WindAction Editorials filed under Impact on People
The public push for renewable energy solutions has quickly filtered into the business and personal market and more and more communities are finding themselves confronted with some of the same land use issues we see with utility-scale turbines. Establishing appropriate siting standards to address minimum lot size, maximum tower heights, property line setbacks, and noise levels are essential in ensuring adjacent properties are not harmed and the health and safety of the public are maintained.
Earlier this month, Dr. Michael A. Nissenbaum, a radiologist at the Northern Maine Medical Center, conducted interviews with fifteen people living near the industrial wind energy facility in Mars Hill, Maine. The purpose of the interviews was to investigate and record the health effects on those living within 3500-feet of industrial-scale turbines.
Last week, First Wind (formerly UPC Wind) hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony at its newest wind farm in New England, the Stetson wind energy facility located in Danforth, Maine. The event celebrated completion of the 38-turbine (57-megawatt) facility and was attended by 100 state and local officials including Maine's Governor Baldacci, construction company representatives, and local business owners.
This year, the City of Newburyport, Massachusetts paved the way for large-scale wind turbines within the city limits. A three-person subcommittee was formed in January, 2008 and charged with writing an ordinance governing the siting and construction of turbines.
PPM Energy's Horse Creek Wind Farm proposal, now suspended while NY State officials evaluate the potential high bat mortality from the turbines, is the center of a sobering debate concerning preconstruction sound study reports. The proposed project consists of sixty-two industrial wind turbines spanning the towns of Clayton and Orleans in upstate New York. Over 1000 residents reside within the project's proposed footprint.
In 2004, the U.S. Government Bureau of Land Management (BLM) granted Pacific Wind Development LLC (now Iberdrola/PPM) a 3-year Right-of-Way Temporary Use Permit for 17,617 acres of public lands for "wind energy testing and monitoring facilities". The testing right-of-way was permitted without the benefit of public notice or comments, apparently based on the assumption that wind testing would not prove controversial. Letters objecting to the right-of-way grant were submitted by the Center for Biological Diversity, the San Diego Sierra Club, the San Diego County Board of Supervisors and others. In December 2007 the BLM released an updated Eastern San Diego County Proposed Resource Management Plan (PRMP) and Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) that allowed Iberdrola/PPM to develop wind energy in the vicinity of McCain Valley on 6,931 acres, reduced from the initial 17,617 acres granted. Opposition mounted and letters of protest were lodged with the bureau of which only one, written by Iberdrola/PPM, argued that more land should be granted.
The State of New Hampshire, long recognized for respecting local governance, stepped over the bounds last month when the Governor signed into law HB 310, a statute oddly described as “allowing municipalities to regulate small wind energy systems”. In fact, the law is designed to deliberately remove authority from municipalities by establishing prohibitions on what a community can and cannot regulate.
Logan County, IL is conducting public hearings on the 67-turbine Rail Splitter wind facility proposed by Horizon Wind. During hearings last week, public testimony was presented by Ed and Nancy Knittle, a couple now living within the view shed of Horizon's massive 240-turbine Twin Grove site in neighboring McLean County.
Last August, DeWayne and Elaine Wilkie purchased a home in Jefferson County in upstate New York, moving back to the area of Mrs. Wilkie's youth. They decided to move for medical reasons, as the constant noise and attendant vibrations surrounding Mr. Wilkie in his former community, Fort Lauderdale, FL, might negatively affect the pace maker/defibrillator inserted in his chest.
Last month, at a special meeting of the Prattsburgh, NY town board, the board voted 3-2 to adopt a resolution authorizing commencement of eminent domain proceedings against landowners unwilling to sign easement agreements with UPC Wind (recently renamed First Wind), a private wind energy developer seeking to erect 36 turbines across dozens of private parcels in town. Following a presentation by UPC on the project plan, the board voted on the resolution. Windaction.org was told that public input from the nearly 100 attendees was explicitly prohibited. An unidentified uniformed individual was on hand to subdue anyone trying to speak.
The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) and wind energy developers insist a modern wind facility at a distance of 1000 feet produces a sound no louder than a kitchen refrigerator. This comparison is recited over and over in public hearings throughout the U.S. and worldwide. The residents of Mars Hill, Maine have pages of documentation from UPC Wind highlighting the developer's assertion that the 42MW, 28-turbine facility would not produce noise.
Two different, but very similar news reports (CBS News: Winds of change blow in Texas and NPR: Winds of change blow into Roscoe, Texas) were published in the last two weeks. Each highlighted the economic opportunities resulting from wind energy development in West Texas and the revitalization of otherwise land-rich, resource-poor communities of the State. CBS termed it a "wind energy gold rush".
Several important studies pertaining to noise and utility-scale wind turbines are listed below. Others can by found on www.windaction.org by searching on the keyword 'noise'.
The wind industry has incented rural communities to host wind energy installations with promises of jobs for local workers, the bulk of which are short-term, construction-related positions. After the facility is operational, only 1-2 people are employed full-time near the site per 50 megawatts of installed capacity. The facility largely runs unattended and is monitored remotely from locations in Europe and elsewhere.