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New Maine wind farm spurs a dozen complaints around lakes

Human impacts, News, Wind turbines Add comments

Ten wind turbines in Woodstock, Maine began operating last December, and now that summer camps are occupied on two local ponds, noise complaints are starting to roll in from up to a mile and a half away.  The turbines are more than three-quarters of a mile from any homes; a few homes (perhaps 10) are within a mile, and another dozen or so are within a mile and a half (see location map). So far, Woodstock’s wind ordinance committee has received more than a dozen letters of concern about unexpected noise impacts, a number that would seem to represent a significant proportion of residents within that area.  The Bethel Citizen recently published a very lengthy article detailing many of the neighbors’ experiences, as well as responses from the state Department of Environmental Protection and the wind farm owners.  Among the highlights:

ME spruce mountain wind farm from concord pond 1 5mi copyOne year-round resident notes that the noise is loudest when his home is downwind of the turbines, and adds, “What is most interesting to me is that they seem loudest on the calmer days.  That is, if the wind is barely existent, I can really hear them roaring.”

A woman with a camp on Shagg Pond said that on the Friday before July 4th holiday, “The noise was so horrific at my camp that I couldn’t stay outside,” she said, saying she had suffered headaches. “It sounded like an airplane that never left the top of my house.”

A permanent sound monitor installed 2000 feet from the Spruce Mountain Wind (SMW) property line between the last turbines and Shagg Pond had its wires chewed by mice, so has not been collecting data recently.  While SMW had earlier applied to the state DEP to discontinue routine monitoring, and instead respond only to specific complaints, that application was recently withdrawn.  Earlier monitoring data, as well as spot checks after two complaints (one in February and one in July) showed that the project was operating within its permit conditions of 55dB in the daytime and 45dB at night.  Ed. note: once again, we may be looking at an example of a high permitted level leading to intrusive noise conditions (well above other sounds) even when in compliance; in addition, if there are compounding factors that cause higher sound levels in conditions hard to identify or replicate (e.g., unusually high degree of inflow turbulence), a short spot check may not catch the same noise conditions, even if winds are from the same direction and speed.

The Woodstock committee charged with drafting a town ordinance to govern future wind farm construction had been considering a 1-mile setback as one possibility.  Given the recent complaints, committee chairman Bob Elliott said they may need to consider larger setbacks, lower noise limits, or both. In addition, they are considering a requirement that project developers fund an escrow account to allow the town to hire its own consultants as needed.

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