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Noise complaint generates wind farm fears (UPDATE)

By Paul Snyder

A family’s noise complaint against Invenergy LLC and its Forward Energy Wind Center in Brownsville is spooking wind farm developers trying to do business in the state.

Rodney Borkenhagen, a union iron worker, secures protective webbing over the tip of a 122-foot wind turbine blade before it is lifted into place on the Forward Wind Energy Project near Lomira on Nov. 1, 2007. (AP File photo/The Reporter, Justin Connaher)

Rodney Borkenhagen, a union iron worker, secures protective webbing over the tip of a 122-foot wind turbine blade before it is lifted into place on the Forward Wind Energy Project near Lomira on Nov. 1, 2007. (AP File photo/The Reporter, Justin Connaher)

“I think it would have a devastating effect in Wisconsin,” said Jim Naleid, managing director of Holmen-based AgWind Energy Partners LLC.  “People are already avoiding the state because of the political trouble you can face getting a wind farm approved, and now this could just deter them further.”

In a complaint filed with the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin, Ann and Jason Wirtz argue the 86-turbine Forward Energy Wind Center cost them their home and their alpaca-breeding business and created health problems for the family. The project went online in 2008.

The Wirtzes want the PSC to require Invenergy compensate them for their losses, although the complaint does not specify how much the family wants.

“They couldn’t stand to live there anymore,” said Edward Marion, the Madison attorney representing the Wirtzes, who moved from Brownsville to nearby Oakfield in 2009.

“And the PSC has a lot more evidence now about noise standards and county ordinances than it did when it approved this project.”

The Wirtzes, in their complaint, claim their daughter Megan developed serious stomach and intestinal problems as well as chronic fatigue and headaches as a result of the noise. According to the complaint, two baby alpacas were aborted and one was stillborn after the wind farm went online.

John Shenot, PSC policy adviser, said Friday the commission’s attorneys are reviewing the complaint and determining the next step.

Chicago-based Invenergy will not comment specifically on the complaint, said Joe Condo, the company’s vice president and general counsel. But he said forcing companies to pay damages years late could threaten future projects.

“If it’s decided in the face of studies showing no link between the sounds produced by a wind farm and a person’s health that developers nonetheless have to compensate owners, then, yeah, of course it would be a problem for developers,” Condo said. “It also flies in the face of what the state and nation are trying to do in developing the renewable industry.”


Condo referred to a 2009 study commissioned by the American and Canadian Wind Energy Associations that concluded sounds from wind turbines cannot produce adverse physical or health effects.

Marion said he does not know of any other cases in which property owners filed complaints against a wind farm developer after the project began operating. But with more wind farm projects going up in Wisconsin, he said, landowners are more aggressive in protecting their property.

“This is the first of what may be more,” Marion said of the Wirtzes’ complaint.

That is exactly what scares Naleid and other developers, Naleid said. He said developers cannot be expected to pitch new projects if they must live in fear of penalties years after project approval.

Yet Naleid agreed the Wirtzes’ complaint could be the first of many.

“Then what kind of thoughts do you have about developing any kind of power, whether it’s coal-fired, nuclear, solar?” he said. “If the plan is approved but you can still be sued later, why would anyone want to?”


  1. Good Luck getting money out of windmill siting. Don’t you know it is not polically correct to go after windmills? Windmills are to be reveared and subsidized. So pay you taxes and your higher electric bills and shut-up.

  2. You are correct Robert Schuster. The windmills are all hallowed. The developers can trample decades of zoning and land use laws because the government and the tree huggers are ramming this **** down our throats. When will people wake up and face the reality that wind energy is and always will be an unreliable, non-dispatchable intermitent energy source that will never replace baseline power generation. All it does is put some money in a few individual pockets and make some people feel good. Wait unitl 10 years from now when no project owners are around to dismantel this junk and the local municipalities will be left with the bill.

  3. Does everyone realize alot of the noise in the video is wind noise on the microphone,
    and not the turbine? Joe should have a wind screen on the mike for a fair example of the noise.

  4. Other countries have solved many of the noise problems by stricter setbacks of at least 1/2 mile and many are 1 mile setback. The problems are not new and lawsuits are probably going to continue until they are corrected. Animals are sensitive to the low frequency noise and cause health problems even from the stress and sleep deprivation. Even more disturbing is what the Wirtz’s have had to go through. This fast tracking to get wind turbines up is all for the money (our taxes and rates) without the health facts of living too close to wind turbines. People should not have to be guinea pigs just so the developers can put turbines in someone else’s back yard and then walk away.

