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Documents presented here are not the product of nor are they necessarily endorsed by National Wind Watch. These resource documents are provided to assist anyone wishing to research the issue of industrial wind power and the impacts of its development. The information should be evaluated by each reader to come to their own conclusions about the many areas of debate.


Date added:  February 21, 2018
Health, Noise, OntarioPrint storyE-mail story

There’s a Persistent Hum in This Canadian City, and No One Knows Why

Author:  Mele, Christopher

A persistent noise of unknown origin, sometimes compared to a truck idling or distant thunder, has bedeviled a Canadian city for years, damaging people’s health and quality of life, numerous residents say.

Those who hear it have compared it to a fleet of diesel engines idling next to your home or the pulsation of a subwoofer at a concert. Others report it rattling their windows and spooking their pets.

Known as the Windsor Hum, this sound in Windsor, Ontario, near Detroit, is unpredictable in its duration, timing and intensity, making it all the more maddening for those affected.

“You know how you hear of people who have gone out to secluded places to get away from certain sounds or noises and the like?” Sabrina Wiese posted in a private Facebook group dedicated to finding the source of the noise.

“I’ve wanted to do that many times in the past year or so because it has gotten so bad,” she wrote. “Imagine having to flee all you know and love just to have a chance to hear nothing humming in your head for hours on end.”

Since reports of it surfaced in 2011, the hum has been studied by the Canadian government, the University of Western Ontario and the University of Windsor.

Activists have done their own sleuthing.

Over six years, Mike Provost of Windsor, who helps run the Facebook page, has amassed more than 4,000 pages of daily observations about the duration, intensity and characteristics of the sound and the weather conditions at the time.

He has had to fend off skeptics and theorists who believe that the hum is related to secret tunneling, U.F.O.s or covert government operations, he said.

Mr. Provost, a retired insurance salesman, said his work was a blend of obsession and hobby. “I’ve got to keep going,” he said in a phone interview. “I’m not going to quit this.”

The hum is not limited to Windsor, a city of about 220,000 people on the Detroit River. Mr. Provost said he had received reports from McGregor, Ontario, 20 miles to the south, and from east of Cleveland, about 90 miles away.

Tracey Ramsey, a member of the Canadian House of Commons, said in a phone interview that she regularly gets calls from constituents about the health effects of the hum. Residents have complained of headaches, sleeplessness, irritability and depression, among other symptoms.

“It’s something they are desperate for an answer to,” she said.

Tracing the noise’s origins is complicated by who hears it, and when and where.

Tim Carpenter, a retired consulting engineer who specialized in geotechnical engineering and machine vibrations and is an administrator of the Facebook page, says not everyone can hear it.

“It’s as if you had a fire hose moving back and forth and the people who have the water falling on them hear the noise, and if you’re outside that stream, you don’t hear the noise,” he said.

Researchers have found no trends related to gender or age for the “hearers.”

Dr. Darius Kohan, the director of otology and neurotology at Lenox Hill Hospital and Manhattan Eye, Ear and Throat Hospital, said that the low-frequency hum was unlikely to cause long-term hearing damage but that it could be as debilitating as tinnitus, a persistent ringing in the ears.

Scott Barton, an assistant professor of music at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts, said in a phone interview that infrasound, which is below 20 hertz, can create a sense of unease because it is unintelligible to human hearing but still detectable. While it is possible to be accustomed to certain noises (the hum of an air-conditioner, for example), this low-frequency noise is challenging because it has been so inconsistent, he said.

Seeking intervention by government regulators for the hum is difficult because regulations typically address decibel levels that can lead to hearing loss or damage, not those that can affect quality of life, Rebecca Smith, a sound engineer and doctoral student at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, who researches urban noise, wrote in an email.

“Think about the sound of a dog barking,” she said. “It doesn’t need to be loud enough to physically damage you to be really annoying and distracting.”

The University of Windsor report said the hum’s likely source was blast furnace operations on Zug Island on the Detroit River, which is densely packed with manufacturing. Activists complained that United States Steel, which operates the furnaces, has been uncooperative and secretive. A company spokeswoman did not respond to requests for comment.

A principal investigator on the study, Professor Colin Novak, told CBC News in 2014 that researchers needed more time and cooperation from the American authorities to pinpoint the source. “It’s like chasing a ghost,” he said.

Hums similar to Windsor’s have been reported in at least a dozen communities worldwide, including in Australia, England and Scotland, the study said. In the United States, high-profile hums have been reported in Taos, N.M., and Kokomo, Ind.

