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Martha’s Vineyard planners visit Vinalhaven to see, hear turbines in action

Human impacts, News, Wind turbines Add comments

I just came across this fascinating article from the Martha’s Vineyard Times that discusses a recent trip by local residents and planners up to Maine to participate in a Sustainable Island Living conference sponsored by the Island Institute, which catalyzed the construction of the controversial wind farm on Vinalhaven.

The entire article is well worth reading, but I’ll highlight these two thoughtful comments from experienced local planners after they visited the Vinalhaven turbines:

Bill Veno, senior planner for the Martha’s Vineyard Commission, talked to some Vinalhaven residents about their concerns, and noted, “Something that strikes me is that the way communities have traditionally looked at noise and have a noise limit with decibels, that tool wasn’t really designed for the type of noise that seems to be involved with wind turbines. Because it’s not really the decibels so much, and it’s not exactly a pure tone situation, and so we’re really trying as a society to figure out where that appropriate level is.”

Veno’s wife Aubyn noted that “When we were at the site, it sounded to me like airplanes flying overhead. But then we stopped at the bus driver’s house, who lived about three-quarters of a mile away, and got out of the bus and listened from there, and it sounded really just like ocean waves do in the distance from our house on the Vineyard.” (Ed. note: this confirms that the turbines are indeed audible, even at three-quarters of a mile; if your rural home does not, in fact, have ocean waves or a constant road noise in the distance, the turbines will be a new sonic presence.)

Nick  Puner, a former Westchester County planning member now living on Martha’s Vineyard, said, “The Vinalhaven turbines dominate the landscape, and they’re awesome. They’re not ugly, but they’re right on top of everything. I definitely think it’s a mixed bag.”  He also felt that the sound was very close to that of the background noise that day, though clearly audible: “I didn’t think it was that dramatic, but on the other hand, I don’t dismiss that somebody could be seriously upset by the constancy of it,” he said. “One person’s music is another person’s noise.”

4 Responses to “Martha’s Vineyard planners visit Vinalhaven to see, hear turbines in action”

  1. Andy Says:

    Someone with some dough living in an arid climate could cash in on the report that 3/4 of a mile away from the turbine it sounds like ocean waves. That someone could erect one turbine in the desert, let’s say, and build homes placed in a circle around the turbine and sell the lots as virtual ocean property without the moisture of the ocean eating away at the houses. Just thinking outside the box.

  2. aeinews Says:

    OK, Mr. Can Do: go for it!

  3. Melodie Burkett Says:

    It is the Low Frequency vibration and inaudible noise that penetrates homes and cause so much discomfort as it invades the soft body tissues and leads to high blood pressure, sleep deprivation, headaches etc. This noise stimulates a nerve center that triggers a fight or flight response and people wake up from sleep in a feeling of panic. It has been proved that the inner ear responds to LFS even though you can not hear it!!! This is a very serious health implication recognized by the World Health Organization. It has been noted that sheep will bolt and not lie down on the ground near IWT’s! Dairy cows have become lame from standing on cement that transfers the vibration of LFS.

  4. aeinews Says:

    Melodie, you bring in some important considerations, though the research you note (inner ear responding to LFS, WHO focus on various noise and health factors) has not, to date, been focused on the levels of low frequency sound that occur around wind turbines. I have no doubt that some of the individuals on the far ends of the human sensitivity spectrum (ie those who can perceive lower frequencies more easily than most) are experiencing negative impacts, and similarly, that in some unusual situations (geological, meteorological), specific wind farms may be creating lower frequency impacts that are more widely perceptible. In addition, though, there is plenty of audible low frequency sound generated by wind farms.

    It’s very important to remember that, whether the infrasound around wind turbines is or is not perceptible, or is or is not causing physiological effects triggered by inaudible sound or subconscious reactions (as implied by the research suggesting the ear hairs respond to low level LFS or the nerve center response you note), wind turbines generate lots of AUDIBLE low frequency sound as well. The “sound spectrum” of large turbines is heavily weighted to lower frequencies; ie, sound levels of lower frequencies are higher than those of the higher frequencies. This is one reason that the ambient sound of leaves rustling does not “mask” the turbine sounds as much as is often assumed when looking only at dB(A) readings: the turbines are often clearly coming through at a lower frequency (deeper, rumbling sound) than the nearby trees or bushes. These lower frequency audible sounds penetrate walls, travel further, and in general can be more annoying than sounds in the middle of our hearing range; for all these reasons, turbines may be more annoying than many other noise sources.

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