8/24/11 What is Wind Turbine Shadow Flicker, and how many hours of it should you have to endure? AND Turbine related Bat Kills making the news everywhere BUT Wisconsin where the bat kill rate is more than TEN TIMES the national average. Why have no Wisconsin environmental groups stepped up to say something?
LIVING WITH NEGATIVE EFFECTS OF WIND TURBINES
SOURCE: The Rock River Times, rockrivertimes.com
August 24, 2011
By Barbara Draper,
When we first experienced this, we thought something was wrong with our lights, but as our eyes kept moving to find the source — we just couldn’t figure it out. I then walked into the kitchen, and it was coming through the closed venetian blind — then we knew. That flicker lasted an hour. It made my husband feel ill, like motion sickness. The brighter the sun, the more intense the flicker.
I live 1 mile from the city limits of Ohio, Ill., in Bureau County on the Big Sky Wind farm, which covers approximately 13 square miles, more or less. In that area, there are at least 56 turbines, and 30 are on land owned by absentee landowners who do not have the negative effects of shadow flicker, poor TV reception or noise.
In that same 13-square-mile area, there are 47 homes, excluding those in the Village of Ohio. Ten of those homes belong to and are lived in by people who have turbines on their farm. The other 37 homes are owned and occupied by residents who are not participating in the wind farm.
We are among those 36 nonparticipating homes because we chose not to have a turbine on our farm, as did two other farmers in our area. However, most of those 36 homes are on small rural estates, and they had no choice for a turbine.
We have 12 turbines located around our house that vary in distance from less than a quarter-of-a-mile to three located less than a mile. There is no window in our home to look out without seeing turbine blades going round and round. I have taken pictures from my windows, if anyone is interested in looking at them.
As we sit on our patio, we are looking at 31 turbines spinning. The sound is a monotonous sound of whish, whish that can vary in intensity and, at times, has sounded like a train rumbling down a track. I refer to it as irritating, like a dripping faucet. It just never stops, unless the turbine is not running.
The beautiful countryside in our area has disappeared, along with the quiet and peaceful county living we once had.
We have shadow flicker many months of the year, from 15 minutes to more than an hour a day, whenever the sun is shining and turbines are running.
At a meeting before Big Sky was built, I asked about shadow flicker. The developer said I would have flicker for maybe two to three seconds a year. I should have had him write his statement down and sign it. My suggestion is that if a developer tells you something, have him sign a written statement to that effect.
Some mornings, we don’t need an alarm, because the flicker wakes us up. This fall, we will again have the most intense flicker starting in October and until the end of February. This comes from a turbine 1,620 feet (according to Big Sky measurements) southwest of our house.
The flicker is in every room in our house — we can’t get away from it. When we first experienced this, we thought something was wrong with our lights, but as our eyes kept moving to find the source — we just couldn’t figure it out. I then walked into the kitchen, and it was coming through the closed venetian blind — then we knew. That flicker lasted an hour. It made my husband feel ill, like motion sickness. The brighter the sun, the more intense the flicker.
This flicker is hard to explain to people. Flickering fluorescent lights in every room might be similar; however, they would not cast moving light on the walls and furniture.
This flicker comes through trees, blinds or lined drapes. Light-blocking shades would have to be sealed to the sides of the window.
The shadows are on our buildings, our lawn and across our field. Last fall, I covered the tops of my south windows with wide aluminum foil. I did this so I could look outside a few windows without seeing rotating blades. It didn’t keep out the flicker. I have now replaced the foil with pleated shades.
The Bureau County Zoning Board was told by a wind farm representative that 20 to 30 hours of shadow flicker a year was acceptable. It is not acceptable. I asked the representative if he lived on a wind farm. He answered, “No.”
Residents, especially nonparticipating residents, should not have any flicker in their house or any shadow from turbines on their lawn, outbuildings or farm land. I have read that this is a trespass.
An executive of Big Sky told us on the phone that we had a serious shadow flicker problem. The next time we talked with her, she denied saying it — another reason to get their statements in writing and signed.
A person has to live on a wind farm 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to really know what it is like. You cannot get the whole effect by just driving through it and stopping by a turbine for a short time. The conditions vary, hour by hour, day by day, and even season to season.
When Big Sky first started erecting the turbines, my husband and daughter drove to one — they couldn’t hear a thing. We thought, “Oh, this won’t be so bad.” One trip does not tell the story.
I realize wind farms are big money for participating farmers and tax-supported institutions. However, more consideration needs to be given in the placement of the turbines to eliminate what we are having in Big Sky.
