A developer proposing to build a second wind energy project in Kahuku has scheduled a public meeting Wednesday at which a Harvard Medical School physician will brief community members on the health effects of wind turbines.
The first phase of the project planned by California-based Champlin GEI Wind Holdings calls for eight wind turbines to be erected in the hills mauka of Kamehameha Highway, with the closest turbine about 2,000 feet from homes in Kahuku’s Mauka Village neighborhood.
The close proximity of the turbines to homes, and the potential health effects of the devices, was one of the concerns expressed by some of the 25 area residents who attended a community meeting held by Champlin on Friday night in Kahuku.
The physician brought in by Champlin to speak to the community, Dr. Robert McCunney, specializes in occupational and environmental medicine. The meeting is scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. in the Kahuku Community Center.
McCunney was part of a team of medical and audiology experts commissioned by the American Wind Energy Association and Canadian Wind Energy Association in 2009 to “conduct a review of current literature available on the issue of perceived health effects of wind turbines.”
Opponents of wind energy projects across the country often cite wind turbines as the cause of something called “wind turbine syndrome,” which they attribute to the low-frequency noise and vibrations from the constantly spinning turbines. Maladies blamed on wind turbine syndrome include heart disease, vertigo, panic attacks, insomnia and migraine headaches.
The 85-page report co-authored by McCunney challenged the “wind turbine syndrome” contention, concluding, “There is no evidence that the sounds, nor the sub-audible vibrations, emitted by wind turbines have any direct adverse physiological effects on humans.”
Aliitasi Ponder, on of about eight Kahuku and Laie residents who expressed concerns about the wind project during Friday’s meeting, asked Champlain executive Mike Cutbirth why the plan called for the wind turbines to be so close to homes.
“Were there locations considered further away from the community? Why was this particular location chosen?” she asked.
If the Champlin plan gets approved, it would result in the Mauka Village neighborhood being sandwiched between an existing 12-turbine wind farm by First Wind on the north and the new 15-turbine project on the south. Champlin is proposing to build the project in two phases, with eight turbines in Phase 1 and up to seven turbines in Phase 2.
The Koolauloa Neighborhood Board, which serves Kahuku, passed a resolution last week requesting that no turbine be located closer than three-quarters of a mile, or about 4,000 feet, from the nearest home.
Cutbirth said Champlin modified its proposal about nine months ago to move some of the proposed turbine sites farther away from the community than originally planned.
He added that under Honolulu Department of Planning and Permitting setback requirements, Champlin would be allowed to place turbines as close as 450 feet to the nearest inhabited structure.
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