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Reader’s view: Wind turbine  

Credit:  Duxbury Clipper, eduxbury.com 14 December 2011 ~~

I have been a resident of Duxbury for 12 years and have never written a letter to The Clipper. However, I feel the need to address some important issues regarding the siting of a wind turbine in our community.

There are studies that indicate the potential for health hazards when wind turbines are sited too close to residential neighborhoods. Several studies recommend a 1.24 mile setback. Others may exist that advise adhering to less restrictive setbacks. However, when it comes to the safety, health and well-being of my young children, I must err on the side of caution. There are currently three sites within the North Hill Marsh Reservation (NHMR) that are being considered for construction of wind turbine facilities. Wind 1, in Falmouth, Mass. was shut down in November, 2011 due to harmful health impacts experienced by abutters, some living within 1,350 feet of one wind turbine. The Falmouth Board of Health has acknowledged these ailments, which include, nausea, vertigo, ear pressure and sleep disturbance. In fact, Falmouth Selectman David Braga visited the turbine area six times in one day during the month of October, 2010 from midnight to 6 a.m. to determine if the complaints about the turbine were justified. The following was his conclusion: “We have to do something for these people, the sooner the better.” (capenews.net March 1, 2011). Additionally, the result of Wind 1’s shut down will cost Falmouth taxpayers, thousands, if not millions, of dollars if it continues to be inoperable.

In 2009, a preliminary study of potential wind turbine sites within the town of Duxbury was completed by the firm DNV-GEC. The following is taken directly from their feasibility study (page 32):

“In addition to the setbacks specified in the draft bylaws described above, DNV-GEC recommends other safety setbacks be applied. Wind turbines, like other forms of energy generating equipment, are operating pieces of machinery that can experience catastrophic failures. Although very rare, the potential for fire, structural failure, or control system failure must be considered in evaluating potential project risks. DNV-GEC considers elementary, middle, and high school campuses, like other areas highly frequented by the public (sports fields and recreation areas), to be particularly sensitive locations for potential wind turbine placement from a safety and setback perspective.”

This raises the question, Why is a wind turbine facility even being considered at the NHMR? A second feasibility study delivered in October 2011 by Sustainable Energy Development (SED) states the following:

“The North Hill area has many recreational uses and numerous trails throughout. The NHGC is a prominent recreational facility owned by the Town of Duxbury within proximity to the proposed development.” (page 26) “The proposed site would be within 30 meters (100 feet) of the NHGC (North Hill Golf Club) and 60 meters (200 feet) from the North Hill Marsh Pond Loop, a hiking trail that encircles the marsh” (page 30). Wind Turbine Facilities should not be sited near any school or recreational area anywhere in the town of Duxbury.

As stated by the DNV-GEC report, wind turbines do have the potential to catch fire, and experience catastrophic and operational failures. Is the Duxbury Fire Department equipped to deal with a potential catastrophic event, such as a fire hundreds of feet in the air that could potentially spread throughout our town forest and precious conservation areas?

Further, in the 2011 SED report, the following is noted: “The sound propagation report demonstrates that sound from the wind turbine at any of the three locations would be audible to some residences. The shadow flicker impact assessment demonstrates that there will be some shadow effects from a wind turbine to neighboring residences.” Is it acceptable that any area of town should be expected to sacrifice for the greater good? Is this the price of good “clean energy?”

The Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program have listed the majority of the NHMR as a Priority Habitat. There are several endangered species occupying this area, as well as other species of conservation concern. Further troubling is that a minimum of seven acres of forest will need to be cleared to accommodate the siting of one wind turbine facility (confirmed by Kevin Schulte of SED at the October Alternative Energy Committee [AEC] meeting). Additionally, the NHMR has many areas of conservation within the parcel. One of these areas is the Waiting Hill Preserve, 120 acres preserved for aquifer protection. This aquifer provides much of Duxbury’s drinking water. Another is the North Hill Wildlife Sanctuary. One proposed turbine site is approximately 580 feet from the property boundary.

According to the SED feasibility study, the total cost of installing one wind turbine will be in excess of $2 million. Financial projections estimate that the town of Duxbury may incur a savings of approximately $22 per household per year. Does this justify the potential risks associated with this project?

The AEC has received $80,000 in grant money from the state of Massachusetts to study siting a wind turbine in the town of Duxbury. At the Nov. 28 Board of Selectmen’s meeting, the board voted that the AEC withdraw any consideration of a warrant article for the 2012 town meeting. Despite this explicit instruction, the AEC has already submitted a warrant article for town meeting that will ask residents to spend more money on further wind turbine studies.

On March 10, 2010, the Wellfleet Board of Selectmen (5) voted unanimously to suspend work on a single proposed wind turbine project on the National Seashore. The following is a quote from Jacqui Wildes Beebe, Wellfleet Selectman, “I think we all decided that while we need to pursue forms of alternative energy for the town, Wellfleet really is not the place for a power plant, however benign it may be compared to other power plants. We would still be taking great financial risk and destroying a precious part of our rural environment to sell energy to the grid.”

Our Board of Selectmen does have the right to stop this project from moving forward. If they feel this endeavor is not a sound financial investment, or it cannot guarantee every citizen the right to a safe, healthy, quality of life, it would be negligent of them to continue to pursue such a project.

Ellen M. Nolan

Hound’s Ditch Lane

Source:  Duxbury Clipper, eduxbury.com 14 December 2011

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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