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5/24/11 LIFE IN A WIND PROJECT: From open arms to balled up fists: Nightmare on Vinalhavan AND From Up Over to Down Under, wind turbines are causing trouble AND Who ya gonna call? Putting a face on the folks the wind industry calls NIMBYs

From Maine



May 24, 2011

By Tom Zeller Jr.

While thousands of wind power enthusiasts and industry representatives gather in Anaheim Calif. for Windpower 2011, the American Wind Power Association's popular annual conference and exhibition, some 3,300 miles due east, wind power is tearing a tiny island community asunder.

In the latest turn, an attorney representing several homeowners living closest to a three-turbine wind installation on the tiny island of Vinalhaven in Maine's Penobscot Bay filed a formal complaint with the Maine Public Utilities Commission on Monday.

The complaint charges that the Fox Island Electric Cooperative, the local utility, and Fox Island Wind, the developer of the wind installation which is owned by the utility, have engaged in repeated harassment of the homeowners, who have argued since shortly after the turbines came online in late 2009 that the machines have been in violation of state noise ordinances. That assertion was subsequently supported by the state Department of Environmental Protection.

The developer has repeatedly disputed those findings, and the majority of the island's residents support the wind farm, which is seen as a source of eco-pride and sensible thrift, ostensibly saving the island from the need to import pricier power from the mainland.

But Monday's complaint states that the residents nearest the turbines have legitimate concerns that have long gone unheeded, despite multiple attempts to resolve the issue through negotiation, and that instead the local utility has recently upped the rhetorical ante by placing two separate "inserts" inside all islanders' utility bills. The inserts claim that legal expenses associated with the neighbors' noise complaints were costing the cooperative hundreds of thousands of dollars, and that as a result, a 5 percent increase in utility rates was needed.

The announcement caused the neighbors, perhaps not surprisingly, to suffer "retribution, harassment and hostility" from fellow Vinalhaven residents who are not within earshot of the turbines, according to the complaint. The utility's tactic also amounted to what the complaint called "intimidation and an abuse of the powers of a utility."

Vinalhaven became a flashpoint last year for a small but persistent backlash against industrial wind power, as residents living nearest the spinning behemoths became vocal about their experiences.

Like nearly all residents of the island, they supported the idea of a wind farm at first. Yet the Fox Island Wind Neighbors, as the loosely knit group of a dozen or so residents dubbed themselves, said they soon began to worry about the noise, being within a one-mile radius of the project site.

Representatives of Fox Island Wind assured them the noise would be minimal. But as Art Lindgren, one of the neighbors, told this reporter last year, their worst fears were confirmed once the turbines were switched on.

“In the first 10 minutes, our jaws dropped to the ground,” he said. “Nobody in the area could believe it. They were so loud.”

Lindgren's lament has been echoed in jurisdictions across the land, as an increasing number of communities come to weigh the innumerable collective benefits of wind power -- clean, non-toxic, no emissions, climate-friendly, water-friendly, renewable, sustainable -- against some of the downsides experienced by those living nearby.

Indeed, proximate residents around the country have cited everything from the throbbing, low-frequency drone to mind-numbing strobe effects as the rising or setting sun slices through the spinning blades:



Others have gone so far as to describe something called "wind turbine syndrome," arising from turbine-generated low-frequency noise and "infrasound," and causing all manner of symptoms -- from headache and dizziness to ear pressure, nausea, visual blurring, racing heartbeat, and panic episodes -- though the science on these claims is still thin.

And there are still lingering and long-standing concerns over hazards presented by turbines to migrating birds and bats.

At Vinalhaven, for example, a 28-month study conducted by ornithologist Richard Podolsky, who was hired by Fox Island Wind, the project's developer, recently declared the turbines' impacts on local eagle and osprey populations to be negligible.

But in March, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service sent a letter to attorneys representing the Fox Island Wind project, lambasting those conclusions. The letter questioned the study's methodologies for studying eagle, bat and bird collision assessment and mortality, suggesting that they needed to be more rigorous and better-defined and described.

