$19,000 Sheffield wind study inconclusive

It’s unclear whether findings from a $19,000 state study on noise levels for the Vermont Wind Project in Sheffield indicate if the 16 turbines have exceeded state decibel thresholds.

Chris Recchia, commissioner for the Vermont Public Service Department, said that while the noise testing may help his department better understand how to evaluate wind noise in the future, he cannot draw conclusions from it.

“The testing is not helpful in terms of determining wind noise,” he said. “It really is not particularly useful in making conclusions about the compliance of the turbines.”

Recchia said the department contracted the study out to KM Chng Environmental, Inc. in response to Steven and Luann Therrien’s complaints that noise from the turbines was affecting their family’s health. KM Chng took decibel measurements from Dec. 19 to Dec. 21 outside the Therrien residence.

On Dec. 19, when the winds were calm, the average decibel level was 30. On Dec. 21, when the winds were stronger, the average decibel level was 47, and on Dec. 22 the decibel level was 45.

According to the report, a shower is roughly 70 decibels, a refrigerator is 50, a brook is 40 and a whisper is 30.

The permit, or Certificate of Public Good, for the project

http://psb.vermont.gov/sites/psb/files/orders/2007/7156_Final_Order.pdf

stipulates that noise from the project is not to exceed 30 decibels inside surrounding residences. Km Chng did not test inside the Therrien household as required for the permit.

“To do that we would have had to ask the Therriens to refrain from making any noise for three days or to leave the house,” he said. “We felt, and the consultants felt, like if they could distinguish the wind turbine noise from the background noise, they would be able to extrapolate from inside the house without having to disturb them significantly.”

But the consultants couldn’t distinguish between the wind and the sound of the turbines.

“The higher … noise levels on days 2 and 3 were due to the noise generated by the windy weather conditions, and not from the turbine facility,” the consultants wrote. “Any noise from the turbines was inaudible above the wind noise.”
Recchia said that in the future the Public Service Board might need to set different standards that are easily measurable.
“This was our first attempt at trying to do independent noise testing, but it brings up more issues than it probably answers,” he said. “One of them is having a standard inside someone’s house.”


Andrew Stein

Comment Policy

VTDigger.org requires that all commenters identify themselves by their authentic first and last names. Initials, pseudonyms or screen names are not permissible.

No personal harrassment, abuse, or hate speech is permitted. Be succinct and to the point. Comments should be 1000 characters or fewer. If your comment is over 500 words, consider sending a commentary instead.

We personally review and moderate every comment that is posted here. This takes a lot of time; please consider donating to keep the conversation productive and informative.

The purpose of this policy is to encourage a civil discourse among readers who are willing to stand behind their identities and their comments. VTDigger has created a safe zone for readers who wish to engage in a thoughtful discussion on a range of subjects. We hope you join the conversation. If you have questions or concerns about our commenting platform, please review our Commenting FAQ.

Privacy policy
  • Annette Smith

    VCE filed these comments on the PSD’s noise monitoring with the Public Service Board http://www.vce.org/VCE_PSB_PSD_7156.pdf. Since we filed those comments, we have received public records from the PSD, including data, and noise control experts have reviewed them. There are clear periods of high wind conditions where the turbines were producing 0 or very little power.

    The PSD’s cover letter and the report do not discuss at all the reason for the lack of power production during the monitoring period. The data contained in the public records make it even more obvious that the project was not producing power during some of the high wind periods.

    Commissioner Recchia was made aware in December at the time of the monitoring that the Therriens were not experiencing the noise they expected based on the wind conditions. In an email to VCE from Commissioner Recchia on Dec. 21, 2012, he said: “We will order operations data from First Wind (Aaron, I assume we have the authority to do that) and compare to other similar operating conditions and go from there. I thought if wind was above a certain speed they did need to shut them down. Don’t know if we’ve approached that in this instance. We will find out what’s going on and evaluate the value of the testing in that context.”

    That was not done. Was the project curtailed? Did First Wind dial back the turbines because they knew the monitoring was going on? Without any analysis or information about curtailment it is impossible to know. The Therriens know the conditions that are the worst for them, and they knew that something was not right, and they were promised an explanation. This is not the way to treat people who are sick, with small children being awakened at night on a regular basis.

    note to Andrew: strange way to report on a story, telling just one part of it. You might want to give the Therriens a call. Ask them if they would ever trust the state again.

    • Fred Woogmaster

      Ms. Smith: The VSE response, referenced above, submitted to the Public Service Board is a most impressive piece of work.

      When governmental processes are guided by money and skewed by power, average citizens are frequently injured with no available recourse. The plight of the Therrien Family is most distressing; ‘but for grace it could be me, it could be you’.

      The technical aspects of this discussion are a bit beyond my grasp, unfortunately. The human aspects are not. A Vermont family, including two young, vulnerable children, is in distress. Any Vermont family without wealth and/or power could be in that position.

      Given all that has transpired to date – what is the appropriate remedy for the Therriens? How might those of us sympathetic to their plight be of help?

      • Annette Smith

        Fred, Thank you for asking how to help the Therriens. In this world where everything seems to be controlled by the ability to have a lawyer in order to negotiate for your interests, and after more than a year of them being ignored by Governor Shumlin, LIz Miller, the PSB and the PSD, they are in a kind of Jeremy Dodge situation.

        The Therriens need a lawyer to bring a nuisance lawsuit against First Wind and hopefully negotiate a buyout. And they need this to happen now. They are really, really sick, and those mentioned above know it and the right people in our legislature have known it for far too long. Here is a 1 1/2 minute video of Luann’s testimony to the Senate Health & Welfare Committee given in April: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OBAkWinQb50&feature=c4-overview&list=UUczAyao3_dqarwI1vADnaGw.

        Outside of the legal angle, does anyone have a caretaker job with housing? One of the problems the Therriens face is that their neighbors’ camp was vandalized and that caused them to realize that if they go away for a few nights to get some respite, they could come home to a trashed house. And they are both so sick they have letters from their doctors saying they should not work. So they really need a permanent solution, including housing and then Steve needs a job.

        Chris Recchia told me point blank in April that there is nothing he can do to help the Therriens. I have been asking about the approach that the state has used for Irene victims. Sorry to say, nobody in state government seems to care or have any interest in doing anything for this family who, through no fault of their own, have been made victims of First Wind and the state of Vermont’s SPEED program and its renewable energy goals.

