Chip plant project to address noise that spurred neighbor complaints

Thursday, December 20, 2012
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— GlobalFoundries will launch a third building project this winter to try to reduce noise emanating from the electrical utility building at Fab 8.

The new plan is to install acoustical insulation inside the metal building that contains a series of flywheel generators. It follows two earlier efforts to address a hum or whine of varying loudness that has drawn complaints from nearby residents since the plant first started operation in July 2011.

“Unfortunately, it’s just a complex issue with the electrical services building, and we continue to work on it,” GlobalFoundries spokesman Travis Bullard said at a community meeting at Fab 8 Thursday night.

The new project is currently still in the design phase, but Bullard said the new acoustic-absorption insulation should be installed by late April. He said the cost is currently unknown.

The noise is apparently associated with the high-speed spinning of the flywheels, intended to supply immediate electricity to the factory’s clean rooms if there’s a power outage.

The massive computer chip factory in the Luther Forest Technology Campus, where 1,900 people now work, is within a quarter-mile of the nearest homes in the Luther Forest housing development. That’s where most of the complaints have come from.

GlobalFoundries installed sound baffles on the outside of the building in late 2011, then last spring, after complaints didn’t drop much, it installed silencers on the building’s roof vents. Those projects cost GlobalFoundries about $1 million, but haven’t fixed the problem.

“Some people have said the noise is the same, some have said it’s a little better,” Bullard said.

The new project to put sound-absorbing insulation inside the building will start even while GlobalFoundries is doing engineering studies this winter to measure how noise levels have changed, Bullard said. A couple of low sound frequencies have been identified as problems, and the project will be customized to them, he said.

“I’m encouraged that they’re obviously trying very hard,” said Ken Jackson, vice president of the Ermine Lair Neighborhood Association, the neighborhood closest to the factory.

But Jackson acknowledged the sound can still be heard at times, and can be irritating. “I’m used to it, but the other night I could hear it in bed with all the windows closed,” Jackson said.

Carol Henry, chairwoman of the town’s Citizen Response Committee, said the number of residential complaints has increased since last summer.

“As predicted, as soon as the leaves fell and the air got cold there was a tremendous increase in complaints to the town,” she said.

The town has forwarded the complaints to GlobalFoundries. Bullard said the company has also received some complaints directly.

 

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