The wildlife regulators asked that new studies be conducted before a permit necessary to allow the project to proceed -- despite the potential for incidental harm to bald and golden eagle species in the area -- is issued. Both are protected by federal legislation.

Meanwhile, the complaint filed on Monday asks the Maine Public Utility Commission to sanction the Vinalhaven utility and Fox Island Wind for the utility bill inserts, and urges them to prevent any similar communications with ratepayers in the future.

It also asks that the state commission prevent the island utility from attempting to raise rates to cover expenses from its dispute with the affected homeowners going forward -- characterizing such expenses as "the product of mismanagement, and reckless conduct."

Queries sent to officials at Fox Island Wind and the Vinalhaven electric cooperative were not immediately returned Tuesday morning. This report will be updated if they respond.

From New York State



May 20, 2011

By Sally Ross

Horizon, sponsor of the proposed Alabama Ledge Wind Farm, held an open meeting on March 17 at the Alabama Town Hall to respond to environmental concerns raised by the impact of industrial wind turbines. Surprisingly, their collective effect upon local residents’ health was unexplored. Therefore, this overview will attempt to summarize a recent inquiry into the impact of wind turbines upon persons and animals.

Preston G. Ribnick and Lilli-Ann Green, from Wellfleet (Cape Cod), Mass., own a medical consulting agency, advising hospitals and clinics throughout the United States. They have spent almost a year trying to understand the complexities of wind energy. Two foci of their attention have been the wind farms in Falmouth, Mass., and Vinalhaven, Maine. Early this year, Ribnick and Green were the guests of Sarah Laurie, M.D., of Waubra, Australia. Dr. Laurie and her medical colleagues have been compiling files on dozens of persons whose health has been seriously compromised by the Waubra Wind Farm. Ribnick and Green interviewed a sample of the patients.

Waubra, 100 kilometers (62 miles) from Melbourne, is primarily an agricultural community of growers who raise livestock — cattle, poultry and sheep — as well as a variety of crops. It isn’t uncommon for farms to have been in families for two or more generations, and like much of Australia, drought conditions have prevailed for nearly a decade. Wind turbines seemed like a godsend; a stable source of rental income to accompany the precarious economy.

The Waubra Wind Farm is an installation of 128 turbines in as many miles; one turbine to one mile. After the industrial wind turbine complex was up and running in 2009, dozens of previously healthy persons reported serious health issues with themselves and their animals. Here are some common complaints. They are not age-specific. They occur in children as well as in mature adults.

People — dangerously high rates in blood pressure, racing heartbeats, stroke, heart attack, sleep disturbance, involuntary neurological “upper lip quiver,” ringing in ears, inability to concentrate, severe headache, eye pain, and dizziness.

Animals — chickens laying eggs without shells, nearly one-half of the lambs expiring shortly after birth, disoriented sheep, dogs as well as birds displaying extremely agitated and abnormal behavior, and the virtual disappearance of bats.

Conditions inside of homes were worse than those outside, because houses vibrated. As a result, some people have left hearth and home and now consider themselves to be “industrial refugees.” How far away were these physiological complaints reported? Up to 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) distance from the wind turbine installations. By inference, these data should raise our local concern for those residents in Genesee, and nearby counties, who live well beyond the proposed sites for turbine installations in the town of Alabama.

The results of Ribnick, Green and Laurie’s work is widely available. A hard copy of the article upon which this summary [can be downloaded by CLICKING HERE]. Anyone opting for an electronic link, as well as additional scientific information, place contact me.

Sally Ross, Ph.D., lives in Oakfield. Write her via e-mail at srladygrail@gmail.com.

From Malone, Wisconsin


May 19, 2011

Thank you for the information about wind farms. We live in one and life has changed.  Quite frankly, it has been somewhat of a nightmare. We have to deal with bad tv reception, flicker and loud swoshing noises at times. We could have been part of this project as they approached us about using our land but we declined because we didn't feel educated enough. They went up anyway.