        And the Therriens are not alone, they are just the most visible. There are a number of people around the two other big wind projects who have no idea how they are going to continue living with this type of noise. The Therriens have listed their home for sale, a family in Albany has listed their home for sale, and another home in Albany has been abandoned. A neighbor of the Georgia Mountain project is going to Florida for a vacation solely to get away from the noise from the wind turbines which is driving his family to despair.

        • John Greenberg

          “The Therriens need a lawyer to bring a nuisance lawsuit ….” Why don’t they have one? Have efforts been made to procure one? Don’t lawyers take these kinds of damage cases on contingency?

          • Annette Smith

            Yes, efforts have been and are being made.

            More generally, yes, finding legal aid for people without the ability to put up a $2000 to $5000 retainer is nearly impossible. It’s a question to ask the bar association, which does have a pro bono system, but the last time I sent an email to the person listed as the contact person, it bounced.

            Many of the large firms in Vermont (the types that might have the ability to take cases pro bono) are conflicted because the utilities employ so many law firms. I do wonder about the huge legal system that supports the captive insurance industry, and whether they do pro bono work and if not, why not.

            Contingency usually involves attorneys taking 1/3 of the settlement, which in these kinds of cases may result in the client not getting enough to resolve their issues. But even that seems nearly impossible to find in Vermont. Most of the lawyers who would be inclined to take these kinds of cases already have a big workload or do not have the financial ability to afford to do it.

            I had one case where the client worked with Vermont Legal Aid. The citizen did a lot of the work herself and really had to fight her own fight to get the lawyer to do what she needed. It was not easy.

            The other question is what role does the PSB play in these cases where they have approved a project and there are now problems? The PSB has no enforcement capabilities. Presumably a hearing on the Therriens’ situation would involve prefiled testimony and expert witness testimony with the opportunity for discovery prior to a hearing. That means months of time, and again an attorney skilled at the PSB’s rigorous process. It’s no way to resolve problems.

            That’s why VCE has been working with the Department for more than two years pushing for a plan to address the noise complaints. The last thing we wanted was a public fight with the Department of Public Service. The noise was really bad around all three wind turbines sites in the last 48 hours. People report their complaints to the PSD. Nothing happens except they are asked by the wind companies to report the specific wind conditions and the types of sounds they are hearing. Last night I got emails from neighbors of the Lowell and Georgia Mountain wind projects with the words “disheartened, despondent, despairing, hopeless.”

          • John Greenberg

            Annette:

            I find your answers unconvincing and more than a bit confusing.

            You’ve been saying in VT Digger comments columns for quite a while that the Therriens are suffering terribly, and that someone should do something NOW to assist them. (Occasionally, they’ve made similar statements themselves). In particular, here you say that they need to move ASAP.

            But now, when asked about hiring a lawyer on contingency, you point out that lawyers working on contingency take 1/3 of the settlement. Last time I looked, 100% of 0 is still 0, so 2/3 of ANY settlement or court decision would be better than the status quo, and could well end any suffering the project is causing. Since time is important here, it’s also clear that acting is likely to bring an acceptable result a good deal sooner than non-action.

            In addition, suits can include the contingency fees as part of the requested settlement. In a case like this one – as you and the Therriens have argued it in the press – there’s been substantial pain and suffering, compensation for which can also be added to any damages or remedies the court would otherwise impose.

            Second, if I’m understanding you correctly, you’re suggesting that, alternatively, the Therriens need $2000 – $2500 for a retainer to hire a lawyer on a non-contingency basis. You run a non-profit group, and frankly, I’d be astonished if your group couldn’t raise a sum of that magnitude in VERY short order (e.g., in the months you’ve been arguing for the urgency of the case). Failing that, the Therriens could start a new fund to raise the money. I speak from experience. For roughly a decade, I raised money for a small, local anti-nuclear non-profit group. Given your frequently reiterated statements about this situation, again, it’s hard to reconcile this figure with your claims of dire need, urgency, etc. I note that below, there’s already been an offer made of free volunteer time. (Fred Woogmaster, June 29, 2013 at 4:15 am)

            Third, I’m not a lawyer, but I’d be astonished if the relief being sought could be obtained at all from the PSB. As you point out yourself, the Board approved the project and continues to do so (whether they’re right do so or not is not germane to my point here),. In any case, as you’ve noted, the Board has no enforcement capabilities. That would appear to be a red herring.

            My assumption is that the suit would allege that, despite the fact that the project has met the legal requirements for a permit, the Therriens are nonetheless being harmed by First Wind and deserve compensation. If I’m correct, that would be a civil suit in the Vermont court system (or conceivably in federal court, if an unconstitutional taking were alleged), not a case brought to the PSB.

            In short I’m finding it difficult, if not impossible, to reconcile all the pieces of what you’ve claimed about this case in your various comments in these columns with your responses here to my questions above.

          • Annette Smith

            You are welcome to make a donation directly to the Therriens, as are others. And any lawyers who are interested in taking this case are welcome to contact them. Anyone who needs information about where to send those donations is welcome to contact me and I will provide a mailing address.

            Until a lawyer is found, the question of the retainer is moot. And if this situation has to be fully litigated, that won’t help the Therriens because they need to get out now, and can’t wait the years that litigation takes.

            Perhaps your inability to reconcile all the pieces is because there is no simple solution, short of First Wind doing the right thing and stepping up and buying out the Therriens. First Wind has already set the precedent by buying out a neighbor of its Cohocton NY project, paying full appraisal value plus moving expenses, with no gag order.

        • Fred Woogmaster

          Annette:

          Am I correct in believing that the State Health Department has declined to become involved? I apologize if I have missed this.

          I keep thinking of the children and how they might be affected in ways that may not be revealed for years. Collateral damage?

          • Annette Smith

            Yes, you are correct. The Health Department testified several times in the recent legislative session. Links to audio files of the most recent testimony are below.

            The only role the Health Department has agreed to take is that people who are sick from wind turbines are supposed to have their doctor call Lori Cragin. What happens after that is anybody’s guess. But many doctors do not know anything about the health effects from wind turbines, and some patients have been told by their doctors that they have no interest in learning. What nobody seems to want to do is talk to the people who are complaining, as is exemplified by this article for which the Therriens were not interviewed.

