Luann and Steve Therrien and their two toddlers are the human face of what STT despises most about the wind industry and its apologists.
A young family, driven from their homes by incessant turbine generated infrasound and low-frequency noise; rendered refugees dependant on the charity of others; and, worst of all, ridiculed and vilified for having the temerity to identify the cause of their suffering as the 16 whirling wonders on the ridge above their home (for more on their suffering click here).
But, in this case their wholly unnecessary homelessness may have an upside: their home is to be used as a scientific lab in which the noise and vibration that caused them endless sleepless nights, headaches, ear pressure and the like can be pinned down with state-of-the-art acoustic kit and tied up to the sensations and symptoms described by thousands of unfortunates just like the Therriens and their brood.
Abandoned home of wind turbine sufferers to become wind farm research center
Michael Bielawski and Bruce Parker
18 August 2016
SHEFFIELD, Vt. — A Vermont home abandoned due to noise from local wind turbines is being turned into a research center to study the negative impacts of industrial-scale wind power projects.
The Therrien family property in Sheffield has been the epicenter of a debate regarding the adverse effects of wind turbines. Now it will become a dedicated research hub to study the noise, vibrations and environmental impacts of 16 418-foot-tall nearby turbines known as Vermont Wind.
“We are going to solicit universities and research institutes to conduct studies, and we are going to make the property available to them,” said Mark Whitworth, board president of Energize Vermont, an environmental group that advocates for small-scale renewable applications.
The Therriens abandoned their home in 2014 after living there for two decades because they said the sound and vibrations from the power plant were causing sleepless nights and health problems. When the property recently went up for tax sale, Energize Vermont seized the opportunity to pay off the family’s back taxes and made an agreement to use the property for research purposes.
Steve Therrien, the former owner of the home, said he believes the center will provide a valuable service to all Vermonters.
“We certainly can’t get the wind companies to do the right thing for the towns. It’s a push in the right direction, with all of the other (wind turbine) projects that they are trying to put in,” Therrien told Watchdog.
“I hate to say it, but any kind of studies or testing (by the state) has been gamed. This will hopefully level the playing field.”
Whitworth agreed that something needed to be done.
“The Therrien family abandoned their home, and we want to start to figure out why,” he said. “What are the conditions that those turbines created that could cause a family to take the extreme step of abandoning their home and property?”
Energize Vermont has named the facility the Vermont Center for Turbine Impact Studies. In addition to conducting research on the turbines’ impacts on residents, wildlife and the environment, the center’s research teams will also assess the performance of state regulators in their efforts to monitor and enforce wind turbine standards.
“The State of Vermont and the Public Service Board does not seem to be interested in doing real monitoring and real measurements,” Whitworth said. “They certainly aren’t interested in enforcing the conditions that they themselves established for these wind operations.”
Another of Vermont’s Big Wind critics, Annette Smith, director of Vermonters for a Clean Environment, said she is pleased with the new research initiative.
“It’s become abundantly clear that nothing will ever get resolved through the regulatory process,” she said. “This is going to finally be a way to gather credible information about what people are experiencing, what the noise levels are — and not just audible (noise), which is what the Public Service Board looks at, but also low frequency noise and infrasound.”
Whitworth noted that the owners of the Sheffield facility, SunEdison, a subsidiary of TerraForm Power, is bankrupt, and that the project has not met performance expectations since it was built in 2012, producing only 70 percent of developers promised.
He added that another problem complicating matters is the turbines are no longer supported by their manufacturer. As the turbines fail mechanically, getting the right replacement parts will become increasingly difficult.
Therrien thinks the fight over wind power is going to have ramifications for Vermont’s gubernatorial election. Republican candidate Phil Scott has called for a moratorium new industrial wind projects, whereas Democrat Sue Minter has said she will not let towns have veto power over industrial wind turbine projects.
“On the Minter side, I would have to say follow the money,” Therrien said. “She doesn’t realize the ecological damages caused by these things, and nobody is going to know for a period of time. But we’ve had people go there and be like, ‘there’s no birds, there’s no deer, the wildlife is just gone.’”
He said Minter’s strong support for giant wind power companies will cost votes.
“I one hundred percent believe that there is going to be a backlash on whoever is for them, and of course on Minter,” he said. “She is not going to get any votes from the Northeast Kingdom. She will probably have a hard time getting any of the rural areas like Grafton or Swanton. She is going to get all her votes from Bennington and Chittenden counties.”
