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Turbines put finances in front of people

In their quest to go green, save energy and make money while doing so, many communities are turning to wind turbines.

Turbines as alternative energy sources have generated controversy, however, stemming from a lack of consensus over what constitutes safe setbacks from a turbine to the nearest home before residents begin to experience the numerous adverse health effects from noise from their rotors and gear box. As a result, communities are establishing regulations to fit their own needs, and potentially putting some residents in harm’s way.

There is a wealth of documentation, research, studies and interviews with residents living near turbines as proof that these adverse health effects are not faked or exaggerated. Dr. Nina Pierpont’s interviews on YouTube with Falmouth residents living with Wind 1 are just one example.

Turbine proponents and those in the wind power industry tend to dismiss claims of adverse health effects, to the point of nearly denying them, and even may discredit any information gathered to the contrary, along with those compiling this information.

Dartmouth’s wind turbine project was less than six weeks from a signed contract, and construction was to begin before year’s end, to enable the developer to take 2011 tax credits, when it was terminated by the Select Board. Adverse health effects to residents was not highlighted as the board’s reason for termination, however.

It was money.

With the drop in net metering, turbines were no longer profitable, and with the prospect of an extended, costly lawsuit brought against the town by neighbors who would be living in close proximity to the turbines, termination appeared the wisest course of action. (Dartmouth is continuing its work with the more profitable solar power as an alternative energy source.)

NIMBYism was not the reason these residents opposed the turbines. Fear, not only for their own health and safety, but for all Dartmouth residents who might find themselves in the position of living with a turbine as a neighbor, was the reason for their opposition.

Although these residents won their battle over turbines in their neighborhood, other Dartmouth residents are just beginning their struggle.

On a beautiful, serene stretch of Smith Neck Road, residents have learned of a neighbor’s intent to construct a turbine on private property.

Abutting neighbors hope to sufficiently convince the Select Board, the authority granting the special permit needed for the turbine’s construction, that adverse consequences to health and quality of life are a documented reality of inappropriate siting in neighborhoods, and that a permit should not be granted.

A community has the obligation and responsibility to provide both a financially stable and a healthy, safe living environment for its residents. When a community enters into a project or approves a private project that lends itself to potential for harm to residents, there is an essential need to place the human factor foremost in its decision making, because profit should not come before people.

Beverly Days lives in South Dartmouth.