FAIRHAVEN – Eleanor Tillinghast of Green Berkshires Inc. gave a slide presentation to make the case against wind turbines Tuesday night, but it was the first-hand accounts of people who live near turbines in Falmouth that resonated emotionally at the Windwise forum.
Shunned from the town’s wind forum on Jan. 24, the Falmouth residents were allowed to speak at the Windwise event. Some said they were in favor of wind energy until a turbine was built near them.
“I felt like I fell into a black hole,” said Kathy Elder of Falmouth. “Our lives have been turned upside down… It ranges from mildly annoying to an assault. It wakes us up repeatedly at night. It’s this noise that is actually coming through the house.”
The state Department of Environmental Protection and Department of Public Health said there are no major health risks in a recent study, but acknowledged that turbines may cause annoyance and sleep deprivation, which could cause stress.
Ms. Elder said sleep deprivation and noise are considered torture under the Geneva Convention. “This thing blankets our neighborhood with a hellish noise,” Ms. Elder said. She said it was “tearing every community apart where they put these up.”
Ms. Tillinghast faulted the state and federal governments for setting high goals for wind energy and offering attractive subsidies to developers. She said the taxpayer is picking up the cost.
A board member of several environmental groups, she said there is enough energy produced in this country and that we are losing our dependence on foreign oil. As proof, she pointed out that energy being produced here is being sold overseas.
“China and India are buying our fossil fuels,” she said.
Ms. Tillinghast showed a photo of a Hummer with a logo sticker saying, “I support wind energy.” She said one problem is that people can say they support alternative energy while driving gas guzzlers and living in McMansions.
Showing photos of turbines looming behind houses, she said, “Wind turbines in Fairhaven will not just dwarf your landscape, they will change your landscape.”
Among the public safety hazards she mentioned were flying ice chunks. She quoted a resident in Scotland who said, “The ice was like javelins thrown at houses.”
As for placing the two turbines near a bike path, Ms. Tillinghast said, “That seems extraordinarily risky.”
Annie Hart Cool of Falmouth said her children can’t use laptops at the kitchen table anymore because of the vibrations the wind turbine causes inside her house. She said the vibrations cause the laptops to malfunction and shut off.
Local resident Henry Ferreira faulted the Board of Health, saying it is mandated by state law to do its homework on the health effects of wind turbines. “This health board has not done that. They have refused to act,” he said.
About 75 people attended the event at the VFW, including the panelists and several residents from Falmouth. Unlike the town-sponsored forum, not many town board members attended this one. There was no way to determine how many Town Meeting members were in the audience. Town Meeting will be voting on the turbines at a special Town Meeting on Feb. 15.
Steven Riley of the Board of Public Works did attend. He said information about the turbines is “still going back and forth. That’s why you go to meetings, to get information.”
Sumul Shah of Fairhaven Wind LLC, who made the case for the turbines at town’s forum, said he came because he was invited by Windwise. Mr. Shah said he’s been working on the technical aspects of the turbines for Solaya Energy, one of three investors in the more than $8 million project.
Asked about developer Gordon Deane’s contention that they will sue if the town backs out, Mr. Shah said that’s outside his role. “We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it,” he said. “Obviously we have a significant investment and we’re going to protect that investment.”
Among the panelists was Dawn Devlin, a Realtor, who said housing values have dropped considerably in areas near wind turbines. She said some homeowners have been unable to sell their properties because of their proximity to wind turbines.
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