People living near wind turbines in Meyersdale, Pa., as well as near the Mountaineer Wind Energy Center, W.Va., have reported a number of health and quality of life issues stemming from noise and light pollution. Health problems include sleep deprivation, headaches, dizziness, unsteadiness, nausea, exhaustion, anxiety, anger, irritability, depression, problems with concentration and learning, and ringing in the ears.
Noises produced by turbines are present all the time, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and can vary with the time of day and year, atmospheric conditions, wind direction and velocity, and lay of the land, as well as wind facility size. Audible sounds include rhythmic “thumping” or continual “droning” and a “screech-ing” or “banging.” Low-frequency sound can actually be felt by particular people rather than being heard, manifesting itself as a low-frequency vibration that is more a sensation than a noise. Residents in Appalachian valleys have reported sleep-disturbing noise levels from turbines 1.5 miles away, while others reported noise pollution up to 3-5 miles away. Noise is especially noticeable in quiet rural areas, where a 10-decibel increase over ambient levels represents a subjective doubling of noise levels.
Another problem affecting residents living near turbines is the “light or shadow flicker” caused by the sun shining behind the rotating turbine blades. This situation can occur at different times of the day and year, depending on orientation of the sun, turbine, and home, and is comparable to turning room lights on and off repeatedly. This visual pollution can range from merely annoying to some people getting dizzy, losing their balance, or even becoming nauseated. People who suffer from migraines or who are epileptic often have their condition made worse by this strobe effect.
In summary, there is high potential for noise and visual effects adversely affecting the health and quality of life of residents near wind turbines. To prevent this occurrence, realistic setbacks or buffer zones need to be established by health and government agencies. Setback recommendations have ranged up to 1.5 miles between industrial wind turbines and homes, schools, and hospitals. There may still be health and quality of life problems caused by wind turbines beyond this radius, even 1.5 to 3 miles away. These people should be compensated for any infringement on their human rights attributed to industrial wind turbines affecting “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
John E. Gates
7 February 2008
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