Entries in wind farm complaints (77)
3/13/12 Too close to home: Not old enough to vote or sign a petition but old enough and close enough to be tormented by wind turbines AND How green is a bird and bat killing machine? Wind industry claims ring false as slaughter exposed
TURBINES CAUSED HEALTH PROBLEMS
March 12 2012
by Alyssa Ashley
Since I am not old enough to vote or sign a petition, I would like a chance to voice the truth. On May 8, 2011, I left my home in Glenmore, Wis., due to many health problems that are a result from the Shirley Wind Project built at the end of 2010.
Inside my home, I was able to detect when the turbines were turning on and off by the sensations in my ears. I could not hear or see the turbines at the time; I could feel them. In early 2011, I had been noticing extreme headaches, ear pain and sleep deprivation, all three things that were either a rarity for me, or nonexistent. This caused me to struggle with my school work. I could not concentrate due to pressure releasing from my head, or to the fact that I had very little sleep.
After staying away from my home for a week-and-a-half, my symptoms started to subside. I could sleep again, and my headaches were lessening. The longer I was away, the better I felt. Due to our turbine-related health issues, I spent all summer living in a camper with my family, away from the turbines.
At the end of August, my family reluctantly purchased another small house away from the wind turbines, leaving us paying two mortgages. I have not been in the Shirley area since Nov. 19, 2011, and I do not experience headaches anymore and I can sleep soundly.
My ears, however, are still sensitive to the cold and loud noises. This has never been a problem for me in my entire life, and I wonder if this damage to my ears will ever go away.
When contemplating wind turbine siting, think of me.
BIRD CONSERVANCY SEEKS ENFORCEABLE WIND TURBINE STANDARDS
Bonner R. Cohen
SOURCE Heartlander, news.heartland.org
March 13, 2012
The American Bird Conservancy has filed a 100-page petition with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) requesting replacement of FWS’s proposed voluntary guidelines for operating wind farms with mandatory, enforceable standards designed to protect birds and bats from turbines’ deadly blades.
If FWS accepts the arguments laid out in the Bird Conservancy’s petition, wind farms will be subject to a mandatory permitting system and required to mitigate harm to birds and bats.
Massive Bird Kills
Although wind power supplies only 2 percent of electricity in the United States, FWS reports the wind turbines supplying that power kill 440,000 birds each year. Other analysts maintain the number is much larger because FWS may be overlooking a substantial number of birds that receive mortal wounds from turbine strikes but don’t die in the immediate vicinity of the machines, where FWS counts bird carcasses.
Two well-documented incidents in the mountains of West Virginia shed light on the magnitude of the problem. On a single night in September 2011, a single wind farm atop Mount Storm killed 59 birds. One month later, 484 birds were killed in a single night at the newly constructed wind farm on Laurel Mountain.
In these and other incidents across the country, birds of every description—hawks, bald eagles, golden eagles, the endangered California condor, yellow-billed cuckoos, wood thrushes, and other migratory birds—have lost their lives to wind farms.
Wind Farms Given Free Pass
Migratory birds may pose the biggest threat to the wind energy industry. To date, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act has not been applied to wind firms, but the potential liability could pose a real problem to the industry. The law does not require intent, meaning incidental kills could be prosecuted by the Justice Department.
The legal uncertainty over the potential liability of wind farms might make an FWS permitting process the lesser of two evils for the wind industry. Fearful a permitting process would lead to costly bureaucratic delays, the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) has expressed a clear preference for FWS’s proposed voluntary guidelines. But a change of heart by the Justice Department leading to prosecution of owners of wind farms for incidental kills of migratory birds would cast a pall over the whole industry.
The industry has never been told it would not be prosecuted. Similarly, if endangered birds or bats are killed in sufficient numbers by wind farms so as to trigger lawsuits under the Endangered Species Act, the industry could be facing even greater uncertainty and costly litigation.
Congress Reconsidering Subsidies
Meanwhile, the wind industry, which has seen its political connections pay off in recent years, is facing a serious threat from another direction: Congress is losing its appetite for subsidizing renewable energy. The spectacular bankruptcy of solar panel maker Solyndra, with a loss of over $500 million suffered by U.S. taxpayers, has made Capitol Hill lawmakers wary of loan guarantees and other subsidies designed to prop up renewable energy ventures.
For years, the wind energy industry has benefited from, and indeed depended on, one such subsidy, known as the production tax credit (PTC). The PTC provides a 2.2 cents-per-kilowatt-hour subsidy for wind power generators for their first ten years of existence. In effect since 1992, the PTC could well expire at the end of this year. In working out a deal earlier this year on the extension of the payroll tax deduction, the House and Senate, despite heavy lobbying by AWEA, refused to include an extension of the PTC.
Without the PTC, the industry will be hobbled in its efforts to compete with cheaper coal and natural gas. With the growing likelihood of an expiration of the PTC at the end of the year, orders for new turbines have come to a screeching halt.
Wind Power’s Environmental Downside
“It’s about time that we look at the downside of alternative energies,” said Marita Noon, executive director of the Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy.
“Since the theory of manmade climate change became fashionable, we’ve heard only that fossil fuels are bad and renewable energy is good,” said Noon. “The propaganda shows pictures of black smoke belching out of stacks contrasted with pristine, white, wind turbines. Neither reflects reality. The black smoke was cleaned up years ago. Wind turbines kill birds and bats.
“As Americans make energy decisions, they need to be based on reality, on complete science,” Noon explained. “There is no free lunch, and energy policy should fully weigh the pros and cons of each option.”
