Entries in wind farm ringing in ears (9)
7/19/10 Sow the wind, reap dead bats AND The sport of pitting neighbor against neighbor: Wind developers won't hesitate to tear communities apart AND an interview with a wind project resident who had to leave her home once the wind turbines went on line
Note from the BPWI Research Nerd: Wind turbine related bat kills are ten times higher in Wisconsin than anywhere in the nation except Pennsylvania. There is serious concern about the survival of bat populations near Wisconsin wind projects.
WIND TURBINES AND DISEASE CUTTING BAT TOTALS
SOURCE: The Times Leader, www.timesleader.com
July 19 2010
By Matt Hughes,
WILKES-BARRE — Sue Gallagher of the Carbon County Environmental Center has presented her educational program on bats so many times she could probably do it hanging upside down in the dark.
She ran through much of that program Thursday at Wilkes-Barre’s River Common, going over myths and misconceptions about nature’s only flying mammals. To summarize: Bats aren’t blind, they aren’t flying mice, they won’t get stuck in your hair and, unless you’re vacationing on a South American cattle ranch, they won’t suck your blood either.
A little more than a year ago, things changed, and Gallagher’s message about bats changed with it.
Bats in Pennsylvania are dying, Gallagher said, in such extreme numbers that future generations of Pennsylvanians may never see them in the wild.
“You guys aren’t going to grow up seeing bats the way we grew up seeing bats,” Gallagher told the approximately 10 children who gathered with their parents for the program, which was sponsored by rivercommon.org.
There are two culprits in the disappearance of the state’s bats, Gallagher said.
Hibernating bats, the sort that live in caves, have been affected by white nose syndrome, a fungus-based illness that causes bats to awaken from hibernation early. The bats, which live on a diet of insects, then die of starvation.
The illness, which spread south from New York State last year, kills 85 to 100 percent of bat populations it infiltrates.
Other bats, especially the migratory variety, are being killed by an unlikely source: wind turbines. Bats are attracted to the turbines during mating season, Gallagher said, when they will fly to the highest point above ground. They are then either killed by the large fan blades or by low pressure systems that form near the tips of the blades that cause the bats’ lungs to explode.
A single turbine can kill 50 to 100 bats a year, Gallagher said, adding that it is too early to judge the effect of wind energy on bats because Pennsylvania does not track bat population size.
“We want to get behind wind energy; we want to say wind energy is green, but we’ve got to address its impact on bats,” Gallagher said.
“I feel bad, because I really like bats, and I don’t want them to die,” Bethany Kelsey, 7, of Wilkes-Barre, said after the program.
“I didn’t know that they were dying, which makes me very sad,” Kelsey’s mother, Angel Kelsey, added. “I grew up in the woods watching the bats.”
The bat program was the first in a series of free children’s nature education programs being held at the River Common. The next, a live mammals program, will take place July 23.
Wind farm sows discord among friends
URBANA, Ohio - One need not drive too far into Champaign County to recognize that 2010 will be a bumper year for corn and soybeans. As for harvesting the wind, the jury is still out.
Last week, the Ohio Power Siting Board essentially reaffirmed its decision to allow 53 wind turbines to be erected near here, despite the persistent objections of residents who are not convinced that the turbines - some of them approaching the height of the Washington Monument - will do any more than set longtime county residents at one another's throats.
"One woman told me she couldn't go to church anymore because she couldn't stand to look at one of the people who has sold out" by leasing land for the turbines, Julia Johnson, one of those longtime residents, said last week.
These once were Champaign County farmers who shared a tremendous kinship as stewards of the land. If one were injured or fell ill, his friends would bring in his crops. They attended Grange meetings and social gatherings together. Their children signed up for 4-H and the Future Farmers of America.
The atmosphere has become so acrimonious that merchants who must sell to all community members have avoided any signs at their businesses suggesting favoritism to either side of the issue.
"There are certainly some people I will never trust again, and any friendship we might have had in the past is now gone," said Diane McConnell, who, with her husband, Robert, owns farmland. "We will have five turbines right out the north window 700 feet from our property line."
Those who want the windmills say they produce electricity without pollution, fit in with farming because crops can be planted around them and cattle can graze underneath, and will bring jobs to the county. But neither the McConnells nor Johnson believe that the quality of life in the Urbana area will be enhanced.
