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Letters Debunk Wind Myths

July 7, 2012

In his letter to the editor in the Cape Cod Times, Chris Kapsambelis dispels the notion that wind turbines reduce our carbon footprint (Wind’s required sacrifices are for nothing in return):

Recent engineering studies show that carbon dioxide avoidance is marginal to nonexistent when wind turbines are connected to the power grid. The response we get from the wind industrialists is the “smart grid,” a pie-in-the-sky concept untested in the real world, so smart it can convert intermittent wind energy into power for your home.

The only thing that can provide the necessary flexible generation capacity for the volatile energy that comes from wind turbines is utility-grade energy storage (giant battery). Wind proponents would have us believe it’s just around the corner, another “pie-in-the-sky” solution.

“IT’S AN ILL WIND” is the unpublished but still powerful commentary from Dr. John Cowl and Dr. Stephanie Beling, both medical doctors. A psychiatrist, Cowl is able to dispel the claim that the perception of harm from wind turbines is imaginary.

It is time for the Commonwealth to use its many educational and scientific resources available to examine and resolve the medical problems that appear to be related to IWTs in Massachusetts.  We don’t yet have any answers.  It’s time we got some.

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Ill effects from Industrial Wind Turbines (IWTs) sited next to people living in Falmouth have recently become the focus of the news.  Reports of individuals suffering with sleep disruption, mood disturbance, headaches, and other adverse health effects have also arisen in recent years from all over the world wherever IWTs are located near residences.  We support the development of alternative energy sources in order to lessen our carbon footprint and forestall climate change.  However, as physicians, we are wary of technological advances achieved at the expense of our patients’ and our neighbors’ general health.  According to the Hippocratic oath we have promised to “first do no harm.”  The same should be true of technological advances.

Having heard the above complaints and the suggestion that what is being called “Wind Turbine Syndrome” might exist, Governor Patrick appointed a panel of so-called “experts” to study adverse health effects associated with IWTs.  However, some members of the panel had clear conflicts of interest, and none were experts in any of the areas of the specifically cited health complaints.  The panel’s mission was restricted  to reviewing and accepting relatively old literature, none of which emanated from the USA and dealt with turbines smaller than those in Massachusetts.   They dismissed all individual reports of health problems.  Additionally, all literature relating to acoustics used inaccurate measuring tools; specifically old ANSI filters which were too slow to measure the rapid pulses generated by IWTs.  In short, the panel performed no study of health problems or complaints of anyone living next to an IWT.  They simply reported that “IWTs disrupt sleep,” and “IWTs cause significantly greater levels of annoyance to nearby residents than do other sources of industrial noise (traffic, railroad yards and airports).”

The panel went on to state that “Turbine noise can lead directly to annoyance and sleep disturbance (primary health effects), or can induce annoyance by degrading amenity. … Chronic noise exposure is a psychosocial stressor that can induce maladaptive psychological responses and negatively impact health via interactions between the autonomic nervous system, the neuroendocrine system, and the immune system.”  In contemporary medicine, annoyance is a precise technical term describing a mental state characterized by distress and aversion, which if maintained, can lead to a deterioration of health and well-being (WHO, 2011).  Some of the documented effects of chronic stress include elevated blood pressure, increased risk of heart disease, stroke, mood disorders, migraines and other illnesses. Brain imaging studies reveal stress-related shrinking hippocampi, which affects both memory and anxiety.  Without bothering to investigate the origin of the multiple health complaints associated with IWTs from around the world, the panel concluded that, in the literature, there was “scant evidence” of adverse health effects,   However, Governor Patrick acknowledged “the need to study health impacts from ‘annoyance’ for residents near turbines.”

Since 1999, all Massachusetts citizens have contributed to the Renewable Energy Trust Fund via monthly energy bill surcharges which in 2009, the governor transferred to the MassCEC (Clean Energy Center).  Their mandate is as follows:

MassCEC is committed to leveraging Massachusetts’ outstanding resources      in academic research, technology entrepreneurship, and workforce skills to  accelerate growth of the clean energy industry”

In its partnership with the Conservation Law Foundation, MassCEC also promulgated the goal of ensuring public health in its projects.

Beacon Hill sits next to one of the greatest hubs of medical and scientific research institutions in the world (MIT, Harvard Medical School, Massachusetts General Hospital to name a few), and the people of Falmouth live only an hour away.  It strikes us as odd that the Commonwealth has refused to allocate some of the available multi-millions at MassCEC to follow the mandate to do research and look into the health implications of Industrial Wind Turbines.  Unintended consequences from the industrial development of DDT, PCBs, trans-fats, and a number of FDA approved medications that have lead to many personal injury and class action lawsuits should have taught us something.

It is time for the Commonwealth to use its many educational and scientific resources available to examine and resolve the medical problems that appear to be related to IWTs in Massachusetts.  We don’t yet have any answers.  It’s time we got some.

Submitted by:

John Cowl MD, Pembroke, MA, Board Certified Psychiatrist and Distinguished Life Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association

Stephanie Beling, MD, Integrative Medicine, Lenox, MA

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. jim mize permalink
    July 8, 2012 8:36 am

    I continue to read and hear how wind energy can reduce our dependence on foreign oil. Well we use very little oil in this country for electric generation, mostly in backup generators. We use coal, hydroelectric, natural gas, and nuclear.

    We do not use overseas oil for electric generation – I hope two times is the charm.

    As for Boone Pickens – what a snake oil salesman. He got a lot of people excited about wind energy with his website, videos, and appearances but quickly dropped it when he could not get the govt to back his little project.

    Wind turbines require enormous investment for something that by some estimates only works at 30% of capacity and still requires a more expensive backup power plant to fill in the times when there is no wind.

    Maybe someday solar power cells will be more efficient in the future but right now they typically convert only 25% of the suns rays to electricity.

    Until then we need to conserve work on cleaner coal and build more natural gas and yes nuclear. It can be done safely just don’t build them near fault lines and have backup safety plans, the japanese did neither.

    • August 4, 2012 12:29 am

      For wind energy:The wind blows and it’s freeRisks:People start to beevlie that “renewable energy ” such as wind can solve the long term electric energy needs of the US and the world. The need for base load generation and consistent reliable peak load generation will always be needed ( well at least for a 100 years) renewable energy can not supply consistent reliable base or peak capabilities.

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