Video of a home in an Ontario wind project
WIND HISTORIAN AND BOOSTER URGES REMOTE LOCATIONS FOR NEW WIND TURBINES
Book review by Jim Cummings, Acoustic Ecology Institute
January 2, 2011
On the question of noise, Righter is equally sensitive and adamant, stressing the need to set noise standards based on quiet night time conditions, “for a wind turbine should not be allowed to invade a home and rob residents of their peace of mind.”
He says, “When I first started studying the NIMBY response to turbines I was convinced that viewshed issues were at the heart of people’s response. Now I realize that the noise effects are more significant, particularly because residents to not anticipate such strong reactions until the turbines are up and running – by which time, of course, it is almost impossible to perform meaningful mitigation.”
A new book, Windfall: Wind Energy in America Today, by historian Robert Righter, was recently published by University of Oklahoma Press. Righter also wrote an earlier history of wind energy, published by UofO Press in 1996. In the intervening years, of course, the wind industry has blossomed from its initial mini-boom-and-bust in the California hills (Altamont, anyone?), with bigger turbines, larger government incentives, and growing commitment to reducing our reliance on fossil fuels (coal and natural gas) for electric generation all leading Righter to feel that an update was in order.
As a hearty advocate of wind energy and continued rapid growth of the industry, Righter will startle many with his strong call for not building turbines “where they are not wanted.” He spends chunks of three chapters addressing the increasing problems caused by wind farm noise in rural communities, chides developers for not building farther from unwilling neighbors, and says that new development should be focused on the remote high plains, rather than more densely populated rural landscapes in the upper midwest and northeast. While not ruling out wind farms in the latter areas, he calls for far more sensitivity to the quality of life concerns of residents. (Ed. note: Righter’s book shares a title with, but should be clearly distinguished from, a recent documentary investigating local anti-wind backlash in a NY town.)
Righter seems to be especially sensitive to the fact that today’s turbines are huge mechanical intrusions on pastoral landscapes, a far cry from the windmills of earlier generations. At the same time, he suggests that a look back at earlier technological innovations (including transmission lines, oil pump jacks, and agricultural watering systems) suggests that most of us tend to become accustomed to new intrusions after a while, noting that outside of wilderness areas, “it is difficult to view a landscape devoid of a human imprint.”
He acknowledges the fact that impacts on a few can’t always outweigh the benefits for the many in generating electricity without burning carbon or generating nuclear waste, but goes on to ask:
No matter how admirable this is, should a few people pay the price for benefits to the many? Should rural regions lose the amenities and psychological comforts of living there to serve the city? Should metropolitan areas enjoy abundant electricity while rural people forfeit the very qualities that took them to the countryside in the first place? The macro-scale benefits of wind energy seldom impress local opponents, who have micro-scale concerns. The turbines’ benefits are hardly palpable to impacted residents, whereas the visual impact is a constant reminder of the loss of a cherished landscape.
Righter also takes a realistic stance about the fact that our appetite for electricity leads to inevitable conflicts wherever we might want to generate it. He says, “…wind turbines are ugly – but the public produced the problem and must now live with it. Turbine retribution is the price we must pay for a lavish electrical lifestyle.”
But unlike most wind boosters, he doesn’t content himself with this simple formulation. He goes on to stress that even as recently as 2000, most experts felt that technical hurdles would keep turbines from getting much bigger than they were then (500kW-1MW). The leaps that have taken place, with 3MW and larger turbines in new wind farms, startle even him: ”They do not impact a landscape as much as dominate it….Their size makes it practically impossible to suggest that wind turbines can blend technology with nature.” He joins one of his fellow participants in a cross-disciplinary symposium on NIMBY issues, stressing: ”Wind energy developers must realize the ‘important links among landscape, memory, and beauty in achieving a better quality of life.’ This concept is not always appreciated by wind developers, resulting in bitter feeling, often ultimately reaching the courts.”
He was obviously touched by the experience of Dale Rankin and several neighbors in Texas, who were affected by the 421-turbine Horse Hollow Wind Farm. Righter generally agrees with my experience there, that such wide open spaces seem the perfect place for generating lots of energy from the wind. But two of these hundreds of turbines changed Rankin’s life. These two sat between his house and some wooded hills, and Righter says that to him, “the turbines seemed inappropriate for this bucolic scene. For the Rankins the change is a sad story of landscape loss…” He asked whether the developer had talked with them before siting the turbines here, but they hadn’t, since the land belonged to a neighbor and local setback requirements were met, so “the utility company placed the turbines where its grid pattern determined they should be. Perhaps such a policy represents efficiency and good engineering, but (reflects) arrogance and poor public relations….(The developer) crushed Rankin with their lawyers when fairness and reason could have ameliorated the situation…the company could well have compromised on the siting of two turbines. But they did not.”
On the question of noise, Righter is equally sensitive and adamant, stressing the need to set noise standards based on quiet night time conditions, “for a wind turbine should not be allowed to invade a home and rob residents of their peace of mind.” He says, “When I first started studying the NIMBY response to turbines I was convinced that viewshed issues were at the heart of people’s response. Now i realize that the noise effects are more significant, particularly because residents to not anticipate such strong reactions until the turbines are up and running – by which time, of course, it is almost impossible to perform meaningful mitigation.”
While offering many nods to the constructive role of better public engagement early in the planning stages and making the case for societal needs sometimes outweighing those of a few neighbors, Righter also stresses:
While some objections to wind farms are clearly economically inspired and quite political in nature, no one can deny the legitimacy of many NIMBY responses. When the electrical power we want intrudes on the landscapes we love, there will be resistance, often passionate. This is part of the democratic process. The vocal minority, if indeed it is a minority, has a legitimate right to weigh the pros and cons of wind development in the crucible of public opinion, in public hearings, and if necessary in our court system.