"Eighty percent of the revenue for those turbines will go overseas and will not benefit our economy at all," Johnson said. EverPower Wind Holdings, the company developing the wind farm, is owned by Terra Firma, a British private-equity firm.
"It is not about energy. It is about money," Johnson said.
The McConnells and Johnson also worry about safety. People living near wind turbines in other places have complained about headaches, sleeplessness and anxiety from the humming.
Could it be that in some now-forgotten, long-ago debate, some energy whiz proposed going after crude oil not only with land-based drilling but by employing offshore oil platforms as well? Surely, the question of safety arose.
If offshore oil drilling were scrutinized no more carefully than wind turbines have been, it was only going to be a matter of time before something happened.
It might be time for a good, ol' Bible-thumping homily preached in a rural Champaign County church from Hosea 8:7: "They have planted the wind and will harvest the whirlwind. The stalks of grain wither and produce nothing to eat. And even if there is grain, foreigners will eat it."
Retired columnist Mike Harden writes Wednesday and Sunday Metro columns.
Click on the image below to find out why a family in a wind project left their home once the wind turbines went on line
In this interview by Save Our Skyline Renfrew County (sosrenfrewcounty.wordpress.com), Helen Fraser talks about health issues she suffered after the Melancthon wind energy facility near Shelburne, Ontario, began operation in the spring of 2006.
Her home, where she had lived for more than 30 years, ended up in the middle of the facility.
Her fibromyalgia seriously deteriorated shortly after the wind turbines were active, yet improved just as drastically every time she was outside the vicinity of the facility.
Mrs. Fraser also notes that they no longer saw the abundance of wildlife that they had before. There were 12 turbines visible on three sides of her home, the closest only 423 meters away. Eight of the turbines had an obvious direct impact on the home, with noise or shadow flicker.
“I could tell if the turbines were running if I had a headache,” she says. When the towers were erected, she began having severe head and body aches, ringing in her ears, digestive issues, and chronic fatigue, which led to a whole host of other issues, including depression and not being able to concentrate.
“And they all cleared up after 24 hours [of being away from home], and when we’d come back the symptoms would be there 24 hours later.”
1/20/10 Dead Corporation Walking: What's Enron got to do with the Wind Industry? AND what does that have to do with the value of ag land? AND what happens if you sell your house without telling the buyer about the proposed wind farm?
Wind Industry Background Check:
The current 'Wind Industry' as it stands would not exist without Enron. This short summary from the University of Iowa explains the connection:
SOURCE: University of Iowa, Center for Agricultural Taxation
"Wind Energy Production: Legal Issues and Related Liability Concerns for Landowners in Iowa and Across the Nation"
Farmers have long used wind energy. Beginning in the 1800’s, farmers installed several million windmills across the Midwest and Plains to pump water and generate power for lights and radios.
Today, farmers, ranchers, and other rural landowners in suitable areas are utilizing wind energy in a different manner.
But, where did the current emphasis on wind generation of electricity come from?
There were early attempts dating back to the 1970s and 1980s, but it wasn’t until the late 1980s and early 1990s, that Enron (an energy company based in Houston, TX) lobbied the Congress with a friendly “renewable energy” project, and packaged it with their “electricity deregulation” lobbying and political efforts.
Their efforts were successful in getting laws passed at both the federal and state levels that would permit them to tie into the grid, require utilities to buy unreliable and unpredictable electricity (i.e., electricity generated by wind) under Renewable Portfolio Standards, allow them to sell “renewable energy certificates” separate and apart from the electricity, and utilize a newly created production tax credit and take advantage of a special accelerated depreciation rule.
More from the University of Iowa report: Property Values
"At the present time, anecdotal data indicates that wind turbines have a depressing effect on nearby land values and are a drag on the ag real estate market.
Most recent anecdotal data from Illinois indicates that assessed value on farmland is dropping approximately 22-30 percent on farmland that is near land where wind turbines
have been placed.
Also, the increased risk of getting sued for nuisance has a dampening effect on value. Likewise, the annual payments, to an extent, are replacement income for the property rights that have been given up in getting the turbines in the first place.
Many of the agreements are quite restrictive in terms of potential development of the property, farming activities, placement of buildings, etc.
