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State Recognizes Turbine Noise

February 10, 2013
Neil Andersen, on right, discusses a point with Andy Brydges before meeting. Photo by Kurt Tramposch.

Neil Andersen, on right, discusses a point with Andy Brydges before meeting. Photo by Kurt Tramposch.

“There is a different quality of noise generated by turbines.” Department of Environmental Protection Deputy Commissioner Martin Suuberg is quoted by Ariel Wittenberg in her South Coast Today piece “State to consider turbine-specific noise regulations” (1/8/13).

His remarks at the municipal wind conference at UMass Dartmouth on Thursday, February 7, 2013 also acknowledged that despite widespread claims, the panel which released a draft report in January 2012 is “still reviewing commentary it received on that review and will next be looking at noise regulations.”

But while more analysis is welcome, Fairhaven’s Louise Barteau voiced concerns at the meeting that regardless of health or other considerations, the state’s goal of 2,000 MW of wind by 2020 will take precedence over the setbacks needed to protect residents from harm. Those distances are at least 4600 feet or 1.4 kilometers as established by the Nissenbaum, Aramini, Hanning study of Maine turbine impacts.

Whenever concerns are acknowledged, as Suuberg did at this pro-development meeting, state spokespeople like State Undersecretary of Energy Barbara Kates-Garnick fires back with deceptive arguments.

[Kates-Garnick] said the benefits of turbines outweigh the negatives, and that emissions from traditional fuels such as coal have other effects, like asthma and learning disabilities.

“Many of you claim health effects from turbines, but the fact is there are many health effects from more traditional energy that people are suffering from now,” she said.

The science on IWTs is just starting to come in, but it suggests health effects may range from heart disease to suicidal depression. Meanwhile coal-fired plants in Massachusetts have been shutting down and those in operation have reduced production as use of natural gas plants increases. (Unlike coal and nuclear, these are capable of ramping up and down to offset demand when wind and solar supplies are not sufficient. The shale extraction boom has lowered the cost of natural gas significantly, making these plants more economically viable. Natural gas produces minimal carbon dioxide emissions).

It is unfortunate that the people who really know something about wind turbines–the people who live among them–are never invited on the “educational” panels discussing wind development. Instead their questions, observations and concerns are tolerated and then dismissed.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Chris Kapsambelis permalink
    February 11, 2013 12:31 pm

    The state’s panel that did the Wind Turbine Health Impact Study identified three category levels of “Best Practices”:
    1. Research Validated
    2. Field Tested
    3. Promising
    They identified standards more stringent than ours be adopted as Category 3 (Promising), while testing and researching to improve the standards to level 2, and finally to level 1.

    It appears that the MassDEP is ignoring this recommendation while debating internally the process that would take them directly to Category 1.

    It has been more than one year since the publication of the Health Impact Study. It has been three years since the first widespread complaints were filed in Falmouth. While Mr Suuberg was refreshingly clear of his understanding of all the technical parameters affecting wind turbine noise impacts, It must be clear to everyone involved that the MassDEP and the Executive Office of Environmental Affairs (EOEA) is years away from providing any relief for those currently impacted and those that will be impacted in the coming years.

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