As a bottom line, and despite his support for the industry and belief that we may learn to appreciate a landscape with more turbines, Righter calls strongly for new development to proceed in ways that minimize or eliminate intra-community conflict. Recounting one of many stories of a community torn apart by hard feelings between nearby neighbors (at the Maple Ridge Wind Farm in New York), he concludes:
Should the wind companies shoulder the blame? I believe they should. Good corporate citizens must identify potential problems and take action, and that action should precede final placement of the wind turbines….The most optimal ridge need not be developed at the expense of residents’ rights to the enjoyment of their property.
“In the final analysis,” writes Righter, “we can best address the NIMBY response by building wind turbines where they are wanted…and where they do not overlap with other land use options.” He elaborates:
Conversely, wind developers should give serious consideration to not insisting on raising turbines where they are not wanted…Unlike Europe, our nation has land. there are vast areas of the United States that have excellent wind resources and welcome the wind turbines….We can hope the industry will adopt the attitude of Bob Gates, a Clipper Wind Power vice president: “If people don’t want it, we’ll go someplace else.” Fortunately, the country can accommodate him.
Righter also stresses that current setbacks requirements encourage the building of wind farms in ways that almost inevitably cause heartbreaking problems for some neighbors. While at one point he makes the mistaken assumption that most setback limits are already a half mile or more, he addresses in some detail the findings of a 2007 report from the National Research Council’s Committee on Environmental Impacts of Wind Energy Projects. Righter observes that scientific difficulties with subjectivity led the committee to “shy away from the most important subject,” the impacts on humans, including social impacts on community cohesion and psychological responses to controversial projects. But he’s pleased to note:
Yet they did address one key impact on human beings: the fact that those individuals and families who suffer negative visual or noise effects from the turbines live too close to them. This is not the fault of the homeowners, for in most cases the home was erected before the wind turbines arrived. Usually it is attributable to local government regulations, which often allow setbacks of only 1,000 feet. Significantly, in their study the NRC’s wind committeee observed that ‘the most significant impacts are likely to occur within 3 miles of the project, with impacts possible from sensitive viewing areas up to 8 miles from projects.’
One might expect that this would preclude setbacks of less than at least a mile. But the industry prefers setbacks measured in feet rather than miles.
Righter’s book also includes chapters addressing grid integration, government incentives, reliability, and smaller turbines. He repeatedly makes the case for more research and development into smaller, vertical axis turbines, which, even with their smaller outputs, could be far more acceptable in many locations where landscape disruption and noise issues are paramount. Anti-wind campaigners won’t find Righter to be very comfortable company, for he sees the technological and grid challenges as easily surmountable, and the government support and investment in the industry as both warranted and of proper scale. He also supports various efforts to achieve better community consensus, including making royalty payments to those not hosting turbines. Make no mistake, this is an avid supporter of the industry.
Indeed, his long history and his deep knowledge of wind energy make his final recommendations about siting all the more striking. Righter’s experience and stance has fueled my confidence that the path AEI has been pointing to for the past year or so is more than the pipe dream of a tiny non-advocacy nonprofit. Larger setbacks, to protect unwilling neighbors from quality of life upheavals, combined with easements obtained via royalty-sharing or annual payments to neighbors who don’t mind hearing turbines a bit more often, is a fair and promising path forward.
As Righter says in his conclusion:
The days of an oil patch mentality of greed and boom-bust cycles are about over. Most developers understand that it is in their best interest to operate openly and in good faith with the local community. More problematical is the question of landscape. Wind turbines placed in a pleasing agrucultural, scenic, or historic landscape evoke anger and despair. At the heart of the issue is visual blight. Residents do not want to look at the turbines and are willing to fight wind development. Their wishes should be respected.
Wind developers should take to heart geographer Martin Pasqualetti’s advice: “If developers are to cultivate the promise of wind power, they should not intrude on favored (or even conspicuous) landscapes, regardless of the technical temptations these spots may offer.” The nation is large. Wind turbines do not have to go up where they are not wanted. We can expand the grid and put them where they are welcome.
From The Waubra Foundation
1/2/12 An 'inconvenient truth' about the wind industry AND Mount Pleasant to get waxed by SC Johnson wind turbines AND What's happening with Goodue Wind in 2012
Vermont’s Energy Options is a documentary work-in-progress being produced by non-profit Energize Vermont. The purpose of the documentary is to examine the different paths Vermont has to a renewable energy future and create a dialogue around their respective impacts and benefits. The final product is intended to be full length 40-60 minute film, and may be adapted as the state’s energy landscape changes. Before the final product is released, we plan to update this space with extended interviews and additional information. The documentary is completely funded by Energize Vermont, which is funded by its members.
Video below from Scotland: Do you call this green? Forest gone, clearcut logs piled to the side, mud roads: what to expect when you are expecting turbines.
Want to watch more? What people living near turbines have to say about it.
LEADING BIRD CONSERVATION GROUP FORMALLY PETITIONS FEDS TO REGULATE WIND INDUSTRY
ABC is filing this petition because it’s clear that the voluntary guidelines the government has drafted will neither protect birds nor give the wind industry the regulatory certainty it has been asking for.
(Washington, D.C., December 14, 2011) American Bird Conservancy (ABC), the nation’s leading bird conservation organization, today formally petitioned the U.S. Department of the Interior to protect millions of birds from the negative impacts of wind energy by developing regulations that will safeguard wildlife and reward responsible wind energy development.
