America’s Rural Communities Go On The Offensive Against Big Wind’s Turbine Onslaught
Nothing invokes rage and fury in rural communities like a wind farm comprising dozens and sometimes hundreds of 300 tonne, 200m high monsters.
In Germany, locals expressed their opposition in no uncertain terms – voting 25 to 1 against a giant wind project proposed for their patch of paradise: Renewables ‘Transition’ Hits Roadblock: Germans Vote 25 to 1 to Reject Giant Wind Power Project
And elsewhere, grassroots opposition to the subsidy-sucking wind industry has never been healthier and more active. New York State, is no exception.
Andrew Cuomo, New York’s wind power obsessed Governor is determined to carpet his state with thousands more of these things. Faced with the threatened onslaught, and already fed up with what they have had to suffer, so far, upstate New Yorkers have taken matters into their own hands.
Documentary made about noise from local wind turbines
29 September 2020
ARKWRIGHT – Mark Twichell, appointed by the Arkwright Town Board as the voluntary noise monitor, has made a documentary about the noise coming from Arkwright’s wind turbines.
Twichell was appointed to the noise response position on March 9. The purpose of the position is to respond to noise complaints of the wind turbines in a timely manner. Ted Wightman, former town supervisor, said there are a series of steps that the town needs to perform for each noise test and that the board needed someone willing to dedicate the time to it.
The position is unpaid.
At a meeting in March, Wightman made a motion to appoint Twichell as the town’s noise response person. Councilman Chris Jackson seconded the motion, Chris Cannon recused himself from voting, and Larry Ball abstained. All others, including Lynn Bedford, Chris Jackson and Ted Wightman were in favor and the motion was carried.
Ever since, Twichell has been working on his documentary and responding to the noise complaints that come in. Only a few complaints were brought up, which Twichell explained in the video is because of the current lawsuit against the wind company in Arkwright.
More than 100 people in Arkwright and surrounding municipalities have filed a lawsuit against EDP Renewables on the fact that they no longer can enjoy the full use and value of their property, among other things such as negative health effects and devaluation of property.
“We knew going into this project that there was no way we were going to prove non-compliance,” Twichell said. “The reason for this project was to record wind turbine noise as it is experienced by the people.”
In the video, which is posted on YouTube called “Arkwright Monitors Wind Turbine Noise,” Twichell reveals some of what he’s learned as the volunteer sound monitor. It’s about 30 minutes long and reveals some information that explains how the wind company may jump through loopholes to keep their machines there, Twichell said.
“For as brief a time period as we’ve been able to do this, we have already shown how the wind turbine noise affects people in real life,” he said. “Opposed to how wind turbine noise is determined by the wind company. That game we can not win, but we can surely measure and record the sound that the people who go about their daily lives in the town are experiencing. That much we have been successful for.”
Dr Mark Twichell: What we have here is 36 turbines. The tallest of these is between 400 and 500 feet. In the adjacent townships of Villanova and Hanover, they’re talking about 600 foot machines. The nature of my job is to serve the people of the town of Arkwright as the appointed wind turbine noise monitor. That position is made available to the town through an agreement called the Host Community Agreement.
The engineering firm in Buffalo that I am working with, had instructed me, given me a few tips on how to perform my duties. The device is very simple. It is not much more complicated than the sound decibel metre we have at my house that I bought for $50 at the hardware store. What makes this device more advantageous is the fact that it also records the actual sound, in addition to recording the actual decibel level. The decibel level is displayed in a graph, and the sound is recorded as it is heard by human ears. The noise should not exceed a level of 50 decibels averaged over an eight hour period. That’s a very opaque way of hiding wind turbine noise by averaging it. For example if you awake in the middle of the night because a car door slammed in your driveway, that sound only occurred for a split second. But nonetheless it interrupted your sleep.
I’ve spoken at numerous venues about wind turbine noise and how it impacts people that are living close to wind turbines. And beyond that there were several well-qualified people who are residents of the town of Arkwright, who were not able to take this position because of the lawsuit. As you know there are about a hundred people in the town of Arkwright that are filing a nuisance lawsuit claim against the wind facility. And one of their chief complaints is of course the noise that these machines are making and the impact it has on their lives.