A willing buyer would take all of those factors into consideration when determining what price to pay for the property "
- "Wind Energy Production: Legal Issues and Related Liability Concerns for Landowners in Iowa and Across the Nation"
University of Iowa, Center for Agricultural Taxation
Note from the BPWI research nerd: In an already depressed housing market, those who live in areas where wind farms have been proposed have a new problem to contend with when trying to sell their homes. Will the disclosure about the coming wind farm help or hurt the sale? What happens if you sell your home without disclosing it?
More from the University of Iowa report: Contractual Issues
In a recent New York case, the plaintiff bought the defendant’s farm (including the residence) and sought to have the sale contract rescinded based on the seller’s alleged fraud and misrepresentations for not disclosing that plans were in the works for the construction of large wind turbines on an adjacent parcel.
The plaintiffs submitted the affidavit of a neighbor of the defendant who detailed two conversations with the defendant that occurred months before the defendant put his farm on the market during which the wind farm development was discussed.
The defendant, at that time, stated that the presence of commercial wind turbines on the adjacent tract would “force” him to sell his farm.
When the plaintiff sought to rescind the contract, the defendant claimed he had no duty to the plaintiff and that the doctrine of caveat emptor (“buyer beware”) was a complete defense to the action.
The court denied summary judgment for the seller and allowed the case to go to trial.
1/18/09 DOUBLE FEATURE: How will you know if a wind farm is going to be built around your home? Will it be before the trucks start hauling the turbine blades past your house? AND In Brown County Wisconsin, the Dr. is IN
How will you know if wind developers have targeted your community? If you're lucky there may be something about it in the local paper, or something may be listed on the published agenda for the Town board meeting.
In the past, developers were very open with the community about their plans. They changed that once people began to oppose projects. Now they are more likely to keep news of wind farms a secret from the community until key landowners are signed up.
Wisconsin's recently passed turbine siting reform legislation requires that only neighbors directly adjacent to a hosting landowners property be notified that wind turbines are about to go in near their homes.
This notification does not have to happen until the wind developer submits a formal application for the project to the Town board and/or the Public Service Commission.
A developer won't file an application until enough landowners are signed up, so by the time you find out about it, the project may well be on its way. That's what happened to one of our neighbors to the north who tells us his story here
Commentaries: Study of wind project may blow you away
By: Erin Logan, Zumbrota,
January 17, 2010
I found out by pure accident my home is in the Goodhue Wind Project area by looking at the map published Dec. 9 Zumbro Shopper. What a surprise. Why wasn’t I notified?
I received a packet in the mail sometime around Dec. 15 from a Twin Cities attorney; let’s just call it “notification.” I decided I better read the information to find out what it means to be in the Goodhue Wind Project.
The 212-page document is a dry read, but some interesting information caught my attention. It includes a site map identifying homes and proposed placement of the 400-foot tall wind turbines.
To my surprise my home does not exist on the proposed project map, but it does show a wind turbine 100 feet from my home and two more within 1,500 feet. I wonder how many other homes have been omitted from or wiped off the map?
Let me share a few things I have learned since I read through this packet.
The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission has jurisdiction over this project due its size. The public can submit comments regarding the permit application until Jan. 22. I will definitely take advantage of this opportunity, although I’m not sure how much good it will do.
I understand the PUC was made aware of homes not included in the project application, but were not concerned with the detail of the site plan.
Reading through information on the PUC Web site I learned a state statute allows our county commissioners to adopt more stringent zoning ordinances for Large Wind Energy Conversion Systems. This means our local elected officials have the authority to define what is best for Goodhue County residents regarding this project.
The purpose of the setback is to protect adjacent landowners if the turbine falls over, mitigate noise levels and shadow flicker that may be imposed on their homes. It will also provide protection if any ice builds up on the blades, breaks off and plummets 400 feet to the ground.
I have learned that current Goodhue County zoning setback requirements do not allow a wind turbine to be erected within 750 feet of a dwelling. This is reciprocal in that a dwelling cannot be constructed within 750 feet of a wind turbine.
Hmmm, I think I just lost the right to build an attached garage or an addition between my house and that wind turbine 750 feet away.
The property line setbacks are less stringent: 500 feet for a 400-foot tall wind turbine.
