Bristol couple seeks relief from turbine noise

Joe Coelho Jr., owner of Safeway Auto on Gooding Avenue, questions the validity of recent noise complaints about his wind turbine. Joe Coelho Jr., owner of Safeway Auto on Gooding Avenue, questions the validity of recent noise complaints about his wind turbine.

Joe Coelho Jr., owner of Safeway Auto on Gooding Avenue, questions the validity of recent noise complaints about his wind turbine.

Joe Coelho Jr., owner of Safeway Auto on Gooding Avenue, questions the validity of recent noise complaints about his wind turbine.

It took Kenny and Amanda Alves a year to find their dream home.

When they happened upon 18 Hamlet Court, the native Bristolians knew it was the one.

“There was plenty of space to raise a family,” Ms. Alves said. “And there was an in-law apartment, which we wanted for our parents, as a place they could come and live as they got older.”

The couple bought the home out of foreclosure in 2009. It needed a little bit of work — Mr. Alves installed wood flooring, bought new appliances, painted and tiled the basement playroom.

“We love it here,” Mr. Alves said. “We even talked to the neighbors, and they said it was a quiet neighborhood. It was the perfect setup.”

That was until January 2012, when construction was complete on the new 110-foot wind turbine Joe Coelho Jr. constructed in the rear of his property at Safeway Auto. Located on Gooding Avenue, the business, an auto repair shop that also rents vehicles, does not abut the rear of the Alves’ home, but comes pretty close. The turbine can be seen from the Alves’ back deck.

“The noise from the turbine keeps us awake at night,” Mr. Alves said. “We can’t concentrate, we can’t sleep. It’s constant, and we’re just looking for relief.”

However, it doesn’t seem like relief will come their way. Mr. Coelho followed all the rules and regulations when constructing the turbine in December 2011. Necessary applications were completed and requested variances were filed, said Town Administrator Tony Teixeira. Only one instance held up the permitting process: The initial proposal to install the turbine was delayed because the height variance was not properly advertised for a public hearing. The correct height variance request of 118 feet was then properly advertised.

“There were a lot of people there at the hearing,” Mr. Alves recalled. “And we were told verbatim that it wouldn’t be louder than an air conditioner. Yet, I run my air conditioner at night and (the wind turbine) drowns it out.”

Mr. Coelho had been cooperative with the Alves, listening to their concerns and offered to rectify the problem when he could.

“I can’t turn it off at night all the time, because instead of 5 to 10 years, it will take 15 to 20 years to realize the return (on the investment),” he said.

“I thought I was doing the right thing to help out the environment and sustain the business by putting it up. Now I’m not so sure. But what can I do? I did everything the right way.”

Mr. Coelho’s total investment amounts to $262,042. After realizing federal and state tax deductions, his total cost will be roughly $130,000.

“I have gone over there, walked in their house, been in their bedroom, and I just don’t hear it as they do,” he said.

But the Alves insist the noise from wind turbine is enough to prevent Amanda’s father-in-law from moving in.

“We had guests over during Gabriella’s baptism in February, and even they couldn’t sleep,” she said.

The noise output from the wind turbine is about 48.5 decibels, well within the requirements of a manufacturing zone, which Safeway is in. However, the town’s noise ordinance stipulates that if sound travels across different zones, i.e. from business to residential, the sound generator must comply with all noise limits. In this case, Safeway Auto’s wind turbine would not be able to exceed the decibel limit in a residential area.

The Alves have called the police to complain about the wind turbine noise 13 times since Feb. 5, 2012. The Bristol Police Department took a reading with its noise meter while at the Alves’ home twice. Both times the reading came back below the limit for a residential area.

“We area measuring the noise the way the department was trained to measure noise,” said Dep. Chief Steven Contente. “Industrial noise is a little bit different. Typically, with industrial noise, a specialist would have to come in with special equipment. We’re not experts in industrial noise. We don’t have the special equipment to do that.”

Safeway Auto’s wind turbine starts working from a low wind speed of 6.7 mph; its performance is optimal in wind speeds of 22.3 mph.

The couple was expected to present their complaint before the Town Council during the meeting Wednesday night.

“We want him to take it down,” Mr. Alves said. “We were never notified it was going up and didn’t know it until someone in our neighborhood told us.”

