More than 100 concerned citizens from Somerset and Cambria counties attended an education forum on wind energy Thursday night at the Living/Learning Center at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown campus.
The forum, hosted by Citizens for Sensible Wind Power, informed residents on the potential negative impacts that could be generated from the installation and lack of regulation of wind turbines within the region.
The event addressed issues such as tax incentives, health impacts, the impact on the environment and local economy.
Guest speaker Dan Boone, a conservation biologist, reported on the inefficiency of wind energy and its lack of reduction in the consumption of fossil fuels.
While ridge tops may be seen as the best area for wind turbines, Boone said that there is seven times more potential wind energy off the shore of the mid-Atlantic coast.
Boone added that Pennsylvania is a prime target for wind development since the state requires no permit process for wind energy plants.
“This leaves all the decisions to be made up to the township supervisors,” he said.
Even though wind energy creates benefits by reducing the amount of pollution from coal power plants and produces a clean source of energy, there are various negative consequences to the environment, especially wildlife, noted Boone.
Installing wind turbines in this region will cause a detrimental affect on migratory birds and bat populations and will cause habitat fragmentation among wildlife, his said.
“This is the greatest threat to our forest area.”
The forum also focused on the potential heath and wellness issues from wind turbines. Windber Medical Center’s Dr. Kelly Warshel lectured on the effects from wind turbine syndrome.
Possible health effects include sleep disorders, headaches, anxiety and depression to name a few.
Warshel noted that sleep problems is the most significant health problem associated with wind turbines, and attributed the noise level to be one of the leading factors causing sleep disturbance.
The noise generated from wind turbines produce a low frequency sound which is not audible by the human ear, she said.
The noise is usually felt through vibrations or the constant pulsing sound generated from the rotation of the blades, she explained.
The World Health Organization recommends the noise level not to exceed 45 decibels.
Warshel encouraged municipalities to adopt an ordinance that meets the needs of land, wildlife and people.
The forum also included testimonials from Meyersdale residents Todd Hutzell and Karen Ervin, who live near wind turbines.
BY Jennifer Garlesky
Daily American Correspondent
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