I encourage anyone who has an unoccupied residence or temporary dwelling in place to speak up. This project could restrict where you are allowed to build on your property.
Gaps in the system like this make it clear to me we are not prepared to endorse a project of this magnitude. This is new territory that warrants some education in lieu of assuming we can rely on outdated regulations to provide safety, health and well-being to Goodhue County residents.
As I read through this permit application I see inaccurate data, incomplete information and open-ended statements. There are far too many to include in detail, so I’ll share a few of the items that seem fairly important to me.
• Actual wind turbine size — The permit application states that this can be changed to meet the needs of the project. Will they be 300 feet, 400 feet or taller?
• Equipment specifications — The application identifies the sound level created by the smallest wind turbine they would choose to install. This data is used to determine the distance the wind turbine can be located from your residence while ensuring they don’t exceed the maximum amount of noise pollution you can be subjected to.
• Project decommissioning — As stated in the application, all above-ground equipment and foundations, to a depth of 4 feet, will be removed. This does not meet Goodhue County Ordinance, Article 18, Section 5, Subd. 10.
• Economic impact — This is such a multi-faceted topic, but it is good to note the claim that the local economy will benefit from the dollars the project will pay in state and local taxes and the long-term beneficial impacts to the counties’ tax base. Take a look at the corporate Web site — http://www.nationalwind.com/minnesota_wind_facts — which lists the financial incentives for wind projects. The way I read that information, this project will be exempt from both property and sales tax.
I would also like to know what kind of long-term impacts this will have on local and county roadway lifecycles.
I hope enough people encourage our commissioners to update zoning ordinances to adequately mitigate the impact of a Large Wind Energy Conversion System on Goodhue County residents.
For anyone who thinks this doesn’t affect them, keep in mind wind conditions are similar throughout Goodhue County and there is a lot of land out there. Implementing this project may open the door for wind turbines in your neighborhood.
I need more information before I can make an educated decision on whether this project will be a benefit or a detriment. Perhaps others in and around the Goodhue Wind Project area have received more information.
This is a community-based project, yet I have never had one of the local representatives stop by during one of the many trips they’ve made past my home. I believe that a good idea is worth talking about, so why all of the secrecy?
NOTE FROM THE BPWI RESEARCH NERD: Law firms are beginning to directly address the issue of wind farm leases and land rights on behalf of landowners. To read a post called "Reasons to be Careful with Wind Leases" on the website of one such law firm in Minnesota, CLICK HERE.
For more on Wind Power Law, visit
This comes to us courtesy of another Wisconsin group-- Brown County Citizens for Responsible Wind Energy ( BCCRWE.)
If you know anyone in Brown County, you may want to let them know that a big wind farm is coming their way. To link them to the BCCRWE website CLICK HERE
The following letter was written and read by Dr. Herb Coussons before the Morrison town board a their last town board meeting:
January 8, 2010
RE: Proposed Ledge Wind Project
TO: The Town Boards of Wrightstown, Morrison, Holland and Ledgeview
I am writing to summarize what I believe are real and previously unconsidered effects of building wind turbines among populated residential and farming areas.
The current zoning standards do not take into consideration the growing evidence regarding the adverse health risks of placing wind turbines closer than 1.5 miles from residences.
Multiple studies and case reports are being published that systematically record a group of symptoms that seems to occur in about 10% of individuals who live within 1.5 miles of wind turbines.
These symptoms included but are not limited to: sleep disturbances, chronic headaches, migraines, ringing in the ears, visceral vibratory vestibular disturbance, decreased abilities in memory and concentration, fatigue, irritability and upper respiratory ailments.
Many of these symptoms were not present prior to individuals living in the vicinity of the wind turbines and resolved when the affected people were able to move away from the turbines. Most of the case reports show that the individuals have no emotional disturbances that would lead to anxiety and fear as a cause of their new symptoms. Children seem to be affected by the same symptoms only they are manifest in different ways such as nightmares and bedwetting or decreased school performance and behavior problems.
There are now many published reports in the US, Canada, England, Europe, and New Zealand that refer to this consistent cluster of symptoms as “Wind Turbine Syndrome.” There are also governmental agencies and health organizations that have spoken out on the topic, including: Health Canada, the NIH, the French National Academy of Medicine, The Maine Medical Association, the Minnesota Department of Public Health, the Government of the State of Victoria Australia, the Japanese Minister of Environment, and the US National Research Council.
