Wind Power In Maine Part 1 

Communities all over Maine are considering wind power as a way to stabilize electrical rates and provide the state with an economic boost. Since the Fox Island Wind Project started running last November, all eyes have been on Vinalhaven. The $15-million dollar project was built to provide power for Vinalhaven and North Haven.While it’s been widely thought of as a success, there have been some issues, mostly concerns about noise. “My quality of life before the wind turbines was fantastic…it was very quiet, a remarkable quality of life, a rare opportunity,” says Vinalhaven resident Ethan Hall. Hall and Arthur Farnham both own land and intend on building their dream homes. Both say they were a little skeptical when they first heard the proposal for the Fox Island Wind Project. “I was mostly concerned about the appearance at first for what that would signify for change with little thought about the sound,” says Hall, “I’d asked a question at a meeting that I was part of last spring where I was reassured that the sound from the turbine would not be heard at my place. It would be effectively masked by the ambient sounds.”Art Lindgren has lived here year round since 2000. He was told the same thing. “They said there would be no noise issues. They specifically said the ambient sound of the wind on the ground would mask any of the sound from the noise of the turbines.”Both Lindgren and Hall say they both quickly realized that the sound was most definitely going to be an issue for them and some of their neighbors. Hall was working on his house the day the turbines were first turned on. He says the quality of life he cherishes so much has never been the same. “I noticed a sound in my environment and a feeling, a feeling and a sound, it wasn’t just a sound it was this pulsing ‘whoomp, whoomp, whoomp’ and then I looked up and I saw the turbines were working.””Well the noise is horrible, so you want to get away from the noise,” adds Lindgren, “there are times when it wakes you up at night. I mean you’re sleeping and you finally get to sleep and it wakes you up.”The people who seem to have issues with the noise all live within one mile or have a direct line of sight to the turbines. The majority of the island residents have been reaping the benefits of the project. “I’ve seen a little bit of a drop in my light bill which makes me real happy,” says Jeannie Conway, an island resident. Conway says her light bill was nearly $200 a month despite the fact that she and her husbland work all day and use virtually no power during that time. The Fox Island Wind Co-op says the three turbines generated 1.5 million kilowatt hours of electricity in January alone. That exceeds estimates and is more than enough electricity to power Vinalhaven and North Haven. Other residents say they hear the turbines but they don’t seem to bother them. Alan Barker lives 1/4 mile away from the turbines and he supported the project from the start. “If you’re expecting to go out and hear a pin drop that’s not gonna happen,” says Barker, “they do make noise and they do make more noise than you would think. But at the same time it’s no different than if you live near a train or you live near a brook. This ocean out here on a stormy day makes noise.” The Department of Environmental Protection Agency’s regulations say the noise can not exceed 45 decibels at night on the site where the turbines are located. Art Lindgren says he’s measured 49 decibels from his front porch 2400 feet away.Robert Rand is a sound engineer who’s been studying industrial noise for 30 years and studying wind turbine noise for about a year and a half. He’s not sold on the DEP’s regulations. “Well the existing Maine state noise regulations are some 20 years old,” he says, “they were voted in, in 1989 and they predate, by many years, new research on noise effects on health as well as the recent proliferation of wind turbine technology.”Charles Farrington is the general manager of the Fox Island Electric Co-op. He wants the folks living out near the turbines to know they’re not being ignored. “We’re very aware of the concerns, we hear the people loud and clear about their concerns,” says Farrington, “we started right after the units went in to commercial operation doing testing. We’re regulated by the DEP so we have to keep in compliance with those regulations.”As a reminder, Diversified Communications, the company that owns WABI, was an investor in the Fox Islands Project. In part 2 of this series, you’ll see what the wind farm looks like on top of Stetson Mountain in Washington County, and introduce you to some Danforth property owners who say the turbines have ruined their view.