Narrator: Arkwright resident plaintiffs are asking for unspecified damages related to the loss of property values, compensatory damages for destruction of homes and lifestyle, loss of use and enjoyment of their properties, damages for relocation costs, and time spent relocating, mental anguish, destruction of scenic countryside, physical pain and suffering, difficulty sleeping, nuisance, trespass, interference with electronics in their homes such as satellites, telephones and televisions, loss of business profits, special damages for stress, anxiety, worry and inconvenience, and the effects lights and noise from the industrial turbines have on their properties.
Mark Twichell: The attorney who is handling the lawsuit is advising those residents, the plaintiffs, not to speak publicly. So that sort of eliminated a lot of candidates for this position. The nuisance lawsuits that you will find in every community that is impacted by wind turbines and their noise, is all part of the system. Even before the wind turbines are installed as in the case of Arkwright, the nuisance attorney arrives on the scene, and starts talking to people about what is about to happen, and how they should relate to that. And the New York State regulatory agencies are well aware of this. And I believe that they see the nuisance lawsuits as remunerative justice. In other words they are permitting a facility that they know, and that they willingly admit, is going to be highly annoying to 10% of the population.
That percent of the population has the recourse of filing the nuisance lawsuit, based on the fact that they no longer can enjoy the full use and value of their property. And they will get money in exchange for having lost the value of their property. And in New York State’s view this is justice.
My first entry in the log book I believe goes back to April. I wanted to make sure that we started this process before the leaves came out on the trees, because wind in the trees is a masking sound. Wind in the trees influences how people hear the noise. And I will say that I have responded to complaints at four different residences. And I’ve also taken it upon myself to come to this location, which is only a part-time residence. This location is a camp, a summer camp located in the town of Arkwright.
I attribute the relatively – what we would call the low sample size – to several factors. Just as I was beginning this job the COVID pandemic hit. And obviously there are many people who would prefer not to have a stranger on their property. I also attribute this low response rate to the good neighbour agreements, whereby many people living in the town of Arkwright are subjected to the turbine noise, but they’re receiving payments from the wind company not to complain. And of course then we have the aforementioned lawsuit, whereby it would reduce the number of people who were willing to speak with me or to file a complaint. So given those three overriding factors, I feel fortunate to have even these five locations to measure and record.
Most of the calls occur in the morning. And the majority of calls occur at a time where the surface winds are calm as they are this morning. There is barely a blade of grass moving slightly. I don’t hear the sound of rustling leaves. But at the altitude of the wind turbine, which the blades are 400 feet in the air, there are winds that allow the turbine to spin, even though there is no wind at ground level. And this condition more than any other, and not only here in the town of Arkwright, but in reviewing wind turbine noise complaints everywhere else, this is one of the conditions, probably the primary condition where people file complaints.
I’ve also had calls on very windy days where even though there was a lot of what we call ambient noise, the sound of the trees and the shrubbery blowing in the wind, but people can still hear the turbines above the ambient noise.
There is no one that I have spoken with or responded to, that wasn’t annoyed by this sound. And annoyance is classified as an adverse health effect, and has been found to be very predominant in many wind turbine noise studies across the globe. The digital recorder, the metre recorder that is provided to the town of Arkwright that I am using, does not record low-frequency noise nor does it record infrasound. Low-frequency noise is generally sound less than 100Hz. Infrasound is generally an acoustic energy, a sound if you will, that is not audible but that exists at frequencies below 20Hz. When we talk about the influence of wind turbine noise, we have to realise that the only component of the noise that we’re allowed to measure is the audible noise. The wind industry does not want measurement of inaudible noise, infrasound for example.
And the reason for that is that this inaudible noise occurs at such a low frequency, that we really should call it a vibration. It is really not so much something that people can sense through their hearing, but they can sense it through the vibrations in the ground. They can see the vibrations in the filaments of their light bulbs in their homes. They can see the vibrations as in a glass of water on their kitchen table. These vibrations are also synchronous with many of the natural vibration frequencies of the human body. And that’s one plausible explanation for why wind turbine infrasound is so harmful.
Another possible explanation of course is that there are fears with the vestibular system. That is our sense of balance. And that would account for the high rate of complaints of nausea and dizziness related to wind turbine sound. But it’s very difficult to actually answer a question about wind turbine noise, because so much of the wind turbine noise is not actually being measured.
