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Wind industry has a record year in 2012

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Mineral County officials say that they have been getting few noise complaints from residents since noise mufflers were installed on the Pinnacle Wind Farm turbines outside of Keyser.

"To the best of my knowledge, after that work was completed, I have not heard any complaints in reference to noise or anything like that," said Mineral County Coordinator Mike Bland.

Last year, Edison Mission Energy, the owner of the turbines, asked manufacturers to develop a muffler system after residents who lived near the giant windmills complained that they could not sleep at night.

Some 75 residents signed a petition complaining about the noise, and demanded that the turbines be shut down between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. One of those residents, Richard Braithwaite, complained that the noise outside his home reached as high as 83 decibels.

The wind industry had a record year in 2012, installing 13.2-gigawatts of generating capacity, even though some experts say the industry is experiencing a manufacturing slowdown.

But while the nation continues down avenues that focus on green energy, opponents of the wind industry continue to point out the problems wind turbines cause, particularly that the turbines, some of which produce an artificial light, are known to confuse and kill migrating birds.

Lights left on at a power substation on a foggy night with low visibility at the AES Laurel Mountain wind farm near Elkins led to the deaths of 500 birds in 2011. More than half of the birds were blackpoll warblers, according to previous Gazette reports.

Night-migrating songbirds flying in such conditions without a horizon to follow, or without recognizable patterns of light to indicate the sky above, or dark to indicate the ground below, can become "trapped" by steady burning lights. In such cases, the area below them appears lighter, because of the lights, while the sky above appears darker, reversing the birds' sense of up and down. Birds can circle such lights long enough to die of exhaustion or collide with a structure, the Gazette has reported.

That wasn't the first time birds or bats were killed at a West Virginia wind farm.

But according to Bland, even bird kills have not been a problem at the Mineral County turbines.

"I don't know that I've heard a whole lot about the wind farms either positive or negative," he said.

Keyser Mayor Randy Amtower also said that he has not heard many complaints from his constituents about the wind turbines.

Amtower said he owns property near Mount Storm that sits about 500 feet from a wind turbine. He said certain times in the day he can hear a "swishing sound," but it hasn't been too much of a nuisance.

"To me, it wasn't really a big deal," he said, adding that most of the time, if there has been a problem with the turbines, it's been taken up with the county.

Reach Zac Taylor at zachary.taylor@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5189.


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