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Noise? What Noise? Tests Designed to Miss the Mark

February 18, 2021
From University of Twente, Netherlands, PhD research by Stefan Oerlemans (2009): A wind turbine showing the noise sources. The red area has the loudest sound.

The state constitution says noise is air pollution. The Mass. DEP’s job is to regulate air pollution. Residents who live near wind turbines say they can’t sleep, can’t think, can’t live a normal life because of wind turbine noise. But somehow the tests the DEP allows consultants to use never show excessive noise.

This failure of testing relies on 2 factors, according to Chris Kapsambelis:

  • They don’t compare the turbines’ noise levels with pre-construction minimums.
  • They don’t combine noise from all sources as the regulation states.

Once the turbines are standing, the L90 or minimum noise level, has already changed. Any readings, even quiet night time levels, are already skewed by the sound wind makes against the mast or at the blade tips–whether or not they are rotating.

Add to this baseline error the DEP’s willingness to allow wind turbine noise to be subtracted from other sources (air and ground traffic, machinery) and the turbines never fail the test.

No Dice: storage can’t solve wind energy gamble

October 16, 2020

Here’s the theory: take a wind turbine, smooth the intermittent surges to a steady pulse, send it out to the grid.

Here’s the schematic:

If this works from minute to minute and hour to hour, it is because turbines currently send their small output to a large grid with plenty of capacity from natural gas to stabilize the unpredictable output. 

But what if this kind of renewable energy was all the grid relied on? What would a storage system look like that has the capacity to keep a reserve for the weeks when little to no electricity is available?

To answer that question, Chris Kapsambelis used two years of data from a 1.5 megawatt (MW) turbine in Fairhaven MA. Its output in a day could range from a high of 36,000 kilowatt hours (KWh) down to zero. Read his report.

He graphed peak storage In May. Ideally that means the slow discharge through late summer leaves enough to carry subscribers through the autumn, when the wind on the South shore picks up again.

He established a break-even level of 8640 kilowatt hours. More than that and energy is added to the battery, less than that and energy is drawn down.

So far so good. 

Then Kapsambelis recalculated his assumptions about demand on the system. If the grid operator drew 5 KW more power from the battery,  a 1.4% change, the grid could experience blackouts at any point between mid-September and mid-October. 

If that weren’t enough of a worry, he found that the battery would need to be large enough to store 500 MWh. But wait! The largest storage field in the world, the Hornsdale Power Reserve in Australia, “can only store 129 megawatt-hours, which is about a quarter of the storage needed for just one small wind turbine.”

Chris Kapsambelis has news for us: energy storage for wind power is not possible.

Another one bites the dust

September 23, 2020

One pipe dream, like that of so many communities in Massachusetts, vanished in a puff on September 22, 2020. Another land based wind turbine came down after years of failure to produce the promised electricity. South Coast Today contributing writer Tim Dunn recounted the story (UMass Dartmouth wind turbine comes down after stormy history) while Peter Perreira captured the time lapse photos for New Bedford’s The Standard-Times.

UMass Dartmouth acquired the turbine in 2012 after Cape Cod residents prevailed against siting it at the Community College in West Barnstable.

“It never really worked well from the beginning. They were supposed to build it and after it ran correctly for 30 days, we were supposed to take over possession of it. It took three years for them to get it to run for 30 consecutive days,” [Jamie] Jacquart said, stating that the ultimate decision to tear the turbine down came last year, when the bids for a service contract went up “significantly,” something he said caused school officials to reevaluate its cost-effectiveness.

Believing the Elecon model was a lemon, the university found that each time it was repaired, it produced less electricity.

The turbine’s deconstruction involved dismantling by Londonderry, NH’s Down & Out Industries. “‘It was basically as simple as it could be, we just notched it like a tree and dropped it,’ said Stephen Draper.” The turbine’s parts will be divided between Spiegel South Shore Scrap Metal in Brockton and Raynham’s C. Carney Environmental for unsalvageable trash.

Plymouth BOH Listens, Acts

February 17, 2020

Click on the images to view video clips.

