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Editorial: Keep wind turbines far from homes

A Massachusetts report last week that concludes there is no evidence to support the existence of “Wind Turbine Syndrome” is welcome news to wind energy proponents. But the study does not invalidate the complaints and suggestions raised by residents who live in their shadow and think that homes and wind turbines are a bad combination.

Like any other power generator, wind turbines come with their own unique set of annoyances and potential dangers. Those who live near them have raised a host of issues ranging from “flicker,” which is annoying reflections from the massive blades, to visual pollution, to the slim potential for turbines to fling huge chunks of ice, or catastrophically fail and explode. Some living near turbines have also complained of ailments such as headaches and sleeplessness.

Over the past few years, a handful of doctors have suggested that the variety of symptoms reported by people who live near wind turbines are in fact a bona fide malady. It’s been dubbed “Wind Turbine Syndrome,” caused by the vibrations, sounds and visual affects of wind turbines.

The syndrome is a theory that has sparked much controversy within the field of wind power. There’s been a host of studies that have concluded the syndrome is more likely caused by modern day life’s stresses. The Massachusetts study adds more weight to that pile of evidence.

Whatever affect wind turbines may or may not have on people, it’s increasingly clear that they need to be placed a considerable distance from homes.

Wind turbines are best sited in places where they can take full advantage of strong prevailing winds, are close to existing power infrastructure, and homes are reasonably far away. The “syndrome” may not exist, but that doesn’t lessen the importance of siting wind turbines in locations where they’ll be no more of an annoyance than a gentle breeze.