8/3/11 More on that problem that wind industry says isn't a problem AND There are severe penalties for killing protected eagles... oh, you're a wind developer? Then it's OK! AND Turn off the turbines to protect birds and bats? You must be losing your mind.
HOW WIND FARMS MAKE YOU SICK
SOURCE: The Register, www.theregister.co.uk
August 3, 2011
By Andrew Orlowski
Industrial wind installations are creating a serious health issue, and comprehensive research is urgently needed, says a former Professor of Public Health.
“There has been no policy analysis that justifies imposing these effects on local residents. The attempts to deny the evidence cannot be seen as honest scientific disagreement, and represent either gross incompetence or intentional bias,” writes Carl Phillips, formerly Professor of Public Health at University of Alberta, now an independent researcher.
“There is ample evidence that turbines cause a constellation of health problems, and attempts to deny this involve claims that are contrary to proper methods of scientific inference,” Phillips writes in a paper published in the Bulletin of Science, Technology, and Society. It’s one of several interesting papers in the journal, which is devoted to wind health issues.
Industrial wind installations produce audible and non-audible noise, and optical flicker. But campaigners are fragmented, and face a daunting alliance of big eco-business and government. The academic establishment, which is quick to leap upon public health issues, is strangely inert.
“There is a huge amount of evidence, and it’s incredibly convincing,” Phillips told us by phone, “but it takes a different form to what industry consultants present.”
Empirical studies are rare. Renewable UK, the wind and wave industry lobby group, cites research by the Noise Working Group for the UK business department on its web page devoted to noise issues. The 1996 study, known as ETSU-R-97 (10-page PDF/1.8MB), recommended “Noise from the wind farm should be limited to 5dB(A) above background for both day-time and night-time”, and in the Renewable UK portrait, wind farms sound idyllic; like nature, only more so.
“Outside the nearest houses, which are at least 300 metres away, and more often further, the sound of a wind turbine generating electricity is likely to be about the same level as noise from a flowing stream about 50-100 metres away or the noise of leaves rustling in a gentle breeze,” the group writes.
Yet the ancient study, completed in 1996 and now so old it’s actually in the national archive – has been heavily criticised. Sleep expert Dr Christopher Hanning has written:
“Its major flaws include the use of averaged noise levels over too long a time period and using a best fit curve, thus ignoring the louder transient noise of AM which causes awakenings and arousals. It ignores also the property of low frequency noise to be audible over greater distances than higher frequency noise. By concentrating on sound pressure alone, it ignores the increased annoyance of particular noises, especially that associated with AM. It is also the only guidance anywhere in the world which permits a higher sound level at night than during the day, completely contrary to common sense, noise pollution legislation and WHO guidelines.”
Reality bites blows…
People living near wind farms – and near can be quite a long way away – find the reality far different to Renewable UK’s pastoral idyll.
Dr Michael M Nissenbaum, a radiologist at Northern Maine Medical Center, has new work imminent on the study. He says “significant risk of adverse health effects is likely to occur in a significant subset of people out to at least 2,000 meters away from an industrial wind turbine installation. These health concerns include: sleep disturbance and psychological stress.”
He continues: “Our current knowledge indicates that there are substantial health risks from the existing exposure, and we do not know how to reduce those risks other than by keeping turbines several kilometers away from homes.”
Consultant Mike Stigwood, who has testified before public enquiries, points out that since ETSU-R-97 was published, the World Health Organization has twice lowered its recommended limits for night-time noise.
Currently there’s no solution other than to site the wind turbines further away. But how far?
The Planning Policy Statement on Renewable Energy (PPS22) is often cited here, obliging local planning authorities to “ensure that renewable energy developments have been located and designed in such a way to minimise increases in ambient noise levels.” It doesn’t specify a distance, though.
Hanning notes that: “Proposals that site wind turbines within 1.5km of habitation will not keep wind turbine noise to an acceptable level and are therefore in contravention of PPS22.”
Even at 2km, there are noticeable health consequences.
