FAIRHAVEN – Four out of five panelists at the town’s wind forum leaned strongly toward wind turbines during a town-sponsored forum Tuesday night, leaving the sole representative of Windwise to fend for himself.
“The state is coming to this issue with an open mind,” said Alicia McBarton McDevitt, deputy commissioner of the state Department of Environmental Protection. She said individual comments “are important.”
The state’s report, which came out last week, concluded there is no evidence of Wind Turbine Syndrome or any serious health effects from wind turbines. But it said claims of “annoyance” and sleep deprivation may have some merit.
Curt Devlin, who represented Windwise, said the state experts ignored anecdotal evidence.
Attorney Ann DeNardis asked why the experts who did the state study didn’t make field trips to wind turbine sites and talk to nearby residents. Instead, they relied on scientific studies.
Ms. DeNardis, who represents 10 residents who are suing to stop the turbines, asked, “If they didn’t go to Falmouth …where a wind turbine was shut down …How does that make the report valid?”
Ms. McDevitt said it was possible individual members went to turbine sites on their own, but not as a group. She said they did take seriously the many responses received during the public comment period last year.
Sumul Shah of Fairhaven Wind LLC, the developer, answered questions submitted by Windwise point by point. One was why they bought turbines manufactured in China.
Mr. Shah said the turbines were designed by engineers from American Superconductor who attended MIT and that a lot of the components were built in Wisconsin.
“The brains of this turbine were designed here in Massachusetts,” he said.
Mr. Shah said the nearly 400-foot, 1.5 megawatt turbines purchased for Fairhaven weren’t manufactured by the same company that built the ones in Falmouth. He said they were manufactured by Sinovel, the number 2 wind turbine manufacturer in the world.
“Sinovel produces 3,000 a year. There are over 11,000 in the world,” Mr. Shah said.
As to why the lots were changed and the site moved, he said, “They were relocated to move them further away from residents and wetlands.”
Mr. Shah said the town will reap major savings on electricity over the 20-year lease plus $100,000 a year in lease payments.
As for another concern, the flicker effect, he said they mostly occur before 7 a.m.
Ms. McDevitt said the state report includes recommendations on noise limits and regulations limiting shadow flicker to no more than 30 minutes a day or 30 hours a year.
While the protests and lawsuit continue, the project is continuing on town land off Arsene Street. Mr. Shah said they are drilling the anchors this month and expect to assemble the turbines in February and March. When he said they hoped to be finished by April 22, Earth Day, there were a few groans in the crowd.
Overall, the meeting took place without the anticipated loud protests or interruptions. At one point, when the panel continued its presentations well into the period that was supposed to be for audience questions, a woman interrupted the last speaker, Dr. Robert McCunney, saying she had to go home. She wanted to know if anyone on the panel lived, like she does, near a proposed wind turbine.
The only panelist who said he does was Dr. McCunney, of Massachusetts General Hospital and MIT, who said he lives within a mile of a wind turbine.
Dr. McCunney took aim at the Windwise speaker, Mr. Devlin, saying only one of the seven studies he mentioned was in a peer-reviewed journal. He said the peer-reviewed study was on infrasound in guinea pigs.
Dr. McCunney said most scientists want their studies to be published and that national health organizations “will only look at peer-reviewed studies” that are published in scientific journals.
That may not have satisfied some residents who live near the Fairhaven turbines – at least one of whom, at a recent meeting, said she did not want to be a “guinea pig.”
Many in the audience came to the forum to hear from the experts and have their concerns addressed. But it is a complex issue and the health science was only really addressed by Dr. McCunney, who was the last speaker at the end of a long evening.
Earlier, Gary Gump of Portsmouth, R.I., talked about the financial benefits of the wind turbine project there. He said there were no complaints about turbines at Portsmouth Abbey, but a couple who came from Portsmouth said the benign image being presented wasn’t true in their experience.
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