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So what is it like to live among wind turbines? Here are a few of the most compelling “real world” reports from people affected by wind farm noise:

Juniata Township, Altoona, PA: 2,000-3,300 feet from wind farm with 40 turbines

Resident Jill Stull (turbines 2,000 feet from her house) said, ‘‘You know when you’re standing outside and you hear a plane coming about 30,000 feet overhead, then it goes off in the distance? It sounds like those planes are 5,000 feet above your house and circling and never land.” The Stulls said they could move, but they aren’t going to. ‘‘We’re not going anywhere. I just want them to be quiet.

I’m not going to jump on the ‘I hate windmills’ bandwagon because I don’t,” Jill Stull said. ‘‘I’m just tired of nobody listening. My point is what is your peace of mind worth? I can’t play outside with my kids back at the pond in the woods because it gives me a headache.”

“On a calm day, you come outside and try to enjoy a nice peaceful day, and all you hear is the noise all the time and you can’t get away from it,” said Bob Castel, who has two turbines behind his house.

“The first time they started them up, I didn’t know what it was. I was like man, that’s a weird noise. It was that loud,” said Castel.

Elmira, Prince Edward Island: 3,300 feet from wind farm with ten-400′ turbines

Problems began within weeks after the turbines started operating. Downwind from the turbines, when the air was moving just enough to turn them (12-15 knots from the northeast), the noise was loud. It was a repetitive modulated drone of sound. Dwayne Bailey and his father Kevin both claimed it sometimes was loud enough to rattle the windows of their homes on the family farmstead. The sound was even worse in the field behind their homes. Distances from 1 to 1.5 kilometers were the areas of the most annoying sounds. This spring the winds created constant misery.

“My idea of noise is a horn blowing or a tractor – it disappears,” said Sheila Bailey. “This doesn’t disappear. Your ears ring. That goes on continuously.” Dwayne developed headaches, popping and ringing ears, and could not sleep. He tried new glasses, prescription sleep aids and earplugs, to no avail. Dwayne’s two-year-old was sleeping well prior to the wind farm, but began waking up, five to six times a night.

Freedom, Maine: 1,000 and 1,400 feet from wind turbines

Local resident Phil Bloomstein used a sound meter to record decibel levels at his home. The results, which Bloomstein captures on a laptop, show a mean sound level of over 52 decibels, never dropping below 48 and peaking at 59 decibels. “When the turbines were being proposed to be put up,” he says, “we were told that 45 decibels would be as loud as it would get except for … no more than eight days a year.” Neighbor Jeff Keating, a bit further from the closest turbine, said, to date, the noise has awaken him up to three times at night. He likened the experience to hearing the furnace kick on, then lying awake mad about having been woken. “It’s not just a physical thing,” he said, “there’s an emotional side.” Keating’s neighbor Steve Bennett said he hears the turbines at all times of day. “It’s like a jet plane flying overhead that just stays there,” he said.

From a distance, the jet plane analogy fits the sound produced by the turbines – a white noise suggestive of a plane that never entirely passes. Closer to the turbines, the sound quality changes.

Each turbine rotates to face the wind and the sound varies in relation to one’s orientation to the blades. At close range, facing the turbine head on, the sound is low and pulsing like a clothes dryer.

From the side the blades cut the air with a sipping sound. Either way, when the wind is blowing, there is noise. “They simply do not belong this close to people’s homes,” Bennett said. “Our property values have been diminished, and our quality of life has been diminished.” YouTube videos from Bloomstein:

Mars Hill, ME: 2600+ feet from turbine

Mars Hill resident Wendy Todd (house is 2600 feet from the nearest turbine): Unfortunately for us, the very mountain that has provided the wind facility with a class 3-wind resource often acts like a fence protecting us from the upper level winds that push the turbines. There are many times when winds are high on the ridgeline but are near calm at our homes. The noise and vibrations from the turbines penetrate our homes. At times there is no escape from it, no matter which room you go to.

The noise ranges from the sound of a high range jet to a fleet of planes that are approaching but never arrive. When it’s really bad it takes on a repetitive, pulsating, thumping noise that can go on for hours or even days. It has been described as a freight train that never arrives, sneakers in a dryer, a washing machine agitating, a giant heartbeat; a submariner describes it as a large ship passing overhead.

People think that we are crazy. They drive out around the mountain, stop and listen, and wonder why anyone would complain about noise emissions. But, believe me when we are having noise problems you can most assuredly hear the justification of our complaint. We have had people come into our yard get out of their vehicles and have watched their mouth drop. We have had company stop in mid conversation inside our home to ask, “What is that noise?” or say “I can’t believe you can hear those like that inside your house.”

Eighteen families, each with homes less than 3000 feet from the nearest turbine, are experiencing disturbing noise levels; the next closest home is about 5200 feet away, and these peopleare only occasionally bothered when inside their homes.

Nick Archer, our Regional Director with the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, thought we were all crazy, too. But he finally made it to our homes and heard what we were talking about. I don’t believe he has ever heard a 50+decibel day but he has heard close to that on more than one occasion and has made statements like these: “This is a problem,” “We need to figure out what is going on with these things before we go putting anymore of them up,” “I thought you were crazy at first but you are not crazy,” “The quality of life behind the mountain is changed.” Did he say these things just to appease us? I don’t believe so.

SOURCE: Acoustic Ecology Institute: Wind Turbine Noise Fact Sheet