The scientific study of wind turbines, not public perception, is to be relied on when assessing the impact of the wind turbine Independence, according to Kingston Wind Independence co-owner and co-manager Kially Ruiz.
Scientific studies and data, he says, tell the real story about public perception of the negative impacts of wind turbines like the Independence, located on the town’s capped landfill.
Ruiz said he has no idea what to expect from the Jan. 14 Board of Health meeting at which a vote about whether to at least temporarily shut down the Independence – and Mary O’Donnell’s three Marion Drive turbines – is anticipated, but hopes the board will consult with turbine experts before making any decision. (Editor’s note: the Board of Health hearing has been canceled.)
He points to two scientific studies – one from the United Kingston and the other from the Netherlands – that he believes answer the question of whether Wind Turbine Syndrome is a real physical problem or a psychological one.
The 2012 study from the U.K “examines the influence of negative-orientated personality in influencing the link between exposure to a ‘green’ new technology” and the reporting of “medically unexplained non-specific symptoms” by concluding that it’s psychological. According to the study, people with a negative-oriented personality who are more easily stressed or more easily frustrated or have other neurosis would report issues with their health.
“Just seeing the wind turbine would give them stress,” Ruiz said. “That was quite interesting, because it happens not just with wind turbines but with other technologies as well, like cell towers.”
Ruiz said visitors to the site of the Independence can hear it, and he believes that residents who live within sight of it can hear it at their homes 900 feet away, but complaints from a small number of people only give rise to the question of why it bothers them.
Ruiz is asking the Board of Health to consider the input of Dr. Simon Chapman, a professor of public health at the Universary of Sydney in Australia, who has concluded that people who say their health has been negatively affected by wind turbines only perceive turbines to be the cause.
“Just the fact there is a wind turbine can get you stressed out,” Ruiz said. “You can think it’s from the noise of the turbine, but it’s from the perception of the wind turbine.”
The U.K. study found that the actual level of noise does not correlate with the reported annoyance, but with a perception of annoyance.
The 2009 study from the Netherlands, an area the same size as Massachusetts and Rhode Island with close to 2,000 onshore wind turbines, looks at who complains about turbine noise. Generally speaking, according to the study, people who can see the turbines are significantly more annoyed by them and complain of perceived noise.
“The study confirms that wind turbine sound is easily perceived and, compared with sound from other community sources, relatively annoying,” the study concludes. “Annoyance with wind turbine noise is related to a negative attitude toward the source and to noise sensitivity.”
The study also concludes that those who receive an economic benefit, such as free electricity or some kind of dividend, are significantly less annoyed by a wind turbine.
Ruiz believes these studies “absolutely apply” in Kingston.
While Ruiz has not regularly attended public meetings of the Board of Health or the meeting of the Board of Selectmen at which residents made their case for at least a temporary shutdown of all four turbines, he said, he always has someone in attendance. However, instead of rational, civil discussions, the meetings have been a circus.
“We are partners with the town, and we’re happy to have rational discussions with the town,” he said. “We’re not having a civil discussion about what’s actually happening.”
Residents have complained about poor health due to the wind turbines. The Health Department has received about 30 complaints about the four turbines.
Ruiz said he has reached out to residents with notice to the Board of Health requesting they fill out a one-page form detailing when they hear the turbine, how loud they perceive it to be, how it affects them and when they are experiencing flicker.
He said there can be no reasonable discussion about potential mitigation without that information.
“As far as health claims, we would ask the neighbors to present their medical evidence,” he said. “We will then also require them to submit at least 10 years worth of medical records for pre-existing conditions. Too many people out there try to abuse the system, and it is only responsible to fully vet all claims.”
He also takes issue with the characterization by some residents about how much sound the turbine generates.
“It is not constructive for neighbors to exaggerate or distort their complaints,” he said. “For instance, to say that wind turbine noise is like that of a jet or a jackhammer is patently untrue. A jet noise is well over 120 decibels flying overhead at 10,000 feet. Wind noise is less than 50 decibels at 400 feet.”
In Hull, some neighbors live closer than 900 feet, and they aren’t bothered or sick because of their proximity, Ruiz said, adding that they get no financial benefit. He said they also don’t have negative outside influences adding fuel to the fire.
Ruiz said anti-wind campaigners from outside of Kingston whose studies haven’t been published in peer-reviewed journals are promoting studies that aren’t scientific in nature and are therefore not reliable.
Ruiz said wind turbine noise levels are well within legal limits, and he believes the science from the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center study that has been commissioned will bear that out. He said it’s unreasonable to order the turbines be shut down before the study has been completed.
“Operation of the turbine is a valid, permitted, legal activity,” he said.
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