Seltenrich, N. Wind Turbines: A Different Breed of Noise?

Nate Seltenrich, Environmental Health Perspectives, 11 January, 2014

Sue Hobart and her husband built their dream home in 2007 on a quiet, wooded lot outside Falmouth, Massachusetts. Five years later they abandoned it.

Less than 1,500 feet from the empty house stands a mammoth wind turbine erected three years ago by Notus Clean Energy. Three blades mounted upon the 262-foot tower sweep an area of the sky equal to 1.3 acres, the size of a football field. They are visible through the forest from the house’s meticulously landscaped yard.

But the problem with the property wasn’t the degraded view—at least not for the Hobarts.

The problem was the noise. Shortly after the turbine switched on in 2010, Sue began experiencing headaches, dizziness, insomnia, and a ringing in her ears. When she noticed the symptoms briefly disappeared during trips out of town, she began attributing them to the arrival of the turbine. Within two years she was ready to leave.

Fellow Falmouth resident Annie Hart Cool can relate. “We live on two and a half acres of land, and we can’t use it because of the noise,” she says. Cool and her husband live near one of two city-owned turbines installed in 2010 and 2011 that power a nearby wastewater treatment facility, with the excess energy providing a source of revenue for the city. “We were all so excited about it until it turned on, and then we realized we couldn’t live with it,” Cool says.

In all, 41 Falmouth families have formally complained to city leaders—as have countless other wind-farm neighbors in countries including Australia, Canada, and England. Meanwhile, a small but growing body of evidence has begun to suggest that the health impacts of wind farms can be very real.

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