Entries in health effects wind turbine (3)
8/11/10 DOUBLE FEATURE: Sleepless in Wisconsin: New rules bring joy to wind industry but won't protect residents from wind turbine noise, shadow flicker, or loss of property value AND Wisconsin looks in the mirror and sees Maine: How the governor and wind industry worked together to take away local control and change the law in both states.
WIND POWER COUNCIL SUBMITS RECOMMENDATIONS
MADISON (WKOW) - Hoping to build on Wisconsin's existing wind farms, a volunteer council appointed by the Public Service Commission proposed uniform regulations for new wind farms across the state.
"Businesses were looking upon Wisconsin as a difficult place to try to establish wind farms," Peter Taglia, staff scientist at Clean Wisconsin, said. "We had a patchwork of local regulations that had stopped many wind farms and also created a lot of division within communities."
The proposed rules would ban developers from putting a wind turbine within 1.1 times its height of the nearest property line. It also can't be louder than 45 decibels at night and 50 decibels during the day, as measured from the nearest property line. And for large wind farms, the total hours of "shadow flicker" cannot exceed 40 per year.
"We laid out a proposal for regulating the permitting of wind projects - large, medium, and small - and hopefully the commission will respect the incredible amount of work that the council put into this process," says Michael Vickerman, executive director of Renew Wisconsin, a member of the council.
The 15-member Wind Siting Council met 20 times beginning March 2010 and came to consensus on a number of issues, including signal interference, complaint resolution, decommissioning of wind farms and emergency procedures.
However, four members issued a minority report which differs on other areas, such as property line setbacks.
"Property values will be negatively impacted by 20 to 40 percent," Tom Meyer, a council member who works as a Middleton Realtor, said.
Meyer said Realtors recommend a minimum setback of at least 2,000 feet, but preferably a half-mile.
"That way you eliminate that intrusive shadow flicker and you eliminate that noise which is produced by a wind turbine," he said.
The recommendations now go to the PSC, which will publish its rules within 60 days. The PSC has held three public hearings on the matter throughout the state.
CLICK ON THE IMAGES BELOW TO WATCH SHORT CLIPS OF THE WIND SITING COUNCIL IN ACTION
Wisconsin looks in the mirror and sees the state of Maine
The law “signals to the world that Wisconsin is in the wind business, and that we intend to be one of the leading states in production of wind energy.”
-Governor Jim Doyle
“It will be wave after wave of wind power projects coming to Maine because they will see what we can do and will come here because of it."
-Governor John Baldacci
Task force had mandate to promote wind power, not study it
AUGUSTA, Maine — Gov. John Baldacci established the Governor's Task Force on Wind Power Development by executive order on May 8, 2007 with the expectation it would make Maine a leader in the wind power industry.
Baldacci’s timing was perfect:
- The day before, a CNN story had reported that the price of gas “has hit a new record high, averaging $3.07 for a gallon of self-serve regular in the United States.”
- Climate change was in the news almost daily.
- Developers and environmentalists had just fought a battle in western Maine over construction of a huge wind power project, ending in defeat for the project.
That battle demonstrated a significant failing in state law: Maine’s tangle of environmental regulations simply didn’t include tools or standards appropriate for considering the placement of 400-foot-plus turbines smack in the middle of some of the state’s wildest lands.
There were different rules at different agencies for different parts of the state, projects took years to review, and the outcome of those reviews was far from predictable.
“Our energy system was broken,” said Pete Didisheim of the Natural Resources Council of Maine. “We felt the permitting process for wind power was also broken, it was unpredictable for all participants.”
Furthermore, wind power promoters believed Maine had an historic opportunity: to provide the renewable resource to help meet the substantial new regional mandates to reduce the use of energy sources that contributed to global warming. Those mandates, which one study estimated would require 11,000 megawatts of wind power (at the time the task force conducted its study, Maine was host to only 42 megawatts of wind power), created a major new market for renewable power, converged with government subsidies and market premiums to create an enticing economic development opportunity, they said — but needed to be capitalized on immediately.
While other states in the region were also considering incentives to promote wind power development, Maine had an advantage over them: More developable wind resources than all the other New England states combined. And that wind was located in areas that didn’t have high populations, unlike many other states in the region.
