FAIRHAVEN – Aside from occasional snickers and a few shout-outs, the approximately 250 people who attended a wind energy forum Tuesday were both orderly and civil, listening intently to information presented.
The town is expected to save $200,000 to $500,000 per year over the 20-year project term, according to one of three Fairhaven Wind developers, Sumul Shah, who gave an overview of the project.
In his presentation, Shah attempted to answer specific concerns received from residents, including complaints that the project is too close to Wood School.
More than 50 percent of existing turbines are within a half mile of a school, he said, adding “To our knowledge, there have been no known impacts to students or faculty at any of these schools.”
Although rare, ice throws are possible, Shah said. But, he added, the turbine is designed to shut off when an imbalance, caused by ice, is detected on the blade. Fires in turbines are even rarer, according to Shah, who cited data which put the risk of a fire occurring at .01 percent.
“We monitor turbines 24/7 and really make sure there are no errors,” he said.
According to Shah, Sinovel, the manufacturer of the Fairhaven turbines, is the No. 2 manufacturer in the world and produces 3,000 turbines a year. Although it is a Chinese company, the technology is from Massachusetts, he said.
The model produces less noise, 5 decibels lower than Falmouth’s turbine, according to sound consultant Peter Guldberg.
Windwise representative Curt Devlin stressed the importance of infrasound, or low-frequency sound over audible sound. There are no existing safety standards for infrasound, he said.
Devlin cited six research studies done between 2007 and 2011, all of which, he said, came to the conclusion that turbines should be kept more than 2 kilometers from people.
Devlin warned that many consider health reports related to wind turbines anecdotal because the information is self-reported. But, he said, “The sheer volume of evidence for turbine-related illness elevates case studies beyond the coincidental or merely anecdotal.”
Although guidelines limiting questions to residents riled some, they were not enforced and the first two questions asked came from residents of other communities. As they entered, residents were asked to sign in and police officers were present, but no one was disruptive as of mid-evening.
Several people in the audience said they came to learn more.
Cathy Coffey said she and her boyfriend are worried about the health and safety of his 87-year-old mother who lives only 1,200 feet from the wind turbine site.
“Our main concern is for her and our second concern is for ourselves,” she said, noting that her own home is about 1½ miles from Arsene Street.
Living about a mile away, Rosalie Hutchinson said she isn’t particularly worried about her own health but feels that she has been getting only one point of view from opponents and would like to hear more.
“I do believe in selectmen. I don’t think they are trying to deceive anyone,” Hutchinson said.
Tony and Donna Olszewski, who drove from Portsmouth, R.I., to hear about the project, live 750 feet from a 363-foot wind turbine next to Portsmouth’s high school. They are unhappy, they said, about the noise and flicker effect they are experiencing, along with the loss of property value.
Although the Portsmouth project was described as successful by panelist Gary Gump, from Portsmouth’s Economic Development Council Sustainability Committee, the Olszewskis said there have been complaints.
“What we’re experiencing is not what we were told before the turbines went up,” she said.
According to state Department of Environmental Protection Deputy Commissioner Alicia Barton McDevitt, the state is still evaluating the recently released report on health effects from wind turbines and is still determining its next steps. McDevitt recommended everyone read the study for themselves and consider commenting, either in writing or at one of three public comment sessions.
The closest meeting to Fairhaven will be from 5-8 p.m. Feb. 16 at Bourne High School.
A second wind forum, put on by Windwise, will be held at 7 p.m. Feb. 2 at the VFW on Main Street.
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