The nearly 100-page petition for rulemaking, prepared by ABC and the Washington, D.C.-based public interest law firm of Meyer, Glitzenstein & Crystal (MGC), urges the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to issue regulations establishing a mandatory permitting system for the operation of wind energy projects and mitigation of their impacts on migratory birds. The proposal would provide industry with legal certainty that wind developers in compliance with a permit would not be subject to criminal or civil penalties for violation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA).
The government estimates that a minimum of 440,000 birds are currently killed each year by collisions with wind turbines. In the absence of clear, legally enforceable regulations, the massive expansion of wind power in the United States will likely result in the deaths of more than one million birds each year by 2020. Further, wind energy projects are also expected to adversely impact almost 20,000 square miles of terrestrial habitat, and another 4,000 square miles of marine habitat.
The petition highlights the particular threat from unregulated wind power to species of conservation concern and demonstrates the legal authority that FWS possesses to enforce MBTA regulations and grant take permits under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. The petition also provides specific regulatory language that would accomplish the petition’s objectives, identifying the factors that would be considered in evaluating a permit for approval, including the extent to which a given project will result in adverse impacts to birds of conservation concern and species that are under consideration for listing under the Endangered Species Act.
ABC is filing this petition because it’s clear that the voluntary guidelines the government has drafted will neither protect birds nor give the wind industry the regulatory certainty it has been asking for. We’ve had voluntary guidelines since 2003, and yet preventable bird deaths at wind farms keep occurring. This includes thousands of Golden Eagles that have died at Altamont Pass in California and multiple mass mortality events that have occurred recently in West Virginia,” said Kelly Fuller, Wind Campaign Coordinator for ABC.
“The status quo is legally as well as environmentally unsustainable. The federal government is seeking to promote "a smart from the start” energy sector in a manner that is in violation of one of the premier federal wildlife protection statutes. ABC’s petition seeks to bring wind power into harmony with the law as well as with the needs of the migratory bird species that the law is designed to safeguard,” said Shruti Suresh, an attorney at MGC, the law firm that prepared the petition with ABC and that has brought many legal actions enforcing federal wildlife protection laws.
The petition is available online here.
ABC supports wind power when it is “bird-smart”. A coalition of more than 60 groups has called for mandatory standards and bird-smart principles in the siting and operation of wind farms. The coalition represents a broad cross-section of respected national and local groups. In addition, 20,000 scientists, ornithologists, conservationists, and other concerned citizens have shown their support for mandatory standards for the wind industry.
"ABC’s petition would safeguard more than just birds covered by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. It proposes a model rule that would allow the government to consider impacts of wind farms on all bird species, as well as bats and other wildlife,” said Fuller.
Mount Pleasant approves SC Johnson wind turbines
By Kimber Solana
December 12, 2011
MOUNT PLEASANT - Amid some opposition from neighbors, SC Johnson is set to build two of the largest wind turbines in Racine County at its Waxdale manufacturing facility, a project expected to supply about 15 percent of the facility's electricity usage.
In a 6-1 vote, the Village Board approved the conditional use petition on Monday to erect the turbines at the facility, 8311 16th St. Trustee Harry Manning dissented, expressing concerns over the size - about 415 feet tall - of the energy facilities.
"The noise is going to be there. There is going to be flickering. You read anywhere, they've had nothing but problems," said Mount Pleasant resident Gail Johnson, 62. Johnson said her home is located on Willow Road, right across from where the turbines are expected to be built.
However, village officials said SCJ has gone "above and beyond" to address concerns by neighbors. Conditions set by the village include ensuring the wind turbines minimize noise decibel levels and shadow flickering.
Any noise would be no louder than traffic heard on Highway 20 or Highway 11, said Christopher Beard, reputation management director at SCJ.
The company has also offered to put in additional landscaping, if needed, such as trees that may block views of the turbines from residences, he added.
In addition, after meetings between the company and some residents, including those who opposed the project, SCJ has reduced the number of turbines from five to two.
Racine-based SCJ has said the wind turbines are the latest in a series of investments at Waxdale that will enable the site to produce 100 percent of its electrical energy on-site, with about 60 percent from renewable sources.
According to Beard, a groundbreaking date for the project remains unknown. SCJ is awaiting approval for the project from the Federal Aviation Administration due to the turbines' height, and proximity to Sylvania and Batten International airports.
The cost of the project was not available Monday, but returns in electrical savings would take years to recoup.
"But we wouldn't propose this project unless we believed it was a good long-term investment," he said, adding customers concerned over environmentally-friendly products now research how products are made.
Waxdale, the size of 36 football fields, is SCJ's largest manufacturing plant globally and where it makes products such as Glad, Pledge, Raid and Windex.
MANY DELAYS DRAG WIND CASE INTO 2012
By Regan Carstensen
January 1, 2011
When the battle over wind development in Goodhue County was the Republican Eagle’s top story at the end of 2010, it was expected that some aspects would stretch into 2011. But it wasn’t quite as expected that the fight would be continuing when 2012 came around.
Just about every bit of controversy possible has been swirling around a 78-megawatt large wind energy conversion system that is planned for Goodhue County by wind developer AWA Goodhue Wind.
Ranging all the way from citizens and the developer disagreeing about eagle activity in the project footprint to lawsuits being filed by project participants, disputes have been abundant.
The AWA Goodhue project has taken several months longer than most wind farms to get to its current stage, which still hasn’t included any construction. A variety of factors contributed to extending the project’s original timeline.
