May 24, 2012
Letters, Rhode Island

Turbine information has been unbalanced

The Jamestown Press | 24 May 2012

William Tuthill recently (“Turbine syndrome is not actual health risk,” May 10) told us to “rest assured” wind turbine syndrome does not exist, and without referencing a source, claimed that the author who coined the term had been discredited. Last week Hugh Murphy (“There is evidence that turbine syndrome exists,” May 17) countered with a list of research that suggested otherwise.

The two letters may not change minds, but they highlight the role that compensated academic research plays in the industry. Much of that research is funded by industry participants – or, big energy companies.

Big energy owns the majority of turbines. BP’s Indiana wind farm is the fifth largest in the world. BP is invested because they want to capture the massive subsidies the government has to offer. Big energy excels at tapping the government’s subsidy gravy train. These companies have also excelled at tapping into an unlikely source of support by enlisting environmentalists to do their bidding. Against this odd coalition are those who don’t buy the hype. As in Jamestown, the opposition is typically grass roots.

Jamestown appears to be in the grip of the wind industry. The information the Town Council is using has been incomplete. The hiring of Harley Lee as a consultant hardly assured a balanced approach. One might conclude that balance was not what some councilors were looking for.

It is not surprising that the business model includes rising electricity prices and no cost for the grid interconnection. Mr. Lee’s March 19 presentation shows a large profit being generated. He only admitted to omitting meaningful costs after he was questioned.

When I suggested that based on his numbers the turbine would lose $2.5 million, his answer was evasive – a sort of confirmation. One must also question why the Planning Commission was initially instructed that they had limited jurisdiction over the project.

We have been told of studies that “prove” property values are not impacted and health issues are nonexistent while existing contradictory studies are left unmentioned. Was Mr. Lee hired to advise or sell?

Absent are studies about the fi- nancial viability of standalone turbines and their reliability. There is probably a reason for that, and it is the same reason that we have not actually seen a private sector player step forward to share in this venture.

Financial issues remain the crux of the debate. This is a risky business. Most of the profits are projected for years 15 through 20, well beyond what may be the useful life of the turbine. Turbines break down, spare parts are hard to find, and manufacturers are going bankrupt.

The town proposes we borrow an amount equal to one-third of our annual revenue. This borrowing comes at a time when our debt service charge will grow by onethird in the next budget, and as we debate expensive options for Fort Getty and the clubhouse renovations.

It’s doubtful if many of the turbine proponents would agree to lend 33 percent of their annual income to build a residential wind generator.

Jamestown is fortunate not to have faced the financial pressures that other Rhode Island municipalities have. We have not had to make hard decisions. However, if we make a bad financial decision with regards to the turbine, we may not be able to avoid hard ones in the future.

Lowell Thomas Whittier Road Jamestown

URL to article: