As the nation rushes to add renewable energy to its power portfolio, a growing chorus of homeowners and others are expressing concerns about how industrial wind projects are affecting health, safety, lifestyle and property values.
Green marketing campaigns typically show rows of industrial wind turbines in remote windy locales. However, wind projects are increasingly finding their way into rural residential areas. With investment tax credits and government mandates advocating for additional installations, more homeowners and property owners may soon find themselves facing a turbine project proposal.
Low-profile yet widespread concerns expressed from Kansas and Wisconsin to Vermont and Pennsylvania about industrial wind complexes are showing up all over the Internet. The efforts of community groups and various experts to bring a full discussion to light of the costs and effects of turbines are resulting in a small but growing green backlash.
Homeowner Problems ”We’ve been given a life sentence,” says Larry Lamont describing his life since 88 industrial wind turbines, each nearly 400 feet tall, were inserted among the homes, farmettes and farms in the rolling landscape of Fond du Lac County, Wis., where he lives. Lamont and his wife, Carol, moved there more than 30 years ago, renovating a pre-Civil War-era stone house and adding a 17 x 13-foot window wall to enjoy the views of the one-acre pond they dug and the wooded hills beyond.
When they heard about wind turbines coming to the area, they were supportive at first and even wanted one sited on their property. “We believed in them,” says Lamont. That belief has changed. They now have three turbines closer to their home than one proposed for their property would have been. The family has experienced significant sleep disturbances, although, Lamont says, “we had been told it would sound like the refrigerator running.” They have also lost their viewscape. “It was suggested that we pull a curtain over our window wall.” The impact has been total, he says.
“Ducks and geese that had summered on the pond for the past 25 years left mid-summer and never returned and the bat houses on the barn also were abandoned,” he says. “Wind towers are known to be fatal to bats because their lungs are ruptured by the pressure change created by the turbine blades. Now all we see on the pond is the reflection of the turbines, including their red lights at night.”
Wendy Todd and her husband raised three children in Portland, Maine, but it was her dream to return home to the small community of Mars Hill in the northeast section of the state. They were thrilled when her parents, second-generation farmers there, gave them four acres adjacent to their property to build a home. A wind project had been given an initial go-ahead by the town council in 2002, but it still had to go through permitting phases with the state. The Todds broke ground for their foundation in June 2005 and moved into their nearly completed home in December 2005. In March 2006, Todd says, it was clear the wind project was a go. In late winter/early spring of 2006, trees were cut down to make way for the wind project.
“The first turbine to start the testing protocol was No. 9 in December of 2006,” he says, “Residents questioned what the noise was about. We figured it must be part of the testing phase because we were told at all public meetings that the turbines made little to no noise. In March of 2007, the project went online and we knew for sure that we were in trouble.”
“The only negative brought up at meetings was the visual impact,” she says. “It was said that if you could get over how big they were, then everything else would be okay. Most of us bought into that. There were a few opposed early on but they came across as troublemakers.