The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission had been taking its time ever since the end of 2010 to decide whether to approve the project that would be laid out near Goodhue and Zumbrota.
Ultimately, the PUC holds the authority to permit or deny wind farms in the state, but the commission decided to take into consideration a zoning ordinance created by Goodhue County officials in October 2010.
In order to determine the validity of the ordinance, the PUC asked an administrative law judge to review it, which caused the application to drag into April 2011.
It wasn’t until June 30 at a daylong hearing in St. Paul that the PUC approved the project. However, a state government shutdown stalled progress yet again and kept AWA Goodhue Wind from getting its permit.
Putting up a fight
With the Coalition for Sensible Siting, Goodhue Wind Truth, Belle Creek Township and Goodhue County all interested in filing for reconsiderations with the PUC, the case slowly inched forward as a second hearing was scheduled for November 2011 in St. Paul.
In what was probably the quickest decision made so far regarding the AWA Goodhue wind farm: It only took commissioners a matter of minutes to decide that the project should move forward as originally approved.
Still, reconsideration wasn’t the end of the road. Each group, except for Goodhue County, decided to appeal.
The Goodhue County Board was primarily opposed to the idea since it was likely to cost at least $10,000 to follow through with an appeal. A 3-2 majority made it official: The county’s fight was over.
“Wind turbines are coming to Goodhue County,” Commissioner Jim Bryant said after voting against an appeal. “I don’t think anything we do today is going to stop that.”
Looking out for eagles
Over the past year, citizens have shown a variety of concerns with wind turbines, including stray voltage, shadow flicker and noise pollution.
Perhaps the most talked about, however, has been the concern over the safety of the avian population — whether local or migratory birds — and their chances of getting struck by the blades of a turbine.
On several occasions, area residents invited representatives from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to view the environment within AWA Goodhue’s project footprint.
“It’s nice to try to use alternative energy, but we are right on the Mississippi Flyway,” Jaime Edwards of the DNR said. “You really have to look hard at whether something like this should be placed on a flyway.”
Belle Creek Township made its official decision Nov. 28 to appeal the PUC’s initial decision to approve a site permit. Not long after, however, AWA Goodhue began a lawsuit claiming that a moratorium put in place by the township is interfering with the developer’s rights.
As the new year begins, having lawsuits and appeals up in the air continues to delay progress of the project. Though AWA Goodhue officials would like to start construction in 2012, only time will tell what gets accomplished during the next year.
The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission debates whether to approve the 78-megawatt project proposed by AWA Goodhue Wind for Goodhue County.
The PUC decides to ask administrative law Judge Kathleen Sheehy whether parts of Goodhue County’s zoning ordinance should be applied to the project.
Administrative law Judge Kathleen Sheehy submits facts and findings that recommend the Public Utilities Commission not apply the Goodhue County’s ordinance to the AWA Goodhue Wind project.
Goodhue County Attorney Stephen Betcher files a response that provides an exception to nearly half of the administrative law judge’s findings.
June 30, 2011
At a hearing in St. Paul, the Public Utilities Commission votes 4-1 to approve an amended site permit and a certificate of need for the AWA Goodhue Wind project.
After several weeks of a government shutdown — preventing AWA Goodhue Wind from moving forward with its wind project — the developer receives its official site permit.
Sept. 6, 2011
Goodhue County commissioners vote 4-1 to allow Goodhue County Attorney Stephen Betcher to file for reconsideration with the Public Utilities Commission, asking it to take a second look at its permit approval.
Belle Creek Township and citizen groups Goodhue Wind Truth and Coalition for Sensible Siting also decide to file reconsiderations.
Sept. 20, 2011
Without getting a response from the Public Utilities Commission regarding reconsideration, the Goodhue County Board reluctantly votes 3-2 to submit an appeal to the PUC’s decision.
The county is told the appeal period expires Sept. 22. If it opts not to appeal, Goodhue County’s battle against the wind project would end if the PUC decides not to reconsider its original approval of a site permit.
Goodhue County, Belle Creek Township, Coalition for Sensible Siting and Goodhue Wind Truth are told there was a misunderstanding with filing deadlines for appeals, and their appeals are dismissed.
They are allowed to wait for the Public Utilities Commission’s ruling on reconsideration and can then re-submit their original appeal without additional fees.
Nov. 10, 2011
The Public Utilities Commission votes 4-1 not to reconsider its approval of a permit for AWA Goodhue Wind.
Nov. 15, 2011
With misunderstandings and deadlines cleared up, Goodhue County Attorney Stephen Betcher asks the commissioners once more whether he should appeal the Public Utilities Commission’s decision not to reconsider approval of a permit for the wind project.
The County Board votes 2-2 to file with appeal, but without a majority the motion fails and Betcher is not directed to appeal.
Nov. 28, 2011
The Belle Creek Town Board votes 2-0 to file for appeal in the wind case.
Angry citizens in Goodhue County District 2 — potential home to much of the wind farm — announce a petition to recall Commissioner Richard Samuelson. Since they want to file for appeal in the wind case and Samuelson is opposed to an appeal, they feel he is not representing them.
Samuelson was absent from the Goodhue County Board meeting Nov. 15, but told those at the Belle Creek Town Board meeting he would have voted not to appeal had he been present.
Dec. 1, 2011
Commissioner Richard Samuelson requests an opportunity for the Nov. 15 appeal vote to be re-taken so his opinion can be officially reflected as part of the vote.
Just as he said he would at the Belle Creek Town Board meeting, Samuelson votes no to an appeal, contributing to the 3-2 failure of the motion to appeal.