Baldacci gave the task force its mandate:
- To make Maine a leader in wind power development;
- To protect Maine’s quality of place and natural resources; and
- To maximize the tangible benefits Maine people receive from wind power development.
In other words, said Rep. Stacey Fitts, a Pittsfield Republican on the task force, their mandate was to “find areas that are appropriate and find ways that it can be done rather than ways to keep it from being done.”
There was never a mandate for the task force to examine the relative merits of wind power development in Maine. Instead, members started from the assumption that wind power should be developed in Maine, and the sooner, the better.
“We felt we were in somewhat of a race with other states and Canadian providers” to build wind energy generation, said Sen. Phil Bartlett, D-Gorham, a task force member and co-chairman of the Legislature’s Utilities and Energy Committee.
Baldacci’s executive order establishing the task force stated that, “Maine energy policy seeks to promote the development and use of renewable energy sources to help reduce Maine’s dependence on imported fossil fuels.”
The dominant fuel used to generate electricity in Maine is an imported fossil fuel — natural gas from Canada. And wind power could make a small dent in how much natural gas Maine uses for electricity generation.
But Baldacci’s statement about dependence on imported fossil fuels — and many others he made both before and subsequently, including one reference to the “tyranny of foreign oil,” one reference to the need to “free ourselves from foreign oil” and two references to Maine’s “dependency on oil” in his final State of the State address — implicitly tied wind energy production to the goal of reducing the use of foreign oil, with its volatile prices as well as its documented contribution to climate change.
Yet using wind energy doesn’t lower dependence on imported foreign oil. That’s because the majority of imported oil in Maine is used for heating and transportation.
“Maine uses very little oil to produce electricity,” said Mark Isaacson, a dam owner, a founding member of the industry group Independent Energy Producers of Maine and the developer of a relatively small commercial wind farm in Freedom, Maine.
John Kerry, the governor’s energy czar and a member of the task force, acknowledged that oil is used to fuel vehicles and to warm Maine buildings.
“Today we don’t use electricity to run our cars or heat our homes,” said Kerry in a recent interview.
And switching our dependence from foreign oil to Maine-produced electricity isn’t likely to happen very soon, said Bartlett. “Right now, people can’t switch to electric cars and heating — if they did, we’d be in trouble.”
So was one of the fundamental premises of the task force false, or at least misleading?
Kerry, the governor’s energy czar, defends his boss’s premise: “In the future, many people have proposed that we use our electricity to heat our homes and power our cars.”
There were other claims Baldacci made at the time about wind power’s advantages that, similarly, have been challenged.
In a critique published by the Maine Center for Economic Policy in late 2008, state Sen. Peter Mills, R-Cornville, argued that after the initial construction spending, the wind energy industry would not provide widespread economic benefit for the state or long-term job creation, as Baldacci asserted when he established the task force.
“Because it takes remarkably little effort to maintain a turbine, there are few permanent jobs created by a wind power project,” writes Mills. In a subsequent interview, Mills pointed to the relatively few jobs created by the Kibby Mountain wind power development. “There are 11 people in ongoing jobs,” he said, “not 111.”
Likewise, while taxes paid on wind power installations have been locally beneficial, they are not broadly shared across Maine.
“The tax benefit has not been available to Maine people generally,” said Mills in the interview. The duration of any tax benefit is also limited, said Mills, because the turbines have a 20-year life-span and depreciate in value over that period.
Furthermore, the unorganized territory, or UT, where many of the large installations have been built, “already has the lowest tax rates in Maine,” Mills wrote in his critique. “(A)nd wind power could reduce them by a third more.
“But the benefit will accrue primarily to those who own land in the UT, the large out-of-state owners like Irving, Wagner and Plum Creek who already benefit from the special ‘tree growth’ tax treatment … and who stand to gain substantially from leasing their ridge tops to the wind developers.”
Task force favored it
There were 16 members on the task force: several members of the Baldacci administration; a wind power attorney; two staff from state environmental groups (with a third acting as an alternate); Democratic and Republican lawmakers; a union member and a representative of the Independent Energy Producers of Maine. The chairman was Alec Giffen, director of the Maine Forest Service.
