Article

Blowing in the Wind

"Wind turbines carry uniquely disturbing low-frequency noises and over time, these noises cannot be tuned out, like white noise can. Wind turbine noise, in studies, has been shown to be the second-worst kind of noise, next to railroad shunting. Wind turbine noise ... doesn't allow a human being to relax."

There's a saying that, "things are alike all over," and when it comes to the onslaught of massive wind turbines in population-rich communities across the world, the problems continue to mount, pitting neighbor against neighbor and communities versus developers.

The well-publicized battles we've seen in Falmouth, where a community tried to pull together to tear down the turbines that had been built years before and more recently Fairhaven, where some residents are less than 1,000 feet from the 1.5 megawatt twin turbines, are just the beginning.

But sadly, the bigger the wind turbines, the bigger the problems, and it's becoming a global issue.

Worldwide problems

In Australia, David and Alida Mortimer decided to host two Vestas 1.75 MW wind turbines on their massive property. These are people that financially benefited from the wind turbines. But they almost immediately began experiencing problems, which are now attributed to the turbines, including "a deep drumming, rumbling sensation in the skull" behind the ears and sleep deprivation. They are in the process of putting the house up for sale, though they realize it's unlikely anyone would buy it.

In Denmark, where turbines... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

There's a saying that, "things are alike all over," and when it comes to the onslaught of massive wind turbines in population-rich communities across the world, the problems continue to mount, pitting neighbor against neighbor and communities versus developers.

The well-publicized battles we've seen in Falmouth, where a community tried to pull together to tear down the turbines that had been built years before and more recently Fairhaven, where some residents are less than 1,000 feet from the 1.5 megawatt twin turbines, are just the beginning.

But sadly, the bigger the wind turbines, the bigger the problems, and it's becoming a global issue.

Worldwide problems

In Australia, David and Alida Mortimer decided to host two Vestas 1.75 MW wind turbines on their massive property. These are people that financially benefited from the wind turbines. But they almost immediately began experiencing problems, which are now attributed to the turbines, including "a deep drumming, rumbling sensation in the skull" behind the ears and sleep deprivation. They are in the process of putting the house up for sale, though they realize it's unlikely anyone would buy it.

In Denmark, where turbines started out small in the 1970s before growing to huge sizes, complaints on the effects of turbines have been registered for more than 20 years. Despite this, no medical research, registry of complaints or follow-up has ever been done.

In Clear Creek, Ontario, Canada, where 18 Vestas 1.65 MW wind turbines were built within 3,000 yards of 140 homes, the toll include one suicide attributed to the sounds of the turbines and an attempted suicide; nine homes abandoned; eight vacant homes with "for sale" signs; seven occupied homes with "for sale" signs; a pregnant woman losing her baby in the second trimester; three heart bypass operations and more.

In Glenmore, Wisconsin, high-school-student Alyssa Ashley could always tell when the Shirley wind energy facility turbines were turning on and off by the ringing in her ears. When she traveled, her symptoms would always go away and return as soon as she came home. She was forced to move away from her family and home.

Could some of these be unrelated to the turbines? Sure. But the people had none of these effects before the turbines were installed.

In Falmouth and Fairhaven the stories are numerous. While many who don't feel the ill effects of the turbines claim the complaints are of the "not in my backyard" variety, the complaints don't always come from residents.

In Falmouth, where General Electric decided against building the twin turbines due to the proximity to residents, Donna Benevides suffered from vertigo, dizziness, tinnitus and a feeling of pressure in her ears after the wind turbine went up, 650 feet from where she works.

Unlike many complainants, Benevides feels the effects during the day and not at night, at home in Harwich.

"I do not know any of the people that live near the turbines," Benevides wrote to the town Health Agent David Carignan, "but my heart goes out to them."

No problems for some

But there are also many people, living just as close to the turbines, who suffer no ill effects. In a recent letter to the editor of the "Standard Times" of New Bedford, a Fairhaven resident called out those who claim to be suffering from the wind turbine effects, noting that none of her family have suffered any ill effects, despite their proximity to the turbines. But the truth is, the low-frequency noise that turbines emit affect different people in different ways.