The symptoms experienced by humans may also be seen more seriously and widespread in animals leading to adverse consequences. Wild animals that have highly developed senses of hearing and vibration (bats, snakes, deer, turkey, and birds) virtually disappear from large wind developments. Domestic farm animals such as chickens, goats, and cattle are all reported to display adverse behaviors, as well as reproduction abnormalities and even death. There are many case reports of decreased dairy production and egg production in farm animals that are reversed when the animals are moved away from wind turbines.
Animal studies and human data are mounting that the adverse symptoms are related to several direct effects of the wind turbines. 1) Audible noise, 2) Low frequency noise, 3) Shadow flicker, and 4) Mixed sensory input (confusing and unrelenting sensations that conflict in the brain).
The audible noise above 30-35dB (A-weighted measurements) is enough to disturb sleep. Chronic sleep disturbance can lead to fatigue, decreased memory and concentration, chronic headaches, weight gain, hypertension and cardiovascular deterioration. 30dB is the limit recommended by the World Health Organization as the maximum noise level at nighttime outside of a home. Most of the local ordinances allow up to 50dB up to 10% of the time, and exclude measurements if the wind is blowing greater than 30mph.
The Low frequency noise (C-weighted measurements) is not always audible yet the body feels the vibration and it stimulates the hearing and balance parts of the inner ear. This type of noise may also resonate in body cavities leading to chest pressure and a sense of motion. The results are nausea, vomiting and motion sickness. In fact such low frequency noise is so unpleasant, it has been used in the Middle East as a weapon for crowd control. The recommended maximum intensity of C-weighted measurements is 20dB outside of a home. Most of the local ordinances do not mention C-weighted measurements despite the fact that most wind turbine noise is low frequency.
Shadow-flicker triggers a reflexive response in animals that results in a flight or flight response leading to an increased heart rate, muscle tension and a sense of movement. Shadow-flicker and noise can be reduced by increasing the distance from the wind turbine.
These sensory inputs, audible noise, low frequency vibration/inaudible noise, and shadow flicker present conflicting sensations to the brain resulting in worsening symptoms of migraines, anxiety, nausea, vomiting.
There are other practical risks as well. According to the Caithness Windfarm Information Forum, from 1999 through June 2008 there were over 500 accidents around the world, including North America, involving ice throws, blade disintegration, fire and tower failure from large wind turbines. If improperly sited, wind energy systems produce electro-magnetic radiation that can interfere with broadcast communications and signals. They even create signals on Doppler weather radar simulating severe weather thereby making any weather warnings in our area limited. There are dangers and restrictions in flight activity due to potential collisions with aircraft. This limitation has resulted in rescue helicopters not landing in wind farms.
Much of this information has been understood as wind turbine developments grow across Europe, Canada, Australia and the US.
As I have read the studies and case reports from across the US and the world, as well as listening to residents of the development around Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, I have become convinced that the health and safety of those living closer than 2500 feet to wind turbines will be adversely effected. Some living within 1.5 miles may show severe signs of wind turbine syndrome.
These facts were not well known or considered prior to 2007 when many of the ordinances were written. Now due to greater knowledge and more experience, we must consider the more recent conservative site requirements for example in the Town of Union in Rock County Wisconsin. http://www.tn.union.wi.gov/Docs_by_cat_type.asp?doccatid=200&locid=123 <http://www.tn.union.wi.gov/Docs_by_cat_type.asp?doccatid=200&locid=123>
I would recommend anyone to review their ordinance, which has extensive documentation on the rationale behind their more restrictive requirements when compared to the state of Wisconsin. Their diligence in research and enacting an ordinance based on the current evidence should be respected and imitated.
If the current setbacks of 1000 feet and maximum audible noise measurements of 50dB are utilized, then I believe that up to 80% of people exposed to these levels of audible noise, low frequency noise and shadow flicker will feel some adverse health symptoms. Because of these conclusions, I would hope that our local town boards will consider a moratorium on wind development until they can consider the evidence that shows the health and safety risks of wind developments such as the Ledge Wind Farm and provide the leadership by enacting ordinances that reflect the current understanding of these health and safety risks imposed by wind turbines sited close to residences and businesses in our communities.
