OAKFIELD - A former town of LeRoy family has filed a formal complaint, April 1, with the Wisconsin Public Service Commission against Invenergy, a Chicago based energy company that owns the Forward Wind Energy Center located in Dodge and Fond du Lac Counties.
Jason and Ann Wirtz and their four children used to reside in a home on Highway YY in the town of LeRoy which was situated within the FWEC. According to the complaint, the Wirtzes suffered both physical and financial hardships from living near the wind turbines.
"The Wirtzes were forced out of their home by the noise and vibration of the wind turbines," said Edward Marion, the family's lawyer. "So, they lost all the money in their house, and they lost the value of their livestock which is a herd of alpacas."
The Wirtzes bought their home in 1997, prior to the wind farm being erected, and began renovations and started breeding alpacas. According to the complaint, once the turbines were built and began running, the family began developing health problems ranging from headaches and fatigue to intestinal and anxiety issues.
The nearest turbine was located 1,250 feet from the home and was even closer to the pole shed in which the alpacas were housed. None of the turbines was located on the Wirtzes' property.
"The noise echoed through the shed like the sound of jet engines," the complaint states. "Baby alpacas had always come full term. After the FWEC began operating, two baby alpacas aborted and one was stillborn," Ann said.
The family attempted to sell their home in 2006, however most real estate agents did not want to list the home. The one that did want to list it suggested a price of $120,000 less that its' appraisal. Because they could no longer stand living there, and could not afford owning two homes, the Wirtzes filed for bankruptcy in September 2009 and moved to Oakfield.
"What they're trying to do now is to recover, from the company that runs the wind power plant, the money that they lost for their property and also the damage to their health while they lived there," Marion said. "We haven't asked for a specific amount of money."
Invenergy is aware of the complaint, but was not able to comment on the specifics. However the company believes that there is no correlation between the turbines and any impact on health.
"There's been a lot of research and analysis of health effects with wind turbines. Most of the studies are pretty clear there is no connection," said Will Borders, deputy general counsel for Invenergy.
For the FWEC, the allowed decibel range is 50 during the day and 45 at night. According to the Wind Turbine Sound and Health Effects Expert Panel Review, 50 decibels is about the same noise that someone would hear from light auto traffic 50 feet away.
A study conducted by the Minnesota Department of Health connects adverse health effects to wind turbine operations
"Sleeplessness and headache are the most common health complaints and are highly, but not perfectly, correlated with annoyance complaints," the study states. "Complaints appear to rise with increasing outside noise levels above 35 decibels."
Cases of this kind do not occur often for Invenergy.
"It's rare that we get that kind of complaint," Borders said.
The complaint is also unusual for the WPSC.
"Normally, complaints that come in to the PSC from the general public reflect water, electric, gas and/or telephone utility service problems," said Teresa Weidemann-Smith, communications specialist for the WPSC.
According to the WPSC's administration code, Invenergy has 20 days to respond to the complaint and the commission has 60 days to decide what to do with the complaint.