Vermont Neighbors Project gives voice to wind turbine noise victims

While the Public Service Board and lawmakers wrangle over decibel limits for wind turbines, residents who live near wind energy plants are turning to the Vermont Neighbors Project to share how they have been harmed by turbine noise.

“We started the Vermont Neighbors Project because we were sick of hearing the wind industry question the sanity, motives and integrity of their neighbors,” Energize Vermont President Mark Whitworth told True North. “We were sick of hearing distant neighbors minimize the turbine impacts in order to protect the tax breaks that they receive at the expense of those who live close to the turbines.”

Energize Vermont says the aim of the project is to “shine a spotlight on the treatment of Vermonters by the multi-billion-dollar wind industry” and expose how state government responds to problems reported by turbine neighbors.

The timing is right. The PSB is contemplating new sound rules for industrial turbines. Whitworth and other industrial-sized wind critics say the government has not protected citizens from harmful health impacts related to sounds and infrasound emitted from the 500-foot structures.

“We were sick of our state government’s failure to provide relief to the people whose lives have been turned upside down by industrial wind plants,” Whitworth said. “We started the Vermont Neighbors Project because people need to know what is happening to Vermonters when wind developers target their towns.”

He added that he is disturbed by videos published by wind industry lobbyists and the Vermont Public Interest Research Group (VPIRG) that claim turbines don’t cause health problems. The Vermont Neighbors Project aims to show otherwise.

Gov. Phil Scott has stated that he supports newly proposed sound rules that call for a 39-decibel nighttime limit and 42-decibel daytime limit. Scott ran for office on a platform that called for a moratorium on new industrial wind projects, and he recently said he wanted to “protect our ridgelines in perpetuity.”

The Public Service Board has claimed the proposed decibel levels would be “as quiet as a library.” Annette Smith, executive director of Vermonters for a Clean Environment, doesn’t buy it.

“All these commentaries are not based on anything real,” Smith told True North. “If the libraries sounded like what the wind turbine neighbors had to live with, nobody would study in a library.”

She said library noise and turbine noise are different types of sounds in very different environments. For instance, turbines are built in areas with especially low background noise.

“An increase above 10 (decibels) is known to generate complaints, so the board at 39 is allowing an increase of 19. It’s too much,” she said.

In a recent op-ed, Smith cited another turbine problem that can’t be measured by decibel counts: infrasound.

“Infrasound cannot be heard, but it has been scientifically proven by recent studies to be a component of the acoustical profile of wind turbines. The vortexing pressure waves do not dissipate and can go out for miles.”

VPIRG did not return True North’s request for comment. However, the group is calling the proposed noise standards “a clear ban on wind.”

For Steve Therrien, the issue isn’t up for debate. The Therrien family, including two young children, fled their home of 20 years in Sheffield due to noise from a local industrial wind farm.

“It’s worse than they will even acknowledge,” Therrien said. “They really don’t acknowledge anything except for sleep deprivation, which is bad enough.”

Therrien said sleep deprivation was only the beginning of the problems his family experienced by living near turbines. “I started going to the doctors. I was having chest pains, vertigo problems, and I was worried that I was going to have to stop doing my work. I didn’t realize it was from the wind turbines at the time.”

Therrien reiterated the concern that state government has been absent when it comes to helping Vermonters living near wind farms.

“I called the 1-800 we-don’t-care (help number) and they say that they have a winter protocol so that they can avoid these things. That’s total [nonsense].”

He added that he got a text message back saying “everything was running normal.”

Michael Bielawski is a reporter for True North Reports. Send news tips to and follow him on Twitter @TrueNorth82X.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/Harvey McDaniel

6 thoughts on “Vermont Neighbors Project gives voice to wind turbine noise victims

  1. Does solar make noise? No…
    Does solar damage our ridge lines permanently? No…
    Does solar use fossil fuel? No…
    Hmmm… Perhaps solar would work for VT?
    Oh, I forgot the wind supporters don’t actually know that there is such a thing as ‘solar’ power.
    I can say, I live 100% off grid, on solar, in VT…
    It works well, can be removed and the land reclaimed easily…
    and if VT passed a law where we had any new development put at least 10% solar on the roof, we could completely ignore wind power in VT.
    Look at that! No issues with health either.
    Hmmm, I guess because this makes sense the wind supporters will say it would not work, typical.

  2. Cape Cod Commission –Wind Turbine Update April 2011 10 X Rotor Diameter

    Example : Each blade is 150 feet long plus the nacelle . The total diameter is over 300 feet. 10x the diameter is 3000 feet .