Researchers studied the Taos hum in 1993 but did not pinpoint a source. Karina Armijo, the town’s director of marketing and tourism, said in a telephone interview that complaints had subsided.

“I have never heard the Taos hum, but I’ve heard stories of the Taos hum,” she said. “There’s not been a lot of buzz about it in the last few years.”

A 2003 study in Kokomo by the acoustics and vibration consulting company Acentech prompted two industrial plants to install silencing equipment, providing relief to some residents but not all, a 2008 paper about the study said.

“In fact, one affected resident had become so disturbed that she moved more than 700 miles away to relieve her symptoms,” it said.

Mr. Carpenter said it was possible a major source of the Windsor hum could be eliminated and other mechanical sources would replace it, entering the “heard spectrum.”

“It’s possible that no matter what is done to relieve or attenuate the noise, it might never be enough,” he said.

—Christopher Meele, New York Times, Feb. 19, 2018

[NWW note:  This story is reproduced here because the complaints are the same that many neighbors of large wind turbines make, and here they – as well as the physiologic effects of infrasound and low-frequency noise and the intrusive nature of pulsing noise (amplitude modulation), even at relatively low levels – are taken seriously. It might also be noted that across Lake St. Clair from Windsor there are hundreds of large wind turbines.]

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Date added:  February 15, 2018
ContractsPrint storyE-mail story

Evaluating a Wind Energy Agreement: A Brief Review

Author:  Tidgren, Kristine

We’ve recently received a number of inquiries regarding wind energy agreements. This article, while not offering legal advice, is intended to inform landowners as to some of the key legal issues they should consider when evaluating a wind energy agreement proposed by a developer.

According to the American Wind Energy Association, more than 31 percent of Iowa’s in-state electricity generation came from wind in 2015. The Iowa Utilities Board has reported that this is the first time that wind has ever supplied a state with more than 30 percent of its yearly electricity. Sustaining this increase in wind energy output is an increase in wind farm development. When wind farm developers approach landowners about constructing wind turbines on their property, many are left with many questions. Landowners are encouraged to consult with legal counsel and their tax advisors regarding the implications of the agreement they are evaluating. Following are some important considerations.

It’s All in the Contract

The backbone of any wind farm is the wind energy agreement. Every landowner who sells an easement or leases property to a developer does so pursuant to a detailed contract drafted by the developer. It is important that landowners fully understand the rights and obligations detailed in these contracts before signing them. With many of these agreements dictating land usage for the next 50 years or so, it is well worth the expense of hiring an attorney experienced in these matters to review the paperwork before signing. Given the voluntary nature of these projects to date, there may not be a lot of room for negotiation. Even so, landowners should not be afraid to ask for terms that better meet their needs. And landowners should not hesitate to walk away from negotiations if they are not comfortable with the terms offered. Because these contracts often contain a confidentiality clause, landowners usually don’t know the terms of their neighbors’ agreements. As such, it is sometimes difficult to evaluate the fairness of a financial offer.

Lease v. Easement

One sometimes confusing element of wind energy agreements is the nature of the interest being conveyed. Sometimes the agreement will use the term “lease,” and sometimes it will use the term “easement.” Sometimes the agreement will use the terms interchangeably. Many times, the agreement actually conveys a combination of both. While the two interests are similar, they are legally distinct. An “easement” is a right to use a landowner’s property for a specific purpose. Title to the property remains with the landowner, but the purchaser obtains a limited property interest. Because this is an ongoing interest, an easement is recorded in the county land records. It remains binding upon future owners or occupiers for the term of the easement.

Although an easement can be perpetual, wind energy easements are generally for a term, often between 30 and 50 years. Developers often purchase easements to secure a number of rights, including those for ingress and egress, installing transmission lines and facilities, and accessing unobstructed wind. Called “unobstruction” easements, the latter easement restricts landowners from building or conducting activities on their property that would impact the amount of wind reaching the turbine. An easement is usually nonexclusive, meaning that the landowner may continue to farm or otherwise use the land, subject to the rights conveyed by the easement. Some easements may be temporary. Construction easements, for example, usually allow the developer to travel over a larger portion of the property to build the turbine, but end when the construction phase of the property is complete.

A lease, on the other hand, is a conveyance of an interest in land for a term of years in exchange for a rental payment. Without special language in the lease agreement, a lease typically conveys an exclusive right of possession to the tenant. Developers often seek long-term leases for the small parcel of land on which the turbine is located.