We don’t live in the quiet rural county anymore. It has been replaced with an industrial wind park. They call it a wind farm — wrong — it produces no food. It just eliminates many food-producing acres.
These counties need to realize the impact of turbines and make their ordinances to protect the people. Shadow flicker should not have to be tolerated by rural residents. It is disturbing and has health consequences. I have been told that someone with seizures could not live in our home because of that intense flicker we have in the fall.
I also strongly believe no shadows from turbines should be cast across highways, as they are in Big Sky. Several drivers have told me they have been startled by them — slammed on their brakes, and some nearly ran off the road. I called the Illinois Department of Transportation, but was told they could do nothing as long as the turbine was not in their right of way — it was a county issue.
All of these problems are disturbing and serious problems, and there are health problems involved. I sometimes think this country has its priorities mixed up. I love nature and animals, but when a conservation area was given a farther setback from turbines in Lee County than we were given from our homes in Bureau County, I got disturbed.
I believe there needs to be much more study done on wind turbines before filling this nation’s countryside with them. In making your ordinances, please make sure your residents are protected from the negative effects of turbines.
Barbara Draper is a resident of Ohio, Ill., in Bureau County, about 75 miles southwest of Rockford.
NOTE: The video below is from DeKalb Illinois.
NOTE FROM THE BPWI RESEARCH NERD:
According to post construction mortality studies submitted to the DNR and the Public Service Commision, turbine related bat kill rates in Wisconsin are the highest in North America and more than ten times the national average.
More than 10,000 bats per year are killed in Wisconsin each year by wind turbines. When the Glacier Hills project goes on line later this year, over 4000 more bat kills per year will take place. These figures are from documents provided by the wind companies themselves and confirmed by the DNR and they are unsustainable.
Yet no Wisconsin environmental organization has stepped in to help, and the story that makes head lines in other states with half the mortality rate continues to be ignored in our state.
If you are a member of a Wisconsin environmental organization, Better Plan urges you to contact them and ask that they look into this.
Renewable energy sources should not get a pass on killing wildlife, especially bats, animals critical to an agricultural state like ours.
In Missouri, they're already talking about it....
HOLY BATTERED BATS! DOUBLE MENACE THREATENS FARMERS HELPERS
August 22, 2011
Farmer Shelly Cox and her husband rely on the mainstays of Midwest agriculture: John Deere tractor, genetically modified seeds and rich soil.
They also get extra help from what you might call nature’s pest control crew – migrating bats.
“They’re huge at insect control,” Cox said while walking toward a small wetland where bats cluster during the summer months.”How much money do you want to spend on pesticides? Or do you want to be saving money and using what Mother Nature gives us?”
Cox credits the bats that visit her family’s 86-acre farm outside Savannah, Mo. as a big reason why they’ve only used pesticides twice in the last 15 years.
But that could change soon.
Wildlife experts in the heartland are preparing for a serious one-two punch to the bat population: a mysterious fungus spreading from the northeast, and the proliferation of wind power.
“There are large bat populations in the Midwest,” said Thomas Kunz, a Boston University bat researcher. “There’s going to be some pretty massive die offs there in I would say three years.”
The conservative estimate of economic impact is $3.7 billion a year but could reach as high as $53 billion, according to research Kunz published in the Journal Science.
“Farmers would have to spend that much more on pesticides,” he said.
Kunz found that just one colony of 150 big brown bats can gobble up 1.3 million pests a year.
Fungus spreads westward
There’s not much Kunz and other researchers can do about what’s projected to contribute most to the demise of cave-dwelling bats in the Midwest, a nasty fungus that ultimately spawns into something dubbed White Nose Syndrome.
The syndrome gets its name from the white face it gives infected bats and takes around three years to develop. In parts of the northeastern U.S., bats have been decimated by White Nose and have all but disappeared in some areas, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
“That fungus manifests itself in several ways: Loss of body fat in mid-winter, abnormal winter behavior, suppressed immune system,” Kunz said.
Once White Nose Syndrome is full blown, the fungus grows down into the hair follicles on their faces.
Itchy and irritated from the discomfort, hibernating bats wake up often, fly around and burn up their fat reserves. Deaths are mostly caused by simple exhaustion, but White Nose also can lead to fatal dehydration because it scars the thin membrane of wings where bats absorb moisture.
The fungus has been spotted as far west as Oklahoma. Though experts are keeping their fingers crossed that somehow in the Midwest the fungus won’t turn into the syndrome, Kunz isn’t optimistic.