    “MPS E1.8 – NoiseAll Applicants for a WECF greater than 660 KW shall perform a noise study and fund a Cape Cod Commission approved consultant’s review of the noise study, and adhere to a setback of 10 times the rotor diameter of the proposed turbine from the nearest receptor, or residentially zoned parcel,”

    Approved Amendments to Regional Policy Plan
    Assembly of Delegates
    April 20, 2011

    Minimum Performance Standards for Energy
    MPS E1.7 – Clear Area
    All WECFs shall maintain a Clear Area surrounding the base of the turbine equal to at least 1.5 times the height of the WECF, or the WECF manufacturer’s fall zone, setback, or clear area specification, whichever is greater. The Clear Area setback shall be measured from the base of the turbine.
    MPS E1.8 – NoiseAll Applicants for a WECF greater than 660 KW shall perform a noise study and fund a Cape Cod Commission approved consultant’s review of the noise study, and adhere to a setback of 10 times the rotor diameter of the proposed turbine from the nearest receptor, or residentially zoned parcel, unless the applicant can demonstrate through a noise study, to the satisfaction of the Cape Cod Commission, that the projected sound levels, including both ambient and infrasound, would result in minimal impacts to occupants within a reduced setback. All DRIs shall, after consulting with the Commission’s noise consultant, prepare a plan which specifies reduced operating procedures, including decommissioning plans, which address and mitigate noise complaints that may arise during operation of the WECF. Components of a noise study can be found in Technical Bulletin 11-001.
    MPS E1.9 – Shadow Flicker
    All Applicants for a WECF shall conduct an impact study of shadow flicker on receptors which will be affected by the proposed WECF. All DRIs with shadow flicker effects on receptors shall require the Applicant to submit for review and approval by the Commission a mitigation plan which specifies operational controls, landscaping, or other means that mitigate shadow flicker events to less than 10 hours per year.
    MPS E1.10 – Decommissioning
    Any WECF that has not been operational for more than 120 consecutive days shall be dismantled and removed from the site by the owner, operator, and/or other parties as designated by the decommissioning plan unless a written waiver is obtained for good cause shown from the Cape Cod Commission’s Executive Director. The Applicant shall also provide security in a form and amount satisfactory to the Cape Cod Commission. The security shall cover over the life the WECF the cost of decommissioning and removing any abandoned or damaged WECF. This security shall be in place and payable to the Town or Commission on demand for the life of the WECF. All WECF DRI decisions shall contain a written decommissioning plan, which also addresses removal of the meteorological (or “met”) tower.
    MPS E1.11 – Municipal WECF Waiver
    Because of the procedural, legal and political safeguards applicable to town appropriations and the use of town-owned land, Minimum Performance Standards E1.8 – E1.10 shall not apply to one Municipal WECF 250 KW or less on a single parcel.
    Proposed changes to other sections of RPP
    HPCC 2.3 – Avoid Adverse Visual Impacts: New Development shall be sited and designed to avoid adverse impacts to visually sensitive areas, including those protected by HPCC 1.1 and 1.2. Visual impact assessments may be required as part of the project review. Development proposed adjacent to scenic roads or vistas shall preserve distinctive features of the scenic resource including tree canopy, wooded road edges, stone walls, winding road character, and scenic views. Development adjacent to or within scenic vistas shall be clustered and designed to limit the visibility of the new development.
    (Note: All definitions to be added to RPP. Those added to Enabling Regulations only denoted with *)

    WECF* – All equipment, machinery and structures utilized in connection with the conversion of wind to electricity. This includes, but is not limited to, all transmission, storage, collection and supply equipment, substations, transformers, site access, service roads and machinery associated with the use. A wind energy conversion facility may consist of one or more wind turbines, and does not include meteorological (or “met”) towers.
    Clear Area – Area surrounding a WECF to be kept free of any structure designed for human occupancy.
    Shadow Flicker – Alternative changes in light intensity caused when rotating turbine blades come between the viewer and the sun, causing a moving shadow.
    Meteorological (or “met” or “test”) Tower* – Tower used for supporting anemometer , wind vane and other equipment to assess the wind resource at a predetermined height above the ground.
    Municipal Wind Energy Conversion Facility – Any WECF proposed, owned and operated by a municipality.
    Height of a WECF – The distance from the pre-development natural grade of the site of the proposed WECF to the highest point of the structure, including any moving part which is a component of the WECF.
    Road – A public or private way, other than a driveway servicing only the property which is proposed as the site of the WECF.
    Receptor – A dwelling, or any non-residential structure which is designed and/or utilized for human occupancy.

    DOC]1-6-11 Wind DRI Thresholds & RPP MPSs (A0836896-2).DOC
    Apr 20, 2011 – Minimum Performance Standards for Energy … study and fund a Cape Cod Commission approved consultant’s review of the noise study, and adhere to a setback of 10 times therotor diameter of the proposed turbine

  3. VPIRG is a lobby for those who contribute to its coffers. Public interest be damned. It is a lobby for special interest groups number one being industrial wind. As before, I suggest they become ” VSIRG”, S for special.
    They are a total fraud.

  4. VPRIG’s statement of “it’s a clear ban on wind” may be true ! It is also true that these industrial machines should have been built in close proximity to residential sites. Every one of these stories remind me of a evil child sadistically pulling the wings and legs of an insect – the Wind profiteers have the same level of empathy for the neighbors and that child has for the insect !

    • Obviously the second sentence should read; “It is also true that these industrial machines shouldn’t have been built in close proximity to residential sites!”

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