But there are signs the mood has shifted from one of acquiescence to Big Eco-business – with local authorities judging that they’re accountable to the communities they’re supposed to serve. In June, Highland Council temporarily shut down a 23-turbine installation in Sutherland after persistent complaints by residents. The operator, SSE, had failed to test noise levels at properties 2km away and failed to produce a noise mitigation plan. The stop notice has since been lifted. More are planned nearby.
FEDERAL OFFICIALS INVESTIGATE EAGLE DEATHS AT DWP WIND FARM
SOURCE: Los Angeles Times, www.latimes.com
August 3, 2011
By Louis Sahagun
Pine Tree facility in the Tehachapi Mountains faces scrutiny over the deaths of at least six golden eagles, which are protected under federal law. Prosecution would be a major blow to the booming industry.
Federal authorities are investigating the deaths of at least six golden eagles at the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power’s Pine Tree Wind Project in the Tehachapi Mountains, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said Tuesday.
So far, no wind-energy company has been prosecuted by federal wildlife authorities in connection with the death of birds protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act. A prosecution in the Pine Tree case could cause some rethinking and redesigning of this booming alternative energy source. Facilities elsewhere also have been under scrutiny, according to a federal official familiar with the investigations.
“Wind farms have been killing birds for decades and law enforcement has done nothing about it, so this investigation is long overdue,” said Shawn Smallwood, an expert on raptor ecology and wind farms. “It’s going to ruffle wind industry feathers across the country.”
Wildlife Service spokeswoman Lois Grunwald declined to comment on what she described as “an ongoing law enforcement investigation regarding Pine Tree.”
Joe Ramallo, a DWP spokesman, said, “We are very concerned about golden eagle mortalities that have occurred at Pine Tree. We have been working cooperatively and collaboratively with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the California Department of Fish and Game to investigate these incidents.
“We have also actively and promptly self-reported raptor mortalities to both authorities,” he said. “Moving forward, we will be ramping up further our extensive field monitoring and will work with the agencies to develop an eagle conservation plan as part of more proactive efforts to monitor avian activities in the Pine Tree area.”
An internal DWP bird and bat mortality report for the year ending June 2010 indicated that compared to 45 other wind facilities nationwide, bird fatality rates were “relatively high” at Pine Tree, which has 90 towers generating 120 megawatts on 8,000 acres.
Golden eagles weigh about 14 pounds and stand up to 40 inches tall. Their flight behavior and size make it difficult for them to maneuver through forests of wind turbine blades spinning as fast as 200 mph — especially when they are distracted by the sight of prey such as squirrels and rabbits.
DWP officials acknowledged that at least six golden eagles have been struck dead by wind turbine blades at the two-year-old Kern County facility, about 100 miles north of Los Angeles, which was designed to contribute to the city’s renewable energy goal of 35% by 2020.
Although the total deaths at Pine Tree pale in comparison with the 67 golden eagles that die each year in Northern California’s Altamont Pass Wind Resource Area, the annual death rate per turbine is three times higher at the DWP facility. The Altamont Pass facility has 5,000 wind turbines — 55 times as many as Pine Tree.
Nationwide, about 440,000 birds are killed at wind farms each year, according to the Wildlife Service. The American Wind Energy Assn., an industry lobbying group, points out that far more birds are killed by collisions with radio towers, tall buildings, airplanes and vehicles, and encounters with household cats.
Attorney Allan Marks, who specializes in renewable energy projects, called the Pine Tree deaths “an isolated case. If their golden eagle mortality rate is above average, it means the industry as a whole is in compliance.”
About 1,595 birds, mostly migratory songbirds and medium-sized species such as California quail and western meadowlark, die each year at Pine Tree, according to the bird mortality report prepared for the DWP last year by Ojai-based BioResource Consultants.
BioResource spokesman Peter Cantle suggested that those bird deaths may be unrelated to Pine Tree’s wind turbines.
“It’s hard to tease out those numbers,” he said. “Basically, we walked around the site to find bird mortalities, which could have been attributable to a number of things including natural mortality and predators.”
