Advertise in Print | Subscriptions
Published June 30, 2009, 06:40 AM

Neighbors to N.D. wind turbines find them noisy

A proposed wind energy center expansion in North Dakota is drawing objections from neighbors who worry about the noise and other health problems. The state requires wind turbines to be at least a quarter-mile from the nearest occupied dwelling. Some want them farther away. The state Public Service Commission is working on new rules.

VALLEY CITY, N.D. (AP) — A proposed wind energy center expansion in North Dakota is drawing objections from neighbors who worry about the noise and other health problems.

The state requires wind turbines to be at least a quarter-mile from the nearest occupied dwelling. Some want them farther away. The state Public Service Commission is working on new rules.

“A quarter-mile has kind of developed as a rule of thumb,” state Public Service Commissioner Tony Clark said. “It’s not a hard and fast rule.”

The quarter-mile distance, Clark said, equates to a noise level for the nearest dwellings of between 45 decibels and 50 decibels. Local zoning officials can set more stringent limits, he said.

Dennis and Cathryn Stillings moved about 15 miles northeast of Valley City for the serenity of the prairie near the Sheyenne River Valley. But Cathryn said she now sleeps with earplugs because of noise from wind turbines. Her husband estimates the turbines are about a third of a mile away and says shelterbelts don’t keep out the noise.

When the turbines are quiet, he said, “You just feel like stress is falling away from you. What you find out is you’ve been tense all the time.”

Florida-based NextEra Energy Resources, which has wind projects throughout North Dakota, plans to expand its Ashtabula Wind Energy Center north of Valley City.

NextEra spokesman John DiDonato said the current setback standards address the complaints of noise and so-called shadow flicker, a strobe effect that can occur when sunlight passes through turbine blades at certain angles. The company has not received a large number of noise complaints, he said.

“It’s not frequent,” Didonato said. “Wind turbines do make sounds.”

Jim and Mary Ann Miller live and work on a farm north of Luverne near several proposed wind turbines.

“These turbines produce noise pollution, health risks, industrial electrical pollution, annoying blade-shadow flicker, ice throw and reduced property and land values,” Jim Miller said.

The complaints were aired at a recent public hearing on a 157-megawatt wind project planned near Luverne, in Griggs and Steele counties.

“It’s the first serious opposition that we’ve encountered to a wind farm,” Clark said. “It remains to be seen whether this is an anomaly or a sign of things to come.”

The PSC has received six documented consumer complaints since 2000 involving wind projects, spokesman Tom Rafferty said. Its latest tally shows 482 turbines in the state with about 1,400 more turbines proposed.

Tags: