Our governor wants 20 percent of the state’s electrical power generation “green” by 2020. It seems the green technology he advocates most is industrial wind turbine installations (IWT). To meet the 20 percent threshold with IWT, the commonwealth will need to cover the preponderance of ridge lines of the Berkshires with IWT, most being 350 to 475 feet tall – or 35 to 47 stories tall.
What if Gov. Patrick planned to alter the ridge lines in the Berkshires with 35 to 47-story Walmart outlets? Mountain-top Walmarts sound bad, but ITWs are not majestic windmills (à la old Holland). They are HUGE industrial structures that have significant impacts upon the ecosystem they dominate and affect the health of residents stuck living within several miles.
As a Ph.D economist from MIT, I have studied alternative green-energy sources as a faculty researcher at MIT. Industrial wind is the wrong technological commitment. As a resident and taxpayer, I will be forced to hand money to the IWT industry though subsidies set up by the state and federal government. This includes raising all of our electric bills to make ITW profitable for the owners. Adding insult to injury, the state has attempted to take local control away from any town that objects to having IWT and appears to continue down that path.
This is all bad enough. But as I researched what the state has been up to, I was shocked to find the commonwealth putting forward as “the best science available to … make decisions on wind energy,” to quote DEP Commissioner Kenneth Kimmel, a January 2012 health impact study that is fundamentally flawed and not independent science. Patrick has defended the report as finding “no scientific evidence or medical studies to prove that living near a wind turbine has adverse impacts on people’s health.” While he acknowledges the need to study health impacts from ‘annoyance’ for residents near turbines, the commonwealth still is using this report as support for moving aggressively to site IWTs in Western Massachusetts.
I found this study to be biased, distorted and in some cases outright deceitful.
• The panel is not independent; several of its members benefit from Big Wind financially or have demonstrated an intellectual preference for it.
• The study primarily relies upon four to five peer-reviewed published research articles for support, ignoring hundreds of other relevant studies. These four to five articles summarize health effects of IWTs of much smaller size than those proposed for Massachusetts, instead examining effects in Sweden, Holland and New Zealand.
• The studies it relies upon have methodological shortcomings, which the panel recognizes.
• The panel explicitly recognizes that the preferred analytic approach is a “before-and-after” study, which examines areas before and after the installation of IWT. There are many such IWT installations in Massachusetts and New England, where serious adverse health effects have arisen, which the panel inexplicably ignores.
• The study peremptorily dismisses research by internationally recognized and highly credentialed experts who find serious adverse health effects.
• Finally, the study distorts, ignores and misstates the conclusions of the studies upon which it relies. These studies find (I quote where appropriate):
◦ IWTs cause significantly greater levels of annoyance to nearby residents than do other sources of industrial noise (traffic, railroad yards and airports).
◦ IWTs disrupt sleep.
◦ “In contemporary medicine, annoyance exists as a precise technical term describing a mental state characterized by distress and aversion, which if maintained, can lead to a deterioration of health and well-being. A Swedish study reported that, for respondents who were annoyed by wind turbine noise, feelings of resignation, violation, strain, and fatigue were statistically greater than for respondents not annoyed by turbine noise.”
◦ “Community noise has … been linked to other non-auditory health effects, for example in a recently published study on aircraft noise and hypertension.”
◦ “Turbine noise can lead directly to annoyance and sleep disturbance (primary health effects), or can induce annoyance by degrading amenity. … Chronic noise exposure is a psychosocial stressor that can induce maladaptive psychological responses and negatively impact health via interactions between the autonomic nervous system, the neuroendocrine system, and the immune system. A chronic stress response will, in turn, degrade quality of life.”
◦ “Wind turbine sound … varies unpredictably in level within a relatively short time span, i.e., minutes to hours. It can be postulated that it could be even more important that … noise (does not) cease at night. In contrast, in areas with traffic noise and/or industrial noise, background levels usually return to lower levels at night, allowing residents to restore themselves psycho-physiologically. A large proportion of respondents in the present study reported hearing wind turbine sound more clearly at night.”
As a Shelburne resident, I am pleased to have the opportunity to vote for “No Industrial Wind” in my town on May 1.
Raymond S. Hartman lives in Shelburne.
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