The death count worries environmentalists because the $425-million Pine Tree facility is in a region viewed as a burgeoning hot spot for wind energy production.
“We believe this problem must be dealt with immediately because Pine Tree is only one of several industrial energy developments proposed for that area over the next five to 10 years,” said Los Angeles Audubon President Travis Longcore. “Combined, they have the potential to wipe this large, long-lived species out of the sky.”
NOTE FROM THE BPWI RESEARCH NERD: The wind turbine related bat kill rates mentioned in the piece below are alarming and newsworthy. What's more alarming and newsworthy is that the bat kill rates in Wisconsin are nearly twice as high. As far as we know, environmental groups in our state have said nothing about it.
TRANSALTA URGED TO SHUT DOWN WIND FARM DURING MIGRATION SEASON
SOURCE The Globe and Mail, www.theglobeandmail.com
August 2, 2011
A major conservation group is calling on TransAlta Corp. TA-T to periodically turn off turbines at its Wolfe Island wind farm in Ontario to cut down on the number of birds and bats killed by the machines.
Nature Canada says the project’s 86 turbines are among the most destructive of wildlife in North America. The organization argues TransAlta should shut down parts of the wind farm – one of the biggest in the country – during high-risk periods in the late summer and early fall, when swallows congregate in the region and bats migrate.
“That period is when the vast majority of birds seem to be killed,” said Ted Cheskey, manager of bird conservation programs at Nature Canada. “The evidence is there, and now there is an obligation for [TransAlta] to act.”
The controversy over bird deaths is just one of the many challenges facing Canada’s wind industry, which has run up against by increasingly vocal opponents who say turbines are ugly, cause health problems, and do not contribute to reduced carbon emissions.
The Wolfe Island site, near Kingston, Ont., began generating power in 2009, and an ongoing count of bird and bat deaths has been conducted by a consulting firm since then. Nature Canada says that while bird deaths have been in line with other wind farms on the continent, those numbers are far too high.
The bird death rates from the turbines “are consistently high,” Mr. Cheskey said. He is particularly concerned with the deaths of tree swallows and purple martins – which are in decline in the province – along with bat fatalities.
Mr. Cheskey said his comparison of the numbers in the Wolfe Island report shows the turbines generate one of the highest rates of casualties – about 1,500 birds and 3,800 bats in a year – of any wind farm.
But TransAlta disagrees with Nature Canada’s views. The numbers suggest that the Wolfe Island wind farm is no worse that most others, and is well within limits set by federal environmental regulators, said Glen Whelan, TransAlta’s manager of public affairs.
“The mortality rates that we are seeing in birds and bats are within ranges reported for other wind farms across North America,” he said. For bats, the death rate is well below what is often reported in the eastern United States, he added.
While “bird and bat mortality is unfortunately inevitable at wind power facilities, we are seeing numbers that are within the ranges that are called for by regulators,” Mr. Whelan said.
TransAlta is researching ways to mitigate bat deaths, possibly by turning off turbines at certain times, but the results are not in yet, he said.
Nature Canada is not opposed to wind farms in principle, but it thinks they should be in locations where birds and bats are not at serious risk. Because of its location on a migratory route at the eastern end of Lake Ontario, Wolfe Island is one of many spots where the risk of killing migrating birds and bats is particularly high, Mr. Cheskey said.
Other groups base their opposition to wind farms on other factors. Wind Concerns Ontario, one of the most vocal of the anti-wind groups, claims that noise and vibration from turbines causes sleep deprivation, headaches and high blood pressure. It is demanding independent studies of health impacts.
Anti-wind groups were outraged by a decision two weeks ago from Ontario’s Environmental Review Tribunal which ruled that a wind farm near Chatham, Ont., being developed by Suncor Energy Inc. can go ahead because opponents – who made detailed presentations at a lengthy hearing – did not prove that it would cause serious harm to human health.
Some groups also worry about the aesthetic issues that arise from the erection of thousands of new turbines across the country, while others suggest wind power is expensive, unreliable and needs fossil-fuel-generated back-up.