In a 2012 study, Dr. Alec N. Salt, an expert on human ear physiology at the Cochlear Fluids Research Laboratory at Washington University in St. Louis, compared the dangers of low-frequency noise from wind turbines to ultraviolet rays.

"We cannot see ultraviolet light but we all understand that it can affect us profoundly, causing sunburn, photokeratitis [snow blindness] and cataracts. For ultraviolet light, there are simple ways that the damaging effects can be avoided by using sunscreen and eye protection," wrote Salt.

No ‘sunscreen' for noise

"For infrasound [low frequency] exposure in your home, there is no way to protect yourself." Salt said the problem with the wind turbine sound usually becomes worse at night when other household sounds are muted or absent.

"The sound becomes dominated by infrasound that the person cannot hear. The infrasound is detected by the ear and has subtle influences on the body that we are just beginning to understand," he said. "People undergo repeated arousals of sleep and repeated awakenings ... that leave the individual stressed and unrefreshed."

Dr. Michael A. Nissenbaum, a radiologist at the Northern Maine Medical Center, conducted a recent study for "Noise & Health," a bi-monthly inter-disciplinary international journal, on the impact of low-frequency noise from wind turbines in quiet, rural communities.

Nissenbaum said communities will continue to have problems from wind turbines as long as developers have engineers conduct acoustic studies, with no input from doctors.

"Wind turbines carry uniquely disturbing low-frequency noises and over time, these noises cannot be tuned out, like white noise can. Wind turbine noise, in studies, has been shown to be the second-worst kind of noise, next to railroad shunting. Wind turbine noise ... doesn't allow a human being to relax."

Nissenbaum admits that not everyone close to wind turbines feels its effects. Studies show that 30-40 percent of those nearby are negatively impacted.

"If it was a new drug, and 30 percent of the people were having ill effects from it, it would never make it to market, so why are we willing to tolerate this?" said Nissenbaum. "There is just an unacceptable level of complaints here."

Asked about the best distance from turbines to a residential community, he said studies show that 3,000 meters [almost two miles] may work, but even then that may also be too close, depending on the wind.

In Fairhaven, with turbine complaints mounting, the Board of Health ordered the twin turbines shut down in June between 7:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m. after a number of state acoustical tests came back noting violations. But that shutdown lasted just a little over a month since the turbines were in violation at only a few junctures.

Groups pro and con

Organized opponents of the wind turbines, known as WindWise, have sent dozens of letters to the editor noting the impacts the turbines are having on families close by.

Just recently, another group has been established, Friends of Fairhaven Wind, that has called out WindWise on its many arguments on the impacts of the turbines, saying there is an equal number of people who suffer no ill effects.

Fairhaven Board of Selectmen Chairman Charles Murphy, who spent six years at the Board of Health and is on his sixth year as a selectman, said there is still a lot of misinformation out there and preached patience as the town tries to determine the best plan for the future regarding turbines and their impact.

"Both sides are trying to mitigate this without having to go to court. Both the town and the developer realize how expensive that can get," said Murphy.

"But there is a lot of wrong information out there and there are groups that are scaring people, saying shutting down the turbines would mean the layoff of a person in town and other things. There are a lot of things people don't have the right information on right now."

Murphy, who supported the 7:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m. shutdown, thought that was a decent compromise to help residents secure a good night's sleep. With the turbines back on, he said town officials are working daily to determine how to mitigate the problem.

"It's going to take a little time but we believe a balance can be reached," added Murphy.

"One hundred percent of the people will not be happy but I believe a majority of people in town will be."

Study groups and think tanks

Perhaps because of the continued problems with wind turbines in residential neighborhoods, the Patrick administration and the Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs launched a Community Wind Outreach Initiative (CWOI) in July, aimed at helping municipalities and developers work together for land-based wind projects.

CWOI will include a coordinated community wind working group of state agencies and experts that will solicit input on a wind turbine sound policy. The initiative plans to lend support to municipalities planning new turbine projects and those who already have them.

Currently, the state does not have any parameters in place for wind turbines in residential zones, according to Matt Kakley, spokesman for the state's Clean Energy Center (MassCEC), where the zoning of wind turbines and other structures is governed by local bylaws and boards.