17 Comments

  1. walterheisenberg said:

    hamlet court – lot’s of people live there – any other complaints?
    this sound like “sensitive” people – they don’t like the looks of the turbine so they complain about noise.
    i’m surprised they didn’t complain about getting vertigo from looking at the blades revolve.
    if they don’t like it – they can move out.

  2. OSHNWAV said:

    What a crock of poop, Mr Alves.

    I grew up with a wind turbine in my backyard the first windturbine in Bristol. The only time I heard that turbine was when there was a windstorm which was very seldom. I find that very hard to believe that it’s keeping you and your family up and that it drowns out your AC Unless you were born with some unique human high frequency ears then please let Mr Coelho live and work in peace while he is using “GREEN ENERGY”. You need to realize that this is what our world will need to depend on for energy in the future.

  3. jaqdadi said:

    I’d be willing to bet not one of you has actually gone over there and listened to that thing when it gets going. I have. I walk down Gooding ave, quite frequently at night, now that i’m at the mercy of the public transportation system. When that thing is going fast, I can hear it on Gooding Ave quite loudly, I’ve walked by after 1 am at times, because of the bus schedule. These type of wind turbines have the generator’s directly attached to the windmill. It’s why they are so much louder than say a windmill that operates a water pump or the generator is on the ground, housed in a shielded building.

    With that said. I took a look at the Google map pic of the difference in distance between Gooding ave and Hamlet ct. It’s at least twice the distance. As loud as I’ve heard it on Gooding Ave walking by, they have all kinds of buildings and trees between them and the turbine. I can’t imagine it being any louder than a whisper at that distance.

    Typical talking is around 55-65 db’s, a typical hair dryer is around 75-85 db’s. People talking in a normal whisper is only around 20-25 db’s. Under 48.5 db’s is not that loud, even right next to the source. It doesn’t have to be loud to be annoying though. A 20-30 db steady noise all night, in an otherwise dead quiet area, can be seriously annoying with your windows open. You should barely hear it, if at all, with the windows closed. However, in the dead of night, when your quietly trying to sleep, with the windows open, even a noise as low as 20-30 db’s can be annoying, if it’s steady all night.

    Also, frequency matters as well. Low frequency noise doesn’t travel as well as high frequencies, this turbine does whine out at a high frequency. Noise is also relative to distance and air conditions. On a dry, windy night, high frequencies are gonna travel louder and further than a wet or very humid, windy night.

    You can’t expect the police to get a proper reading, i’m sure there are fluctuations based on wind speed, air conditions, etc… I would suggest hiring an intermediate person to spend a night in their house when the wind is expected to be around 20 mph all night, along with their own professional grade db meter, and then see what they say. My opinion is, they would be wasting their time and money. Regardless of how quiet the neighbors said the neighborhood was, you can’t live next to an industrial area without living with some level of inconvenience.

    The only reason for the wind turbine is for the daily use of electricity at the business. I can’t see why it shouldn’t be turned off at night, between like 8 pm-6 am, if it’s proven it’s a nuisance. During the winter, when peoples windows are closed, then let it go all night. When I have walked by it on windy nights and it’s running at full speed, it is loud enough on the other side of Gooding ave, to hear it clearly, however, I think there is something a bit dishonest about their claim, it’s louder than their window based ac.

    From the distance I heard it at, I can’t imagine it being louder than the ac in my window, even a high end quiet model. For one thing, when your running your ac the windows are generally closed, right? Their house however, is more than twice that distance. I would like to hear if other neighbors feel the same way.

    Mr. Coelho put that turbine up to save money and that’s it, no other reason. Don’t misunderstand me, there’s nothing wrong with that. These things are noisy though and I suspect Mr Coelho didn’t buy the premium model, that was probably a lot quieter, lol.

    BTW, i’m no fan of Mr. Coelho. I have had some bad experiences with his repair facility and repairs not being done properly. I’ve also had a run in with one of his most experienced tow truck drivers, who couldn’t tell the difference between a throttle body injection system and a carburator and pumped the crap out of my gas pedal, flooding the engine so bad I had to remove every plug and dry them off just to figure out why it wouldn’t start. I tried to tell him he didn’t need to pump it, that it was fuel injected. He stepped out of my vehicle, after pumping the pedal so bad it wouldn’t start even if it had no problem, and pointed directly at the throttle body and looked at me seriously and said “that’s a carburator”.