Tax Treatment of Payments

The nature of the interests conveyed and the way the payments are structured impact the tax treatment of the payments. Landowners are strongly encouraged to consult with the tax advisors before signing a wind energy agreement. This will prevent surprises at tax time. Generally, if a landowner receives a payment in exchange for an easement in place for 30 or more years, that transaction—for tax purposes—is treated like a sale of the impacted property. If the price does not exceed the basis (generally, the cost) of the impacted property, the basis is reduced by the amount of the easement payment, and the landowner recognizes no income from the sale. If the amount of the payment exceeds the basis, the amount of the payment in excess of the basis is taxed at capital gains rates if the landowner has owned the property for more than one year.

Payments for short-term easements are taxed like lease payments. Both are taxed at ordinary income rates, not subject to self-employment tax. Payments to compensate farmers for crop damages are taxed as ordinary income, subject to self-employment tax. Because these transactions can be complicated, landowners should always consult with their tax advisors for information on the specific tax implications of any agreement before signing.

Liability Issues

Another key issue for landowners to consider is liability stemming from the construction and operation of wind towers on their property. Landowners should ensure that developers agree in the contract to indemnify them for damages. This should include defending landowners in future lawsuits and compensating them for legal damages incurred because of the wind farm. The agreement should also require the developer to maintain a sufficient amount of liability insurance to protect the landowner. Landowners should review potential tort liability arising because of a wind farm—including nuisance, negligence, and trespass—with their legal advisors and their own insurers.
Property Taxes

Wind farm improvements on a landowners’ property will cause property tax assessments to increase. The agreement should provide that the developer, not the landowner, is responsible for the taxes attributable to the wind farm. Iowa Code § 427B.26 allows counties, by ordinance, to provide for the special valuation of wind energy conversion property, which includes all wind farm facilities, including the wind charger, windmill, wind turbine, tower and electrical equipment, pad mount transformers, power lines and substation. If such an ordinance is passed, the wind conversion property is assessed as follows:

0% of acquisition value for the first year

5% of acquisition value through the sixth year

30% of acquisition value for the seventh and succeeding years

Acquisition value is the acquired cost of the property including all foundations and installation cost less any excess cost adjustment.

Impacted Third Parties

Landowners must not enter into a wind energy agreement without first consulting with and receiving approval from any lenders with a security interest in the property or any tenants farming the land.

A landowner risks accelerating the mortgage if he or she signs an agreement that inadvertently impacts the rights of the lender. Landowners should also ensure that the wind energy agreement will not restrict their ability to encumber the property in the future.

Farm tenants are largely impacted by wind energy agreements. Landowners risk breaching their lease agreements if they enter into a wind energy agreement without the permission of the tenant. While landowners with one-year leases can terminate those leases and renegotiate terms that accommodate the installation of a wind turbine on the property, landlords with multi-year farm leases must engage the tenant in any discussions with a developer. The tenant is in possession of the property for the term of the lease and cannot be displaced. Landowners should consider the impact of the wind farm on future farm tenants as well.

Farm Program Payments

Wind energy agreements can also impact farm program payments. If the land is enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program, for example, the landowner should consult with the Farm Service Agency to determine the impact of the proposed development on the contract. Sometimes developers are interested in buying back contracts or repaying all benefits paid under the contract to release the land from future CRP obligations. Landowners should consult with their advisors to assess any legal obligations stemming from such an approach.

Land Restrictions and Damages

Landowners must also carefully consider the impact of a wind farm on their farming or other activities. Wind turbines can, for example, interfere with GPS technology. Although that is becoming less of a concern as technology advances. Turbines can also prevent aerial spraying. Some agreements allow farmers to schedule times for spraying when the turbines are shut down. Landowners must also ensure that they understand the full scope of the rights and obligations created by the contract. How many turbines can be built? Who controls the exact location of the turbine? What building and use restrictions accompany the agreement? These are just some of the many questions for which landowners should seek answers.

Landowners should also make sure that the agreement fairly compensates them for ongoing damage incurred because of these restrictions or provides that the developer will timely repair damage to the landowner’s property. For example, the agreement should specify that the developer must repair (within a reasonable period of time) any drain tile damaged because of the developer’s activities. The agreement should also provide for repair and/or compensation for soil compaction and similar types of damage.

What about the Neighbors?

In an effort to reduce future problems, developers often enter into agreements with landowners owning property adjacent to the wind turbine sites. Although not legally required, these agreements provide for a smaller stream of payments to these neighbors in exchange for refraining from activities that may interfere with the operation of the wind park. These agreements also lessen the possibility of tort litigation down the road.
Removal of the Tower

Wind energy agreements typically provide that the developer is responsible to remove the tower (up to a certain depth below ground) when the project ends. Landowners should read these provisions carefully and understand at what point this removal obligation is triggered.