            The Health Department seems to want to take a “wait and see” approach. The Health Department’s position has been clear enough that the discussions at the siting commission recognized that, because of the Health Department’s unwillingness, there currently is no place in state government to address the noise and health problems. The siting commission decided the Public Service Department should take the lead. We see how that is working….

            Testimony in House Natural Resources & Energy Committee, April 16, 2013
            Vermont Department of Health staff
            http://www.vce.org/VDH_Chen_HNRE_041613.mp3
            http://www.vce.org/VDH_Cragin_HNRE_041613.mp3
            http://www.vce.org/VDH_Grass_HNRE_041613.mp3
            http://www.vce.org/VDH_Irwin_CommDisc_HNRE_041613.mp3

          • John Greenberg

            The VT Health Department has issued a study of this issue, called “Potential Impact on the Public’s Health from Sound Associated with Wind Turbine Facilities,” and dated October 15, 2010. Its summary begins:

            “The Vermont Department of Health conducted a literature review of the potential human health effects from exposure to sound and vibration from wind-powered electrical generating facilities, as requested by the Vermont Department of Public Service.

            “To do this, we convened a panel of public health scientists who are experienced in reviewing the quality of the scientific literature on health protection, and in assessing the adequacy of the evidence that an exposure can cause, or contribute to, an adverse health outcome. The Health Department panel drew primarily upon the most recent and most comprehensive literature reviews conducted by other expert panels. These included citations for hundreds of primary research studies on the health effects of exposure to sound generally, and to wind turbine sound specifically.

            “From this extensive review, the Vermont Department of Health concludes that there is no direct health effect from sound associated with wind turbine facilities. However, there is sufficient evidence of a secondary health effect from sleep disturbance due to excessive
            sound at night. The potential adverse health effects that can result from sleep disturbance include increased heart rate, sleep state changes and awakening, increased use of medications to aid sleep, increased body movements, insomnia, fatigue, accidents, reduced performance, cardiovascular illness and depression and other mental illness (WHO 1999). The 1999 WHO report also concludes that limiting sound exposure at night to reduce the probability of sleep disturbance can minimize these effects in the exposed population.”

          • John Greenberg
  • Matt Fisken

    Guess which sound frequencies are primarily produced by wind turbines?

    Guess which sound frequencies are completely ignored by A-weighting?

    Guess which sound frequencies are most bothersome to people?

    If you guessed <10 Hz for all three questions, you get an A.

    If you wrote this report or cannot draw any conclusions from it, you get an F.

    This reminds me of another DPS commissioned report that allowed the omission of certain frequencies.

    http://oto2.wustl.edu/cochlea/wt4.html

    • Fred Woogmaster

      Mr. Fisken:

      Although I don’t understand any of the technical aspects of sound, your comment is quite compelling.

      Would you be willing to elaborate a bit? It sounds like the Department of Public Service might be providing disservice to “regular” Vermont citizens? Is that your conclusion?

      • Annette Smith

        Here’s the crash course on wind turbine noise:

        Wind turbines produce complex noise, which can be monitored on three different decibel scales:
        1. dBA — Audible decibels. That is what the wind industry has persuaded regulators all over the world to use. However, it ignores
        2. dBC — Low Frequency Noise. Think of the car driven by the teenager with the boom box, and you feel it as it goes by
        3. Infrasound. This is what Matt Fisken is referring to, and has been identified as a real factor in the health effects people are reporting all over the world. The governments of Australia, Germany, Canada and Wisconsin are taking the issue seriously and investigating the infrasound.

        Vermont’s PSB has set standards that the wind companies know they can meet, and ignored all testimony about the standard they have set being at the level where harm is known to occur. At a minimum the protective standard, if you only want to use the dBA scale, is 35 for wind turbines. What is happening is predictable, was brought to the PSB in testimony by several credible witnesses in both the Sheffield and Lowell cases, and the PSB chose to ignore it.

        This morning neighbors on the east and west of all three big wind projects are complaining about the noise last night, with headaches, ringing in the ears, nausea, dry heaves (different symptoms for different people). They dutifully report their complaints to the consumer complaint division of the PSD. But if you read Commissioner Recchia’s cover letter with this report, what seems to matter most is that they balance the interests of the wind industry with those of the neighbors. Where is the balance?

        • Fred Woogmaster

          Annette: Have folks like the Therriens organized in any way?
          Is there any organization other than yours, advocating on their behalf? Thanks.

          • Annette Smith

            Fred, I have heard there is a group doing some organizing or fundraising in Sheffield, and after Steve Therrien spoke in Grafton the audience passed the hat. A number of people have been looking for a housing/job situation for them, we made a pitch for housing in our December newsletter, and there has been talk of trying to raise enough money so they can buy a new house that is safe for their family. Nothing has come of any of those efforts.

            Other than that, no, there are no other organizations advocating on their behalf. Housing is a very difficult issue in Vermont. I’ve worked with mobile home park residents in need of relocation. In those cases, community development block grant money has been used in the past. But that is generally done when a mobile home park is being closed, and a community land trust or housing authority will apply for a grant for all the tenants. The outcomes of those relocations are not always good. Options are usually Section 8 housing and city apartments.

      • Fred,
        To get up to speed here is an article.

        It has more than 4500 views on THE ENERGY COLLECTIVE.

        http://theenergycollective.com/willem-post/84293/wind-turbine-noise-and-air-pressure-pulses

        • Fred Woogmaster

          Thank you Mr. Post. My mind abandons me in the presence of “data” and technical information so I focus on the human elements.

          Have you watched the video of Mrs. Therrien’s testimony? If so, is what she says consistent with your understanding of sound and its impact?

          The Therrien family has been seriously injured through no fault of their own – just because they live in the wrong place at the wrong time. I would think that you could help them and perhaps you already have. The video struck me deeply – and personally.

          I would be interested in hearing any thoughts you might offer.

      • Matt Fisken

        Sure. I am not an acoustician, but I do have experience measuring electromagnetic fields, which cover a wide range of frequencies.

        Hertz (Hz) represents the cycles per second of any particular frequency.

