Vermont regulators filed a rule Tuesday limiting how loud wind turbines can be when they generate power, angering the wind industry and green energy advocates.
The Vermont Public Service Board proposed a 42-decibel sound limit for wind turbines operating during the day, which would drop to 39 decibels at night. The rule would lower the state’s current 45-decibels per hour limit, which is quieter than a normal conversation, and would also require large wind turbine projects to keep a distance of ten times their heights from nearby homes.
The proposed rule now heads to the state’s Democrat-controlled legislature for approval, and could eventually arrive on Republican Gov. Phil Scott’s desk.
The wind industry is fighting the rule, claiming it effectively blocks the construction of new wind turbines in the state.
“This rule will make most, if not all, large wind projects unworkable in Vermont, taking this critical clean-energy resource off the table,” the Vermont Public Interest Research Group, a lobbying group that supports the wind industry, told the Associated Press.
If the rule is approved, wind energy supporters claim that Vermont won’t meet its goal of getting 90 percent of its electricity from green sources by 2050.
Local environmentalists support the proposed regulation, with some arguing that the rule doesn’t go far enough.
“It could have been a lot better to be truly protective, but it is a great improvement over what has been in place for the operating big wind projects,” Annette Smith, founder of the environmental group Vermonters for a Clean Environment, told the AP. The board considered a noise limit of 35 decibels, but decided it was too restrictive.
The rule marks a sharp reversal in the state’s attitude towards the wind industry.
Dr. Harry Chen, former Vermont health commissioner, told lawmakers in 2016 that “no scientific research has been able to demonstrate a direct cause-and-effect link between living near wind turbines, the noise they emit, and physiological health effects.”
Yet news of a Vermont family abandoning their home in 2014 due to a noisy wind turbines nearby swayed many in the public. Environmentalists moved into the home and turned it into a research station called Center for Turbine Impact Studies (CTIS). CTIS uses state-funded sound monitoring equipment to study the impacts of wind power on human health.
Wind turbine opponents have been able to leverage the existence of CTIS to bolster their case against wind, but much of the research hasn’t yet been released.
In addition to noise, one of other common residential complaints is that wind turbines cause “flickering” when the sun is behind their blades. Some claim that, in addition to being annoying, this flickering can cause headaches, sleep disorders and anxiety and depression symptoms in people who live nearby.
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