Marblehead – A lawyer hired by a group of Marblehead and Salem residents concerned about a proposed wind turbine on Salem’s Winter Island is hoping that the Marblehead Board of Selectmen will become actively engaged with the issue.
In a letter dated Sept. 30, 2011, Westborough-based attorney Christopher Senie asked the selectmen to “consider making contact with the Salem mayor and City Council to request the completion of an independent acoustical analysis” of the Winter Island proposal.
The request comes after Senie and his clients commissioned their own study, which found that the city’s noise study had deviated from practices recommended by the state Department of Environmental Protection for such studies, among other perceived shortcomings.
Senie is representing a group calling itself Salem Wind, which as of Sept. 22 comprised eight Marblehead residents and 11 Salem residents. The Marblehead residents live in the Naugus Head area, directly across the harbor from and, in some cases, with a clear view of the proposed turbine site. Senie’s clients include Holly and John Trautman and Laurie and Peter Dragonas of Kenneth Road, Matt Herring, Peter Carlton and James Flannigan of Naugus Avenue; and Patricia Pollard of Sparhawk Terrace.
The Naugus Head area is well within a 1.25-mile radius that Senie notes “many acoustical engineers and doctors around the world are suggesting be maintained between this kind of turbine and residential areas.” Residents within that radius would be most at risk of feeling the effects of “aerodynamic amplitude modulation,” which Senie described in a Sept. 22 letter to Salem Mayor Kimberley Driscoll and the Salem City Council as a “distressing sound pressure,” which has led to widespread complaints in other communities where wind turbines have been sited.
Senie, who notes in his letter to Salem officials that he has also represented neighborhood groups opposing turbines in a number of communities, including Brewster, Bourne, Wareham, Falmouth, Plymouth and Dartmouth, explained that the 1.5-megawatt, 389-foot-tall turbine proposed for Winter Island would have blades that would sweep an area equating to more than an acre of land.
“A Boeing 747 could fit within the circle,” he writes.
Salem Wind believes the wind-turbine proposal has not considered adequately the health affects on nearby residents and that other alternative energy resources should be explored.
“Wind turbines do not belong in densely populated areas where residents would be barraged with constant noise, flickering light and sweeping shadows from the turning blades,” said Ed Moriarity of Winter Island Road in Salem, president of Salem Wind. “We have listened to the city of Salem’s proposal and understand the need for alternative sources of renewable energy. However, there is well-documented evidence that the proposed wind turbine on Winter Island would be harmful to residents in Salem and Marblehead.”
Senie notes that Salem and Marblehead are far denser than where most of the country’s wind turbines are sited.
“Three quarters of the total installed megawatts of wind energy in the United States are located in states with population densities of less than 100 people per square mile. Over 99 percent are located in states with population densities of less than 500 people per square mile,” he explained. “The population density of Massachusetts is over 800 people per square mile. In Salem, it is over 5,000 people per square mile. A turbine suited to the Texas Panhandle, where a wind-turbine developer may have thousands of acres of land to work with, does not fit in Salem, especially on Winter Island Park.”
Salem Wind engaged acoustic experts Robert Rand and Steve Ambrose to review the city’s acoustical analysis, which attempted both to measure existing “ambient” sound levels and predict the amount of additional sound generated by the proposed turbine. Rand and Ambrose identified what they feel are a number of shortcomings in the city’s study, including with its testing methodology and its failure to account for the disparate impact on coastal homes from sound emanating from the wind turbine, which would be traveling mostly over water.
Rand and Ambrose’s study concludes that the city’s study “appears to under-predict the sound level at receptors by 4-5 [decibels] over land and 5-12 [decibels] over water.”
Rand and Ambrose noted their preliminary findings with respect to the Winter Island proposal are consistent with the disparity between predicted and actual acoustic impacts from turbine projects that have come to fruition in the last two years. The pair predicted the negative public reaction that would greet the Salem turbine, should it come online, would match that which has already been seen in Falmouth and three towns in Maine: Mars Hill, Freedom and Vinalhaven. An evaluation of the potential adverse community response should be part of the permitting process, they argued.
A full copy of Rand-Ambrose review, along with a letter to the mayor of Salem and the City Council from attorney Senie, is available at salemwind.org.
Senie also expressed an interest in being placed on the agenda of an upcoming Marblehead Board of Selectmen meeting to brief the board on the turbine issue.
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