Wind turbines whip up ruckus
Before anyone anxious to go green rushes out to buy a wind turbine, neighbors who live near Carson City’s only two turbines say there is more to the machines than meets the eye.
“There is a big noise factor. I hear it all the time. It’s a whine, like a siren, and sometimes it really rattles. This neighborhood has turned into the Hatfields and McCoys,” said Bob Grosulak, who lives on North View Drive near a turbine owned by Tim Howard on Valley View Drive.
“There are two signs in my front yard and I clobbered the neighborhood with pamphlets a year ago when this first came up,” he said. “Southern California has great big fields of them, but they do not belong in a residential area.”
Grosulak believes there are better alternatives.
“I’m not against green energy, but solar is a lot more efficient and affordable,” he said. “I think landowners should have a say in what goes into their neighborhood.”
Howard appeared in front of the board of supervisors last week to give an update on his wind turbine, and Planning Director Lee Plemel said no formal complaints had been filed regarding either turbine. The other one is located on West Washington Street.
Another neighbor of Howard’s, Valerie Wiens, is in a tricky position.
“Tim and Janet Howard are friends of ours, and I don’t want this to come between us,” she said. “I was in favor of the wind generator initially, assuming that the ordinance would take care of neighbors in the sense of noise limits. That has not happened. It is noisy.”
Wiens said the noise is disruptive to neighbors.
“We can hear it when we are lying in bed trying to sleep and when, at the end of the day, we feel like sitting on our deck and just enjoying the early evening – the quiet is gone,” she said.
She described the noise as “a bit like a high-pitched squeal. Sometimes it sounds like a siren, other times like a helicopter on a gusty day. You would think the sound of the trees moving in the wind would be enough to overcome the sound of this windmill – not so.”
Wiens said the good will between neighbors in her southeast Carson City area of town has taken a hit.
“Almost all the immediate neighbors are upset about it. I don’t believe that any amount of going green is worth the alienation of friends and neighbors,” Wiens said.
“And while all this nonsense has been going on, a neighbor on the opposite end of the block quietly put up a series of solar panels, which have been quietly and successfully energizing their home ever since. No fuss, no noise, no animosity, just quiet efficient use of the sun’s energy.”
“I don’t like neighborhood disputes,” she said. “What’s the point of saving the planet if we all hate each other?”
Howard said Tuesday he is closer to the turbine than anyone else, and it doesn’t bother him at all.
“There are only one or two neighbors who are against it. The majority are for it. One guy has a flagpole with a grommet that rattles and clangs and makes more noise than my turbine,” he said.
Across town on West Washington Street, where the other wind turbine is located, similar problems are occurring.
Mary Jo Malkiewich said her neighbor’s turbine has ruined the serenity they once enjoyed.
“I’m over the ugly of it – in the middle of my west view, my mountain view,” she said.
Malkiewich said the turbine sounds “like a siren, increasing in pitch and volume as the wind increases” and that when the sun sets in the evening, the blades produce “a strobe-light effect” in her dining room.
“I get migraine headaches, which can be triggered by strobe lights, and (strobe lights) can also trigger strokes,” she said.
Mayor Bob Crowell said the short answer to why the city created a wind turbine ordinance is that state law says local governments cannot impede the efforts of people wanting to turn to renewable energy.
“Noise was a pretty big issue when this first came up, and there is a pretty strict decibel level that is allowed,” Crowell said. “Theoretic-ally, it was supposed to be as silent as an outdoor refrigeration unit.”
He said the city has the equipment to measure whether the turbines are in compliance, and Plemel has been directed to conduct those tests.