    I held my temper because I just wanted to get home. When we got there I let him have it. I told him I knew these particular vehicles inside and out, I’ve been fixing my own cars since I was 15, at the time that was 35 yrs before, and I had rebuilt several of these particular engines over the years and had done extensive work on that one. I took the Haynes manual out from under the passenger seat, with that in hand, I pointed to the MAF sensor and asked him how many carburated engines did he know of that had a MAF sensor, (Mass Air Flow), it tells the computer how much air is entering the engine, so it can regulate the gas flow to accommodate the speed your trying to attain by pressing the gas pedal, and then laughed my *** off till he left.

    BTW, it had rained heavily that night, it was parked at the bus stop all day and I didn’t get there till about 1 am after it stopped raining, however, a chaffed wire got wet and that’s why it wouldn’t start, easy fix. This was at Gooding Plaza. I walked home because it took less time to walk home at that time, than it would have to call AAA and wait for a truck at that time, when it still wouldn’t start the next morning is when I called. While I was walking by Safeway, there was the turbine, whining away like usual.

    All the way to the house, all I heard about was how long he’d been doing his job and how much he knew about cars. I avoid Safeway auto whenever possible. So when I say Mr. Alves is possibly full of it, i’d have to see a professional report on the noise level at his house before I agree with him, it’s not because I like Safeway or Mr. Coelho.

    • DownTown said:

      I’m sure that the turbine is connected to the National Grid distribution system and it generates money for Safeway regardless of whether they are there or not.

      • jaqdadi said:

        Really, like I don’t understand that? A typical home uses appr 10 kWh (10,000 kilowatt hours) of electricity a year, the bigger the house, the more it uses. This business, I would roughly estimate, uses about the same as 4 typical houses. That’s just an estimate for conversation purposes.

        That means they use appr 40 kWh a year, about 3.4 kWh a month. That means they would have to generate more than that to turn a profit. You can consider the savings alone to be a business profit and after some period of time would pay for the installation of the turbine.

        I have walked by that turbine many times when it isn’t even moving or moving very slowly, at night, winds typically die down. Sometimes, in an ideal installation location, as this should be at the top of a hill even at night there is enough wind to keep it turning at production level, at least 7 mph, 10-20 mph to get maximum benefit. There have been other times when it’s spinning like crazy, that’s when it’s making the most noise obviously.

        I’m wondering if this model has a brake. They come with braking systems to keep the blades from overspinning. If this model doesn’t have one or has been disabled, that might explain excessive noise on windy nights. Also, the noise can be worse on one side as opposed to the other, depending on wind direction. If the blades are facing you, your not going to hear the generator as loudly as when the blades are facing away and the generator is facing you. I have to say though, most of the time I’ve walked by and the blades were spinning, you could barely hear it. I only heard it clearly when the blades are spinning fast or at max spin.

        During those times it is producing a lot more than is being used. Since i’m not privy to the details of what he uses on a monthly basis and I can only guess by the size of the turbine, that it’s in the 5-20 kWh range, which means it can produce no more than 20 kWh no matter how fast the blades are spinning. That’s just a guess though, it is possible it’s closer to a 40-60 kWh generator, which would make it more profitable. You’d need to study the output over a full year, to know what the average for any period of time is and exactly how much it is saving or costing. I have to guess, right now, he is paying the electric company more than he is getting back annually.

        It’s still saving him at least enough to pay it off and if it is still running after it’s paid off, it will turn a very good profit by the end of it’s life cycle, which could be infinite with proper maintenance and replacement. 50 yrs from now, his grandchildren will be running the business without having to pay an electric bill.

        By then they will have replaced the generator with a far more efficient one and will probably be selling as much, if not more, than it uses. If more businesses did this, they would be doing their future generations a service. Of course, in time the generators will be a lot quieter and that would make them more appealing.

        Like I said. When I’ve walked by when it’s spinning fast, it does emit a high pitched noise, enough to be noticeable, but, even that close I can’t see where they could hear it over an in the window ac, that sounds fishy to me. The street is only about 120′ away. The closest house in Hamlet Ct. is about 250′ away, with all kinds of trees and buildings that serve to muffle the sound.