Karen McMahon’s analogy of a biting dog spurs Board of Health to vote
Former energy committee member Kerry Kearney tells Plymouth BOH the wind turbine bylaw and the oversight agencies have failed residents
Kerry Kearney tells Plymouth BOH the town wind turbine bylaw is too permissive and oversight agencies have failed residents

Above: Alberto Fernandez recounts health impacts. Right: Ian Davies describes what living with wind turbines is like on his property

Larry McGrath has 30 fewer neighbors, meanwhile complaints go unanswered (6 min.)
Plymouth Board of Health deliberation (25 min.)
Karen McMahon at the microphone testifies on the background of noise and other health complaints from Plymouth and Bourne residents
Karen McMahon of Buzzards Bay Citizens Action Committee explains background to Plymouth Board of Health (11 min.)

Nuisance Turbines in Plymouth

February 14, 2020


Plymouth residents who crowded into the Board of Health meeting on February 12 got an early valentine–the sweet satisfaction of being heard. According to the Cape Cod Times, “Residents have pleaded with several town boards in Bourne and Plymouth and with state officials for years for action to be taken on the turbines.”

“It is amazing to me that these turbines were built in a residential area,” board Vice Chairman Barry Potvin said. “This is clearly something the Board of Health has to take up, because we are sworn to protect the health and safety of the people who live in this area.”
Much of what happened with the turbines came before many of the current members were serving on the board, member Jerry Levine said.
“I feel your pain,” Levine said. “My intention is to look into it.”

Residents of Plymouth and neighboring Bourne have logged over 350 complaints of noise and sleep disturbance beginning soon after the turbines went online in 2016. The four turbines are 500 feet tall and as close as 1,450 feet to one residence.
“’We want to do justice to this and to all the parties involved,’ board Chairwoman Birgitta Kuehn said,” according to CCT reporter Beth Treffeisen (Plymouth board declares turbines a nuisance, 2/13/20).

Plymouth Community Access Television recorded the meeting. The wind turbine testimony begins at the one hour and 7 minutes point and continues for almost an hour.

When the “New Neighbor” is a Wind Power Plant

December 19, 2019

One man says, “I just want my way of life back.” Others mention the lost value on their properties since the “very heavy duty industrial power plant that has been dropped into our neighborhood” began to operate.

A Buttermilk Bay view of the 2 MW turbines in Plymouth’s Future Generation Wind project–here they tower over Bourne’s Hideaway Village.

View of Future Generation Wind Turbines

Three of the four turbines of Future Generation Wind in Plymouth tower over Bourne residents, too.


Falmouth’s Turbine Woes Recounted at 9/24/19 Hearing

October 4, 2019

Three Falmouth residents told the legislature’s Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy panel about their quest for relief from wind turbine impacts, including financial costs. The September 24, 2019 hearing included House Bill 2928, the Wind Energy Relief Act.

“I was a recognized refugee in my town,” Linda Ohkagawa told the committee. She said she was known at the library and the Walmart parking lot where she went to escape the noise, feeling of pressure against her chest, and strobing light. “I lost so much.” View a clip from the hearing.

Elizabeth (Betsy) Andersen and her husband, Neil Andersen, both recounted their experience.

Watch as Betsy tells the committee:

We couldn’t work, couldn’t stay around the house. We became sick, sleep deprived zombies.
We went to our town hall and begged for help. Forget it. This was the Mass. CEC and Falmouth’s big green energy project and we were just complainers.
And that was the type of treatment we received from both our town and state government for six long years.
We were labeled the anti-green people – had our house egged and vandalized. Taunting us became sport, and defeating us the prize.

Click this link for her full testimony.

Neil said during the hearing:

In the spring of 2010, a 400’ tall wind turbine became operational. Due to an unusual combination of the  proximity of the turbine (1320 feet), the direction of the prevailing winds, the topography, and the orientation of our house, we very soon realized that we were at ground zero for the negative effects from the turbine- namely a harmful and extremely intrusive, never ending, heart pounding low frequency pulse. The extremely distressing noise was like torture. Pound-Pound-Pound.  Day and night. 

Our only relief was to get away, which we were forced to do very often.

Read Neil Andersen’s testimony or watch this video clip

Representative David Vieira introduced H.2928 to help wind turbine neighbors and their communities recover from failed wind projects. It provides two compensation funds: 1.) a $15 million per year Energy Relief Fund for people, businesses, and cities and towns impacted adversely by wind turbines, and 2.) a $7.5 million per year Turbine Decommissioning Fund. The funds will come from the millions of dollars that are already collected from electric ratepayers and then credited to the Massachusetts Renewable Energy Trust Fund.