        For example, most computer monitors have a “refresh rate” of 60 Hz. Some are higher providing a crisper image with less “flicker”. There is an international standard (ICC/ANSI A117) that prohibits images displayed on webpages to flicker between 2-55 Hz because a segment of the population is “photosensitive epileptic” and can easily go into seizure from this type of stimulus. This actually happened in 1997 with a Pokemon cartoon.

        http://www.kotaku.com.au/2011/02/the-banned-pokemon-episode-that-gave-children-seizures/

        You can find this video on YouTube if you are wondering how “photosensitive” you are, or maybe you know from driving by an emergency vehicle at night with its flashers on. This flicker can be compared to the pulsing of the noise created by wind turbines as their blades pass the tower, usually about 1-2 Hz or once or twice per second.

        Following the visible frequency concept a bit further, all light has its own frequency. Some is visible, some (ultraviolet) is not. The webpage to which I linked in my comment above very simply explains,

        “A-weighting wind turbine noise is equivalent to taking sunlight and considering only the visible portion of the spectrum, then concluding that sunlight is completely safe and there will be no adverse effects if you spend all day laying in the sun.

        We know this logic is not valid for sunlight and the same logic is just as invalid in justifying A-weighted measurements of wind turbine noise.

        The A-weighted spectrum does not take into account that other structures in the ear are more sensitive to infrasound and are affected to a greater degree than hearing.”

        The crux of the matter is:

        That which we don’t see/feel/hear/taste/smell/know CAN hurt us.

        I can recommend this paper to those who are trying to understand this concept, as it relates to wind turbines:
        http://docs.wind-watch.org/buxton-infrasoundandlandbasedanimals.doc

        Page 26 provides a list of symptoms experienced by test subjects exposed to different infrasonic frequencies (1-20 Hz).

        It should not be surprising that the Therriens are experiencing many of these symptoms, given their proximity to the turbines, the time they are exposed, and the infrasound produced by wind turbines.

        Evolutionarily, infrasound like that which is produced by wind turbines does not exist. What has existed is infrasound from earthquakes, volcanos, thunder, tsunamis, etc. that we (and to a greater degree other animals) have evolved to respond to.

        I’ll add one more interesting piece from the following page:

        http://www.lowertheboom.org/trice/infrasound.htm

        “Infrasonic vibrations, though harmful, can be pleasantly stimulating in mild levels. The effects of brief, mild exposure can give a feeling of invigoration for hours. While a person may FEEL invigorated and euphoric, his body is being subjected to an elevated heart rate, elevated blood pressure, a release of endorphins, and the “fight or flight” adrenaline response. Feeling the effects of high-intensity/low-frequency sound can actually become an addiction, partially due to the release of endorphins in the body.”

        So yes, I would conclude the DPS is “filtering out” the information and concerns that do not support the corporate interests, much to the detriment of “regular” Vermonters.

        • Fred Woogmaster

          Thank you very much. That is helpful.

        • Kathy Leonard

          Wildlife is affected as well. Birds, mammals and amphibians and perhaps insects depend upon sound cues for predator avoidance, reproduction and territory settlement. The Buxton study alludes to this; research is discovering that creatures either are leaving wind plant locales and/or are disrupted and stressed by them.

          These disturbances reduce available habitat and self-limit biodiversity.
          We’ve learned little as yet about how necessary biodiversity is to our evolution and may inadvertently preclude knowing before we bring down the ‘house.’

    • Randy Koch

      Isn’t it also the case that this low frequency sound is actually amplified once present inside the home. To measure this, would they have had to relocate the family for any period of time?

  • Matt, Fred, Annette,

    Either this is a Keystone cops situation by Recchia, a Shumlin pro-wind appointee, or it is a form of incompetence.

    After several decades of wind turbine noise vetting by other nations and other US states, and several years of noise vetting by the PSB, one would think there would be some people within the PSB or DPS with enough knowledge to make judgements.

    Could it be ignorance is considered bliss? Gee, let’s not go there! Can of worms! Let sleeping dogs lie!

    It is truly incredible, $15,000 is spend by the state to hire acoustics people who appear to have been sent on a wild goose chase to measure noise when the wind turbines are not producing commensurate energy.

    Does not anyone know wind turbine noises are loudest at night when winds are strongest? When people need peace and quiet, as they are trying to get a health-promoting good night’s sleep?

    Sound levels should be measured at night, during stronger winds, when power is not artificially curtailed. It is called TEST CONDITIONS.

    By now it should be known LOW FREQUENCY NOISE (20-200 Hz), LFN, and INFRASOUND (<20Hz), measured with special equipment, are among the culprits.

    The PSB's inadequate, loosy-goosy noise code is silent on these noises.

    Lowell and Sheffield owners are crowing about meeting the PSB noise code that they and their vendors provided input for.

  • Melodie McLane

    Please, can we forget the numbers and all the confusion around the very complicated process of measuring sound, and just listen? Mr. Recchia and anyone else who has a genuine interest in what the neighbors of these projects are really experiencing only need to visit and listen. That doesn’t mean that you can take a nice Sunday drive up to a project and roll your window down. You have to go when the turbines are operating at full or near full capacity and the weather conditions are prime for noise. This most likely would be the middle of the night, early morning, or on a day like today, all day. I’m sure that Annette Smith of V.C.E. would be happy to put you in touch with any of us, if you are up to the challenge. We aren’t claiming that they are noisy all the time. But when they are, it’s ridiculous conditions for us to live under. I live near the Georgia Mountain Project by the way. As I write this, (with my windows shut), I’m hearing a deep constant rumble that sounds as if there is an army of tanks descending from the mountain, in conjunction with the sound of aircraft flying overhead and never leaving. Come today.

    • Melodie,

      The deep rumbling noise is audible low frequency noise, LFN, that travels long distances.

      Infrasound is INAUDIBLE, but physically harmful to some people, especially to pregnant mothers, infants and young children, and people with heart problems.

      LFN and Infrasound may be transmitted from the foundations of the turbines via the ground to the foundation of your house. Submarines of the navy use LFN to communicate.

      The higher frequency noises have less energy and get filtered out within about a mile in case of 2-3 MW wind turbines. The reason overhead lightning thunder is heard as a sharp clap, far away as a dull rumble.

      • Melodie McLane

        Thank-you, that explains why my neighbor, who is on the same side of the road as the turbines and virtually under them, gets the rumble even worse than we do.

  • Annette Smith

    VCE has posted the public records we received from the Department of Public Service, including the data and email files and photos of the sound monitoring set up, and our appeal of the withheld records and follow-up public records request. The documents are here:

    http://vermontersforacleanenvironment.wordpress.com/2013/06/28/public-records-from-vermont-public-service-department-sound-monitoring-at-therriens-next-to-first-wind-project/

  • Howard Ires

    Thank you State of Vermont for this study to confirm what common sense and observation show – The Wind is Noisy!