        I can’t believe it’s so loud they can’t sleep, consistently. I’d have to stay there some night or stand in their yard about 2 am when it’s spinning at full speed to know for sure though. I’m only going by hearing it on the street with no obstructions at about 120′.

        • DownTown said:

          This is what you had just said so yeah you don’t understand that.

          “The only reason for the wind turbine is for the daily use of electricity at the business. I can’t see why it shouldn’t be turned off at night, between like 8 pm-6 am, if it’s proven it’s a nuisance.”

          • jaqdadi said:

            Key word’s, you seem to overlook.

            “…if it’s proven it’s a nuisance.”

            If a professional, non-biased test proves what they are saying is true, then they should take measures to alleviate any disturbance.

            What you don’t seem to understand is that they have right’s just like Mr. Coelho. If there is definitive proof of their claims, then something should be done to accommodate the issue.

            Mr. Coelho didn’t seem to have a problem making a profit before installing the wind turbine. I don’t see a problem with turning it off during certain times, if their claims are PROVEN IT”S A NUISANCE.

  4. Joyce said:

    The article is about the noise of Safeways’ turbine and it was very disingenuous of Mr. Jaqdadi to go on about some unpleasant experience he had with Safeway Auto many years ago. Safeway has always had a great business reputation in the East Bay and the Coelho family has always been outstanding citizens of this community. Their generosity to the town is well known and you Sir, owe Mr. Coelho and his family an apology.

    • jaqdadi said:

      That was just last summer Joyce. Between my family members and myself, we have had several bad experiences with repairs not being done properly. I won’t go into details to give them more of an idea who it is. these were unnecessary gaffs that caused more money to be spent to fix the problems correctly. I have been working on vehicles since I was a teenager. I know when a repair is shoddy. A tow truck driver that doesn’t know the difference between a throttle body injection system and a carburator is just plain dumb. That’s rookie knowledge.

      If you had any knowledge of these things, you’d understand how stupid it was for him to pump my gas pedal like that, without even asking if I minded, it was rude and stupid and cost me a couple hrs work, to clean the plugs unnecessarily, not to mention the knucklescraping and cuts on them from the tight fit of the engine in that vehicle.

      My experience is my experience, yours is yours. I will not apologize to someone, that doesn’t care enough about what their employees are doing, to make changes that are necessary. I called when I got home and informed them what happened and how unhappy I was about it. The least they could have done was to send someone down the street, I only live less than 2 miles from them, to take the plugs out for me and clean them, they did nothing, didn’t even apologize. How many people do you suppose that particular driver caused unnecessary expenses for, as a result of his stupidity, or maybe he assumed I was too dumb to understand and would have sent it to them to repair it, not like that doesn’t happen.

      Take your opinion and, well i’m sure you can figure it out.

  5. NAto61 said:

    Could the generator possibly be encased in some sort of sound insulated shelter? just a thought, that an additional housing attached with rubber isolators would reduce the noise that much more. Maybe I should draw them a picture and patent it. Even possibly a zipper type coat that is made to fit tightly without restricting the blades? Or a two half shell with foam that is made to fit? Hey,,, there is a solution to everything. I think there is a company right on Broadcommon Rd that is more than capable of fabricating a prototype. I will accept 10% for the idea. Where’s my pencil now…
    I’ll need a man-lift , a bottle of “Great Stuff, some duct tape, and some cardboard.

    • jaqdadi said:

      Lol, you do realize it creates a lot of heat right? Encasing it in some kind of noise reduction jacket will only cause the heat to get worse and possibly burn it out. Although, it is a good idea. The fact is, this is one of the smaller models designed for low noise. Like I’ve said before, I’ve walked by at 1 am when it’s spinning like crazy and from the street, about 120′ away, you can hear it, I just can’t believe at appr 250′, where the closest house on Hamlet Ct. is, it’s so loud it would keep someone awake. I mean, it isn’t spinning that fast all the time, just once in a while. Most of the time when it’s spinning, it’s spinning a lot slower and is relatively quiet.

  6. kriswetterland said:

    Lets stop complaining about nonsense, the wind turbine at Safe Way not only looks great it is a very innovative decision that management made to provide their business green energy and cost savings overtime. Standing in front of the establishment you can barely hear it, no way it is keeping anybody up at night. It would be much better for the community if taxpayers voiced their opinion on things that would actually better their community.

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