March 2, 2012

Author Nina Pierpont finds fault with letter writer’s claims

By Nina Pierpont, MD, Ph.D., 2 March 2012

In response to Donald Mulcare’s letter in this paper on Feb. 23 (“Your View: Pierpont’s wind syndrome study isn’t applicable to Fairhaven”), we need data to support his assertions that (a) there are 15 southern New England communities with active industrial wind turbines, (b) in 14 of these communities there are no health effects or complaints due to the turbines, and (c) Sinovel turbines are somehow different with regard to noise and infrasound generation than the five brands of turbine described in my study or used elsewhere, including New England.

In presuming that Fairhaven citizens will be safe from effects because they will be exposed to only two turbines, Mr. Mulcare dismisses the experience in Falmouth and Vinalhaven, Maine, where exposure to one to three turbines has caused marked health problems.

Be that as it may, I have done Mr. Mulcare’s research for him. It’s not valid to compare 1.5 megawatt turbines with 100 or 250 or 660 kilowatt turbines (which he must have included to reach his total of 15 installations in southern New England), for the simple reason it’s well documented in the scientific literature that the amount of infrasound produced by wind turbines increases the bigger they are (see Moller and Pedersen, Journal of the American Acoustical Society, 2011, Vol. 129, p. 3727-44).

The potential for noise disturbance is not related to the brand of turbine, for the simple reason the disturbing pulsations are aerodynamic, spinning off the blades, rather than coming from the machinery of the gears or generator. It’s an old industry chestnut to assert, “Oh, those noisy old models – we’re not going to use one of them!” Every wind turbine salesman says this.

But wait – today’s noisy old models were the new quiet ones of 2004 or 2007! And I wonder why Mr. Mulcare imagines a rock-bottom Chinese turbine manufacturer is going to turn out a better product than the Americans, Danes or Germans? (Sinovel is currently being sued for stealing wind turbine software from American Superconductor, a Massachusetts company, and it operates in a country renowned for its massive and systematic indifference to environmental and humanitarian constraints.)

To help Mr. Mulcare with his data, I made a list of the single to triplet wind turbine installations (in Massachusetts and Rhode Island, since Connecticut has none) with turbines in the megawatt range. All are 1.5 to 1.8 megawatts per turbine, while the smaller ones (which I ignore for this exercise) are 660 kilowatts or less. After making the list, I emailed a number of people in New England who know about wind turbines, asking about complaints or problems. Call it a grass-roots research strategy. Here are the results:

Hull Wind Turbine II (1.8 MW): Complaints have been recorded on videotape.

Ipswich Wind Farm I (1.6 MW): Complaints have been lodged with the local government.

Jiminy Peak Wind (1.5 MW): Complaints have been lodged with the local government, despite the turbine being in a ski area.

Massachusetts Military Reservation (three 1.5 MW turbines): There are known complaints.

Mount Wachusett Community College (two 1.65 MW turbines): No complaints known.

NOTUS Wind I, Falmouth (1.65 MW) and Town of Falmouth Wind I (1.65 MW): Well-known health effects documented in medical interviews by me on community TV.

Princeton Wind Farm Project (two 1.5 MW turbines): There are known complaints, despite the turbines being in a ski area.

Templeton Wind Turbine (1.65 MW): There are known complaints. The turbine is next to a high school and middle school.

Town of Portsmouth, R.I., Wind Turbine (1.5 MW): There are known complaints. The turbine is next to a high school.

Fall River Philips Wind Turbine (2 MW): Only up a few weeks; won’t generate till spring.

I count nine wind turbine installations comparable to the planned pair of 1.5 MW turbines in Fairhaven (not counting Fall River). Eight out of nine have known complaints. Even calling all nine “comparable” is a stretch, since two sets are off on mountaintops, though still within a mile of homes.

Many of the smaller single turbines in Massachusetts have also generated complaints, including those in Barnstable, Bourne, Dennis, Hull, Nantucket (where one turbine broke apart in moderate winds and another has provoked complaints), Newburyport, and Woods Hole.

A far cry from “14 out of 15” being unaffected. I guess it depends who you ask.

Even if it were just one out of 15 affected, as Mr. Mulcare argues, would that be OK? What about one out of 15 people? Just roadkill, collateral damage, a few eggs broken while making the omelette? Since it’s only a small part of the “general population,” you can tolerate that? Just a few of your neighbors driven out of their homes – but not too many?

Is there anyone with migraines in Mr. Mulcare’s family, or inner ear problems, motion sensitivity, or advanced age? You’ve read the book; these are the proven risk factors. Every disease on the planet affects some people more than others. There are, I assure you, susceptible people in your community, too.

What if it were Mr. Mulcare or his family?

Nina Pierpont, MD, Ph.D. of Malone, N.Y. is the author of “Wind Turbine Syndrome.”

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