  5. If you don’t want wind then be prepared for more coal, with its dirty emissions that pollute the air and put mercury in our streams and lakes killing off the fish (not to mention global warming), or solar, which is way more expensive, or a nice big nuclear plant. Hey Robert and Kevin, how about we put that nuclear plant in your backyard?

  6. I had watched and listened to the video. The only noise that comes from those is a very very high pitched sound for about 8 seconds. You know I lived 100 feet from rail road tracks and 1 mile from a hospital with a helipad. Yes, I became sleep deprived because it was something I was not used to. I had to get some sleepy pills to take for about 4 days then I was good to go. It’s been 3 years since that time frame. I had got used to the sound as part of my everyday surroundings. I had embraced it as such, and had to retrain the brain to accept it as so. Same thing as this family should. Retraining the Brain is the hard part. Getting help to hit the restart button never hurt anyone. Now, I do believe that this family should of said something to the developer. If this affects our overall health, of course with proof, then the developer should pay. I don’t see how these wind farms can cause all this damage to this family. The only time you start to feel bad if you don’t get sleep very well for LONG periods of time. I would never let my child get to the point in which these parents did instead of seeking medical help than just picking up and moving. Says a lot about the parents….selfish

  7. How insensitive. You can’t retrain a brain to stop intestinal and stomach problems as a result of sound waves affecting the vestibular system, different from your “sleepy” issues. Where would you suggest the family live while they voice their complaints which fall on deaf ears? Blaming the family and calling them selfish is incredibly insensitive!
    Regarding the wind industry self funded reports that claim absolutely no adverse health effects from wind turbines, they have been thoroughly refuted. “An Analysis of the American/Canadian Wind Energy Assoc Expert Panel Review”, January, 2010 and also “Wind turbine sound needs research” NHS Choices, Jan. 28, 2010. Some comments are:
    “No new study, it is an incomplete literature review”
    Research was not sufficient to prove or disprove that there are health effects.
    “Methodological shortcomings: no clear description of their methods. It is not possible to say that all relevant research was identified.”
    “Review group did not include an epidemiologist, a “given” for assessing potential health hazards.”
    “IGNORES the authoritative research and noise guidelines of the World Health Organization, 2009 Night Noise Guidelines” a six year peer reviewed study which charts the adverse health effects after 35 dBA.
    “Prepared for, funded and sponsored by the AWEA and CanWEA, raising questions about objectivity.”
    “Uses preemptive stereo-typing of those who have concerns about health risks, which dismisses the claim that the panel is independent and unbiased.”

    While a minority of people are affected, how much of the population is it OK to put at risk? The only mitigating factor is proper setbacks from homes and reasonable noise limits as advocated by the World Health Organization. Does the wind industry know better?

  8. Hi Yes I have a comment on the wind turbines.I have searched and now I have talked to 2 Specialist. One of the Dr’s lives in Minesota right in with them.He says they are a good clean source of energy and there is no health isues at all.He say’s they are very interesting to watch ,not noisy ,they all say how could any one be against them they are great.We can’t have any or we would want all we could have.It is a way the people can pay taxes and save their Farms ect. The rich man don’t care he would try to stop them if possible.The one Dr said these people must be “JACK ASSES” if they are that stupid.
    We need these for clean safe energy.So let’s stop and learn how great the wind turbines are this is common sense if any of these ornery people have common sense
    at all.Wake up and smell the roses for the future go ahead not backwards. Thanks

  9. I found out in 2012 that Invenergy pays out compensation to landowners within 1/2 mile of the Grand Ridge Wind farm located in Southeast LaSalle county. I Emailed Invenergy around this time and asked if I was eligible for compensation. They replied with a yes, but forwared a different agreement than the original one sent out in 2008. I didn’t send in the 2012 agreement, but instead focused on finding the 2008 agreement. I found this agreement and have submitted it on 01/21/14. I getting the impression they don’t want to “Make good” on this agreement. I have roughly 5 wind turbines within a 1/2 mile of My home, one being only around 1/8 mile from My home.

    I strongly feel, based on the wording of the agreement and the fact that I have had to deal with any negative impacts from this project, that they owe me what has been paid out to My neighbors over the course of 5 to 6 years.

  10. Interesting that 6 1/2 years later and the same old, same old is going on, more people’s lives, homes, health ruined. As I type this my ears ache from the infrasound that happens at home, on windy nights I lie awake for hours, others in the same project have increased migraines, panic attacks, high blood pressure, strokes, etc. one commenter is right is Bull ****, that insult to injury we have to pay higher taxes to line the pockets of those who build them.

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