Dec. 15, 2011
Belle Creek Town Board Chair Chad Ryan is served papers informing him that AWA Goodhue Wind is suing Belle Creek Township because a moratorium put in place by the township is interfering with the wind developer’s rights under the site permit it received from the Public Utilities Commission.
12/30/11 Wind developers solution to landowner's complaints about noise? Make them pay for the study and put a lien on their property if they don't AND Talking truth to the board of health
From Lee County, Illinois
A LOT OF NOISE ABOUT NOISE
BY DAVID GIULIANI,
December 30, 2011
John Martin of Ireland-based Mainstream Renewable Power, which is planning a three-county wind farm, suggested that the county could collect from landowners with unreasonable complaints by placing liens on their properties.
DIXON – The Lee County Zoning Board of Appeals had planned to discuss at its meeting Thursday the controversial issue of how far wind turbines should be from homes.
Instead, the panel discussed another issue that had gone unresolved in a previous meeting — noise regulations for wind farms.
After 2 hours of debate, the five-member board decided to delay a vote on proposed noise rules.
Member Mike Pratt presented a proposal for noise that would require wind energy companies to conduct sound studies before and after turbines are built – all paid by the firms.
No such assessments are required under the current ordinance.
The proposal also includes a complaint procedure. After a complaint is made, an investigation would be conducted. If the property owner’s complaint is determined to be reasonable, the wind energy company would pay for the study’s costs.
But if the complaint is deemed unreasonable, the property owner must pay. Members of the audience said such studies cost thousands of dollars.
Under the proposal, both the company and the property owner would put money in an escrow account before the investigation.
The complaint procedure would apply to property owners within a mile of a turbine.
Members of the audience suggested wind energy companies pay for the costs of investigations. They said that if property owners had to front some money, that would deter them from complaining.
Pratt said the provision was included to avoid frivolous complaints. But others, including member Tom Fassler, questioned whether there would be such a problem.
Fassler, who lives near turbines, said noise is an “elusive thing” and that turbines’ noise can be bothersome one day but not the next.
He acknowledged that much of the discussion of decibel levels was “over my head.”
John Martin of Ireland-based Mainstream Renewable Power, which is planning a three-county wind farm, suggested that the county could collect from landowners with unreasonable complaints by placing liens on their properties.
Some audience members groaned.
Fassler responded, “If you were out of compliance, what are you going to do for the years that you interfered with people’s lives?”
Martin then proposed companies could pay for the first investigation of a complaint, but property owners would have to put up money for subsequent ones.
“That would penalize landowners,” said Rick Porter, a Rockford attorney representing a Lee County farm.
Porter encouraged the county to include a specific limit for turbines’ noise – 5 decibels above background noise. That number has been suggested by experts, he said.
Pratt’s proposal called for following Illinois Pollution Control Board regulations. Others pointed out that those rules were created before wind farms.
The board’s chairman, Ron Conderman, repeatedly tried to wrap up the discussion on noise regulations and get a vote. In the end, members agreed to hold off.
The panel has been meeting for 6 months to review the county’s wind ordinance. The Lee County Board will have the final say.
REMARKS PRESENTED ON WIND TURBINES TO THE BOARD OF HEALTH
December 29, 2011
Editor’s note: Louise Barteau made the following remarks to the Board of Health on Dec. 19.
By Louise Barteau
As I watched online videos or read many first-person accounts in the studies, I was struck by how often the folks telling their stories were originally in favor of the wind turbines, but later were accused in their own communities of being liars — despite having suffered unexplained and debilitating physiological symptoms, and often the complete disruption of their economic life as their houses lost 30, 50 or 100 per cent of their value.
I try to imagine what that might feel like, to feel physically ill, to not be able to live in your house, and then be accused of being a liar.
Thank you for the opportunity to speak. My name is Louise Barteau and I am an artist, a writer, and an environmentalist. I used to teach art to Grades 3-6 at an elementary school. My late husband was a pediatrician. I care deeply about both sustainable energy as well as the health and well-being of children and adults in our community.
When I spoke at the School Committee meeting last week, I had just located the August issue of the Bulletin of Science Technology and Society and read the abstracts. I have since obtained the whole articles, read them, and submitted them to the committee. If you want to get a crash course in the Adverse Health Effects of Industrial Wind Turbines on Public Health, Wind Turbine Noise, Infrasound, and other scientific aspects of IWTs, I highly recommend these articles.
The reason the information in them should be highly valued is that they have been submitted, reviewed and accepted by an academic journal that reviews them for accuracy and good science. It further requires the authors to disclose any financial support or conflict of interest.
This is important because information funded by the wind industry has an innate tendency to suppress dangerous safety information because it will lower demand for their product. If wind turbines are perceived to be dangerous, it will be harder to sell them to towns like Fairhaven.
But although I respect the science behind the journal articles, I also value highly the first person accounts of ordinary citizens like myself. These reports should also be considered as data. As I watched online videos or read many first-person accounts in the studies, I was struck by how often the folks telling their stories were originally in favor of the wind turbines, but later were accused in their own communities of being liars — despite having suffered unexplained and debilitating physiological symptoms, and often the complete disruption of their economic life as their houses lost 30, 50 or 100 per cent of their value.
I try to imagine what that might feel like, to feel physically ill, to not be able to live in your house, and then be accused of being a liar. When many citizens living next to wind turbines first started reporting their symptoms, there wasn’t much independent science available to back them up and there wasn’t any context to understand their symptoms, so they were met with a lot of scepticism. A certain amount of scepticism is healthy, but to completely discount people’s experiences makes no sense to me either.
