In an article in The Standard-Times dated Aug. 14, Ariel Wittenberg reported on the recent noise compliance testing being conducted by the DEP on the turbines in Fairhaven (“State says turbine noise test safeguarded against tampering”). The testing is little more than a bit of performance art, designed to appease those who are ignorant about the ill health effects caused by these industrial monstrosities. The most these noise measurements can show is that turbines comply with a law crafted in 1962 for the purpose of measuring things like the noise created by cars rushing past a residential neighborhood on a new highway.
This law is completely obsolete and utterly irrelevant for turbines because it does not measure infrasound and low frequency noise, one of the principal causes of damaging health effects from turbines in humans and animals.
It is as though someone asked the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection to test for potential damaging health effects from sunlight and they tested only the visible light, ignoring ultraviolet light all together. It is a meaningless exercise designed only to fool people who don’t know about infrasound.
The article also notes concerns that the wind developer, Sumul Shah, was present during testing. This issue is especially concerning because it provides the opportunity for tampering. The Fairhaven turbines are variable pitch. This means they can be de-tuned by feathering the blades back to make them run quieter during testing. The idea of inviting the owner of the turbine to be present while measuring noise flies in the face of every principal of scientific measurement.
If a scientist submitted a paper for peer review describing a testing process where his measurements could be tampered with by an interested party, he or she would be laughed out of the profession. In clinical drug trials, for example, everyone involved in the testing process must provide an affidavit that they have no financial interest in the outcome. If the Food and Drug Administration learns that someone from the drug company was present during testing, the trials would be immediately declared invalid. End of story. Unlike the DEP, the FDA places public health and safety above the profits of private industry.
Putting this bit of theater aside for a moment, according to the article, the excuse given by DEP spokesman Edmund Colleta for this obvious breach of protocol is that CEO Sumul Shah must “coordinate turning the turbines on and off as needed.” This is a lame excuse. Turning the turbines on and off can be done by remote control; there is no reason that the DEP could not turn them on and off without help. Shah possesses no special engineering skills or credentials that make his presence required for this. One would think that the DEP would be more concerned about the appearance of collusion with the wind developer it pretends to regulate.
The article noted Shah’s protest of innocence: “If the turbine is on for testing, he said, its speed cannot be controlled.” This is equally lame, because nothing prevents him from changing the angle of the blades before turning them on. This is theater of the absurd.
Unfortunately, Wittenberg did not report the fact that Shah has access to information that might show that he did not rig the test. Every industrial turbine is controlled by a Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition system. This system records the position of the turbine blades, direction, speed and power output, to name only a few. If Shah were to release these data since the operation of the turbines began, he could prove he did not tamper. The blades would be in the same position they usually are under the test conditions of wind speed and direction. So why doesn’t he release it?
Several weeks ago, Shah submitted a report to the Fairhaven Board of Health stating that there is no discernible pattern between turbine operation and the avalanche of adverse health reports submitted to the board by residents living near them. Releasing the SCADA data to public scrutiny could also provide evidence that this claim is true as well. So why doesn’t Shah release it?
Of course, the SCADA data could also show there is, in fact, an obvious pattern between health complaints and turbine operation. If so, it would not only show that Shah’s report was false; it might also be construed as evidence of an attempt to defraud the Board of Health and the people of Fairhaven. That would place Mr. Shah in a very compromising situation indeed. He would rightfully be hoisted upon his own petard. If there truly is no pattern, and he truly did not rig the test; then he has nothing to fear and everything to gain. Is anyone taking bets?
Curt Devlin lives in Fairhaven.
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