    When the wind is blowing and the turbines are turning, you can’t hear them over the sound of the WIND!

    I’d also like to point out that Sheffield cut it’s municipal tax rate in half thanks to those turbines, and Lowell completely eliminated their municipal property tax:

    http://vtdigger.wpengine.com/2013/03/08/in-northeast-kingdom-wind-power-brings-in-tax-cuts-and-rising-legal-fees/

    • Melodie McLane

      I beg to differ. The wind is blowing right now and I can absolutely hear them here on Georgia Mountain. Is it all about money for you? Nice that they cut taxes in those towns, but shouldn’t the health of our fellow Vermonters be a priority? Where is your compassion people?

      • Dave Stevens

        Hey Melodie, Just a bit curious. What remedy are you seeking? A buy out? Sound-proofing? or their removal? What action is it that would be acceptable to you? Thank You…..

        • Melodie McLane

          Dave, there is no good answer to that. We do not want a buyout. Twenty five years ago we bought 25 acres and built this house with our own hands from the ground up. It’s our dream home, and we have raised our family here. Now our little piece of paradise has been ruined by the noise of an industrial wind project next door.

          However, the damage has been done to the mountain environment with the installation of the project, so it would be a shame for it to not produce as much power as it could. There are times when the turbines are not running at full capacity and we do not hear them at all. We could live with this, but then is the project economically viable? There are also times that they are running at full capacity and we get hammered with noise. It’s not just us, it’s several neighbors around the mountain.

          So yes, it seems like the removal of the turbines is the answer.

          • Dave Stevens

            Hey Melodie, I appreciate your honesty. Most people in your position wouldn’t have mentioned that you could live next to a wind turbine if it wasn’t running at full capacity, I would think they would have said “it’s intolerable all the time, and I have wind turbine syndrome” to get their point across. But you didn’t go that route, and again I appreciate you being as forthright and honest as you are. Thankyou.

          • Dave Stevens

            And following up, If more people followed your example, I think a resolution would come that much sooner. Thanks again.

          • Annette Smith

            Dave, I will ask you to please be careful about making generalizations about what”most people in your position” would claim.

            Don Nelson, who lives next to the Lowell turbines, was visited by Sen. Ginny Lyons earlier this year and it was not on a noisy day. When they stepped outside, Don said to her “I can live with this.” I have heard Don say that myself in the context of noting that there are conditions that are tolerable, but there are many times the noise is intolerable.

            Sen. Lyons took Don’s statement out of context when she said during the Senate debate on S. 30 that even a neighbor who is very opposed said he could live with the wind turbine noise. She failed to mention that the statement was made on one specific occasion, and the conditions are not that way much of the time (especially at night) which is when the Nelsons cannot live with the turbines.

            Neighbors of these wind projects may be afraid to say anything at all for fear of the sort of mis-use of their statements that Sen. Lyons engaged in. The Nelsons invited Sen. Lyons into their home to see what they’re living with, and the use of that statement as part of the Senate debate was a serious betrayal of their trust. Honesty has its price, as Don and Shirley Nelson have learned all too well.

    • Fred Woogmaster

      Mr. Ires:

      What about those citizens who testify that the quality of life has diminished for them as the towns have prospered? Do you have any thoughts as to how they can be “made whole”? Are you implying that the towns have a responsibility to do so, to provide remedies for their suffering? First Wind? Do they have responsibility?

  • Fred Woogmaster

    After watching the video of Mrs. Therrien’s testimony I am certain that the Therriens are the victims of injustice. If there is no present remedy, Vermonters need legislative protection from the unknown or unintended consequences of large scale industrial projects.

    From what I understand, the Therriens have an opportunity to move their home to another location but the cost is prohibitive. Their income has diminished as a result of Mr. Therrien’s impairment caused by the effects of the wind turbines.

    First Wind could probably well afford to fund the move but apparently will not do so because they do not wish to set such a precedent.

    First Wind will profit, two Vermont towns have profited, many residents will profit from tax and service reductions – and the Therriens? They are devastated. They have two, very young, precious children.

    They need and deserve help from the State of Vermont that – perhaps Governor Shumlin wishes not to set a precedent – Commissioner Recchia wishes the issue would just disappear.

    Watch the video, referenced above by Ms. Smith. See what you think. It’s important to watch the entire video. It’s short.

    Legal action should not be necessary to provide relief for this family – who just happened to live in the wrong place at the wrong time. It could be (m)any of us!

  • Fred Woogmaster

    “Mr. Dodge has been dealing with a sophisticated and shrewd businessman. A businessman who is also the most powerful person in Vermont, being represented by one of the best lawyers money can buy. Mr. Dodge clearly needed some help. And we welcome the opportunity to assist a fellow Vermonter.” – Brady Toensing

    And the Therriens, who have lived in their home for seventeen years, not fellow Vermonters?

    Who and where is the lawyer committed to equal justice under the law? Therrien vs Fairwind? Therrien vs. State of Vermont? David vs. Goliath?

    Just plain people cannot afford lawyers whose hourly rates are many times more than those they represent – Please, watch the video of Mrs. Therrien’s testimony. Is there NO justice for people without means?

    I am not a lawyer but would be willing to assist any credible lawyer in the development of the Therriens’ case, without compensation.

  • Jim Morey

    So the state wasted another $19,000 for three days of studies, with First Wind being notified of the dates by “lost” technichians needing directions. The State didn’t want to distrub the Therriens by testing in their house???
    This is not about the impact on Vermonts towns, citizens, tourism or economy. This is all about the $millions in federal and state support for these bondoggle developers. Now the Obama administration and Bernie want to multiply the huge payouts to mostly foreign owned companies for more wind factories that don’t fix the problem.

  • Rob Pforzheimer

    Recchia and the other apparatchiks working for Shumlin at the DPS & ANR are more interested in the states pie in the sky renewable energy goals, profits for wind developers and keeping their jobs than the health and welfare of VT’ers and wildlife.
    Issues with wind turbines noise have been known and reported around the world for years. Wasting our money on bogus testing that First Wind is told about is a joke.
    Ruining people’s lives and property value, and killing hundreds of birds and bats to supposedly save the world from climate change with loud ugly machines that do nothing of the sort is insane.
    There’s a glut of generation in NE and demand is down and forecasted by grid operaror, ISO, to remain so for the next decade. We don’t need to be building these subsidy generating, curtailed due to grid constraints, boondoggles at all.

    • John Greenberg

      “Issues with wind turbines noise have been known and reported around the world for years.” Could you please provide links to the studies YOU find convincing? Thanks.

      • Rob Pforzheimer

        John,
        Here are links to a vdo and a study published in Bulletin of Science, Technology & Society 31(4) 296–302 2011

        Infrasound from Wind Turbines Could Affect Humans:
        http://oto2.wustl.edu/cochlea/SaltKaltenbachAuthorManuscript.pdf

        VDO from Australia:
        http://ontario-wind-resistance.org/2013/06/29/wind-farms-destroy-the-environment-3-human-health/

        • John Greenberg

          Thanks for the links.

          The study (first link) is quite interesting, but it actually concludes only that “… based on well-documented knowledge of the physiology of the ear and its connections to the brain, it is scientifically POSSIBLE that infrasound from wind turbines COULD affect people living nearby.” (emphasis added p.11) The phrase “scientifically possible” appears to indicate only something that cannot be ruled out, not that the author is making any claim to evidence that there actually is an effect. Similarly, but even more tellingly, the word “could” rather than “does” leaves the question unanswered. As I read the paper, the only claim being made is that the claim that if you can’t hear it, it doesn’t have any effect” is inadequate and therefore all this “justifies the need for more detailed scientific studies of the problem.” (p.11)

          One other note. In discussing other studies on page 3, all of them seem to pertain to locations quite close to turbines (<300m, 1500 feet, and 750m). Are there residences that close to Vermont turbines? The Therriens, discussed above, for example, appear to be 4500 feet from the closest turbine. (Sheffield Noise report, p. 4: " … the location of the Therrien residence relative to the nearest wind turbines that are approximately 4500 feet from their residence.")

      • John,
        Annette gave you a long list of URLs a few days ago.

        • John Greenberg

          I’m not sure why you’re bringing that up here, but since you did, could you or she supply that list again. Thanks for a Firefox crash, I lost the site, and I hadn’t had time to read the articles yet. As I recall, all the articles were from one group.

  • Melodie McLane

    Thank-you Dave for listening with an open mind. But I must point out that just because myself nor any of my family members are afflicted with health issues, doesn’t mean that there are not neighbors out there who are. Every situation is different. I think that it depends on proximity to the turbines, layout of the terrain and the number of turbines in a project. Some of the other neighbors around this mountain do have health issues that they attribute to the turbines. I don’t doubt them for one second, and I am especially concerned for the Therrians and their children up in Sheffield. But again, thank-you.

    • Dave Stevens

      Your welcome Melodie, I’m a cynic trying to keep an open mind.

  • Vanessa Mills

    I visited Melodie McLane’s home. I spent time in her yard and in her home. It was a pivotal experience. People who have not experienced a visit firsthand simply cannot make a judgement. Period. Furthermore, each person’s experience is different, as we are not all sensitive to the same things. This is an absolute no-brainer to understand here the variability among individuals. We learn this concept in kindergarten. I also understand there are variabilities in any given (sensitive) individual, as well, due to weather and seasonal variances (humidity/icing/ice buildup on blades/snow cushion/etc!), distance factors, sleep deprivation variables, and varying degrees of environmental conditions in the home, as well as a sensitive or potentially-sensitive individual such as age/time/changing (improving or declining) health issues.

    I have visited Lowell Mountain and stood as close to the turbines as was allowed by the police patrolling the site. However, on that day in Nov 2012, GMP had the turbines shut down where the open house hike arrives at the top. i also stood with a companion and talked with Don & Shirley Nelson in their yard. Again, certain turbines were shut down as GMP is well aware of which days are scheduled hikes! The Nelsons’ real-life story affected me nonetheless.

    However, I cannot imagine LIVING with and sleeping (or trying to sleep) in proximity to these turbines, in the way I was affected when simply visting in the McLanes’ yard. I was sickened by the vibrational affects. The sensation I experienced was like a pressure, and band tightening, around my head. and the repercussive sensation in my chest wall was distressing. Melodie disclosed that it was a relatively “quiet” day, a “better” day than usual. Folks can say what they will about my experience. I’ve heard some heartless and ridiculous things said about impacted vermonters. I’ll stand with them. Thank you. It’s the least one can do. I do not care what folks infer or suggest. I know what I felt. Distance affected and lessened my experience, as we left and drove away. But I’ll never forget meeting Melodie and I’ll never be able to stomach what’s being done to people in this state: in the false name of ‘green.’ It has more to do with a (false) portfolio standard fulfillment and provisions of corporate welfare than it does about truth and true solutions to a serious problem!

    This is an outrage that people who have homes that are supposed havens, supposed zones of comfort (IMAGINE your OWN being the subject!), to have this invasion! This violation! I am appallled at the lack of public concern for people and for the right to home and property and health and enjoyment of what is rightfully one’s own.

    How obtuse to simply suggest that someone just pack up and forfeit an investment of a lifetime: a property acquired and made and valued and cherished and built over decades. Or quite possibly generations(!!!)– as some impacted property owners have been. This should be a distressing barometer for people to understand and grapple with and recognize. This should affect everyone with outrage that people must suffer and people must be guinea pigs.

    We, at the very, VERY least, need to have protective standards in place for siting these health and property impacting turbines. It is ludicrous that this information about impacted Vermonters is not being valued and acknowledged by the siting commission and policy makers and any & all of those who are receiving the information! If it was YOUR heart arrythmias, YOUR regularly disturbed nightly sleep, YOUR children impacted, you would be up-in-arms!

