Living near wind turbines has changed Sandy Vercauteren’s life forever.
“I am exposed to vibration constantly,” the town of Byron resident said. “It rattles the valances right off my windows. The noise, especially in summer, keeps me awake at night. The flickering creates a strobe light in my house. I’m concerned about the long-term exposure to all this.”
A registered nurse, Vercauteren lives within 1,100 feet of a turbine that is part of Forward Wind Energy’s 86-turbine wind farm spread out through the townships of LeRoy, Byron, Oakfield and Lomira.
She is among many residents hopeful that a resolution passed by the Brown County Board of Supervisors requesting state emergency aid for residents made ill by industrial wind turbines will set a precedent.
The health of homeowners who live near wind farms has been an ongoing topic of discussion. State Sen. Frank Lasee, (R-Ledgeview. recently introduced a bill that would allow cities, villages, towns and counties to establish a minimum distance between a wind turbine and a home even if the rules are more restrictive than any the state enacts.
Lasee says his bill is necessary because he’s heard from numerous Wisconsin residents who have complained about nausea, sleep loss, headaches, dizziness and vertigo from living near the turbines that stand 40 feet tall.
Statewide siting rules, more than a year in the making, were suspended last March. Lawmakers sent the rules back to the State Public Service Commission where they have remained as officials work to reach a compromise.
Green energy advocate Michael Vickerman of Renew Wisconsin said that from a medical science perspective the issue is being studied in various states and there is no conclusive evidence of a causal connection.
He cites a New York Times article that reports the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection convened a panel of independent health experts to review the existing medical literature – still limited – on health effects related to wind turbines. A comprehensive review of epidemiological studies conducted near turbines in the United States and Europe indicates that there is no evidence for a set of health effects characterized as “wind turbine syndrome.”
Vickerman questions why neighbors report adverse health impact while host landowners often living closer to the turbines haven’t reported any illness.
Larry Wunsch said he lost a lot of sleep after the wind farm was erected near the Byron home he built on 60 acres of land with his own hands. He contends that industrial noise from the wind turbines ruined his quality of life. He served on the siting council for the Wisconsin Public Service Commission and believes the wind turbines should be located farther away from residences than the 1,100 feet allowed.
“As a firefighter I couldn’t risk going to work tired day after day,” he said. “We tried living there for three years, but we couldn’t do it anymore. My wife cried when we had to move.”
He recorded videos of the sound of the wind turbines and the flicker shadow that pulsed through his house and posted them on Youtube.
In 2008 Fond du Lac County was promised clean renewable energy, job creation and payouts to hosting landowners, townships, even the county itself. Fond du Lac County receives $600,000 annually from wind energy projects, County Exective Allen Buechel said.
A single wind turbine provides $3,000 per year per megawatt or more in income to a landowner leasing wind rights.
Mark Rademann has suffered from stomach problems for the first time in his life since the Cedar Ridge Wind Farm went up around his home in a valley near Eden. Other family members are dealing with major health concerns, he said.
“It’s something that’s hard to prove, but listening 24-7 to the low-frequency sound like a bad sub-woofer gives me a restless, uneasy feeling,” he said. “I’ll never forget the first time I heard the ‘whooping’ of the blades. It just kind of hit me in the stomach.”
With the turbines “revving up at night” and the wind blowing against the east side of his house, Rademann said that many nights he doesn’t sleep.
“I have written several letters to legislatures (stating) they should be placed at least a mile away from a private residence. I am not against wind power, but I believe they are too darn close,” he said.
Now 67 years old, Vercauteren says she feels too old to pack up and begin a new life. A second wind turbine is located 1,500 feet from her house.
She used to be able to stand outside at night and listen to a family of hoot owls living in a patch of woods on her property. She hasn’t heard them since the wind turbines went up. Bats are also gone.
“I don’t feel like starting over; my life savings is invested in this house,” she said. “So I try and tolerate it – it’s what you have to do.”
ON THE WEB
Larry Wunsch has posted video of the effects of wind turbines at his former Town of Byron home:
ON THE INTERNET
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