FAIRHAVEN – Wind turbines will not yield the economic and environmental benefits that supporters claim, but will disrupt people’s lives and causing ill health, critics said at a forum Tuesday.
About 70 people gathered in the VFW hall at a town meeting organized by Wind Wise, a group that wants to halt the town’s plan to build two 397-foot wind turbines off Arsene Street.
Eleanor Tillinghast, an environmental advocate and member of the steering committee of Wind Wise Massachusetts, a statewide alliance, said wind power will result in higher electricity bills, health risks and lower property values.
Wind power is intermittent and unreliable and would not be sufficient to replace coal-powered plants. Nor is independence from foreign oil a reason for building the turbines, she said.
“We are suddenly seeing an explosion in oil and natural gas drilling in the United States and we are, as a consequence, becoming energy independent,” said Tillinghast, who gave a presentation.
Wind power, meanwhile, is driven by political support and heavy government subsidization, she said.
The town is expected to save $200,000 to $500,000 per year over the 20-year project term, according to the Fairhaven Wind developers. Last month, a panel of academic experts appointed by the state to review existing studies found no evidence of the serious health effects that opponents say are caused by wind turbines.
Tillinghast said while wind turbines will do nothing to reduce use of fossil fuels on a global level, they will dwarf the local landscape. And she argued there are public safety threats, saying there have been instances of fires, collapses and turbines throwing off ice.
“The chances are probably slim but they’re probably enough you don’t want to be around when it happens,” she said.
And she said acoustic energy causes chronic sleep disturbances in people who live within a mile of turbines, which can lead to health problems, and the strobe effect of the “shadow flicker” disorients people. The presence of turbines lowers homeowners’ property values, she added.
Mark Cool, 53, an air traffic controller who has lived in Falmouth for 18 years, said turbines like the one he lived near in his town cause sleep problems.
“To be good citizens and be productive citizens, you have to allow each and every citizen a good night’s sleep,” Cool said during a question-and-answer session after the presentation.
Curt Devlin, a longtime resident, said infrasound energy from turbines is converted into vibrations in buildings, and there is little research conducted on the health effects of long-term exposure to the vibrations but he worries they could be serious.
Toward the end of the meeting, one of the developers, Sumul Shah, spoke and tried to answer questions from a wary audience. He said the turbines planned for Fairhaven are different from the controversial ones in Falmouth.
“The turbines in Falmouth have a higher base noise,” he said. “There is a six-decibel difference between guaranteed sound output in Falmouth versus one that is here.”
The state’s review panel dismissed claims that infrasound from wind turbines directly impacts the vestibular (inner ear) system. Also, scientific evidence suggests shadow flicker does not pose a risk for eliciting seizures, according to the review.
Tillinghast said critics had submitted hundreds of documents and audio recordings but she had expected the state to dismiss health concerns.
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