Fortunately for all of us, there are very well qualified people around the world who have studied this, and described in some detail the actual low frequency and infrasound vibrations that wind turbines make. And they’ve actually related this to the symptoms that people are experiencing. It isn’t necessary for me to explain what people who are much more qualified and experienced than I, can readily describe and explain.
Jerry Punch: The only thing that we really can do though is move them away from people or keep them away from people as far as we can. And you should know that infrasound and low-frequency noise are typically not masked by wind noise or other noises, and can’t or cannot be controlled effectively by barriers. I’ve known people to put mattresses on the walls in their basement, move to another room away from the windows or whatever. And none of this helps. Wearing earplugs typically does not help people. It’s because of the long wavelengths of infrasound which I can’t really get into at this point.
Mark Twichell: Another acoustic engineer, an Australian by the name of Steven Cooper. Cooper’s breakthrough contribution to wind turbine sound infrasound, is the Cape Bridgewater Study of 2014. For the last six years Cooper has been publishing one definitive study after another, on wind turbine infrasound and its impact on people. And just two months ago Mr. Cooper published a report on wind turbine noise monitoring, and why my job is so difficult, and why my job in many ways is irrelevant. Because as Mr. Cooper says, “We’re not really measuring all the noise that a wind turbine makes. We’re only measuring the noise that the wind turbine company wants us to measure. And even then, the noise as they define it is incomplete and very arbitrary.” They pick a number, for example in the town of Arkwright they say that wind turbine noise should not exceed 50 decibels on average, over an eight hour time period.
I have not failed to register 50 decibels when I am on a complaint call. It routinely spikes above 50 decibels. Why can we not then talk to the wind company and say, “Your machines are out of compliance.” No, that’s not the way it works. Because the way the Host Community Agreement is written, there are many hoops to jump through to actually show that the 50 decibels is real, and that it would have an impact. It’s not really possible for us to know if these machines are turning by virtue of the energy in the wind, or if they are turning because as they are connected to the power grid, they’re actually drawing power from the grid in order to turn.
Cuomo’s energy policy has changed over the years. And I can cite various metrics we’re going to have 70% of our electricity from allegedly renewable resources. Even that word renewable resources is up for debate, given the huge amount of industrialization required to even construct a wind turbine. But these metrics have changed. The one thing that I am absolutely certain of is that not a single metric that has been proposed, has yet been that met. Yet they continue to propose even more aggressive metrics. Such that at some pending decade, we’re going to have 100% renewable electric power in New York State.
Now, they haven’t even shown that they can do the simplest of let’s say that the earlier metrics, ‘well we’re going to generate 30% of our electricity by the year 2020’ for example, they’re nowhere near that. It’s interesting that when they report the amount of electricity generated by renewable resources, they include hydro-power. Which in fact is a truly renewable resource. But you cannot compare the amount of energy generated by Niagara Falls with intermittent wind and solar, which only function when the sun is shining and the wind is blowing.
The New York State agency – this is an independent agency by the way. It’s not a state agency. It’s called New York Independent Systems Operator. They are the grid managers. They are the people who have to do this balancing act. They are the ones that have to account for the various competitive entities that are generating electricity. Be it the nuclear, hydro, wind, solar. So at any given second the grid can only accept the same amount of power as is being used. If indeed the any energy generated by Arkwright is merely going into the local grid, it has no place else to go, they’re going to have to shut somebody else off, right? You can only generate as much as it’s being used. So yes, in fact Niagara falls… The word is curtailed. Niagara falls has shut down or curtailed in order to allow the wind power or the solar power to enter the grid. Because after all we promised these developers that they would be able to sell their power.
The governor announced… I believe it was just a couple of weeks ago that an ambitious bond worth $3 billion was not going forward. This was the mother nature bond or this was something… It had a name indicating that the money was going to be spent planting trees or protecting our natural resources. But we don’t know what percentage of that bond was actually going to be diverted to the governor’s favourite cash cow organisation, that being NYSERDA, New York State Energy Research Association, which is not a state agency but a corporate lobbying entity.
We don’t know how much of this now cancelled 3 billion bond, was actually going to be spent subsidising renewable energy facilities. But we do know that New York State is $16 billion in debt. And that these facilities cannot be built without subsidisation, both from the feds via the production tax credit, and through NYSERDA’s funnelling of our electricity bills. Those being the fine print on the back of your monthly electricity statement. And the outright gifts from the governor to this agency NYSERDA. Which in turn gives it to its favourite corporate entities.
