May 14, 2005

The Fenner wind farm show

Sue Sliwinski of the Sardinia (N.Y.) Preservation Group writes about the frequent developer-sponsored tours from around New York to the wind facility in Fenner. Her husband, Ed, went on one but thought he'd take a look the day before as well. He noted a mowed field near the turbines, the hay all taken in. On the tour the next day, they were led from the bus to stand under an operating turbine (known to be the quietest spot). But the only thing they could hear was a tractor in the nearby field. Someone went over to tell the fellow to turn it off for a bit, and with that noise gone the gravelly swishing of turbines was a relative relief. Then back to the bus and to the wining and dining part of the tour.

Sue has heard about other tours having to deal with that same tractor:
"This caught my attention because there are other accounts of visits to other wind farms by developers and they're almost all identical:

"Everyone boards a big fancy bus, the developers make rounds to chit chat with all along the way, they get to the wind farm, pull right up under a turbine, get out, and have to kindly request that the farmer over in the next field turns off his tractor because it's noise is louder than the turbine. Then after about 20 minutes it's time for lunch: back on the bus down to the nearest village where you probably can't even see the turbines anymore. There you listen to locals proclaim their pleasure about having them in their town, and more importantly the mayor or supervisor along with several leasers join you for lunch and verify every single wonderful claim made by the developers. Then they pile back onto the bus and sing rah-rah songs all the way home.

"No kidding -- I've heard the same exact story a number of times from different places. Every once in a while an article will turn up describing the day exactly that way, too."
Ed Sliwinski has visited Fenner and another facility in Weathersfield several times on his own to record the sights and sounds. The lights at night are notably intrusive. They light up the top of the tower and the nacelle (the bus-sized generator housing at the top of the tower) as well as the blades near the hub. That's bad enough, but as the blades turn the reflected light does, too, making it even more distracting and industrial.

One time at Fenner, on a windless foggy day, he recorded the eerie screeching that many people have described. The sound may be from the whole assembly turning on the tower to unwind the cable inside, which becomes twisted from turning the blades into the wind. It was too foggy to see what was going on way up there.

Another noise he described hearing is like gunshots, an explosive popping as the towers cool in the evening after a sunny day.

On some of his early visits, Ed talked to a Fenner town supervisor, who told him, "The honeymoon is over." Major complaints from residents have been increasing, he said. He also mentioned a violation of the setback agreement of 2,000 feet from any home: The company did not consider it as applying to "mobile" homes.

Also see Pam Foringer's account of her life next to the Fenner wind power complex.

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