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Noise Complaints Filed Against Hoosac Wind Project

Michael Fairneny

Massachusetts residents living near a recently completed large-scale industrial wind farm in the Northern Berkshires have filed noise complaints to state officials.

This week a group of concerned residents called the Friends of Florida and Monroe met to communicate their experiences of living near the so-called Hoosac Wind Project, a 19-turbine wind farm owned and operated by Iberdrola Renewables in the Berkshire County town of Florida and neighboring Franklin County Town of Monroe.

Under state law, wind turbines must comply with regulations from the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, by producing noise no louder than 10db above ambient sound.

Mike Fairneny, whose property is located 3,000 feet from the nearest wind turbine told WAMC that since the 1.5 MW turbines began operating in December, he’s been concerned about the level of noise that affects him and his neighbors.

Fairneny, who is worried about ill-health effects caused by both audbile and inaudible sound, said that he would like an independent noise study of the properties surrounding the Hoosac Wind Project.

The DEP responded to an inquiry from WAMC about the complaints filed by the Fairneny and Friends of Florida and Monroe. Spokesman Joe Ferson said via email:

“MassDEP has been tracking complaints from residents in the area and we have been in contact with the company about those complaints. Mass DEP requested – and the company recently submitted – a plan for performing noise monitoring.  We are working with the company to ensure the plan will evaluate conditions around the turbines.  We expect to finalize that plan shortly and then the company will begin monitoring.”

The Hoosac Wind Project is surrounded by a history of controversy since its permitting process began in 2003. It went through several years of litigation between it was finally cleared for construction by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court in 2010. The lengthy legal process prompted the push in the state legislature for the Wind Siting Reform Act, which failed to pass. Many lawmakers including Senate President Therese Murray expressed concern that the bill would take too much local control away from cities and towns.

Governor Deval Patrick celebrated the wind farm’s opening in December, and expressed his desire to create a legislative framework to smooth the process of siting and developing wind projects.

The Governor has made developing wind energy a central pillar of his clean energy strategy for Massachusetts.

But wind farms remains a volatile topic in the Berkshires and Hilltowns. Later this month in the Franklin County town of Heath, a special town meeting will be held for residents to vote on the future of Industrial Wind Turbines in their community. If the measure passes, large-scale industrial wind projects, would not be permitted in Heath.

Lucas Willard is a news reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011. He produces and hosts The Best of Our Knowledge and WAMC Listening Party.
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