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Falmouth followup: turbines shut down in high winds

Human impacts, News, Wind turbines Add comments

As noted here on AIEnews in May, a single new wind turbine in Falmouth, Massachusetts triggered noise problems for many nearby residents (12 formal complaints were filed, an unusually high number for any community, and residents of up to 45 of the 120 homes within a mile raised concerns in informal local meetings).  The town appears to have responded quickly: this news report from mid-June notes that the turbines had been shut off 39 times in the preceding month, when winds topped 22mph and noise would have been at its worst.  Both the town and a group of neighbors have hired lawyers and sound consultants to help them work through the situation; everyone spent a month discussing the nature of the noise issues as a study was designed to assess the conditions in which noise is the worst.  This recent article from the Falmouth Enterprise (sorry, no direct link found) summarizes the recent noise measurements made by both the town and residents’ sound consultants, and the first survey that recently took place.  Everyone seems to agree that the sound was much worse in its first three months of operation (March-May), when winds were higher, so it’s not altogether clear whether this survey, taken at a time when the air was quite hot and still, will suffice to answer the longer-term questions.
UPDATE: A more recent article, from the Cape Cod Times, appeared on August 1st.

Falmouth is the second small New England town to run into unexpected noise problems after installing wind turbines in an effort to reduce electric bills and contribute to a sustainable energy future in their localities. Residents of Vinalhaven, Maine are also trying to find the balance between wind energy and local quality of life; AEInews has tracked their efforts since last December. It appears that Falmouth is being a bit more pro-active, as evidenced by the quick decision to shut down turbines in high winds.  By contrast, the sound study project proceeded a bit more slowly in Falmouth, which may also be a good thing; in Vinalhaven, there was some confusion and uncertainty as a noise survey commenced suddenly this winter, without much pre-consultation with neighbors of the turbines on the design of the study or the sorts of qualitative descriptors used on the surveys (which some neighbors found did not encompass the sounds they experienced).

This is new territory for every town that grapples with it; both Falmouth and Vinalhaven are at the forefront of constructively dealing with noise issues (especially in contrast most wind projects, where the turbines are owned by large and comparatively impersonal energy companies).  As more towns and energy co-ops consider erecting small wind projects, the lessons learned in Falmouth and Vinalhaven will serve to make the process of dealing with noise issues a bit easier elsewhere.

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