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Turbine should be no hasty decision  

Credit:  www.wickedlocal.com 31 December 2010 ~~

Re: Potential sighting of a large-scale commercial wind turbine on Great Hill, Marion

Many Marion and Wareham residents appreciate the publishing of comprehensive and thoughtful articles and letters regarding the consequences of the potential sighting of a large-scale commercial wind turbine on Great Hill, near the Buzzards Bay coastline. These folks have an abiding interest in and love for this unique area of the South Coast of Massachusetts and Buzzards Bay, going back generations. I am sure that this feeling is shared by the thousands of citizens in this little part of the world who live, work and enjoy its many irreplaceable qualities.

Our concern and objective here is to assist in getting a full and accurate picture of what this sort of commercial, industrial-size power plant entails with factual information. In a larger sense, this will help explain the serious effects such a project in operation will mean for the health, safety, quality of life and property values in this area. They are, I believe, quite significant and will be very difficult to restore once they are lost. Many of these issues have been addressed in previous letters you have kindly printed for your readers.

The current investigations of various locations in Marion for possible wind power, to my knowledge, were thought by many of us in the public to be on the scale of having a relatively modest installation to be shared by a few surrounding homes, sort of a cooperative neighborhood effort to add a welcome “green” element to their power usage. The gigantic scale and consequences of having a commercial-size operation was unanticipated until recently. The power that these machines embody is 2,000-2,600 horsepower (1.8-2.0 MW), which is on the scale of a medium-sized locomotive. The height of a typical 250-foot tower atop which the large nacelle and generator is mounted, plus a rotor diameter approaching 300 feet, makes the overall height of the machine and blade arc to be in the 400-foot range above ground level. This is over 50 percent larger than the length of a 747 up on end.

This nacelle, by the way is the size of a large bus. The total height of the turbine installation could be about three times the height of Great Hill itself, making its total height above the nearby Wings Cove and Cromesset of well over 500 feet approach four times that of the natural terrain today. Another aspect is that anything even lower than this height would certainly interest the FAA, as well as the Coast Guard, which can fly life-saving helicopter missions at low altitude in bad weather for any serious marine mishaps in the upper Buzzards Bay region.

Another useful comparison to visualize the scale of the Great Hill “concept” turbine (2 MW) can be made to the currently-operating 660 kW wind turbine at the Mass Maritime Academy (MMA) located near the west end of the Cape Cod Canal.

The area of the Great Hill installation, and its power, are actually about three times larger than the MMA one, which makes its effects greater accordingly.

Others are focusing on the economics, infrasound and serious health and sleep effects, etc. But as far as the visual disturbance created, the huge size is one thing (the tip height of the rotor on the Great Hill model is about 520 feet above sea level, and could be 300 feet wide). However the fact that it is moving greatly increases the visual disturbance and, I believe, long-term human disturbance.

Humans, like all animals, have a built-in ability to instantly be aware of motion and their attention is always drawn powerfully to it, willingly or not, whether or not it represents actual danger. This can make the moving aspect of such a huge installation much more disturbing. Many towns prohibit even small signage from having moving elements, moving lights, etc. Readers might know how distracting and fundamentally obnoxious those can be in inappropriate settings. We seem to be very concerned about things on that scale, but these turbines, thousands of times larger in our most treasured location, seem to escape this as a valid criticism and important issue

Many respected sources are available to describe a range of characteristics and impacts these large machines embody, which address issues of scale, noise, health, economics/subsidies, and the like. As a professional engineer for almost four decades, I believe that I reflect the majority of opinion that industrial-scale installations of this kind be sensibly placed in remote areas. Most around the world are found offshore in the ocean (Denmark, possible future Cape Wind, etc.) or on remote mountain ridges or windy valleys (California, Colorado, etc.) The economics, even with large subsidies (which may not exist in the future), weigh against single installations as well, which is why these locales operate hundreds or more as a group.

In summary, the need to make truly objective tradeoffs regarding possible benefits vs. the range of consequences still needs to be made in the general public forum, not just by a small group, and has many aspects which must be considered, so as not to make a hasty and possibly short-sighted decision.

Stephen J. Kokkins, P.E.

Marion

Source:  www.wickedlocal.com 31 December 2010

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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