Library filed under Impact on People from Rhode Island
Mark DePasquale, founder of Green Development LLC, embodies the tension surrounding renewable-energy development in Rhode Island. He’s both lauded and vilified. One of his projects, in the woods of Coventry, exemplifies the controversy that follows the state’s most prominent developer of wind and solar energy.
In addition to the company, board members heard from residents, including Nicole Valliere, who purchased the house immediately next door to the Pacheco property for $925,000 in March. Valliere told board members she was not aware of the turbine plans until after the sale closed and would never have purchased the property if the information was available. “We had no idea this was happening,” she said. “We never, ever, ever would’ve purchased our home.”
The Cranston City Council says it will not pursue legal action over new wind turbines in neighboring Johnston.
A group of seven wind turbines in Johnston was just turned on in January, yet they’re already causing some blowback from neighbors across the city line in Cranston. "It's a little unnerving that all of a sudden, 519-foot structures can end up right near your home, and no one knows anything,” said Renee Petrone, who lives in the Alpine Estates neighborhood of Cranston and can clearly see the turbines from her home.
Cranston isn’t the only Rhode Island community concerned about the impacts of siting wind turbines close to neighborhoods. Some residents of Coventry have complained of shadow flicker and noise from the 10 414-foot-tall turbines in their rural village of Greene. They say the utility-scale facility isn’t consistent with the town’s comprehensive plan and has dramatically changed the village’s long-established characteristics.
During the meeting last Thursday of the Fishermen’s Advisory Board, which advises the council on fishing issues related to offshore wind, Rhode Island fishermen complained that Vineyard Wind never took their needs into account when designing the wind farm. Over three hours of back and forth that at points grew heated, they repeatedly said that the orientation of the wind farm and the spacing of the turbines would make it nearly impossible for them to fish within its boundaries.
The council has leverage over Green Development’s actions that it can use to address the residents’ complaints, he added. “You are the landlords so you can’t say you’re not responsible. ... Everything falls on the landlord,” he said.
Brian Wagner, Coventry’s associate planner, told ecoRI News in a recent phone interview that there are better properties, certainly from a habitat perspective, to locate such projects. Wagner attended the initial OER stakeholder meeting. He said economics play a big factor when it comes to siting renewable-energy projects. “It’s easier to cut down trees and grade a property when there is no existing infrastructure,” he said. “With a built environment, there’s multiple people to deal with. It’s more complicated. It’s more expensive.”
The town council passed a 6-month moratorium on wind energy projects this week, putting a temporary halt on related development until December 31, 2017. West Warwick Town Council Vice President John D’Amico proposed made the proposal, citing that it would be beneficial to implement until the town finishes revisions for its wind energy ordinance and updates to the Comprehensive Plan.
Councilwoman Karen Carlson, who said she receives at least two complaints about the turbines per day, visited West Log Bridge Road to see for herself what her constituents had been talking about....she could hear the noise emanating from the structures. “I can understand how it makes people crazy,” she said. “Honestly it was like this drone of a jet that just kept going.”
“Our dream of sitting outside behind our house enjoying some peace and quiet no longer exists,” said a resident of Flat River Road. “We sit on the deck at night and all we can hear are the windmills. We open our bedroom window and all we can hear are the windmills. There is not one day that goes by that we don’t hear it.
Rhode Island is tiny and densely populated. And people who like the idea of wind energy in the abstract rarely want it near their own backyards ...Pacheco's neighbors said their concerns include noise, maintenance and "shadow flicker," the blinking effect that occurs when the sun rises or sets behind the spinning blades.
When the wind turbine near the high school stopped spinning its blades due to a faulty gear box in 2012, not everyone saw the development as bad news. For people like Donna Olszewski, who lives about 750 feet from the turbine at 36 Education Lane, it meant no more headaches and sleep problems which she blamed on noise and shadow flicker generated by the machine.
“The opposition participated at every opportunity that was available, but the public process was a charade,” Rosemarie Ives said. “Every aspect of the state dealing with this project has been corrupted.” Less than a half mile to the east of the Ives’ home sits Southeast Light, one of the most popular destinations on the island. Now, visitors to the historic brick lighthouse get a clear view of the wind farm under construction from the front lawn.
A couple who previously lived next to the 413-foot wind turbine in a subdivision off Ten Rod Road – and staunchly opposed its construction – were paid $15,000 by the turbine’s owner in 2011 and agreed not to publicly or privately disparage the project.
The Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce has endorsed the Deepwater Wind project. Chamber President Laurie White criticized the opponents of this overly expensive and ill-advised offshore wind turbine proposal. Her chamber's position is incomprehensible, because the project will do nothing for any of its members, excluding Deepwater Wind and National Grid, except increase their electricity rates.
"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." ..."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."
It's not always the noise you hear that damages your ears. The noise you don't hear can be more harmful, wind turbine opponents were told Wednesday night. Harold Vincent, an associate research professor at the University of Rhode Island, told an audience of about 75 residents at Cross' Mills Public Library that infrasonic noise can create health problems that go beyond hearing difficulties.
Essentially, anyone with a farm will be entitled to install wind turbines, with virtually no setback, and this will pre-empt any local zoning. So beautiful vistas in places like Portsmouth and Jamestown will be up for grabs, and there will be no consideration of the effect on the historic beauty of the area or impact on people’s real estate use or resale values.
There are more commercial-scale wind turbines on the Rhode Island horizon than ever before and offshore wind farms that could generate a substantial portion of the state's energy remain on track. But in many respects, the outlook for land-based wind power in the Ocean State has darkened recently.