Another day, another batch of complaints about wind power turbines. This time, residents of the small island of Vinalhaven, Maine, are arguing that the owners of three wind turbines violated state noise ordinances and are creating a lot of noise pollution.
That means Maine could be the next state in a growing list of states that have summarily killed proposed wind power projects due to “not-in-my-backyard” complaints. Wisconsin regulators caused enough delays in a proposed wind power project to compel the owning company to back down from the project over concerns that the wind turbines would damage home property values. Connecticut became the most recent state to kill a wind power project after complaints about noise and flickering lights compelled state regulators to strike down the plan for a proposed 3.2-megawatt wind farm.
An independent study by the Maine Department of Environment Protection found the noise from the wind turbines on Vinalhaven registered somewhere between 46 and 47 decibels. The night-time noise pollution limit for areas in Maine is 45 decibels. A typical conversation registers in at around 60 decibels, while typical street traffic registers in at around 70 decibels. Fox Island Wind has actually had to increase its electricity rates by 1 cent per kilowatt-hour to pay for the legal scuffle.
This is a familiar argument for wind power companies — many residents complain that the large wind turbines can be an eyesore and will bring down property taxes. The Maine residents complained the noise from the turbines and the flickering sunlight as a result of the turbines blocking out light would end up damaging property values and are causing harm to local residents. Other states have argued that placing wind turbines too close to a home or neighborhood will damage property values.
A University of California Berkeley study funded by the U.S. Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy showed property values were, at worst, unaffected when wind power farms were installed near each home. While there was a chance that individual homes would be impacted, home sale prices as a whole were not impacted by the placement of wind turbines in the area. Recent complaints show that wind power companies are not doing a good enough job showing the overall impact of wind power turbines on local property taxes.
At this point, wind power companies need to change their plan of attack — the “not in my backyard” (NIMBY) complaints are not going to go away any time soon.
Companies like Fox Island Wind (the company responsible for the turbines in Maine) need to find some new way to address these complaints or make the environmental benefit of wind turbines more obvious if they want to win over residents like those in Maine. The land that wind turbines occupy can also be used for agricultural purposes, such as for crops or grazing land. Wind turbines are also a bit of an iconic image for renewable energy — that’s something that these companies can stress when proposing the plans to local residents.
While a number of states are fighting tooth and nail to keep wind farms away from neighborhoods, many states have embraced them as a source of renewable energy. California —which is known for leaning toward renewable energy — harnesses only the third most wind energy in the United States at 3,179 megawatts of power, according to the American Wind Energy Association. Texas is the largest provider of wind power, generating 10,135 megawatts of power, while Ohio is the second largest with 3,675 megawatts of power worth of wind turbines.