Massachusetts Town Bans Use of Wind Turbines at Night

Published July 3, 2013

The Fairhaven, Massachusetts Board of Health voted to shut down the town’s two wind turbines each night between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m. after dozens of residents filed more than 400 complaints against the turbines. Testing showed the turbines exceeded state noise regulations and the noise limitations specified in their operating permits.

Hundreds of Health Complaints
Residents in 56 households filed 486 complaints with the Fairhaven Board of Health. Complaints included excessive noise and vibrations causing headaches and other symptoms in area residents.

Last August, responding to the complaints, the Board of Health conducted testing and measured noise from the turbines, finding it exceeded the 60 decibels allowed under the contract with the wind power developer. The town selectmen and the Board of Health met on June 10 and approved a motion to shut down the wind turbines during nighttime hours.

Wind Operator Defies Order
Palmer Capital president Gordon Deane, however, defied the town order. Deane wrote a letter to town officials claiming they did not have the authority to shut down the turbines. Deane vowed to continue operating the turbines throughout nighttime hours.

The turbines continued spinning overnight through the end of June. On July 1, three members of Fairhaven Wind met with city officials and proposed shutting down one turbine overnight and leaving the other spinning. Town officials indicated they would consider the proposal.

Misrepresentation, Problems ‘Typical’
“I think it is typical that a wind developer will say things like ‘they are no louder than a refrigerator’ when they are trying to get a permit to build a facility near residential properties, but once the devices are erected and the noise becomes a problem, they don’t make any more promises,” wind energy analyst Tom Stacy said.

“This should be instructive to other jurisdictions considering allowing such industrial complexes to be built near where people live,” Stacy noted.

“There are numerous cases of people complaining about the noise everywhere these things are installed too close to where people live,” said grassroots wind power activist Mary Kay Barton. “A friend of mine in Wyoming County, New York had the sound measured at 71 decibels within his home. To date, he has had no luck receiving any kind of remediation through the court system.

Karen Dove ([email protected]) is a freelance writer in Bradenton, Florida.