   We are still trying to educate ourselves but it just keeps making us feel sicker.
Is there anyone that you know of that is fighting for the little guys affected in all this? The neighbors who have to live with this in their back yards should have voice also.
Bernie and Rose Petrie
Malone, WI


From Massachusetts


READ ENTIRE STORY AT THE SOURCE: Cape Cod Times, www.capecodonline.com

May 24, 2011


"The 7½-ton, 135-foot-long blades of the turbine slice through the air every second, creating a sound pressure that feels like the pounding of a bass instrument coming through the walls day and night. Just try to imagine that sound always there in your yard and in every room in your house, with no opportunity to turn it off. You go insane!"

"What we have so painfully learned this year is that there has been no place to go for help. Not our town hall, nor state representatives; not the police, not the DEP, nor the Department of Public Health. What is happening wasn’t supposed to happen. So we wait and suffer while it is “figured out.”

My husband and I met in 1976 and bonded over a shared love of nature. We have long considered ourselves conservationists, not only because our wonderful Depression-era parents taught us to use things up and wear them out, but because we learned our lesson from the oil embargo of the ’70s.

This awareness of the Earth’s declining natural resources led my husband, some 30 years ago, to start one of the first alternative energy construction companies on the Cape. And when we built our home on Blacksmith Shop Road 20 years ago, we designed it to be an energy-efficient system in itself. We also recycle, compost, drive small cars, use fluorescent bulbs, turn off lights when not in use, unplug appliances using phantom electricity, keep our heat down to 60 degrees in the winter and repurpose many things that would otherwise be thrown away.

Yet we, and our neighbors, have been criticized and made to feel guilty for complaining about ill health effects directly related to the size and proximity of utility-size wind turbines to our homes.

My husband and I were aware that the town Falmouth had been exploring the use of turbines for years, and we thought this was a good idea. However, when two turbines, already turned down by two other towns, became available, Falmouth officials chose to ignore the Falmouth windmill bylaw already on the books and erected two 400-foot mechanical machines, one 1,320 feet directly north of our home.

We, and our neighbors, were intentionally shut out of a special permitting process so that we would not hold up financing or construction in any way. Consequently, we have been living a nightmare ever since the turbine went online last year.

The 7½-ton, 135-foot-long blades of the turbine slice through the air every second, creating a sound pressure that feels like the pounding of a bass instrument coming through the walls day and night. Just try to imagine that sound always there in your yard and in every room in your house, with no opportunity to turn it off. You go insane!

At first we naively thought our Falmouth administrators would be concerned for us when informed of our health problems. Since April 2010, we and our neighbors have continually called, written, emailed or spoken in person to our town officials and begged them for some relief. The response we got for one year: no response. We contacted our building commissioner, zoning board of appeals, selectmen, and especially our board of health: no response.

Unfortunately for us, town administrators, in their haste to be “green,” did not research the negative impacts of utility-scale turbines near residential areas, and were taken by surprise by all of our complaints. Because the town of Falmouth owns the turbine, the administrators, again, chose to shut us out. We finally were forced to go to court just to get them to acknowledge us.

We wish we could list all the details of the cruel indifference we have been subjected to for a year, but the log we keep is pages too long. It was not until my husband and I were so exhausted from the ill treatment of turbine and town that we had to be civilly disobedient at a town meeting to plead for some relief. The Falmouth selectmen finally helped by way of a temporary shutoff when wind speeds reach 23 mph.

What we have so painfully learned this year is that there has been no place to go for help. Not our town hall, nor state representatives; not the police, not the DEP, nor the Department of Public Health. What is happening wasn’t supposed to happen. So we wait and suffer while it is “figured out.”

My husband and I still wholeheartedly embrace the movement toward alternative energy, but, once again, both the Massachusetts government and our town government put the cart before the horse and did not do all they could have done to protect the people. And from the looks of things going on in other towns, it is going to be up to the townspeople to fight for responsible turbine siting, to protect the health of their fellow man.

Elizabeth Andersen lives in Falmouth.

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