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.”
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.