CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The state Public Service Commission staff has recommended rejecting a request by the operators of a Mineral County wind farm to dismiss a homeowner's complaint about excessive wind turbine noise.
Instead, the PSC should continue looking into noise and other issues involving Pinnacle Wind's 23-turbine Green Mountain operation near Keyser, according to a joint staff memo filed last week.
Richard Braithwaite, whose home lies about a half-mile from the nearest Pinnacle Wind turbine, said in a complaint filed in February that he has recorded readings as high as 83.4 decibels outside his home, and indoor readings as high as 63.6 decibels, since the turbines began operating in November.
While there are no federal noise regulations regarding wind farms, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recommends outdoor noise levels of no more than 55 decibels to protect public health and safety in residential areas, farms and other places where people spend time outdoors.
Several states with wind power projects have established their own wind turbine noise limits -- Oregon's indoor limit is 36 decibels -- but West Virginia is not among them.
"Three mornings ago, it got up to 87 decibels outside," Braithwaite said in a telephone interview on Monday. "When the wind's coming in from the west, it sounds like a train rumbling in the distance. When it comes in from the east -- that's when the back of the windmill is pointed at me -- it sounds like an airplane circling."
Braithwaite said his home's east-facing picture window now frames four turbines from Pinnacle Wind LLC's Green Mountain wind farm.
"I used to love seeing the sun coming up," he said, "but now, with all those wind turbine blades rotating, it's like a strobe light going off inside my house, even when the curtain's there. When the sun's coming through the blades, I get these crazy migraines."
A response to Braithwaite's complaint by Pinnacle Wind LLC contained no technical information regarding turbine sound levels and failed to address any of Braithwaite's concerns, according to an engineering memo prepared by PSC technical analyst Donald E. Walker.