    There is evidence from independent studies and there is work done by experts such as Dr Alec Salt being one. Proponents and stakeholders of Big Wind clean-and-glean studies’ results to support their agenda. Surely this can be fathomed! Big Wind developers monkey with the variables (as First Wind did in Sheffield during the mentioned sound studies when they got their tip-off AND as GMP does when hikes are scheduled). Surely this can be fathomed as well!
    BIG $$$s drive these motives. Can we be such sheep to not think critically? Can we be such gullible and distracted masses to not stand up, not wake up to create sustainable solutions that (1) respond to climate issues responsibly, (2) do not dump tax dollars wastefully into the pockets of corporate-scale developments, but (3)instead protect Vermonters, our property & home rights/values and the Vermont we want to hand to our children. Yes we must shift our thinking. But we can do it better than with just this Governor’s reactionary slapdashery, so to ineffectively & passively ‘feel better’ with a quick ‘fix’ that actually doesn’t adequately address the issues of co2 emissions reduction! Not when Big Wind requires that baseload power is up and running to compensate for the fluctuations of wind and the instability of grid issues/ramping up/ramping down/inefficiencies linked thereto! Then we are not actually saving! We are notsaving energy! We are not consciously & proactively shifting! We are not saving co2 emissions! We are not replacing baseload power sources! we are not replacing fossil fuels consumptio! We are not saving the polar bears/the migratory birds/the mosquito-eating bat populations! We are not solving the issues! By blindly following Big Corporate Wind, we are dumping much-needed $$$ into a black hole instead of helping Vermonters to become awake and truly invested in creating creative energy solutions and food security. Vermont could be a REAL leader and this healthy, creative possibility lies in the hands of local (that is, town-level) control. Dare Digger to print this.

    • Vanessa,

      As a minimum, a wind turbine facility should have enough land so the distance of any wind turbine to any abutter’s PROPERTY line* is at least 1.25 miles or 2 km. This standard is increasingly enforced in Europe.

      * Any abutter should be able to have the enjoyment and use of his ENTIE property, just as he did BEFORE the wind turbines. Some day, he may wish to develop part of property for residences, as so many Vermonters have done in the past.

      For wind turbine owners to usurp/curtail the abutter’s rights should be illegal unless the abutter is fairly compensated, or bought out, at fair market value.

    • Dave Stevens

      Hey Vanessa, Sorry, my intention wasn’t to offend. But being objective, a lot of info exists out there both supporting and slamming “wind turbine syndrome”. I understand that this issue can be an emotional one on either side of the coin. And at the same time, either side can benefit monetarily from the position that they’re taking. Which is in part why I’m not a supporter of either camp at this particular point.

      • Melodie McLane

        Dave,
        If I wasn’t clear in my earlier comment, I apologize. We do NOT want a buy out. We want to stay in our home. We want the turbines to be run at a level that we can tolerate. If that is not economically feasible, then that is not our problem. And yes, “wind turbine syndrome” can be an emotional issue. When people do not get any sleep for days on end, they get emotional. The only ‘camp’ that is in the wrong is the one that is not walking in our shoes. If you truly want to know the truth, go up and ‘camp’ out beside the Therrians for a week or so, and I promise you that you will know why they have no choice but to ask for a buy out. Please do not judge them until you are experiencing what they are. And as I tried to explain before, all situations are different, so you cannot generalize and say that we all just want money.

    • Dave Stevens

      Also Vanessa, what if we followed the dollar and it led to both parties? The turbine manufacturers/installers, and the small towns that host wind projects on one hand. Then your side of the issue concerning Vermonters who say they have been afflicted with wind turbine syndrome and are looking for a buy out in a fairly cold housing market in these very rural areas. Which is why I try not get emotional, rush to a conclusion, or camp for that matter. Because both camps (to one degree or another) could be in the wrong.

      • Fred Woogmaster

        “Because both camps… could be in the wrong.”

        Accidents happen in which nobody is “in the wrong”. We have societal mechanisms to provide relief to victims of accidents and acts of nature.

        Our neighbors are telling us of their experiences and suffering. At the very least, all anecdotal reports should be subjected to thorough inquiry.

        I assume no wrongdoing. This is uncharted territory.
        The Therriens are suffering – through no fault of their own.

  • Fred Woogmaster

    Ombudsman: “A government official, especially in the Scandinavian countries, who investigates citizens’ complaints against the government or its functionaries”.

    Vermont would benefit from the appointment of a “Special Ombudsman” to assist citizens in these cases. I assume such an appointment would be made by the Governor, perhaps not. Who, then? I suppose an Acting Governor could make such an appointment.

    The anecdotal reports of those who live within range of the turbines need to be taken seriously. And the impact on small children who are not fully developed physically or mentally? We don’t know.

    Debates over the impact of noise will not provide relief.

  • April Boggs

    I want to start by saying that my heart goes out to all of the families living in the nightmarish noisy shadow of industrialized wind complexes. I am from Champaign county, Ohio. In 2010 the OPSB approved phase 1 of the Buckeye Wind Project. Kim Wisman of the OPSB promised Champaign county residents we would not be burdened by a second project, yet on May 28, 2013, phase 2 of the project was approved. My heart goes out when I hear these stories because in Ohio, the setback to a property line is only a little over 500 ft & only 941 ft from non participating residences. The projects combined will have 100 turbines, 498 ft tall from base to tip. I live in the footprint of this project. My home will be surrounded by 4 of them within .25 mile, and another 4 within .75 a mile! They will be facing us from the east and west. After reading testimony after testimony from those that are suffering from irresponsibly siting these industrial giants, my fear is that my family and I will suffer as well. Dave, I too tried to keep an open mind; however, I could no longer ignore the stories coming in from literally, around the world. I am not a NIMBY. I am not against forms of alternative energy THAT WORK! What I am against is heavily subsidizing a technology that is heavily dependent on the fossil fuel industry. Which is always there “green argument” to shut down one facility or another. The only green here is the taxpayer’s money that is being wasted on this failed technology. I am so sorry that the Sheffield’s, as well as the other victims of this “green scam”, were caught in its cross-fire. After all, I too may be in your position.

  • Fred Woogmaster

    Addendum: After watching the video testimony of Mrs. Therrien (Sheffield/First Wind) I have been convinced that the Therrien family has been gravely hurt by the industrial wind farm in Sheffield through no fault of their own and are deserving of help.

    No lawyer has stepped forth yet to assist them in their struggle. No money, no representation, no justice.

    The video is referenced by Annette Smith in her response to the Digger article: “19,000. dollar Sheffield wind study inconclusive”. (June 28th, 9:16 a.m.)

    No VLC grads out there up for the challenge?

    • Fred Woogmaster

      OOPS:

      This was intended for comment on the article: “Law School Makes More Cuts”. My mistake.