Scituate and Falmouth Argue for Wind Turbine Relief

September 28, 2019

David Dardi of Scituate joined three Falmouth residents in telling the legislature’s Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy panel about their quest for relief from wind turbine impacts, especially financial costs. The September 24, 2019 hearing included House Bill 2928, the Wind Energy Relief Act.

“Mistakes can be made,” Dardi said. “Using part of that money [collected for green energy projects] to correct the problems created by wind energy is just and appropriate.” View a clip from the hearing.

Because of inadequate legislation and the softening of the noise regulations dealing with wind turbines it has become very difficult to prove noise violations and in most cases communities and individuals have had to resort to litigation to get relief. In most cases all these measures and actions have proven unsuccessful leaving the communities and individuals without relief and deeply in debt.  In some cases, as in Scituate town officials are considering ordering a unilateral shutdown of a turbine to protect its residents. Action of this nature will undoubtedly result in very high costs due to the penalties imposed by the turbine owner and litigation expenses accrued in defending their action. Why should the mistake of an improper location of a wind turbine result in such high penalties and costs to communities and individuals?

Representative David Vieira introduced H.2928 to help wind turbine neighbors and their communities recover from failed wind projects. It provides two compensation funds: 1.) a $15 million per year Energy Relief Fund for people, businesses, and cities and towns impacted adversely by wind turbines, and 2.) a $7.5 million per year Turbine Decommissioning Fund. The funds will come from the millions of dollars that are already collected from electric ratepayers and then credited to the Massachusetts Renewable Energy Trust Fund.

David Dardi, far right, listens to testimony by Sen. Patrick O’Connor, beside him.

H.2015 Hearing before Joint Committee on Public Health

June 12, 2019

Time for hearings on Beacon Hill. A health commission to study the effects of industrial wind turbines was one of the bills before the Joint Committee on Public Health on June 11, 2019. H.2015 establishes a commission to investigate and study the incidence and impacts of adverse health effects from land-based wind turbines. It also recommends administrative and legislative changes to mitigate or eliminate adverse health effects from land-based wind turbines.

Sub-audible sound waves sent out as the blades spin past the shaft set up vibration and resonance in our body cavities and fluid-filled spaces – ears, eyeballs, skull, our lungs and bellies. They are the ultimate, inescapable boombox moved in next door.

This is from Helen Parker’s testimony about infrasound low frequency noise (ILFN), which “impacts a significant 10-20%, perhaps 30% of the population.”

Most vulnerable are children, elders, and those who are especially reactive to sensation – those with a prior PTSD, autism, abuse victims, …and many of us whose souls are drawn to more rural rather than urban environments.
Symptoms: nausea, headaches, tinnitus, increased blood pressure, anxiety, difficulty with memory and concentration, and panic attacks which arise when awake or asleep.

David Dardi should know. As he wrote in his testimony:

I have been adversely affected by a wind turbine for the last 7 years and
have been unsuccessful in getting any relief from it’s affects. Several other of my neighbors have also been affected by this wind turbine and are equally as anxious to get relief and to have our situation exposed and studied.

To ask the Joint Committee on Public Health to report H.2015 favorably out of committee send comments to:
–Senate Chairperson Joanne M. Comerford:
–House Chairperson John J. Mahoney:

To cc your state Senator and Representative, click here for addresses

Representative David Vieira sponsored H.2015 – “Resolve to establish a commission to study the health impacts from land based wind turbines to protect the health of the citizens of the Commonwealth.” Co-sponsors include another Barnstable representative, Sarah Peake, and Cape and Islands representative Julian Cyr.

Ambrose Nudges DEP on FGW Compliance

February 16, 2019

He doesn’t say it in so many words. But with his latest comment to the MassDEP, Stephen Ambrose points out it doesn’t take rocket science to predict that people living near wind turbines will experience excessive noise. He recommends the Department continues investigating the sound study of Plymouth’s Future Generation Wind project.

As if resident complaints weren’t enough, there are also the things left out of the Plymouth Sound Compliance Monitoring Report.

Skepticism is warranted for omitting critical information: 1) wind turbine SCADA files with noise measurements. 2) turbine specifications for electric power output and sound power levels with and w/o NRO. 3) noise model predictions with input parameters and results. 4) noise level vs time history plots showing wind turbine fluctuations. 5) name, title and qualifications for author, reviewer, and approver.

Ambrose said in an earlier message to the DEP, “This review finds FGW exceeds the MassDEP noise policy by 10 to 20 dB at all locations.” His analysis cites the report issued in May 2018 by Waltham-based Tech Environmental.

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