5/17/10 QUADRUPLE FEATURE: The Doctor is In: Council member Dr. Jevon McFadden presents his findings on wind turbines and human health AND 'How Stuff Works' explains the concerns AND What's on the WSC docket AND A reporter talks about being wrong about Big Wind and 'eating the NIMBY stick'
WIND SITING COUNCIL MEETING
1:30 PM Monday MAY 17 2010 AT THE PSC
Public Service Commission Building
610 North Whitney Way
Audio of the meeting will be broadcast from the PSC Website beginning at 1:30 CLICK HERE to visit the PSC website, click on the button on the left that says "Live Broadcast". Sometimes the meetings don't begin right on time. The broadcasts begin when the meetings do so keep checking back if you don't hear anything right at 1:30.
NOTE FROM THE BPWI RESEARCH NERD: For some, watching a Wind Siting Council Meeting is like watching paint dry. For others it's like watching people toss your future around in their hands. For the BPWI Research Nerd (who is working on a book about the experiences of wind farm residents in our state) it's a front row seat on the creation of siting standards that will either protect the people and avian species of our state, or protect the interests of wind developers, utilities and wind lobbyists. If you live in rural Wisconsin, there is a very good chance that this issue will soon be at your front door.
As we look over the agenda we look forward to discussion of the PSC commissioner's sudden adoption of draft rules last week.
On Friday, the PSC commissioners approved draft wind siting rules containing conditions which include specific numbers concerning setbacks and noise limits the Wind Siting Council has never been allowed to discuss.
For those of us following this issue, this sudden move by the PSC commissioners comes as a complete surprise.
The numbers used for the draft rules come from the Glacier Hills decision, according to the commission.
The setback from non participating homes in Glacier Hills is 1250 feet. The noise limit is 50 dbA and 45dbA depending on the season.
The setbacks and noise limits previdously approved by the PSC which causing so much trouble for residents in existing Wisconsin wind projects are 1000 feet from non participating homes and a noise limit of 50dbA.
Wind Siting Council
Monday, May 17, 2010, beginning at 1:30 p.m.
1) Welcome/Review of today’s agenda
2) Review and adoption of meeting minutes of April 29, 2010
3) Update on Commission rulemaking process
4) Presentation: Wind Turbines: A Brief Health Overview
Council member Jevon McFadden, MD, MPH
5) Next steps/Discussion of next meeting’s time, place and agenda
This meeting is open to the public.
If you have any questions or need special accommodations, please contact Deborah
Erwin at the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin by telephone at (608) 266-3905 or
via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
HAVE YOU REACHED OUT AND TOUCHED YOUR PSC TODAY?
The PSC is asking for public comment on the recently approved draft siting rules
Here is a recent comment from a resident of Greenleaf, Wisconsin
I just read the last siting minutes and the draft document putting setbacks from non-participating residents at 3.1 X turbine height and "1.1" X turbine height from the property line.
In my case this is effectively stealing 690 feet of my property.
My neighbor has 138 acres and I have ten acres. If he doesn't have enough acreage to keep the 3.1 X setback from the "property line", then he does not have enough land host two turbines.
I paid off the mortgage for my land with the property rights intact and I paid the the property taxes on my land for 29 years. If there is anyone entitled to the property rights of my property- it is me.
If the state wishes to exercise eminent domain, then they have a right to do so for public conveyance and I must be compensated for the loss of my property.
The wind developer and my neighbor DO NOT have the right of eminent domain. The Wind Siting Council has a legal and moral obligation to respect the property rights of all Wisconsin property owners and any rules they make must reflect those obligations.
I affirm that these comments are true and correct to the best of my knowledge and belief.
Do wind turbines cause health problems?
by Julia Layton
SOURCE: How Stuff Works
Some people living near wind turbines complain of chronic sleep loss, headaches and other symptoms
Wind power accounts for about 1 percent of the electricity produced in the United States [source: Gillam]. Nearly 25,000 wind turbines crank out power throughout the country. These massive windmills -- up to 80 feet (24 meters) tall -- capture the energy in wind and convert it into free-flowing electrons that people can use to run dishwashers, air conditioning and lights.
That 1 percent may not sound like much until you realize that wind power is just catching on in the United States. Huge new wind farms accounting for thousands more megawatts of capacity are in development as we speak, and estimates put 20 percent of the nation's electricity coming from wind power by 2030 [source: The Oregonian]. The European Union hopes to reach that percentage even sooner -- by 2020.
Until recently, there were three main issues regarding the possible downsides of wind power: bird and bat deaths, cost, and disrupting the appearance of natural landscapes. But a new objection to wind power has popped up in the past few years, resting on the research of a few scientists. The latest argument states that wind power endangers the health of people who live near windmills. Some people call this theory "wind-turbine syndrome." Although the extent of the phenomenon is unknown, there does seem to be something to it.
Those concerned about wind-power syndrome are interested in finding out if and how wind power could be making people sick. Is everyone living near windmills facing health problems? Let's take a look at the possible health risks associated with wind farms and find out whether we should be worried about the steady increase in wind-generated power throughout the world.