Herb Coussons, MD
6649 Ledgetop Dr
1/17/09 State to wind farm residents: We'll give you this big nickel if you sacrifice that little dime-
Click on the image above to hear what turbines can sound like on a bad day. This video was shot by a resident of the Invenrgy Forward Energy project near the Town of Byron in Fond du Lac County, Wisconsin. The closest turbine to his house is less than 1600 feet away.
Are setbacks and noise limits a public health issue or a profitability issue ?
Profitability for a wind project relies on the same short setbacks and inadequate noise limits that cause problems for residents forced to live with them.
Initially, Wisconsin families complaining of harm due to short setbacks and inadequate noise limits were not believed and even openly ridiculed, particularly by wind developers and lobbyists.
In granting recent approval for the Glacier Hills wind project, the Public Service Commission admitted the problems do exist, and some residents will be bothered by turbine noise and shadow flicker. The commission even suggested the utility consider a buyout of the most severely affected homes.
Now that the PSC has acknowledged the problem, the attitude toward wind farm resident's complaints and concerns has changed. The harm caused to families by inadequate setbacks is now considered unfortunate but acceptable collateral damage, a minor concern when weighed against the greater good.
But what is the greater good in the case of Glacier Hills? Most of us assume it's the reduction of green house gas emissions by using wind power.
However, Clean Wisconsin let the PSC know that there would be no reduction in CO2/GHG levels unless the utility is required to shut down an existing coal burning plant, something the utility has no plans of doing.
In a post hearing brief submitted to the PSC, Clean Wisconsin states:
"If the Commission allows WEPCO to continue construct Glacier Hills and operate all of its existing coal-fired capacity, WEPCO’s rate-payers will be paying over $525 million for a new facility that is not needed to satisfy demand and will not result in overall CO2 emission reductions."
Which begs the question: If there is to be no reduction in CO2 emissions, what is the state getting in exchange for forcing Wisconsin families to sacrifice their health, well being, and property value?
NOTE FROM THE BPWI RESEARCH NERD: It's not just Wisconsin residents who are being forced to make questionable sacrifices. Click on the image below to hear about sacrifices our neighbors to the north are forced to make. An Ontairo dairy farmer speaks about wind leases, turbine related negative health effects and electrical pollution
Home in the Butler Ridge wind farm, near Iron Springs, Wisconsin
LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Wind farms threaten countyGreenbay Press GazetteJanuary 15, 2010
CLICK HERE to visit the BCCRWE website.
Brown County Citizens for Responsible Energy (BCCRWE) is a grass roots organization of local residents in Brown County where Invenergy is proposing to build the Ledge wind farm.
CLICK HERE to visit the Public Service Commission docket for this project.
Type in case number 9554-CE-100
Home in a wind farm, Fond du Lac County, Wisconsin. Photo by Gerry Meyer
Turbine Noise Annoys: Expert says people are suffering health problems from being too close to structures
By PAUL SCHLIESMANN
THE WHIG-STANDARD, www.thewhig.com
January 16 2010
"Some people are definitely suffering from the noise. Some people suffering are keeping quiet about it because of family ties. They can also see that some people are revelling in it. They're making money. There are technicians coming over to work. Some shopkeepers made a lot of money. It's been a shot in the arm, if you like. There's a party line."
-John Harrison retired Queen's University physics professor
Some might accuse John Harrison of tilting at wind turbines, but the retired Queen’s University physics professor says he’s got the science to prove that wind farms are bad for people’s health.
Harrison became an expert critic of wind technology — and an ally of those who oppose it — after learning that his retirement community of Amherst Island could become the site of a wind farm like the one on nearby Wolfe Island.
“My first reaction was I thought it would spoil the island for the looks. I didn’t realize the noise problem,” said Harrison.
“I learned that they really should be kept away from where people live.”
So began what has amounted to a self-funded second career.
Two years ago, Harrison travelled to the western Ontario community of Kincardine to monitor an Ontario Municipal Board hearing into a proposed wind turbine project there.
He came away with the impression that, in order to get the project approved, industry representatives and provincial government officials were paying little attention to the science that linked the giant machines to health concerns.
“There were two experts,” he said. “Their testimony made no impact on the OMB hearing because, for one thing, the company had a very talented lawyer.