So when I received a very recently written study by two extremely respected scientists that verified people’s experiences by measuring sound scientifically while the authors themselves were actually experiencing symptoms, I knew it was very important. Every citizen in Fairhaven should read it.
What makes this study unusual is that both authors started experiencing physiologic symptoms within 20 minutes of entering the Falmouth home where they were measuring sounds for the study. They experienced headaches, nausea, dizziness, and had a difficult time performing their usual research the first day when symptoms were at their worst and wind speeds were at their highest.
These observations confirm the first-hand accounts of our Falmouth neighbors who experienced the same symptoms. It turns out that low frequency sounds are actually amplified by our houses, which end up acting a bit like a drum. People experience actual pressure in the ears, head and chest, which is further worsened by dizziness, confusion and anxiety as the body seeks to balance and orient itself while receiving pressure pulses, which distort the vestibular experience. One of the authors experienced vertigo for seven months following the study.
There has been a question raised as to whether the private funding of the study by Mr. McPherson, for whom the study has been named, in any way lessens the importance of the conclusions. What is extremely chilling and should give us all pause is that Mr. McPherson funded the study privately because he could not get the developers or the state to do it.
Furthermore, the authors of the McPherson study, Mr Ambrose and Mr. Rand, are both members of INCE, the Institute of Noise Control Engineering, a professional certifying association, and must agree to comply with the institute’s “Canon of Ethics,” which includes up front disclosure about funding and conflicts of interest, which they comply with. Their first conclusion is that we need more studies to study how brain waves and heart activity are affected by these pulsing low frequency sounds.
That may be true, but I don’t think Fairhaven residents should be the guinea pigs in those studies. If we build those turbines despite this growing and independent body of research, we may be doing just that.
10/28/11 Taking the problem seriously: Senator Lasee speaks out on behalf of those who will be most affected AND Fire in the belly VS Fire in the hole: Standoff on Lowell Mountain continues. Protesters stand firm
The video above shows wind turbine shadow flicker affecting homes in Fond du Lac County. Filmed by Invenergy wind project resident, Gerry Meyer
GET THE FACTS BEFORE MAKING SITING DECISIONS
By State Sen. Frank Lasee,
SOURCE Journal Sentinel, www.jsonline.com
October 27 2011
How would you feel if you or your kids started feeling sick? What if you or your kids suddenly started having headaches, ear aches, nausea, dizziness or couldn’t sleep well anymore in your own home and you knew it wouldn’t ever go away?
This is happening right now in Wisconsin. Families who had happy, healthy lives found themselves suffering illnesses that started after wind turbines were built near their homes. Scientific evidence indicates that there are health impacts that are associated with large wind turbines, many as tall as 500 feet. A bill that I introduced requires new safety setback rules based on health studies.
We aren’t sure why wind turbines seem to cause illnesses. Is it electrical pollution, radio waves, sound waves that are too low to hear, vibrations, shadow-flicker or noise?
We know some adults and children who live near turbines feel nausea, headaches, dizziness, insomnia, ear aches, agitation, and other symptoms – and their illnesses clear up when they are away from home.
Two families whom I represent have moved out of their homes because of illnesses they felt after eight wind turbines were built nearby; others want to move but can’t afford to. A Fond du Lac family abandoned their $300,000 remodeled farm house because their 16-year-old daughter developed intestinal lesions and was hospitalized for them. After they moved away, she recovered. Others have said that deer and birds they feed in their backyards disappear when the turbines turn, and they return when the turbines stop.
This problem isn’t confined to Wisconsin. There are studies coming from other countries and states that report health issues for those who are too near large wind turbines. These new wind turbines are nearly 500 feet tall, taller than 40-story buildings, and nearly twice as tall as the state Capitol.
To be fair to people who live in rural areas where turbines are being built, we need to find out what is “too close” and what distance is acceptable for the health of adults, children and animals. Right now, we don’t know. Right now, it depends on whether you are pushing for or against wind turbines or have to live near them.
The purpose of my bill is to get the facts before others are harmed. It requires that a “peer reviewed” health study address these health effects and be used by the state Public Service Commission to establish a safe distance for wind turbine setback rules.
People should be secure in their homes; they shouldn’t be forced to move because they are being made ill by something built near them. In Wisconsin, we owe our citizens more than someone’s opinion on whether their home is safe -whether their children are safe.
Wind turbines are causing real hardship for real people. Some can’t afford to move to preserve their or their kids’ health. Could you? Our government has a duty to know the facts and protect our citizens regardless of whether we are “for” wind energy or “against” wind energy.
State Sen. Frank Lasee, of De Pere, represents Wisconsin’s 1st Senate District.
The video above was recorded by Larry Wunsch, a resident of the Invenergy wind project in Fond du Lac County. Wunsch is also a firefighter and a member of the Public Service Commission's wind siting council. His recommendations for setbacks and noise limits were shot down by other members of the council who had a direct or indirect financial interest in creating less restrictive siting guidelines.
NEXT STORY: FROM VERMONT
PROTESTERS AND BLASTERS CONTINUE LOWELL STANDOFF
by Chris Braithwaite, The Chronicle, 26 October 2011 ~~
If a tree falls in the forest and nobody hears it, the old question goes, does it make a sound?
Here’s a more timely variation on the question: If you hold a demonstration in one of the most inaccessible places in the Northeast Kingdom, have you demonstrated anything?
