Noisy Massachusetts Wind Turbine Shut Down

The state of Massachusetts, which earlier this year released an independent study that largely dismissed claims that living near wind farms can cause a range of devastating health effects, is now cracking down on noisy turbines.

In March, the state’s Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) conducted tests of a couple of turbines at the Falmouth, Mass., waste treatment plant, where neighbors had complained of excessive noise. In a new report [PDF], that state said the tests revealed that sound levels from one of two Vestas V82 1.65-megawatt  (MW) turbines “exceed the 10 dBA threshold that MassDEP defines as unacceptable sound at one of the sampling sites under both high and low wind conditions.”

vestas wind turbine, falmouth

image via Vestas

So the department recommended to Falmouth that the turbine be shut down while it conducts further studies – and that the second turbine be switched off at night, as well.

According to the state, neighbors have complained about noise problems since the town installed the first turbine more than two years ago as part of a MassDEP energy management pilot program to reduce the energy use and greenhouse gas emissions of drinking water and wastewater treatment facilities.

In the summer of 2010 the town commission a study [PDF] that found that sound levels around Wind #1 approached but did not violate state standards and predicted that a second turbine, then under construction, would lead to “no violations at any measurement positions.” But measuring sound is a complex matter, and the city took issue with the study done by the consultants. Meanwhile, residents were telling stories of devastating health consequences from the noise.

Eventually, the state moved to conduct further testing. The result of that testing — a decision to curtail wind power production to look further into the noise issue — was a bit surprising, since Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick and his administration are big backers of wind power. In fact, just a few weeks ago, the governor attended the opening of a 10-turbine, 15-MW wind power plant in the Berkshires.

Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.


  • Reply May 23, 2012

    posted:  December 16, 2011 • Denmark, Health, NoiseLetter from Vestas worried about regulation of low-frequency noise  
    Author:  Engel, DitlevChief Executive OfficerAlsvej 21, DK-8940Dir. +45 9730 0000, http://www.vestas. com
    Dear Karen Ellemann,*
    Following previous correspondence, I am writing this letter to express my concern regarding the limits for low frequency noise from wind turbines now being proposed.
    At this point you may have asked yourself why it is that Vestas does not just make changes to the wind turbines so that they produce less noise? The simple answer is that at the moment it is not technically possible to do so, and it requires time and resources because presently we are at the forefront of what is technically possible for our large wind turbines, and they are the most efficient of all.
    [See Danish news story about subsequent lax rules: Miljøstyrelsen anklages for at fifle med vindmøllestøj]

  • Reply May 25, 2012


    It could have bad bearings, too. I wish I could be on site at all these sites, for personal experience or at least video with sound measurements, to hear and see, the complainers issue. I am an advocate for turbines (done right).

  • Reply December 1, 2012


    “Kimmell said other turbines operate in the state in residential areas with little complaint.”

    This statement is a reflection of the “nocebo effect” being promulgated by the likes of Simon Chapman in Australia, whose idiosyncratic notions about wind turbine noise and health have been, unfortunately widely cited in the media.

    The notion of the “nocebo effect” and the criterion Chapman uses to justify his assertion is nothing more than hypothesis, and in his case and this respect, is expressed as confirmation bias of his own ideologically based premise. When there is an absence of replicable and objective scientific experimental data it represents little more than pseudo science. Chapman’s contributions to the wind turbine noise and health issue to date, constitute pseudo science, which unfortunately is far more interesting as a media item than more systematic approaches which lack his more usual hyperbole laced narrative. Nowhere in Chapman’s contributions has he engaged the endemic nature of learned helplessness in industrial society which would mitigate the responses of those exposed to wind turbine noise. Attribution theory in learned helplessness is a critical, essential application to scientific method in regard to understanding the nature of the responses of effected populations in this regard. There is a considerable amount of scientific evidence, much of it undigested, particularly in respect to this issue. You need simply google search the key words “learned helplessness, industrial noise” to realize this extent.

    Quite typical of public policy practitioners, although he was quite unusually restrained in this context, Chapman engages a populist narrative which demonizes and subsequently marginalizes individuals or groups, placing them outside of mainstream wholesome society. This creates an us and them dualism which limits perception of complexity or psychological nuance, attempting to foreclose on meaningful scientific investigation, and in the case of Chapman, political compromise and policy.

  • Reply April 29, 2015

    Frank Haggerty

    Passed in 1970, the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt OrganizationsAct (RICO) is a federal law designed to combat organized crime in the United States. It allows prosecution and civil penalties for racketeering activity performed as part of an ongoing criminal enterprise

  • Reply April 29, 2015

    Richard Mann

    Here is a “time line” showing the history of Wind Turbine Noise problems, going back as far as 1979. Each entry provides documentation:
    cdn DOT knightlab DOT com/libs/timeline/latest/embed/index.html?source=0Ak2bgr7C0nhPdGR3S1lEekU3T3p4ZDhUNDdRV2Y2ZkE&font=Bevan-PotanoSans&maptype=toner&lang=en&height=650

    1979 “First complaints received from a dozen families within a 3km radius of turbine”.
    1981 “Wind turbine operation creates enormous sound pressure waves”
    1982 “Closed windows and doors do not protect occupants from LFN”
    1982 “NASA research on human impacts provided to wind industry”
    1985 “Hypothesis for infrasound-induced motion sickness”
    1987 “Wind industry told that dB(A) unsuitable to measure LFN emissions from wind turbines”

    2004 “Wind industry knows noise models inadequate” (from Vestas)

    2011 “Vestas knew that low frequency noise from larger turbines needed greater setbacks”

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