Wind Turbine Noise Hurdles for Proposed SC Johnson Plant

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Making renewable wind energy part of a company’s energy portfolio is not as easy as it might first appear.

Wisconsin-based home products manufacturer SC Johnson has set out to prove proposed wind turbines at its Waxdale manufacturing plant will not create overwhelming noise pollution for the residents of Mt. Pleasant, WI.

While staff members and officials from Mount Pleasant traveled to Fond du Lac County on Fri., Nov. 11, 2011 to measure wind turbine noise, residents who were also invited didn’t make the trip.

The purpose for the trip was to measure noise levels of wind turbines like those being proposed at the Waxdale plant. The Brownsville, WI, location has 86 wind turbines over 12 square miles, with one tower less than 500 feet from a landowner who leases his land for the turbines.

According to Planning Director Ron Meyer, measurements were taken at 800 and 1,200 feet away from a geared turbine. The SCJ turbines would actually be gearless and probably a bit quieter.

SCJ has proposed two or three wind turbines of between 300 and 400 feet tall to generate some of the electricity needed to power the Waxdale plant. Predicted to produce about 15 percent of the total energy needed, the turbines are part of SCJ’s plan to generate 100 percent of Waxdale’s energy needs on-site with 60 percent coming from renewable energy sources.

“At 800 feet, measurements came in at 46 – 47 decibels, and at 1,200 feet it was less than 40 decibels,” Meyer said. By comparison, Meyer said a passing car on the paved road came in at 62 decibels. “The readings could be on the higher side as the corn stubble and hedge row created ambient noise.”

“Today nearly 40 percent of the company’s worldwide electricity comes from renewable energy, and we’re committed to making even greater progress,” said Fisk Johnson, Chairman and CEO of the company. “Wind turbines at Waxdale, right here in the backyard of our corporate headquarters, is one of the many ways we are working to further reduce our environmental footprint.”

The wind turbines are the latest in a series of investments at Waxdale that together will enable the site to produce 100 percent of its electrical energy on-site with approximately 60 percent of it from renewable sources. The company expects the wind turbines will produce approximately 8 to 10 million kilowatt hours (KWH) of electrical energy per year or approximately 15 percent of the electrical energy used at Waxdale.

Some Mt. Pleasant residents have expressed concerns about the turbines on several levels: noise, sun flicker, aesthetics, property values and deaths of flying wildlife.

“I wish residents could have made the trip,” said Trustee Gary Feest in one article. “I think a lot of their fears would have been put to rest.”

According to SC Johnson, the remaining approximately 85 percent of Waxdale’s electrical energy requirements will be produced by two co-generation units installed during the last decade that produce electrical energy and steam. Approximately 27 million KWH per year or 45 percent will be renewable energy from landfill gases used by co-generation unit one; the remaining 23 million KWH or 40 percent will be from clean natural gas used by co-generation unit two.

Chart Source: GE Global  Research, National Institute of Deafness and Other Communication Disorders

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Glenn Meyers

is a writer, producer, and director. Meyers was editor and site director of Green Building Elements, a contributing writer for CleanTechnica, and is founder of Green Streets MediaTrain, a communications connection and eLearning hub. As an independent producer, he's been involved in the development, production and distribution of television and distance learning programs for both the education industry and corporate sector. He also is an avid gardener and loves sustainable innovation.

Glenn Meyers has 449 posts and counting. See all posts by Glenn Meyers