Lowell wind turbine neighbors complain of ‘horrendous’ noise

Candace Page, Free Press Staff Writer | Burlington Free Press | November 6, 2012 | http://www.burlingtonfreepress.com ~~

Thirty-three residents of Albany and Lowell have complained to the state about “horrendous noise” last weekend from the commercial wind turbines newly erected atop Lowell Mountain.

“It sounded like a jet engine,” said Barbara Stone, who lives off Vermont 14 about 2.5 miles from the mountain. She said the noise was somewhat less obtrusive inside her home but, “it was obnoxious to have an unwanted sound in your house.”

In a letter to the state Public Service Department, Don and Shirley Nelson of Lowell said the noise lasted from the time they awoke about 6 a.m. Saturday until about 5 p.m. Sunday. The Nelsons live at the eastern base of Lowell Mountain and strongly opposed the 21-turbine project being constructed by Green Mountain Power.

“We could have gotten a hundred signatures,” Don Nelson said Tuesday. “I never heard anything like it. It sounded like a big jet engine landing at an airport and it didn’t stop until Sunday night.”

He said he visited neighbors — some of whom live more than three miles from the mountain — on Sunday to see if they heard the noise and to collect their signatures on a brief letter he drafted. Many of the comments he heard were in such strong language, “they had to be censored,” he said.

The signatures represent about 17 households, all of them east of Lowell Mountain. Nelson said the wind on Saturday and Sunday was blowing from the northwest. The signers include the chairman and one member of the Albany Selectboard.

At Green Mountain Power, spokeswoman Dotty Schnure said the utility had received one complaint related to the weekend noise, and was seeking to investigate as required by its permit from the Public Service Board. She said 15 turbines have been completed and are generating electricity.

GMP’s permit says noise from the turbines cannot exceed 45 decibels outside homes. Schnure described 45 decibels as the “level of background noise in a library.”

There is a complicated procedure for attempting to determine the level of noise at a complainant’s residence, the possible causes and the remedy if one is justified.

At the Public Service Department, Geoff Commons, director of public advocacy, said the complaints had been received and the department was “reaching out to the utility” to inquire into the situation.

Once construction is complete, Green Mountain Power will be required to conduct routine, periodic noise monitoring at several nearby residences. That has not started yet, Commons said.

In light of the new complaints, “We think it would be appropriate for the utility to get some noise monitors out there,” Commons said. “We will reach out and talk to them about what they can and should be doing.”

In their letter, the Albany and Lowell residents wrote, “We the undersigned are hearing noise from the Lowell wind farm that extends out over 3.5 miles and it is unbearable … the noise was a constant roar like a speeding truck passing next to us that never went away.”

Schnure said the utility wants to hear from the project’s neighbors. “If people have a complaint they should contact us,” she said. “If there’s an issue, we will address it.”


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