There was a certain brilliance in the idea, dreamed up by opponents of the industrial wind project on Lowell Mountain, of planting a campsite on the western edge of Doug and Shirley Nelson’s farm, too close to the wind project to permit safe blasting.
But there was also a weakness inherent in the plan. It’s so hard to get to the campsite that almost nobody knows what goes on up there.
There’s great drama in the idea of determined demonstrators standing up to the high explosives that, as this is being written, are reducing four miles of remote ridgeline to a nice, level, 34-foot-wide gravel road.
But drama demands an audience. Without one, even the most daring and determined resistance risks becoming an exercise in futility.
Some of the demonstrators who climbed the mile-long trail to their campsite on Wednesday morning, October 19, were prepared to go down the mountain in police custody.
The stage, it seemed, was finally set for the confrontation with authority they were braced for.
It had been set up the Friday before by the wind project’s developer, Green Mountain Power (GMP). The big utility had gone to court and quickly obtained a temporary restraining order against the Nelsons and their guests. It ordered them to be 1,000 feet from the property line for an hour before, and an hour after, high explosives were detonated near the farm.
Blasting had proceeded on Monday and Tuesday, but at a safe distance that didn’t provoke any confrontation between GMP and the handful of demonstrators on hand.
But the mood was different Wednesday. GMP had called the Nelsons to say there would be blasting from 2 to 4 p.m.
On top of the mountain, the demonstrators got their first clear view of two big drill rigs, poking holes in the rock about 800 feet from the campsite.
With binoculars, they could watch workmen carry boxes of high explosive from a cubical white body mounted on tracks to the drill holes. Then they could watch as a large backhoe dragged massive mats of steel and rubber over the blast site, while other massive machines made a ponderous retreat.
All that clatter aside, the place was remarkably quiet. The demonstrators exchanged a bit of small talk, did a bit of planning, but didn’t talk much about their concern for Lowell Mountain, or their despair at what GMP was doing to it. Their presence in that high, steeply sloped forest said those things for them.
Nor did the demonstrators have anything to say to two GMP workers who passed within a few feet of them, putting yet more yellow warning signs on trees along the disputed line that separates the Nelson property from the project.
They numbered each sign with a marker, photographed it, and moved on out of sight to the north.
The four demonstrators who were prepared to be arrested gathered up their gear and tossed it into one of the tents. If necessary, it would be carried down the trail by the people who were there to support them.
Two more GMP workers approached the protesters as they moved as close as they could get to the blast site, just after 3 o’clock.
The one who wore a blue hard hat, Dave Coriell, is community outreach manager for Kingdom Community Wind, which is the name GMP gave to its project.
The one in the unpainted tin hat, John Stamatov, manages the construction project for GMP.
Mr. Coriell, who used to do public relations work for Governor Jim Douglas, looked a little out of his element. That wasn’t true of Mr. Stamatov, though he looked like he’d be more comfortable running a bulldozer than a video camera.
Mr. Coriell stopped within easy earshot of the protesters. Behind him, Mr. Stamatov started recording the proceedings on his camera.
“I’m going to have to ask people to please move back,” Mr. Coriell said. Nobody moved.
If the demonstrators didn’t move 1,000 feet down the mountain, Mr. Coriell continued, they would be in violation of the temporary restraining order.
Copies of the order were nailed to a scattering of nearby trees.
“I ask you to please move back,” Mr. Coriell said. “I’m not going to force you physically to move.” Nobody moved.
“If you’re not going to move, I’d ask you for your name or some identification,” Mr. Coriell said.
Nobody said anything.
“That’s a cute dog,” Mr. Coriell said of Koyo. A handsome yellow lab who’d carried a backpack up the mountain for his owners, Koyo was the only demonstrator who used his real name. If he was flattered, Koyo didn’t say so.
I identified myself to the GMP twosome, and said I planned to stick around and see what happened next.
“By standing there you’re risking serious injury or death,” Mr. Stamatov said.
Knowing that, I asked, was GMP still going to touch off the explosives?
“We’re hoping people move,” said Mr. Coriell.
They withdrew across the wide orange ribbon that divides the construction site from the forest.
But they came back a few minutes later. Stepping up to a tree, Mr. Coriell read the entire text of the restraining order aloud to the silent demonstrators, while Mr. Stamatov recorded the event.
The two withdrew again, but remained in the clearcut that GMP’s logging crew had created where the crane path will run along the top of the ridgeline. They were not significantly further from the blast site than the demonstrators.
Everybody waited. It became quiet, an ominous silence that settled as the last machines withdrew.
The demonstrators were there, of course, in the belief that their presence would stop the blasting.
They had been warned that they were standing in harm’s way, and they had every reason to believe it.
What Mr. Coriell hadn’t told them was that the contractor, Maine Drilling and Blasting, had carefully laid a much smaller charge than it hopes to use in the near future, and covered it with particular care with particularly large blasting mats.
At 3:26 the silence was broken by three loud horn blasts. According to the yellow signs on so many nearby trees, that signified five minutes until the explosion.
Two horns sounded four minutes later, the one-minute warning. Still nobody moved, nobody talked. One demonstrator, a young woman sitting legs crossed in a lotus position, closed her eyes.
The words “fire in the hole” carried through the silent forest from somebody’s radio and the explosives went off, sending a cloud of gray dust into the sky. There were no casualties.
The demonstrators had stood their ground, a they had pledged to do. And GMP had blown up another piece of Lowell Mountain, as it was so determined to do.
If there’s a moral victory to be claimed, it clearly goes to the protestors. But that may only serve as consolation, a year or so from now, as they contemplate the wind towers on Lowell Mountain.