All members of the task force publicly favored wind power development, although the environmental groups had each opposed specific wind power projects in the past. The environmental groups’ battle against the Redington wind project in western Maine, close to the Appalachian Trail, had recently ended with Redington’s rejection by the Land Use Regulation Commission. While they won the fight to reject Redington, the groups were chastened by accusations of being insufficiently concerned with stemming global warming.
Did the criticism leveled at the environmental members of the task force make them more eager to demonstrate their support for wind power?
“I think we did start with an assumption that wind power development was going to take place in Maine,” said David Publicover, a forestry specialist with the Appalachian Mountain Club. “We never really engaged in an argument as to whether there should be wind power development in Maine.”
The task force proposed that the Legislature make significant changes to state law:
- Eliminate certain scenic and zoning standards that were a barrier to placing wind turbines in the landscape;
- Streamline and expedite consideration of construction proposals;
- Eliminate a layer of legal appeal in wind power projects;
- Set aggressive goals for wind power production over the next dozen years — 2,000 megawatts of wind power capacity by 2015 and at least 3,000 megawatts by 2020, of which 300 should be built offshore. (The state today has 111 turbines representing 265 megawatts of installed wind power, with 161 megawatts in line to begin production.)
- Guide wind power development to all of the incorporated towns in the state as well as a significant portion of territory under the jurisdiction of the Land Use Regulation Commission, setting aside areas in the so-called “core” of LURC where development would not occur.
The changes in the scenic and zoning standards, said David Publicover of the AMC, were significant but not hard to agree upon.
“The changes got rid of the requirement that it fit harmoniously into the natural landscape,” said Publicover. “If you used that, you couldn’t have wind power in undeveloped ridgelines, only in Wal-Mart parking lots.”
The changes also allowed wind power to be essentially an allowed use in much of LURC’s jurisdiction.
“Previously wind power had to go through rezoning” in LURC territory in order to be built, said Publicover. “And that had certain criteria, certain hurdles that had to be met that, if you interpreted them with a straight face, you could never allow it and essentially LURC was in the uncomfortable position of having to ignore the actual meaning of their regulations to allow wind power.”
The 2,000 and 3,000 megawatt goals for the state were also not controversial, nor was the substantial amount of wind turbine construction, largely along miles of Maine mountaintops, that would be necessary to reach that goal.
When asked if the task force had discussed the number of turbines that would have to be erected to meet that goal, chairman Giffen said, “Not that I recall.”
Other members of the task force could also not remember any discussion about the number of turbines, although one attendee at meetings, Steve Clark from the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, did present the task force with his estimate that it would take 1,000 to 2,000 turbines to meet the goal.
“There were one or two very brief questions and that was it, they didn’t explore that issue any further,” said Clark.
Next: A new law and its effects on wind power development
NOTE FROM THE BPWI RESEARCH NERD: For those who had trouble accessing the video of the April 1st Wind Siting Council Meeting, the settings have been changed so they are all now viewable to the public. CLICK HERE for the links.
CLICK HERE for location, time and dates of WSC meetings. These meetings are open to the public. Better Plan, Wisconsin encourages you to attend.
THIRD Wind Siting Council Meeting Notice
Wednesday, April 7, 2010, beginning at 9:00 a.m.
Amnicon Falls Conference Room (1st Floor) Public Service Commission Building 610 North Whitney Way, Madison, Wisconsin
This meeting is open to the public
To address the growing number of complaints and health concerns about adverse health effects from wind farm noise and shadow flicker, the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA)and the Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA), hired medical doctors, audiologists, and acoustical professionals to review recent literature on the issue. The resulting report, "Wind Turbine Sound and Health Effects" was released in December 2009. Their conclusion?
Other equally qualified medical doctors, audiologists, and acoustical professionals have reviewed the same literature and have come to the opposite conclusion.
Their advisory panel includes:
Robert Y. McMurtry, M.D., F.R.C.S.(C), F.A.C.S.
Michael A. Nissenbaum, M.D.