The falsification of avian mortality, both birds and bats, has been going on for decades. It’s very difficult even under honest intentions, to know how many birds or bats are killed. They fall to the ground after they’re being struck by the blades. How far away did they fly before they fell? If you’re limiting your search radius to a hundred yards around the base of the turbine, you’re definitely going to miss dead critters. If you didn’t search until the next morning or two days after…
If you look at the response of science to the use of renewable energy to answer a climate question, it’s crickets. There is none. The advisory boards that New York State is in the process of developing under the new replacement for article 10, whatever you want to call that, contains no electricity generating scientist, no electricity generating grid operator. The scientists actually have been shut out of the issue of renewable energy, and as a response to the crisis of a changing planet. This is a blatant human rights violation.
The World Health Organisation is basing its turbine noise advisory on accepting that one out of 10 people are going to be negatively impacted. New York State is using the same metric. They are willing to throw one out of 10 people under the bus. This is intentional. There’s no way that this is not intentional.
These people know very well what they’re doing. The science goes back to the 1980s. There’s no way that they can say that they didn’t know that what they were promoting was harmful. Politicians, they are very adept at manipulating the justice system to avoid responsibility for their actions. They will always couch their actions in terms of a greater good. Which again gets us to the science of renewable energy. What is the greater good? How much CO2 are we actually removing by using renewable energy? Nobody actually knows. The statistics aren’t there.
The New York State Siting Board has ruled that the impact of renewable energy facilities on property values, is not relevant to the permitting process. Such that we cannot claim that a wind turbine a quarter mile from my house, will lower the value of the property. That’s not admissible, so to speak, evidence in the permitting of facilities. We know that electricity from Western New York cannot reach New York City. We know this because we’ve been told by state agencies repeatedly. That none of the power from the Arkwright wind facility can reach areas of New York State where green power is really necessary. Keeping in mind that Western New York is 90% fossil free in terms of power generation, by virtue of Niagara Falls and nuclear power.
If the power from the Arkwright wind facility cannot get to New York City, how then does it get to Massachusetts? And the simple answer is that it does not. The state of Massachusetts has a clean energy standard like New York, like so many states. And it allows various agencies in Massachusetts to purchase credits. Such that they give money to Arkwright Wind LLC for the power that the facility here in Arkwright generates. But the power doesn’t actually go to Massachusetts. Yet the agencies in Massachusetts can claim that they are supporting green energy.
The power from the Arkwright facility merely goes into the local grid. And as such it must compete with power from Niagara Falls and power from the nuclear plants which are not here in Western New York, but are in Central New York on Lake Ontario. And the power from the wind turbines here in Arkwright does have some impact on the nearest fossil generating plant, which is across the border in Pennsylvania.
We knew going into this project that by we, myself, the town board, knew that there was no way that we’re going to prove non-compliance. The reason for this project was to record wind turbine noise as it is experienced by the people.
For as brief a time period as we’ve been able to do this… I speak of we not as just myself, but those board members that are supporting me and the people of Arkwright that are supporting this effort. We have already shown how the wind turbine noise affects people in real life, not as how wind turbine noise is defined by the wind company. That game we cannot win. But we can surely measure and record the sound that the people who go about their daily lives in the town, are experiencing. That much we have been successful for. We will never be able to prove compliance. We will never be able to by this effort at least, reduce the noise that the turbines are making.
Before the wind turbines arrived, Chautauqua County which ranks in the bottom three counties of the 62 counties of New York State. Chautauqua ranks in the bottom three. I can’t remember if we’re 58th or 59th in terms of public health outcomes. And that’s a nationwide measurement. Every county in the United States is measured by an independent company that looks at factors like quality of life, public health outcomes, rates of obesity, tobacco usage, alcohol usage, suicide rates. Chautauqua County is at the bottom of New York State’s public health ranking. And that was before the wind turbines came.
In my opinion that’s not coincidental. The wind company needs to establish their facility in a county that is underprivileged, and in a county that does not have the economic resources to establish protective wind ordinances, that would preclude their coming to the county. If you compared the towns of Erie County for example, you would find that they all recognise the value of their rural properties. And they’ve established laws that would discourage the wind company from coming there. Chautauqua County, not so much. If the wind company comes and says, “Hey, we’ll give your school district 80 or hundred thousand dollars a year”, they’re going to take it.