    • Dave Stevens

      Hello Fred, I had just watched the Therriens/first wind video on youtube and I’m curious why Mrs Therrien readind her notes aloud convinced you that she/they have been “gravely injured”?
      Also, Paraphrasing Health Commisioner Chen on wind turbine syndrome, “An annoyance in and of itself can cause health effects in terms of having anxiety, and having trouble sleeping, so there may be health effects related to wind turbines, but are not specific to wind turbines”. So with Commisioner’s statement, + an absolute plethora of information both supporting and debunking wind turbine syndrome, why would an attorney pick up what seems to be a very steep uphill battle?
      Thanks Fred, you seem to be in the anti-wind camp, so I’m just trying to understand your angle/perspective a little more so.
      Thanks again

      • Fred Woogmaster

        “anti-wind camp” – No! Pro-neighbor camp, yes.
        Seriously questioning “industrial wind? Yes.

        Every appropriate home and business in Vermont should have a wind turbine.

        First of all, I believe the Therriens are telling the truth and are honestly reporting their experiences. They have lived in their home, on property they own, for seventeen years. They did not join those neighbors who opposed the wind farm prior to approval. They believed what they were told and thought it to be good for the community at large.

        The impact they experience is different and far more severe than anything they anticipated. They have two very small children. We (I) don’t know ‘for certain what the impact is on children, not fully developed.

        They want to move. They are willing to move. They do not have the resources for such a major move which entails moving their home. FirstWind will profit, towns will profit, homeowners will profit.

        My mind doesn’t grasp scientific language; I claim no knowledge of the science of wind and sound. The debate among those much more knowledgeable continues with no definite resolution, from my point of view.

        Surely the profit and gain of this project can be applied to help these folks move. Thanks for the question, Mr. Stevens. It helped me think it through a bit more.

        No lawyer will ever take cases like this – unless they believe that it is “the right thing to do” and feel compelled in the name of justice to do so.

        • John Greenberg

          “No lawyer will ever take cases like this” Why not?

          • Fred Woogmaster

            Where there is little or no promise of client money there is little or no promise of lawyer time – unless a lawyer feels compelled in the name of justice to offer time.

            The Therriens, in my view, are victims of circumstances and worthy of help. Since one cannot sue “circumstances” – can a lawyer help? I don’t know. But one could certainly try – and with a passion for justice they might succeed.

          • John Greenberg

            If the Therriens and those arguing for them here are to be believed, they’re not “victims of circumstances,” they’re victims of the Sheffield wind turbines.

            That’s why I asked you the question. The allegations here are specific, and if true, presumably provable: namely, that the noise from the turbines is harming the Therrien’s health and general well-being. A lawyer who could prove that to the satisfaction of a jury would, presumably, be able to collect compensation from the owners of the turbines, just like the Essex Junction case reported elsewhere on VT Digger within the last few days (http://vtdigger.wpengine.com/2013/07/02/43-1-million-awarded-to-paraplegic-in-personal-injury-suit/) As I pointed out several days ago, any lawyer who believed he or she could prove the Therriens have been harmed by the windmills WOULD take the case: there’s money to be made.

            To credibly argue otherwise, it seems to me that you must believe that the Therriens can NOT prove their allegation and that lawyers they’ve approached are aware of that. If that’s true, then the Therriens would lose the case and unless their lawyer were paid on an hourly basis, he or she would not get paid at all and would have spent time for nothing. I’m not a lawyer, but what I’ve just said strikes me as pretty elementary and straightforward.

            It seems to me that you and others are trying to have it both ways. You want to hold First Wind as accountable as they would be if a court of law found them to be responsible, but you don’t want to have to prove the point. If you were in their shoes, however, you might feel somewhat differently about the matter.

            That SHOULD be independent of how you feel about wind turbines. What we’re talking about is, as you suggest, justice. If it’s just, as you and others suggest here, to hold First Wind responsible for damages they cause, then just as surely, it’s UNJUST to hold them responsible for damages they did NOT cause.

            That said, I want to repeat a point I’ve made in these columns elsewhere in response to Ms. Therrien. If I were First Wind, I would never have let this get this far. I would have voluntarily bought out the Therriens (and anyone else similarly situated). If, as wind supporters assert, the turbines do not in fact cause any damage, then the properties can be re-sold, presumably at prices similar to those just paid, and the financial losses, if any, should be quite minimal (basically, transaction costs). These losses, if any, would be more than mitigated by good press for handling this responsibly, rather than, as now, allowing this situation to fester. And Lord knows, the Therriens would be a great deal happier. This sounds like a win-win to me.

            If, on the other hand, the turbines DO cause damage, then basic ethics suggest that the owners of the turbines, not the owners of the property, SHOULD be the ones to take whatever hit is involved, whether or not the damage can be proven in court.

            But that’s not LEGAL reasoning; it’s moral reasoning and the two can sometimes be quite distinct.

  • Fred Woogmaster

    Mr. Greenberg: Thank you. Your position is certainly understandable. The “wind issue” is beyond me. The human issue is not!

    “If I were FirstWind I wouldn’t have let it get this far. I would have voluntarily bought out the Therriens.”

    That’s the whole point! FirstWind allowed it to get this far and I believe they have a major responsibility for the remedy.

    “It seems to me that you and others want to have it both ways”.

    Hardly, Mr. Greenberg. One way would be plenty if the folks who are able to do so, would relocate this family, regardless of the intricacies of the law or moral arguments.
    From what I understand they seek no monetary relief other than the money required to move them.

    Just do the right thing, FirstWind. Remedy your error. Relocate this family – without lawyers.

  • John Greenberg

    “Remedy your error.” What is your basis for suggesting that this is First Wind’s error? That’s what I meant by having it both ways.

    • Fred Woogmaster

      Perhaps I misspoke. Perhaps FirstWind has made no “error”. Simply remove that phrase from my statement which then reads: Just do the right thing FirstWind. Relocate this family – without lawyers.

      Violation of law ‘error’ – probably not. These folks are polished professionals.

      However, not buying the Therriens out was an error. Dismissing their complaints and trivializing their direct experiences was an error, minimizing the impact of the turbines to those property owners closest was an error.

      I like your thought that FirstWind could buy the property to allow the Therreins the opportunity to relocate. As you suggested, if they are correct in their assertions, the property will not have lost value.
      Did I get that right?

      “Wanting it both ways” – perhaps I don’t understand or perhaps I simply see it differently. I will further consider what you have said.

Thanks for reporting an error with the story, "$19,000 Sheffield wind study inconclusive"