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 IslandsWind, 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.

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