Asked if, with the problems that we've seen in Falmouth and Fairhaven, there is a re-thinking of turbines in residential areas, Kakley said while every renewable energy project is unique, "there are lessons learned from every installation," pointing to the new state initiative that they hope will "take these lessons and apply them in the development of future projects.

"We feel, as we always have, that appropriately-sited wind energy projects represent a valuable opportunity to harness homegrown natural resources for our energy production, keeping energy dollars here in the local economy and protecting the environment for future generations," said Kakley.

"Wind energy continues to play an important role in our clean energy future. There was more wind energy capacity installed in Massachusetts in 2012 than in all other years combined. The opportunity presented through offshore wind is attainable, with Cape Wind poised to become the first offshore wind project in the country," added Kakley.

"Under the leadership of Governor Patrick," Kakley continued, "MassCEC is constructing the New Bedford Marine Commerce Terminal, the nation's first port specifically designed to handle the heavy cargo involved in an offshore wind project. With the construction of the terminal, Massachusetts will be poised to capitalize on this burgeoning market."

The real cost of wind energy

Creating jobs is something sorely needed, especially in the Commonwealth, and moving away from our reliance on fossil fuels is another necessity. But with more and more complaints derived from residentially developed wind turbines, what exactly is the future of wind turbines on land?

The New Hampshire-based www.Windaction.org and its executive director Lisa Linowes were technical advisors for the documentary fim "Windfall," which explores the many problems of wind turbines. Linowes is an expert on the impacts of industrial-scale wind turbines on the natural environment.

She said that policies now in place at the state, regional and federal levels consistently reward wind projects just for putting energy on the grid, no matter where the projects are located.

"For this reason, developers have no incentive to resolve their siting issues," Linowes said. "Instead, their focus is entirely on building turbines wherever they can get them approved."

Windaction.org was founded in 2006 to help balance the discussion pertaining to wind energy development, and Linowes stressed that her agency was not anti-wind, as long as it had no impact on those living nearby.

A growth industry

Linowes said back in 2006, there was considerable literature promoting the merits of wind power but next to no information on the risks of siting or the costs of the energy. There was also only about 10,000 MW of wind installed in the US, with most of the wind sited in a handful of states. Today, 60,000 MW are installed nearly nationwide. The only exception is the southeast, where the wind resource is poor.

"That's over 30,000 turbines erected since 2006. Much has happened since 2006, but the most notable trend is that the turbines are getting much bigger and there is no apparent limit to where they will be sited," said Linowes. "Wind companies have aggressively pushed their projects in areas where they should not be sited."

In many rural communities with no zoning, developers continued to build and build, and that's what happened in Texas. Those with zoning welcomed the projects, hoping to do their part to look "green" and to reap some of the construction and property tax revenue, she said.

Unfortunately, Linowes said the developers were less than honest about what their projects would look and sound like.

"Communities believed that the turbines were quiet and safe and could be sited within 1,000 feet of a person's home. Most had no idea what turbines looked like up close and the photo simulations depicted the towers against vast open spaces, making them look tiny," said Linowes.

"It wasn't until the turbines were erected and started to spin that people experienced the reality of wind. And by that time, the permits were in place and a parade of wind lawyers moved quickly to silence any complaints," said Linowes.

While Linowes said there can still be a future for wind development, significant hurdles exist. The easiest places for wind companies to site projects happen to be where people live, and she said her group is not convinced there is any place in New England where turbines can be sited onshore, given our population density.

Costly cures

Offshore is a possibility but the cost is prohibitive.

"Wind can make more sense in our western plains but these areas are very remote from population centers and would require tens of billions of dollars in new transmission infrastructure to deliver the wind power to where it can be consumed," she said.

"The transmission adds to the cost of wind power, which is already more expensive than all forms of traditional generation."

More and more studies are coming out about the ill effects turbines have on humans and more complaints are coming to light out about how it is affecting people and families.

The hope is that eventually, local and state governments will figure out how to make everything work without sacrificing people's health, which is what has been happening.

Until then, citizens and municipalities will remain in a state of flux as they try to determine where they go from here. We are all more informed than we were five years ago, which will hopefully lead to more hard questions about wind turbines and where they are sited in the future. Let's hope.


Source: http://www.coastalmags.com/...

AUG 27 2013
https://www.windaction.org/posts/38411-blowing-in-the-wind
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