Conclusion

This is merely a brief overview of some of the many issues landowners should consider before signing a wind energy agreement. These agreements can provide a stable source of income over a period of many years. They can also increase tax revenue for schools and bring new jobs to an area. However, landowners must understand the long-term consequences of any agreements they sign. Those consequences will impact the landowners, successive owners, and tenants far into the future. Investing in some trusted legal and tax advice before signing such an agreement will likely yield a positive return.

Kristine A. Tidgren
Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation, Iowa State University, Ames
May 19, 2016

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Date added:  February 2, 2018
HealthPrint storyE-mail story

Health effects of wind turbines in working environments – a scoping review

Author:  Freiberg, Alice; et al.

Objectives. The wind industry is a growing economic sector, yet there is no overview summarizing all exposures emanating from wind turbines throughout their life cycle that may pose a risk for workers` health. The aim of this scoping review was to survey and outline the body of evidence around the health effects of wind turbines in working environments in order to identify research gaps and to highlight the need for further research.

Methods. A scoping review with a transparent and systematic procedure was conducted using a comprehensive search strategy. Two independent reviewers conducted most of the review steps.

Results. Twenty articles of varying methodical quality were included. Our findings of the included studies indicate that substances used in rotor blade manufacture (“>epoxy resin and styrene) cause skin disorders, and respectively, respiratory ailments and eye complaints; exposure to onshore wind turbine noise leads to annoyance, sleep disorders, and lowered general health; finally working in the wind industry is associated with a considerable accident rate, resulting in injuries or fatalities.

Conclusions. Due to the different work activities during the life cycle of a wind turbine and the distinction between on- and offshore work, there are no specific overall health effects of working in the wind sector. Previous research has primarily focused on evaluating the effects of working in the wind industry on skin disorders, accidents, and noise consequences. There is a need for further research, particularly in studying the effect of wind turbine work on psychological and musculoskeletal disorders, work-related injury and accident rates, and health outcomes in later life cycle phases.

Freiberg Alice, C. Schefter, M. Girbig, V.C. Murta, and A. Seidler
Boysen TU Dresden Graduate School, Technische Universität Dresden, Germany

Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment, and Health. Published on line Jan 23, 2018. doi: 10.5271/sjweh.3711

Download original document: “Health effects of wind turbines in working environments – a scoping review

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Date added:  January 29, 2018
Germany, Health, NoisePrint storyE-mail story

Understanding stress effects of wind turbine noise – the integrated approach

Author:  Pohl, Johannes; Gabriel, Joachim; and Hübner, Gundula

To better understand causes and effects of wind turbine (WT) noise, this study combined the methodology of stress psychology with noise measurement to an integrated approach. In this longitudinal study, residents of a wind farm in Lower Saxony were interviewed on two occasions (2012, 2014) and given the opportunity to use audio equipment to record annoying noise. On average, both the wind farm and road traffic were somewhat annoying. More residents complained about physical and psychological symptoms due to traffic noise (16%) than to WT noise (10%, two years later 7%). Noise annoyance was minimally correlated with distance to the closest WT and sound pressure level, but moderately correlated with fair planning. The acoustic analysis identified amplitude-modulated noise as a major cause of the complaints. The planning and construction process has proven to be central − it is recommended to make this process as positive as possible. It is promising to develop the research approach in order to study the psychological and acoustic causes of WT noise annoyance even more closely. To further analysis of amplitude modulation we recommend longitudinal measurements in several wind farms to increase the data base ─ in the sense of “Homo sapiens monitoring”.

Johannes Pohl, Joachim Gabriel, and Gundula Hübner
Institute of Psychology (J.P.), Martin-Luther-University Halle-Wittenberg, Halle (Saale); MSH Medical School Hamburg (J.P., G.H.), Hamburg; and UL DEWI (UL International GmbH) (J.G.), Wilhelmshaven, Germany

Energy Policy 112 (2018) 119–128
doi: 10.1016/j.enpol.2017.10.007

Download original document: “Understanding stress effects of wind turbine noise – the integrated approach

[NWW note:  The researchers note that their findings suggest that German emission protection laws are generally effective in establishing adequate setbacks. For “general” residential areas, the noise limit is 40dBA outside at night. For “purely” residential areas, spas, nursing homes, and hospitals it is 35dBA.]

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