BARRINGTON – Both the House and Senate have separately approved legislation that would allow communities to erect wind turbines where they can generate the most electricity, and not just in locations where the power will be used, Sen. David Bates, R-Barrington, said yesterday.
At least one of those bills must be signed by Governor Carcieri before they become law.
In Barrington, the change would mean that the town would no longer have to put its proposed wind turbine at the high school, where it would be adjacent to some of the athletic fields and the school building.
The school property was selected as the best site because it has enough wind to make the turbine economical and the school is the town’s biggest consumer of electricity. The current law only makes wind power profitable if communities that generate electricity use it at the site.
The new legislation would remove that limitation by establishing what is known as a “net metering” system, where the town can generate power at one location and get credit for the electricity it produces at other town-owned buildings.
Town Manager Peter DeAngelis said one site that has been discussed is at the end of Legion Way, on a small peninsula that extends into Brickyard Pond.
Climate maps show the average wind speed there to be faster than at the high school site.
The town is getting an interest-free federal loan to finance most of the project.
DeAngelis said yesterday that he has contacted federal officials to see if the town could shift the location of the turbine without losing the loan.
“Our initial conversations have been favorable,” he said.
DeAngelis said the Legion Way site would put the turbine about 1,000 feet from any residence.
But that may not be enough for some of the wind-power critics who have tried to rally local opposition since voters overwhelmingly approved the 328-foot-tall turbine at last month’s Financial Town Meeting.
Members of a group calling itself Citizens’ Wind Watch of Barrington have begun handing out fliers saying that no turbine of that size should be constructed within 1 1/4 mile of “homes, schools and other places where people learn, live or sleep.”
Although the group claims it supports renewable energy, that restriction would prohibit the construction of any large wind turbine in Barrington, which is less than five miles from Nockum Hill to Rumstick Point.
The handout suggests, without citing a source, that up to 1 in 100 turbines lose at least one blade per year, posing a safety hazard.
In addition, the group cites unnamed “independent medical experts” who say the turbines can cause headaches, sleep disturbances, dizziness, nausea, heart problems, irritability, ringing in the ears, memory problems, concentration problems, and “a sense of penetrating vibration, or pulsation inside the human body, especially the chest, and these sensations can be accompanied by anxiety, compulsion to flee the environment, and even night terrors in young children.”
And there’s more.
The group says that sunlight flashing through the blades can produce a stroboscopic effect that “can cause body disharmony” and may lead to nausea, dizziness, disorientation and seizures.
To back up their claims, the group cites the Web site of Nina Pierpont, a New York pediatrician who says she discovered “Wind Turbine Syndrome” and recommends that turbines, in some cases, be located as far as three miles from homes.
Scientists are usually regarded as experts in a field only after they have authored studies that have been published in scientific or medical journals, where other experts have reviewed the findings for accuracy.
But Pierpont’s four-page résumé lists no research articles on turbines or their effect on health.
Barrington’s wind-energy committee, in contrast, has repeatedly insisted that the turbines are safe, citing their widespread use.
Barrington’s Citizens’ Wind Watch group, most of who live near the high school, was handing out the flier at Thursday’s School Committee meeting.
During the meeting, with a ceiling fan rapidly spinning above their heads, they urged committee members to withdraw their permission to erect the turbine at the high school because of the danger it could pose.
“This is going to have a profound negative effect on the students,” predicted critic Ron Russo, who said last night he was unfamiliar with the medical issues but objects to a 328-foot-tall structure being just 190 feet away from a school.
School Committee chairman Patrick “Buzz” Guida said his group had been assured by the town’s wind-energy committee that the location would not pose a safety problem, but would reconsider if the site continues to be the high school and if real evidence of a hazard surfaces.
By C. Eugene Emery Jr.
Journal Staff Writer
25 June 2008