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Noise issues scuttle wind farm plans in WI, MA

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The Wisconsin Public Service Commission rejected the only large wind project currently in development in the state, citing noise concerns for homeowners in the vicinity.  The Highland Wind project sound models suggested that turbine sound would not meet the 45dB night time noise standard at about 20 homes. Some of the acousticians who submitted testimony in the Highland hearings suggested that limits of 40dB or less would be more appropriate; doubtless many more homes would be living with sound between that level and the current 45dB standard.  The recent collaborative sound study in Brown County was funded by the PSC in order to help understand the experience there before deciding on Highland’s application.  The developer of Highland, Emerging Energies, is likely to resubmit the application with adjustments to the turbine layout to keep all homes under 45dB.

UPDATE, 5/3/13:  The PSC has agreed to consider a revised plan from Emerging Energies, which may include night-time curtailments of turbines near the closest homes—apparently not routinely, but just when atmospheric conditions especially enhance sound propagation. 

Meanwhile, in the town of Heath, Massachusetts, the Planning Board and Renewable Energy Committee (REAC) has recommended that citizens approve a ban on industrial wind at the Town Meeting later this month.  Again, noise was a primary factor, thanks to the very quiet level of ambient sound in the deeply rural area; the REAC recommended a 2-mile buffer to maintain current ambient sound levels and preclude against any possible property value losses.  

The decision in Heath came on the same week that residents of nearby Monroe and Florida began speaking publicly about their experiences with the new noise from the Hoosac Wind project, which began operations in December.  Michael Fairneny says that at his house 3000 feet away, “My quiet, peaceful, serene world and home has been turned into a reeling of unending noise, annoyance and constant dealing with those in charge to help us.”  Six residents met the press to discuss their experiences, and say that at least 20 are struggling with noise issues. (A rough scan of a Google Earth image of the area, and referring to a map in the the 2003 permit application, suggest that around 150 homes are within about a mile of the turbines, with perhaps 80 within 3000 feet.)

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