“Mass mortality wasn’t observed until the third year,” he said. “This is the third year it’s appeared in Pennsylvania we have a massive mortality going on.”
To date, there is no cure for the syndrome and conservationists are hustling to slow its spread. Further complicating the problem is head scratching nature of the fungus itself, which grows on living tissue.
“I really have not seen anything of this magnitude,” said Sunni Carr, wildlife diversity coordinator with the Kentucky Department of Wildlife Resources. In addition to her day-to-day work in Kentucky, she also works with federal and state agencies to coordinate a national response to White Nose.
“I am confident that this is the most significant and dire wildlife issue that I will deal with in my career,” Carr said.
Geomyces destructans, the scientific name for the fungus, primarily affects cave bats and is suspected to be transmitted on the clothing of spelunkers.
In June, Missouri’s Mark Twain National Forest went so far as to close its caves through 2016. Similar efforts have been taken at other state parks in the Midwest.
Wind turbines rise up
As bad as White Nose Syndrome is for cave-dwelling bats, to a lesser extent the proliferation of wind power across the Midwest poses a danger to their counterparts, tree bats.
For reasons that remain unknown, bats are attracted to turbines that tower above tree lines. Once the migratory species is close, the pressure drop can crush their fragile lungs or they can simply get smacked by the spinning blades.
While no nationwide programs track how many bats are killed by wind energy each year, estimates have the number reaching as high as 111,000 annually by 2020.
That’s based on the premise that wind turbines will continue spouting across the country at a rapid clip.
In the second quarter of 2011 alone, the U.S. wind industry installed 1,033 megawatts, according to a report by the American Wind Energy Association. And Iowa, an epicenter for corn and soybean production, comes in second in the nation for the number of megawatts produced by wind power and has 3,675 facilities, according to the report.
That’s good news for wind proponents but has bat experts feeling anxious because federal protections only cover the endangered Indiana bat. To avoid killing that species, wind companies hire experts like Lynn Robbins, a bat researcher from Missouri State University in Springfield, Mo.
On a recent summer day, Robbins stood next to a creek in northwest Missouri while a team of student workers hung nets and placed bat detectors just miles from the first town in nation to be completely powered by wind energy, Rockford, Mo.
“What the student workers are doing today is doing a survey to determine if the endangered Indiana Bat is present in area that’s slated to become a wind energy facility,” Robbins said.
Robbins couldn’t give the exact location of the proposed wind facility or the name of the company due to contractual obligations.
“If they’re here then the wind company must take the next step in being more careful as to where they put the turbines, or determine even if they’re going to put the turbines in the area,” he said.
Though finding an Indiana bat might slam the brakes on a proposed wind farm, the presence of other bat species isn’t likely to impede development.
“There’s a gradient of contribution and acceptance of wildlife impacts and what companies are doing about it,” said Ed Arnett, a researcher participating in the Bats Wind Energy Cooperative.
The cooperative, founded in 2003, brings together the American Wind Energy Association, Bat Conservation International and federal agencies for the purpose of researching how bat fatalities can be prevented. (It’s not just bats, either; wind power has also been shown to kill migratory birds.)
Most wind companies, Arnett said, have at least some level of interest in minimizing the negative impacts a facility has on bats, but currently the best way to avoid fatalities takes a chip out of company profits.
“Many bat species don’t fly at higher wind speeds,” Robbins said.
So, the idea is to set the turbines so they won’t spin at lower wind speeds when bats are more likely to be flying around.
“It would typically cost a company about 1 percent of its revenue,” said John Anderson, director of sitting policy for the American Wind Energy Association.
“But it depends on the location and the company.”
The best technological solution, placing devices on the top of wind towers that jam bats internal radar, works great in the lab, but not so great in the field.
With that in mind, Arnett pegs his hopes on generating the kind of research wind companies can use on future projects.
“Proactively, in planning to the future, there’s no reason why those costs can’t be factored into the implementation and operations plan of a project,” Arnett said.
And every little effort helps.
Bats are long lived, some species routinely make it to 30 years, and they don’t reproduce quickly. All of that adds up and makes them particularly susceptible to dramatic population declines.
Back at Cox’s family farm, tucked in the rolling hills of northwest Missouri, she’s noticed a change.
“Maybe in a given evening we were seeing a dozen or so swooping around the light, and now, last year we were seeing maybe four or five,” she said.
She’s not ready to push the panic button, at the same time she can’t help feeling a little uneasy.
“If you don’t really know what’s going on you hate to kind of be a catastrofier,” Cox said. “But, yes, I have notice a difference in the number that we would typically see around the lights at night.”