Roy D. Jeffery M.D.,FCFP (Can)
Christopher Hanning, BSc, MB, BS, MRCS, LRCP, FRCA, MD
Carmen Krogh, BScPharm, Secretariat
Richard R. James, INCE
John Harrison, PhD
David L. White, EET, CMBB
ANOTHER NOTE FROM THE BPWI RESEARCH NERD: If you are a Wisconsin resident currently having problems with wind turbine noise or shadow flicker, CLICK HERE to Contact Healthy Wind, Wisconsin
"HWW - Healthy Wind, Wisconsin’s mission is to keep active track of wind-related health issues affecting Wisconsin families. We are committed to assisting residents of Wisconsin who have been impacted by poorly sited wind turbines by processing resident’s complaints and monitoring the progress toward complaint resolution."
2/25/10 Wind Project Picture of the day AND Knock Knock. Who's there? It's the same We Energies representative you've already said no to three times this week AND What about that meeting in Brown County?
Construction of Wisconsin's largest wind farm put on hold as WEPCO struggles to find willing landowners: use of eminent domain may be only option.
A resident in Columbia county has contacted Better Plan to say We Energies representatives are scrambling to find enough landowners willing to sign the easements needed to begin construction on the Glacier Hills wind project which is set to occupy the Columbia County Towns of Randolph and Scott. The 90 turbine project which was recently approved by the Public Service Commission, would be the largest in the state.
We Energies representatives are reportedly offering residents a signing bonus of $5000 for completion of contract paperwork by February 28th. The contracts offer landowners a yearly payment of $2,000 with a 2% annual increase. Residents report these numbers can vary widely depending on the importance of a particular easement to the project.
The easements would give We Energies permission to create turbine noise that will exceed the limits set for homes by the PSC. The easements would also allow such things as trenching for laying cables and transmission lines needed to connect the turbines along with other rights We Energies may need. The duration of a contract of this sort is usually a minimum of 40 years and runs with the land.
Some residents who have refused to sign contracts say they are still being hounded by We Energies representatives who won’t take no for an answer.
“They’ve tried to make contact with me three times already in the last several days” says Kristine Novak, whose home would be inside of the project. “They are going house to house.”
We Energies representatives may not find a lot of welcoming faces in a sharply divded community still reeling from the PSC’s decision to approve the project.
“I guess the best way to describe the feeling in the area is shock,” said the resident who wished to remain anonymous. “Hard feelings that developed earlier have now become worse.”
Those hard feelings may well extend to the We Energies Representatives who are now desperate to make deals. Says the resident, “Landowners are telling them to ‘get the hell off my property.”
He believes the tension in the community is so high that should We Energies decide to force the project through by use of eminent domain the consequences would be serious. “People around here will only take so much,” he said.
Better Plan invites residents affected by the Glacier Hills wind project to contact us with their stories.
We hope reporters in our state will follow up on this news-tip and find out more.
Public Airs Concerns and Support at Wind Energy Meeting
A Chicago company wants to build wind turbines on towers 400 feet tall in southern Brown County, using private land in Morrison, Hollandtown, Wrightstown, and Glenmore. If it's fully realized, it would become the largest wind farm in the state.
Those fighting the project held an informational meeting Thursday night, and hundreds showed up. Emotions ran high in the meeting.
"This is an industrial factory that's being dropped over some of the best farm land in Brown County," Sandra Johnson said.
"Wind is a good thing. I'm not against wind energy, we're just against the locations right now. We need to have some better setbacks and in a lot less-populated communities," David Vercauteren of Greenleaf said.
The Ledge Wind Energy Farm would be a 150-megawatt project with roughly 100 turbines.
Those backing it say it would give the county a big financial boost.
"This is a project that offers tremendous benefits in terms of new tax revenue to the county, helping farmers who were struggling, with jobs," Barnaby Dinges of Invenergy said.
Still, those who live nearby raised fears of stray voltage, shadow flicker, and noise issues.
Some say if it's built, they'll leave.
"If they go up as they're predicting, we very likely will move," Johnson said. "The problem is, land depreciates once you're in that turbine ghetto. People don't want to come. People aren't interested in buying it."
Right now the Wisconsin Public Service Commission is taking comments on the project. A public hearing will take place later this spring.
If approved, construction will likely start in 2011.