Assessing the Impacts of Reduced Noise Operations of Wind Turbines on Neighbor Annoyance: A Preliminary Analysis in Vinalhaven, Maine

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Neighbors living near the 3 turbine, 4.5 MW Vinalhaven, Maine wind power facility, which began operations in late 2009, have complained that the noise from the turbines is unwelcome and annoying. Fox Islands Wind, the owner of the facility, hypothesized that implementing a Noise Reduced Operation (NRO) for the turbines, which effectively limits the turbines maximum rpm and power output, would reduce the sound levels produced by the turbines, and therefore might also reduce the degree to which the neighbors report being annoyed by those sounds. To test this hypothesis in a preliminary fashion, a pilot study was conducted in ... continued below

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Hoen, Ben; Wiser, Ryan & Eckholdt, Haftan June 23, 2010.

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Neighbors living near the 3 turbine, 4.5 MW Vinalhaven, Maine wind power facility, which began operations in late 2009, have complained that the noise from the turbines is unwelcome and annoying. Fox Islands Wind, the owner of the facility, hypothesized that implementing a Noise Reduced Operation (NRO) for the turbines, which effectively limits the turbines maximum rpm and power output, would reduce the sound levels produced by the turbines, and therefore might also reduce the degree to which the neighbors report being annoyed by those sounds. To test this hypothesis in a preliminary fashion, a pilot study was conducted in early 2010, the results of which are the subject of this brief report. The study included asking near-by residents - those within roughly 3000 feet - to rate the sounds and the degree to which they were annoyed by them using logs which they filled out at multiple times during the day on as many days as were possible in the 35 day study period in February and March, 2010. Meanwhile, FIW adjusted the NRO settings of the turbines in a random fashion in the evenings during the same period, but in a pattern that the respondents were not made aware of. Ultimately, nine individuals turned in roughly 200 log entries (i.e., responses), each of which was time coded to allow testing if the response was correlated with the wind facility operating conditions at that time. The analysis of these data found small, non-statistically-significant differences in self-reported turbine loudness and annoyance ratings between the periods when the NRO was enacted and when it was not, after controlling for many of the relationships that could independently influence perceived loudness and annoyance (e.g., wind direction, time of day). Possible explanations for these small differences in self-reported turbine loudness and annoyance ratings include: the relative difference in sound output from the turbines when NRO was engaged and when it was not was small; and/or that differences in turbine sound outputs that did exist might have been masked by higher (non-turbine) wind sound levels that were coincident with NRO periods. Because this preliminary test only included a small portion of the population surrounding the turbines, the sample of self-reported ratings was itself very small. In addition, the conditions varied greatly over the study period, as described in the report that follows. Consequently, the results presented here should be considered preliminary, and further data collection and analysis are warranted. The main findings of this preliminary study are: (1) As planned, periods in which the NRO was engaged were found to have noticeably lower turbine rotational speeds (rpm), based on turbine operational data. (2) 11% of responses overall indicated that the turbines were perceived as either 'very' or 'extremely' loud at the time they were logged, and roughly two thirds of those (7% overall) indicated the sounds to be 'very' or 'extremely' annoying. (3) Self-reported turbine loudness and annoyance ratings were higher during the night and when the wind was from the North (participants in the study were located to the east and south of the turbines). (4) Self-reported turbine loudness and annoyance ratings were generally found to be lower during the NRO periods, but these observed differences are relatively small in magnitude, and are not statistically significant. (5) There is some limited evidence that high-speed surface winds mask self-reported turbine loudness and annoyance ratings. Therefore, because NRO settings are only engaged during periods of high winds, the true effects of the NRO adjustments might be diluted to some degree. (6) The results of this preliminary assessment should not be applied to the full population of homeowners near the turbines in Vinalhaven, Maine because the potentially most-sensitive individuals (those most vocal of their dislike of the turbine sounds) opted not to participate in the study, and because the study did not include the relatively large number of individuals who primarily visit the island during the summer months.

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  • Report No.: LBNL-3562E
  • Grant Number: DE-AC02-05CH11231
  • DOI: 10.2172/984315 | External Link
  • Office of Scientific & Technical Information Report Number: 984315
  • Archival Resource Key: ark:/67531/metadc1013620

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  • June 23, 2010

Added to The UNT Digital Library

  • Oct. 14, 2017, 8:36 a.m.

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  • Oct. 17, 2017, 6 p.m.

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Hoen, Ben; Wiser, Ryan & Eckholdt, Haftan. Assessing the Impacts of Reduced Noise Operations of Wind Turbines on Neighbor Annoyance: A Preliminary Analysis in Vinalhaven, Maine, report, June 23, 2010; Berkeley, California. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc1013620/: accessed July 15, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.