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Third of a mile setback doesn’t prevent wind turbine noise issues in Falmouth

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When the town-owned wind turbine began operating at the Falmouth, MA wastewater treatment facility in March, most townspeople saw it as the most striking example of the town’s far-reaching commitment to sustainability.  Since then, it’s generated about a third of the town’s electricity needs, and a second turbine is being readied for installation nearby this summer.  As noted at a forum on the town’s many energy-savings initiatives, in discussing the second turbine: “The special thing about the site is it’s remote. The nearest home is about 1/3 mile away, which is important in terms of noise and appearance.” (This is just under 1800 feet, or 600 yards.)

But over the few weeks since the first turbine began operating, residents are finding the noise much more disruptive than they’d imagined.  According to the Cape Cod Times, some neighbors who live in the sparsely populated, wooded area around the treatment facility were horrified when they heard the noise. “It’s destroyed our capacity to enjoy our homes,” Kathy Elder said. Elder said the noise surrounds her residence, alternating between a jet’s whine, thunder and a thumping that sometimes can be felt.

The town has received formal complaints from six residents, one of whome, Annie Hart Cool, has gathered over 40 names of people within a mile or so who say they are affected.  She notes that her husband enjoys working in their yard after work, “but when he comes back inside and his head is hurting, you know something’s wrong.”

Assistant Town Manager Heather Harper says that the town has asked Vestas, the turbine manufacturer, to come check whether there are any mechanical issues that may be causing elevated noise levels, and is asking residents to compile records of when the sound is worst, to help the town figure out how to respond. “This has been a community project from the beginning,” Harper said. “We’re genuinely concerned and we take the complaints very seriously.”  At the same time, Harper noted that “We didn’t expect no sound, but it should meet all governmental standards.”  This is, indeed, often the issue: governmental noise standards, which tend to range from 40-50dB, are not always sufficient to avoid negative impacts on the nearest neighbors.

UPDATE: Another local newspaper covers the brewing controversy.

One Response to “Third of a mile setback doesn’t prevent wind turbine noise issues in Falmouth”

  1. » Blog Archive » Falmouth followup: turbines shut down in high winds Says:

    […] noted here on AIEnews in May, a single new wind turbine in Falmouth, Massachusetts triggered noise problems for many […]