I moved to North Kingstown with my wife three years ago for a better quality of life for us in hopes of raising a family in the future. However, even with the real estate market downturn, I am now contemplating the possibility of moving out of North Kingstown. This is because of the proposed (one approved) industrial size wind turbines being built in what I thought to be a beautiful community.
There are many positive benefits living in North Kingstown, however, I did not think I would be faced with the possibility of having 400 foot wind turbines being built near I live. At first, I was unsure what I thought about wind turbines being built nearby. I am “pro-green.” I am all for alternative energy. I want to be energy independent and off foreign oil. However, after objective research into the subject of wind turbines I find very little benefit for the residents of North Kingstown and wind turbines have no impact on our oil dependence.
The positives: power from the turbine. Sounds good, until you look at the negatives: constant audible noise, reduced property values, ice throw, shadow flicker, low frequency noise, safety issues, and ultimately the health problems. The health problems are being debated and I could give you studies from medical experts (and paid experts from the wind industry dispute these claims), but there are enough people who live nearby wind turbines who are suffering from effects that it is a major concern. For argument’s sake, even if you say 20 percent are being fanatical, overly sensitive or experiencing the placebo effect, where does that leave the other 80 percent? From heart problems, sleep deprivation, dizziness, unsteadiness, nausea, exhaustion, anxiety, anger, irritability, depression, problems with concentration and learning, tinnitus, etc., the list of reported complaints goes on and on.
These issues are not just Internet-hyped urban legends, these problems are real and the cases are growing. Neil Andersen, who lives less than 1,500 feet from Wind 1 in Falmouth, Massachusetts has publicly stated he has considered suicide because of the noise, and he is not the only one. At the tips, the three blades are spinning anywhere from 150 to 200 mph, and the diameter of the blades at the two North Kingstown locations are larger than a Boeing 747 jumbo jet.
Additionally, the effect on wildlife is substantial. The American Bird Conservancy estimates hundreds of thousands of birds and bats are killed every year from the spinning blades of wind turbines. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over 440,000 birds are killed each ear. The number of bat deaths is estimated to be two to three times that number. The list of negatives just keeps growing.
Property values are also severely impacted. There are many factors to consider such as the distance from the turbine, audible noise, visual impact, etc. However, it is a fact that property value negative impact could be as little as a five percent reduction from market value to an astounding 40 percent. This has been such a problem in Denmark, known as a world leader of wind power, that wind turbine owners are being forced to pay compensation to homeowners impacted with a property value loss. I have already lost 20 percent of my home value since the buying in 2008, I can not afford another 20 percent or more. Electricity rates will not be lowered for the residents of North Kingstown and in communities with wind turbines they have had electricity rates increase. Speaking of finances, there are so many subsidies given to owners, developers, and manufactures of wind turbines a significant cost of the turbine falls on the back of taxpayers due to the subsidies and tax breaks.
Then there is the setback issue. Communities around the United States and the world are each wrangling with the issue of setbacks and not one has it “figured out.” A majority of Europe has setbacks over 2,000 feet. The French Academy of Medicine recommends a 4,921 foot setback. In Wisconsin, with over 300 wind turbines and the center of much public debate and outcry for increased setbacks due to all the issues I have already listed, long-awaited state-wide regulations on wind turbines were enacted into law back in December 2010 with a setback minimum of 1,250 feet. However, since that regulation was drafted it has been determined a 1,250 foot setback is still too short and it is proposed to be increased to 1,800 feet property line to property line, which is endorsed by the Wisconsin Realtors Association. Even a 1,800-foot setback is not enough for environmental leader Tom Stacy, executive director of Save Western Ohio. He says even the 1,800-foot setback “is not sufficient to mitigate noise annoyance. The noise annoyance/sleep disturbance fall-off distance is more like three quarters of a mile (4,000 ft.).” Ontario, Canada has a minimum setback of 1,800 feet and it is being challenged in court to be increased. North Kingstown’s setback for a 427-foot turbine is currently 265 feet. This is absurdly short and I hope it is increased to at least what scientists and other communities dealing with turbine issues deem to be safe, 2,000 feet to one mile.
I have attended public meetings since December 2010 on the wind turbine issue and it has been quite the display. I have seen only one meeting where the general public was allowed to speak on the issue when the public was assured there would be future meetings where the public’s voice could be heard. At times during these meetings, I frankly have questioned if the North Kingstown “powers that be” have the interests of the residents they represent as their number one priority on this issue. From what I understand, during a window of opportunity when the setbacks were set to the height of the hub of a turbine, the developer submitted applications for the turbines at North Kingstown Green and Stamp Farm. Afterwards, a moratorium was put into place. However, these applications are grandfathered and still active.
Common sense needs to prevail and the brakes need to be put on these applications. The town and/or the state needs to step up with logical and safe regulations regarding these commercial-grade turbines/power plants and in the meantime, exercise pause before it is too late. As I travel Route 4 south the top third of the 200-foot crane being used at the Wickford Junction train station construction site is seen towering over the treetops. This crane can be seen from well over a mile away and it is hard to believe in a matter of months there might be a 430-foot turbine (more than double the size of the crane) spinning literally over the heads of the residents of North Kingstown Green. Then on Route 2 south there might be another one of these power plants spinning a stone’s throw from residential houses. Where is the common sense?
We, the residents of North Kingstown, need you to take a stand and do what is right for the residents of this community and stop these turbines from being built. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of communities struggling with the issue of safe wind turbine setbacks. People are protesting these commercial-grade power plants being within 12 miles of the shoreline up and down the east coast of the US and North Kingstown might have them within a football field of houses and neighborhoods? What? Are you kidding me? Please, show us some leadership and prevent these from being built.
I do not want to move within a few years because my town allowed the financial interests of a developer to be put first before the well being of its residents.
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