HASEB, we’ll call it , to replace the trite old energy-ism NIMBY. “Not in my backyard” is the usual response to every form of electron production. Residents along the Gulf don’t want oil drillers dotting their landscape and soiling their coasts. Mid-Atlantic states don’t want hydraulic frackers coming through and contaminating their ground water. And no one wants massive nuclear plants that house radioactive materials in our neighborhoods.
Renewable energy, folks say, is the answer. Solar panels are unassuming. And wind turbines hurt no one but the birds.
Except they can annoy the bajeezus out of you, it turns out. And here at Spinach HQ, we came across this report from NBC News in Keyser, West Virginia. A new wind project went up on Green Mountain in the community in 2011, and it wasn’t met with screaming excitement for the purity of the air and the cleanliness of the energy. Nope, it was met with a low hum.
“When News4 visited Ashby and his neighbors, we heard what it sounds like instead. A mix between a train rumbling by and a plane flying high overhead.”
A constant, low frequency noise that’s driving local residents crazy. How crazy? To the tune of 60 to 70 decibels, according to one community vigilante who decided to do his own measuring. That’s enough to keep you awake if you’re a light sleeper, or seriously annoy you if you’re not.
Seriously annoying, but here’s the question: how sympathetic should we be?
Not very, I’d say. No one deserves to see their home value and alertness drop due to a constantly-buzzing turbine, but the truth is, everybody wants clean energy and no one’s willing to bear its costs. Energy, especially produced by the wind, isn’t free to harness. Nor, apparently, silent.
But stories like this one from Keyser are important. Our reaction to unhappy residents shouldn’t be to consider taking down turbines or building them in less-windy spots just to keep the neighbors happy. No. Enough squeaky wheels might be exactly what are needed to motivate the good folks at GE, Siemens and other turbine research companies to innovate. The result might be getting a sleeker, slimmer and – yes – quieter turbine sooner than anyone could have expected.
Stay tuned for later this week when the rest of Team Spinach takes on noisy turbines. And we want to hear from you too! Please comment below.