Therrien said while he thinks Republican Phil Scott is better on wind, he would still like to hear more from him on the issue.
“Phil Scott, I don’t think he’s strong enough on curtailing these things, but he’s a better shot than Minter. I believe Phil wants to put a moratorium on them, but he didn’t say that he wants to completely stop them.”
Whitworth reiterated Therrien’s comments.
“From everything that I’ve read about Sue Minter, she is interested in doubling down on Shumlin’s agenda,” he said, “and not just on issues related to renewable energy.”
Sheffield family’s property to be center for turbine impact studies
Amy Ash Nixon
16 August 2016
SHEFFIELD – The property belonging to Steve and Luann Therrien that they fled, blaming their departure on the noise of the neighboring industrial wind project, will be used as a laboratory and classroom to monitor the effects of wind projects on people, said Mark Whitworth, president of Energize Vermont, on Monday.
Energize Vermont’s board of directors last week authorized Whitworth, of Newark, to pay in full the about $5,200 owed in back taxes, interest and penalties on the Therrien’s property, which had been advertised for a tax sale on Wednesday at 3 p.m. at the Sheffield Town Hall.
That morning, Steve Therrien came in with a bank check and Whitworth was the remitter on the check, according to Sheffield Town Clerk William St. Peter.
Energize Vermont stated that it will be entering an agreement with the Therriens to operate the Vermont Center for Turbine Impact Studies on the property.
The Therriens spent several years appealing to state officials, First Wind, the former owner of the wind project known as Vermont Wind, now owned by SunEdison, and to town officials, trying to get bought out. The business offered them $50,000 at one point, but they did not accept the offer.
Luann Therrien said in recent days the family is doing better, now that they moved to a mobile home in Derby with the assistance of the executive director of Vermonters for a Clean Environment, Annette Smith, who bought the mobile home they live in and now lease from her, in order to get them out of their property about a year-and-a-half ago. She said the couple has tried to sell the property, which also has a primitive home on it, according to the town tax sale description, but has not had any offers.
According to Energize Vermont, “The Center will promote scientific research into the impacts of industrial wind development on Vermont’s citizens, wildlife, and environment. The Center will also investigate the effectiveness of state regulators in defining, monitoring, and enforcing the operational and environmental standards for industrial wind turbines.”
The Therrien’s property, under the agreement, will be available to researchers and educators as a laboratory and classroom, the announcement states.
“The Therrien property abuts Vermont Wind’s turbine complex of 16 418-foot-tall turbines,” the announcement stated.
According to the news release, the Sheffield wind project, which came online in 2012, has not operated at capacity, and its turbines are failing. “As repair parts become more difficult to scavenge, production will continue to drop and the turbines will become louder and even more problematic for neighbors. The Center will monitor, record, and document the deterioration of the Vermont Wind facility,” the news release Monday went on.
“The Therriens abandoned their Sheffield home in 2014 because of the adverse health impacts attributed to turbine operations,” the Energize Vermont release stated.
Whitworth said, “The fact that the Therriens abandoned their home of 20 years tells us that this property is a good location from which to observe, measure, and record the effects of turbine operation and maintenance activities.”
“We had been discussing launching the Center for Turbine Impact Studies with researchers, educators, and funders when the Town of Sheffield announced that the Therrien’s home would come up for tax sale,” said Whitworth. “The Energize Vermont Board of Directors quickly approved an agreement with the Therriens under which back taxes would be paid, access to the property would be ensured, and the Therriens could retain ownership of the property.”
Whitworth said, “Energize Vermont’s members have answered the call and enabled us to raise over half of our initial fundraising goal in less than a week.”
Board member Luke Snelling said, “Vermont Wind’s Sheffield project represents yet another instance where Vermont’s reckless energy development policy has served big corporations at the expense of Vermonters.”
“The Center will help us measure and document the impacts of industrial wind,” he said of the group’s plans to use the Therrien property going forward. “The more Vermonters learn about Big Wind, the more they say ‘No.’ The Center will give Vermonters the truth about Big Wind by experiencing its effects firsthand through on-site seminars and ‘turbine listening events.’ ”
SunEdison’s spokesman did not have a comment from the company about the move by Energize Vermont to rescue the Therrien property from tax sale and to use the site for testing of the adjacent wind project.
Whitworth said the nonprofit would also monitor the wind project for compliance with its state-issued Certificate of Public Good; the company has maintained that it is operating within permitted sound levels.
Energize Vermont said in their news release on Monday they will begin taking research proposals immediately.
The Caladonian Record