3/21/09: Same Bill, Different State: How Turbine Siting Reform is Playing Out Here and Elsewhere...and more!
When it comes to siting industrial scale wind farms, wind developers don't want towns, villages and counties to have any say at all.
Well-paid lobbyists have worked hard to convince our legislators to 'fast-track' wind farm development by stripping local government of its power to regulate how wind turbines are sited in their communities, and by overturning existing ordinances created to protect the health and safety of residents.
Senator Jeff Plale (D-South Milwaukee) has drafted a bill which will help wind developers do just that. The bill is now being circulated around the capitol.
Wisconsin isn't the only state facing wind developer strong arm tactics. Similar bills have been introduced in a few other states.
How is this legislation playing out in other parts of the country?
This just in from the state of Maine:
Towns Keep Control over Wind, Lawmakers reject bill to transfer permitting authority to the State
By Kevin Miller
Bangor Daily News
March 21, 2009
AUGUSTA, Maine — Lawmakers heard hours of often emotional testimony Thursday on bills that highlight growing tensions over the use of Maine's abundant wind and water resources.
Much of the debate focused on the roles municipalities and local residents play when wind-energy companies and water bottlers come to town.
Dozens of people turned out to oppose a controversial and short-lived proposal that aimed to speed up development of industrial-scale wind power by limiting municipalities' ability to control where massive turbines are located.
LD 199 would preclude local ordinances in many areas of Maine and give state regulators authority over siting and design of large wind farms. Committee members quickly rejected the bill, however, in a unanimous “ought not to pass” vote.
Maine is home to two large wind-energy facilities — a 28-turbine wind farm in Mars Hill and a 38-turbine wind farm on Stetson Mountain in northern Washington County. Numerous others are in various stages of development.
But critics contend that in their rush to capitalize on the thirst for green energy, state officials are ignoring the potential impacts that industrial wind turbines can have on neighbors.
Those impacts include loss of enjoyment of their homes, sleep deprivation from noise caused by the spinning blades, lower property values and even sickness caused by low-frequency noise or vibrations. Critics also contend the turbines ruin scenery important to tourism and can harm wildlife.
Steve Bennett, who lives approximately 3,000 feet from the wind turbines recently built in Freedom, said many people in his town did not realize how large and audible the turbines would be. Bennett said he can hear the turbines regularly inside his home. In the morning, he said, sun flicker lights up rooms in his house like a strobe light.
“One of our selectmen told me, ‘Steve, you won’t even see them much less hear them,’” Bennett said. “Well, you should come to my house.”
On Wednesday the Wisconsin State Journal ran an editorial urging our lawmakers to support Senator Plale's bill. (Click here to read it) Once again, the the editors used the worn-out stereotype "Not-in-my-back-yard" (NIMBY) to dismiss the troubles of residents now living in PSC- approved Wisconsin wind farms, as well as those with legitimate questions and concerns about Senator Plale's bill.
Instead of investigating widespread reports of problems with turbine noise, shadow flicker and loss of property value in the wind farms in Fond du Lac Dodge Counties, or investigating the dubious source of the PSC's siting guidelines -which helped create these siting disasters-, or checking into the reports of the bats and birds now being killed by the Fond du Lac and Dodge turbines, the Wisconsin State Journal simply advises, "Don't Blow Chance For Wind Power"
Wind power is not the best renewable energy option for our state, but it's the renewable energy option with the most money and muscle behind it. And editorials like this make us worried the the Wisconsin State Journal is not doing the most important thing a newspaper can do: tell the whole story.
We like to think there is at least one journalist at the Wisconsin State Journal willing to do some good old-fashioned investigative reporting on this story if at least one editor that will let them. To WSJ we say, "Don't Blow Chance For Big Story"
Responses to the WSJ's editorial can be found in the "Comments" section, including our own. (click here to read them all)
After you read them, please feel free to add your own comments, or better yet, Click here to contact your legislators and let them know how you feel about this editorial and Senator Plale's bill.
Let them know that if they want statewide siting reform it should be based it on the Town of Union's Large Wind Ordinance, not on the PSC's recycled ordinance guidelines which were provided by a Florida utility.
Big Wind is not the only choice in Wisconsin for renewable energy. It's not the best choice by far. It's just the one with the slickest salesmen. And so far, WSJ journalists don't seem to be asking them any hard questions.
READER OPINION-Study points to health hazards of wind turbines
To the editor:
Developers of industrial wind facilities purport the safety and benefits of living close to wind turbines.
A closer look paints a far different story.
Doctors throughout the world have conducted studies on the health effects of industrial wind facilities including Dr. Robert McMurtry, Ontario, Canada; Dr. Nina Pierpont, USA; Dr. Amanda Harry, UK; and Dr. Robin Phipps, New Zealand.
Dr. Pierpont reports Wind Turbine Syndrome is the disruption of sensory input to eyes, ear and stretch and pressure receptors in a variety of body locations."
She also states, "One does not have to be able to hear low frequency noise and vibration to experience the effects described as Wind Turbine Syndrome."
You don't have to travel far to investigate the reports of health concerns.
In a recent listening session held by state Senator Joe Leibham in Fond du Lac County, over 50 people shared concerns including negative health effects attributed to the turbines since the project went on line.
Many report jet engine and wooshing sounds day and night, sleep problems, headaches, dizziness, exhaustion, and depression.
Included in the list of complaints are continuous shadow flicker, strobe light effect and loss of property values leading to mental stress.
Those living near turbines report, "pulsations laying down in bed and when the turbines get into a particular position, tremors going through your body...it feels like something is vibrating your body like sitting in a vibrating chair but your body is not moving."
McMurtry states, "I am really concerned because there have been too many reports in too many places around the world about ill effects, adverse effects on health, the low frequency noise has a particular problem and a number of people have reported ill effects including headaches, dizziness, and ringing in their ears or something worse."
Others report that the shadow flicker can be seen even with the eyes closed especially when waking up.
The constant motion is distracting even in your home, yet the wind turbine developers continue to report that shadow flicker is minimal and of no concern.
Yet, those living in the industrial facility seeking remediation from the shadow flicker are being offered to be a part of the "shade abatement" program where WE Energies purchases window shades for their homes.
If there were no problems to begin with why the remediation programs?
Pierpont reports, "Developer statements and preconstruction modeling lead communities to believe that disturbances from noise and vibration will be negligible or nonexistent."
Dr. Pierpont (USA), Dr. Phipps (New Zealand) and Dr. Harry (UK) are calling for a minimum of 1.5 miles from homes; France's National Academy of Medicine calls for a one mile minimum setback; the United Kingdom Noise Association calls for a one mile setback, and at one time, Renew Wisconsin also recommended a one mile setback.
Those living in or near industrial wind facilities experiencing health-related concerns are encouraged to contact county health departments and keep track of symptoms and numbers of calls placed stating you are expecting a call back regarding your concerns.
Also, make sure to tell your health care professionals that you are living in an area where industrial wind turbines are operating and have symptoms similar to Wind Turbine Syndrome.
Diane Hoerth and Teresa Hahn