Some of the nation’s top experts on wind turbine sound issues spent two days on Vinalhaven last month in order to learn more about the noise issues raised by neighbors of the Fox Islands Wind project.


The group represented researchers affiliated with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), General Electric, and Acentech.


Since the project began operating in November 2009, some neighbors have said that they are bothered by the noise coming from the turbines. In an effort to better understand these concerns and to identify potential solutions, Fox Islands Wind requested assistance from experts at DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) based in Golden, Colorado. NREL agreed to help, sending a team to work with GE and the project’s sound consultants to address the on-the-ground issues that are being raised on Vinalhaven.


The NREL efforts began on May 17 and 18 when a team led by Larry Flowers, the principal project leader of the National Wind Technology Center at NREL, arrived on the island.  The researchers split into two teams. A technical team visited the wind site to listen to the turbines, study data from the monitoring that has gone on for the last six months, and better understand the unique circumstances at the Fox Islands site. A community impacts team conducted interviews with residents that live in the vicinity of the turbines.


The researchers plan to produce an initial summary of their trip to the island, and to make recommendations back to DOE and to Fox Islands Wind about how to proceed. Possible next steps include isolating exactly what sounds people around the site find bothersome, performing a root-cause analysis on these sounds to identify exactly what is causing them, exploring physical and operations modifications that could reduce these sounds, and understanding the economic feasibility of mitigation. NREL has made an initial commitment of $30,000 towards this effort.


The visit was the latest of several steps that the Fox Islands Electric Cooperative and Fox Islands Wind have taken to address these concerns. In February, the co-op facilitated a sound experiment during which the turbines were slowed down to varying degrees, and neighbors were asked to log their experiences. Researchers at DOE’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory analyzed the data that was collected during the expermiment and the results are to be shared at the co-op’s monthly board meeting scheduled for May 25. In addition, Fox Islands Wind was recently awarded a grant for $12,500 from the Maine Technology Institute to develop active noise cancellation technology to be deployed in neighbors’ homes.


Suzanne Pude is the director of the Island Institute’s Maine Coast Community Wind Program.