Wind Turbines In Town Get Nighttime Shutdown

Wind power has been the most significant new contributor to clean energy production around the world in the past decade, but you’ve got to wonder if the big turbines, the ones that are most efficient at cranking out the power, are really appropriate for near-residential deployment.

Go to the Fairhaven, Mass., website and right there on the front page in the navigational links – with items like About Fairhaven, Police Department and Minutes & Agenda – you’ll find Wind Turbine Complaint Form. That’s how big an issue the pair of 1.5-megawatt wind turbines installed behind a wastewater treatment plant in town have become.

fairhaven wind turbine

One of the two 1.5-megawatt wind turbines in Fairhaven, Mass. (image via Fairhaven Wind)

The issue came to a head on Monday; the town’s Board of Health voted unanimously to shut down the turbines between the hours of 7 p.m. and 7 a.m., according to the local South Coast Today newspaper.

Was this a case of a town reacting to unverified health claims, the likes of which have not been backed up by scientific study and which some research suggests could be the result of fears whipped up by wind opponents? That doesn’t appear to be the case. Here, the crowd clamoring to shut down the turbines had some powerful evidence on their side: Noise from the turbines has at times violated Massachusetts law.

Preliminary results of a study undertaken by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, released last month, showed that in five of 24 samples taken – representing different locations and different wind conditions – sound exceeded 10 decibels above the ambient level. That’s the cutoff under the agency’s regulations.

The report [PDF] said the excessive noise – ranging from 10.7 to 12.9 decibels over ambient – came in “strong northwesterly and/or easterly wind conditions.” The sites where this occurred were “the closest residential properties to the wind turbines (within 1,400 feet).” Under those same conditions, samples at locations farther away came in under the plus-10-decibel limit.

Unlike another local Massachusetts wind turbine controversy, the Falmouth fight, in this case the turbines aren’t owned by the town. A developer called Fairhaven Wind owns the two turbines, which have been operating for just over a year. The company leases property from the town for the turbines and sells all of the energy produced under a 20-year agreement.

And the turbines are producing a goodly amount of power, a combined 6.2 gigawatt-hours in their first 12 months of operation, according to data on the Fairhaven Wind site. But that figure will surely drop with the nighttime curtailment, raising the possibility that this matter could turn into a long legal fight.

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.

5 Comments

  • Reply June 11, 2013

    Victor Calvin Hoe

    What a bunch of rich NIMBY poops!

  • Reply June 11, 2013

    ytreggah

    The commercial megawatt turbines in Massachusetts are making people sick. Between Fairhaven, Falmouth ,Scituate and Kingston there have been thousands of complaints. Massachusetts has a failed energy policy making its residents sick and taking their residential property rights.
    There is a simple question and answer to commercial megawatt wind turbine
    noise. Why don’t they make changes to existing turbines so they produce less
    noise? The simple answer is today it is not technically possible. If they could
    it would have already have been done.

    Noise measurements taken from the
    sides of the turbines, rather than to back or front are in general louder.This
    noise from the side is commonly called a random assault or the rope effect of
    the wind moving down the blades that weigh as much as seven tons each. This is
    similar to the noise heard from the rope when you jump rope at high
    speeds.

    The air flow turbulence from the sides of the turbines is
    called the trailing edge. As the turbine turns with the wind the homes to the
    side of the turbine receive the loudest noise. As the turbine moves the noise
    will randomly move to different groups of homes.

    The noise from the
    sides of the turbine create a directional effect as wind moves down and out off
    the blades in one direction towards those residential locations.

    • Reply August 19, 2013

      Pete Bachant

      “The commercial megawatt turbines in Massachusetts are making people sick.”

      That has not been proven scientifically, and should not be stated as a fact in such a confident manner.

      “The air flow turbulence from the sides of the turbines is called the trailing edge.”

      No it isn’t. The trailing edge is a location on the blade.

      “…blades that weigh as much as seven tons each.”

      The weight of a blade has no effect on the noise it generates.

      I suggest you learn more about wind turbines before posting a comment so full of misinformation and hyperbole.

      • Reply August 19, 2013

        ytreggah

        The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection has found the Falmouth and Fairhaven wind turbines out of compliance with Massachusetts state noise laws. The state has a renewable energy goal of 2000 megawatts of renewable energy by the years 2020. The state of Massachusetts has refused to enforce its own laws to achieve the renewable energy goal. The turbines and the state are both breaking the law.
        Fairhaven has over 500 residential noise complaints, Scituate, Kingston and Falmouth have been complaining for years.
        The installation of megawatt commercial wind turbines in Massachusetts went too slow the public caught onto the scam too quick .These turbuines make people sick through the lack of sleep.
        Mass DEP knows the turbines are too loud. The local town officials know the turbines are too loud. The residents living around the turbines know they are too loud.The news media knows the turbines are too loud .

        The commercial megawatt turbine projects in Massachusetts are a catastrophic health fiasco in which now we see the Mass Clean Energy Center making 2000 feet the setbacks from these monsters – An admission of guilt -it’s over the projects and millions of dollars down the Green Energy Toilet ..

        • Reply August 19, 2013

          ytreggah

          The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection has found the Falmouth and Fairhaven wind turbines out of compliance with Massachusetts state noise laws. The state has a renewable energy goal of 2000 megawatts of renewable energy by the years 2020. The state of Massachusetts has refused to enforce its own laws to achieve the renewable energy goal. The turbines and the state are both breaking the law.
          Fairhaven has over 500 residential noise complaints, Scituate, Kingston and Falmouth have been complaining for years.
          The installation of megawatt commercial wind turbines in Massachusetts went too slow the public caught onto the scam too quick .These turbuines make people sick through the lack of sleep.
          Mass DEP knows the turbines are too loud. The local town officials know the turbines are too loud. The residents living around the turbines know they are too loud.The news media knows the turbines are too loud .

          The commercial megawatt turbine projects in Massachusetts are a catastrophic health fiasco in which now we see the Mass Clean Energy Center making 2000 feet the setbacks from these monsters – An admission of guilt -it’s over the projects and millions of dollars down the Green Energy Toilet

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