“I know the lawyer had no idea what was going on but had this amazing expertise to orient facts.”
Harrison recalled that the 100 or so residents opposing the Kincardine project had no money to hire a lawyer of their own and no ability to pay for independent studies.
“That was a real eye-opener for me,” he said. “First that there are noise problems, that there is a valid scientific basis for the noise problems, and that the ministry of the environment and developers are not interested in hearing about the noise problem.”
The scientist began poring over the research literature. He sent his analyses and critiques to anyone connected with wind projects, including Ontario’s environment minister, John Gerretsen, who is also MPP for Kings -ton and the Islands.
At the time, Wolfe Island, in Gerretsen’s riding, was about to become home to an 86-turbine facility built by Canadian Hydro Developers.
It officially opened last summer and was soon purchased by TransAlta.
Canadian Hydro had been considering a second wind farm on Amherst Island.
“I came back from Kincardine and started reading original reports, original science,” said Harrison.
One study, by a Dutch researcher on the topic of background noise, stood out.
At the time, Ontario’s regulations limited the noise effect from wind turbines on nearby residents to 40 decibels. At a wind speed of 50 km/h, however, up to 50 decibels were allowed, the theory being that wind blowing through surrounding vegetation such as trees and shrubs would mask the additional 10 decibels.
Harrison said the Dutch study showed that “at nighttime there is no masking noise.”
This would be especially true in places like Wolfe and Amherst islands, which are rural and quiet.
“This thesis was a thorn in the side for the Ministry of the Environment because it made nonsense of their thesis,” said Harrison. “It really rattled the Ministry of the Environment. Politically, it wasn’t good because it meant the regulation wasn’t very good.”
Gerretsen says the regulations that were subsequently written into Ontario’s Green Energy Act — with a 40-decibel maximum and 550-metre minimum setbacks — exceed all other jurisdictions and make the Dutch study irrelevant.
“He’s wrong about the masking,” said Gerretsen.
Despite his criticisms, Harrison was asked to sit on an environment ministry working group made up of about 40 people — ministry personnel and engineers, acoustic consultants, municipal staff, planning consultants, as well as himself and two other citizens.
When the working group endorsed a report written by a Ryerson University professor dismissing the Dutch study, Harrison was perturbed and, typically, responded with his own critique.
When a group of Wolfe Island residents asked for his help reviewing the environmental study for the new 86-turbine project in their community, again he found what he considered flaws in the data and dutifully told the consultants, Canadian Hydro and the ministry.
“They just ignored the whole thing. There was no check and balance in the system,” he said. “Those measurements were worthless. The ministry accepted them.”
Harrison said Wolfe Islanders today are more divided over the issue than many let on.
“Some people are definitely suffering from the noise. Some people suffering are keeping quiet about it because of family ties. They can also see that some people are revelling in it. They’re making money. There are technicians coming over to work. Some shopkeepers made a lot of money. It’s been a shot in the arm, if you like. There’s a party line.”
Harrison says he isn’t opposed to wind energy, though he feels it will never supply more than 4% or 5% of Ontario’s power.
He is against putting them near people. “My intention has been, let’s install renewable energy, but let’s install it away from people.”
Gerretsen said most wind-energy companies would probably prefer to be situated in remote locations to avoid conflicts, but the cost of getting the energy to the grid would become prohibitive.
“If you find more remote places, then you get into the problem of transmission lines,” he said.
In a recent interview with the Whig-Standard, Gerretsen endorsed an industry-funded report by the Canadian and American wind energy associations that characterized most of the health problems documented by people living near wind turbines as psychosomatic.
He said the Wolfe Island wind farm opponents were promoting not-in-my-backyard activism because they didn’t like the looks of the turbines.
Harrison dismissed that review as “an industry association convened and sponsored attempt to deny the adverse health effects being reported.”
He said the symptoms are real — people are losing sleep, becoming stressed and experiencing various health problems.
“Other families in Ontario are using safe houses maybe 20 km away. When they need a good night’s sleep, they go to these safe houses,” he said.
Harrison takes credit for helping a woman and her husband near Kindcardine get a settlement from the wind farm company.
“I sent in a report that the noise was far in excess of the Ontario noise regulation. The result was the company bought her out and made her sign a gag order,” he said.
“I think down the line you will see this on Wolfe Island.