February 3, 2013
Blogs, Massachusetts

The “Sting” of big wind

Firetower Wind | Feb 3, 2013 | mjoecool.wordpress.com

The Move

The Nissenbaum sleep study recommended separation distance (between residents and turbines) of nearly 4600 ft.  The study is a peer-reviewed research paper that investigated residents living near GE 1.5 MW wind turbines. Dr. Michael Nissenbaum, et al published “Effects of industrial wind turbine noise on sleep and health“ in the peer-reviewed bi-monthly journal Noise & Health, September-October 2012.

The Falmouth Board of Health’s collation of public hearing sleep disturbance testimonials (June 11, 2012) confirms the sleep study’s conclusion for complaints.  Of the 34 sleep disturbance complaints recorded, the complainants all live inside the 4600 ft radius of a Falmouth Industrial Wind Turbine.

The Con (part one)

This is the model ordinance [http://www.mass.gov/eea/docs/doer/green-communities/grant-program/wind-model-bylaw-mar-2012.pdf [1]]  that was designed to provide guidance to local governments like Falmouth (2005-2008), seeking to develop wind energy projects and local siting rules for wind turbines.
Falmouth’s wind energy siting plan was based largely on funds provided by the Massachusetts Renewable Energy Trust (an investment fund that comes from surcharge on Massachusetts electrical consumers of about $6 per ratepayer per year) and the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center – MassCEC (primary agency responsible for growing the Massachusetts clean energy industry).

In 2007, the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER) and the Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs (EOEEA) issued a model ordinance/by-law to promote wind-energy development.  Additional adjustments were made in June 2011 to clarify set-back issues.

The history of Falmouth’s municipal wind project details that the ‘feasibility’  and ‘wind turbine site screening’ studies, by consultants working for the MassCEC, cited the town zoning requirement, per 240-166, for a special permit before windmill construction.  However, according to the state model, once the location(s) is (are) designated within a local jurisdiction, it allows a wind energy project to proceed without the need for any special permits.  A standard building permit and compliance with local zoning bylaws is all that is required.

It may very well be that Falmouth’s Building Commissioner, fully aware of the existence of the local “windmill” bylaw and after it having been emphasized in consultant studies, was powerfully persuaded, by DOER and EOEEA officials, to ignore conformance with Falmouth’s zoning bylaw.  It may have been a simple case of the children’s game “Simon says…”

The state model includes the following provisions:

  • Setbacks. Wind turbines must be set back a distance equal to 3 times the height of the turbine (1,194 ft in Falmouth) from the nearest existing residential (Wind 2 to closes resident – 1,094 ft), commercial structure or critical infrastructure (Wind 1 to nearest occupied Waste Water Treatment Facility building – 835 ft), and 1.5 times the height of the turbine (Wind 1 – 597 ft) from the nearest property line, other public ways (Wind 2 to Rt28 – 625 ft), buildings, critical infrastructure.
  • Noise. The wind-energy facility and associated equipment must conform to the provisions of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection’s noise regulations (310 CMR 7.10).

The Con (part 2)

The Massachusetts Departments of Public Health and Environmental Protection  continue endorsing noise guideline and noise sampling protocol tools  which, both agencies admit, do not adequately address, nor properly mitigate the unique noise characteristics associated with Industrial Wind Turbines (June 30, 2011 letter from MassDEP to Falmouth Selectmen & Health Agent).

The Play

As more details are revealed and the wind blows more true… this State charade becomes more clear…  reminding me of a quip made in the 1973 movie, “The Sting”

URL to article:  https://www.wind-watch.org/news/2013/02/03/the-sting-of-big-wind/

URLs in this post:

[1] http://www.mass.gov/eea/docs/doer/green-communities/grant-program/wind-model-bylaw-mar-2012.pdf: http://www.mass.gov/eea/docs/doer/green-communities/grant-program/wind-model-bylaw-mar-2012.pdf