One of the owners of Scituate’s new wind turbine said there’s no evidence linking wind turbines to human health problems. The people who are getting sick near turbines instead may be falling victim to mind tricks, he speculated.
Gordon L. Deane, president of Palmer Capital, said the “nocebo effect” may explain why dozens of Scituate residents living near the town’s new turbine have suffered from sleep deprivation, headaches and dizziness. A nocebo reaction, the opposite of placebo, is when someone gets a negative result by thinking about it.
“Even though there is no medical evidence and medical reason they would come down with it (sickness), just talking about a potential side effect can produce that side effect,” Deane said.
Deane defended the safety of the Scituate turbine Monday night in front of the town’s board of health. The board has been peppered in recent weeks by complaints, mostly from residents living in Scituate’s Third Cliff neighborhood, about the turbine’s noise and shadow flicker.
About 20 of these residents listened to Deane’s presentation and then urged health officials to act swiftly to shut down the turbine. At the very least, they want the turbine shut off at night when the noise is loudest.
“When everyone goes to sleep tonight, think about the people on Third Cliff who aren’t sleeping,” Scituate resident Heather Dauphinee said to the board.
The board of health voted to review two potential solutions at their next meeting, Oct. 29. They will consider launching an independent study to measure the turbine’s noise impact, and they will explore the possibility of shutting the turbine down at night.
The 390-foot, 1.5-megawatt turbine in Scituate, off the Driftway, became operational last March. It is owned by a company named Scituate Wind, which is a joint venture between Palmer Capital and Solaya Energy.
The town signed a contract with Scituate Wind to buy discounted energy from the company for at least the next 15 years.
Deane said his company performed all the necessary tests required by the state and town before erecting the turbine. He said a model was used to test the turbine’s projected noise impact at several neighboring locations. He said none of the results exceeded the state’s noise limit, which is 10 decibels above ambient sound levels.
Deane also cited several studies – including one published earlier this year by the state Department of Environmental Protection – that said wind turbines do not cause sleep deprivation and headaches.
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“Yes, people can be annoyed. Yes, there can be noise. Yes, there can be flicker,” Deane said. “But annoyance is not a health effect.”
Paul Ohrenberger, who lives in the Third Cliff neighborhood, said he doesn’t care about studies, and he urged the board of health not to wait for completion of another study before taking action.
“I don’t need studies to tell me that I’ve lived at the same house for 50 years and suddenly I’m having issues with sleep. And I can hear this (the turbine) every night,” Ohrenberger said.
Several residents questioned whether the board of health, whose members are appointed by the selectmen, would let the town’s goal of achieving cost savings through renewable energy projects influence its decision. In response, Chairman Russell Clark said the board has no bias.
“The board is right in the middle,” Clark said.
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