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Vinalhaven, Maine, Has Three Noisy Wind Turbines That Stir Disputes


Wind turbines are not always friendly with their neighbors, because they emit loud sounds and disturb the normal activity of people, especially during nighttime. There are regulations to this, but they are interpretable, even in the eyes of experts, who see the same numbers and tell two different stories.

Vinalhaven, Maine has three wind turbines built less than year ago to stabilize the lower the bills of the community from North Haven islands. Fox Islands Wind, the company behind the three turbines, has been assaulted with complaints from islanders that were complaining about the noise they create. Even the Maine Department of Environmental Protection took a stand and sent a consultant to figure how the whole thing went.

The investigation conducted by Warren L. Brown, from the University of Maine, found out that “there exists a significant body of consistent meteorological and sound data indicating sound levels greater than applicable limits.”

On the other side, George Baker, Fox Island Wind CEO, said their own sound consultant (obviously) found Brown’s results as inconclusive. “He’s looked at a bunch of data that our sound consultant has put together. Our sound consultant analyzed exactly the same data and found us to be in compliance,” Baker said in a telephone interview to BDN.

“[Baker] keeps talking about the ambient sound. I’s a little disheartening. Anybody with a set of ears can come sit on my porch. You can clearly tell the difference between wind in the trees and the sound of the turbines. They don’t cancel each other out,” said Cheryl Lindgren, who lives less than half a mile from the noisy wind turbines.

The wind-powered solution is said to have reduced the bills of the island’s inhabitants by some 15 to 20 percent. Despite that, many of them responded positively in a survey where they had been asked if the level of noise should be reduced at nighttime. “We believed in ‘green energy’ as being all good. Tha’s not always true,”said Lindgren. “When corporations get involved, i’s not always from the heart. … I think the whole population could turn off a couple of light bulbs and we’d be in the same place.”

Reducing your bills with alternative energy sometimes has a price, as these Maine inhabitants realized. It’s often better to “turn off a couple of light bulbs” than to install new equipment and make ourselves room for more energy consumption. After all, humanity lived with less for ages. I’m not saying that technology should be refused, but it’s only a matter of will to reduce our carbon footprint, and less a matter of technology, since if we produce more, we’ll consume even more – end of story.

On the other hand, there might be solutions to the noise caused by wind turbines. For example, FloDesign’s wind turbine is less noisy and much more efficient. It’s, again, a matter of decision if some will want to accept new technologies or will stick with the old ones for the decades to come. A wind turbine is a long time investment, so options should be considered wisely.

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