Infrasound and The Body
The rapidly spinning blades of huge wind turbines have an effect on their surroundings, and it goes beyond aesthetics. The blade tips of a wind turbine can spin at speeds of up to 80 meters per second, or about 180 miles per hour. In high winds, this rapid spinning can produce sound and vibration -- in addition to disruptions in air pressure [source: MIT].
The extremely low air pressure surrounding a wind turbine could be the reason why bats die near them. A bat's lungs are very delicate, and it seems the low pressure might cause them to expand to the point of bursting blood vessels [source: NewScientist]. Scuba divers can certainly attest to the effects of pressure on the human body.
And the corporeal effects of sound -- essentially fluctuations in air pressure that vibrate the eardrum -- are well-documented. For instance, infrasound -- sounds at such low frequency that they can't be picked up by the human ear but can carry through the atmosphere for thousands of kilometers -- is believed to cause certain breathing and digestive problems [source: Infrasound Lab].
Infrasound is the primary issue for those concerned about wind-turbine syndrome. They also say that audible sound and vibrations contribute to the health problems reported by some people who live close to wind farms. Symptoms of wind-turbine syndrome might include:
* sleep problems
* night terrors or learning disabilities in children
* ringing in the ears (tinnitus)
* mood problems (irritability, anxiety)
* concentration and memory problems
* issues with equilibrium, dizziness and nausea
Around the World
As of May 2008, about 25,000 wind turbines are cranking out power across the country -- and the world [source: Gillam]. In Britain, 2,100 turbines supply up to 2 percent of the country's power; Germany, the world's top user of wind power, draws 7 percent of its electrical needs from more than 19,000 turbines [source: BBC,BWEA].
These symptoms have been observed and documented by a limited number of scientists studying small groups of people, and the scientific community hasn't concluded whether wind-turbine syndrome exists.
There are also mixed opinions on whether wind turbines emit infrasound and if the amount is any more than that emitted by diesel engines or waves crashing on the beach [source: CleanTechnica, ABC Science]. But we do know that at high speeds, wind turbines can produce an audible hum and vibration that can be carried through the air. It's these sounds and motions that provide clues and possible solutions to wind-turbine syndrome, which we'll explore in the next section.
Wind-Turbine Syndrome Explanations and Solutions
It's understood that some people who live in close proximity to wind turbines experience sleep disturbances, headaches and concentration problems. These symptoms and others could be explained as the effects of infrasound as well as constant humming and vibrations.
But here's the catch: Many of the symptoms of wind-turbine syndrome can also be caused by chronic sleep loss -- simply and unfortunately an effect of living near a noise-producing entity [source: Ohio Department of Health].
People who live near a highway or busy street may have trouble sleeping, which can lead to other health problems like irritability, anxiety, concentration and dizziness.
There was a rumor years ago about an infrasound-based military weapon that would make people lose control of their bowels and poop on themselves. It was said to be a riot-control device. The rumor wasn't true, as far as we know [source: ABC Science]. But in theory, such a weapon might work.
To solve this sound issue, new wind-power technology employs sound-dampening systems. Engineers are hoping that these newer systems -- which can block or cancel out multiple sound frequencies -- will reduce any sound-related problems associated with wind farm communities [source: Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft].
Researchers studying wind-turbine syndrome also recommend a larger buffer zone around wind farms to protect people from any ill effects. Some people say that the distance should be least 1.2 miles (2 kilometers) [source: CleanTechnica].
Others suggest at least 2 miles (3.2 kilometers) [source: PlanetGore].
Some wind farms are currently located as close as a half mile (0.8 kilometers) from residential areas.
Whether we should be concerned with the expansion in wind power ultimately comes down to weighing the pros and cons. Is cleaner, cheaper, domestically produced energy worth the potential side effects of some people experiencing headaches? The hope is that new buffer-zone regulations and sound-canceling technologies can do away with the question entirely.
If the issue persists, we'll have to decide whether wind power is important enough to pursue anyway -- much like deciding whether building a new, noisy highway that would reduce congestion and increase commerce is worth some unfortunate people losing sleep.
* ABC Science. Brown note: bad vibration mega-hurts. May 13, 2008.
* BWEA.Low Frequency Noise and Wind Turbines.
* CleanTechnica. Wind Turbines and… Health? August 18, 2008.
* "Anti-noise" silences wind turbines.
* Gillam, Carey. Wind power gains adherents in United States. International Herald Tribune. Reuters.
* Infrasound Lab. University of Hawaii.
* NewScientist Environment. Wind turbines make bat lungs explode. August 25, 2008.
* Ohio Department of Health. Bureau of Environment Health. Health Assessment Section. Literature search on the potential health impacts associated with wind-to-energy turbine operations.
* Planet Gore. Wind Turbine Syndrome. August 15, 2008.
* The Oregonian. Wind whips up health fears. August 10, 2008.
* WindAction.org. Wind Turbine Syndrome. March 12, 2006.