible or visual effects it would have on his and his wife’s lives. Now he says they’re considering leaving the home they’ve lived in for 29 years.
“I didn’t have any idea about the impact of a project like this, and I thought that I was a safe distance and the Monroe ridgeline would be farther away,” said Fairneny. “(It) turned out the Monroe ridgeline (turbines) were in front of my home. I came home a little over a year ago and saw one of the turbine blades and I was devastated.”
Fairneny says that living within a half mile of the turbines means he is subjected to inconsistent levels of noise pollution, an existence he compares to living near an airport.
When the wind blows from the north, he says it is the loudest, and that his wife has developed tinnitus since the turbines began operation.
Larry Lorusso, of Clarksburg, MA, who lives one mile south of the turbines, emotionally described the Hoosac Wind project as “The neighbors from hell.” Larusso was originally on board with the project, believing it would create clean, renewable, sustainable energy. “Then I saw what they did,” said Larusso. “It was not clean. They blasted, there were swamps there and beautiful trees and wildlife. It’s a hard thing because I haven’t come to terms about what’s been taken from me. It was a very beautiful place and I watched them wreck it little bit by little bit.”
Nancy Watson, who lives in Groton, NH, near a wind project built by Iberdrola, gave a demonstration of the sound a wind turbine makes by rolling a marble in a large plastic bowl, to recreate the scratchy, mechanical noise.
Iberdrola is currently continuing with a plan to install 15 wind turbines on National Forest land in the towns of Searsburg and Readsboro, a plan that VCE is suing to stop.
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