Construction of five wind turbines, each nearly twice as tall as the Hancock County Courthouse, will begin this spring just outside Findlay, but not everyone thinks they will supply electrical energy as harmlessly and quietly as promised here and elsewhere.
The 262-foot towers, costing about $18 million, will stand near the Whirlpool Corp. and Ball Corp. plants south of Allen Township 215 and north of Hancock County 99 in Allen Township.
One Energy, a Findlay company, plans to sell all of the energy from three turbines to Ball, supplying about 20 percent of the factory’s needs for 20 years. Whirlpool will buy all the energy from two turbines, which will supply about 22 percent of its power needs.
Ball has said the wind energy will provide savings over existing electricity rates. The turbines also will generate no greenhouse gas emissions, which are associated with climate change.
But wind turbines elsewhere have faced criticism on a number of counts.
They get blamed for killing birds, but studies have found cell and radio towers, and cats, kill many more birds than wind turbines.
Some say turbines cause annoying “shadow flicker” on people in the shadow of their turning blades.
The homes which would be most affected by shadow flicker from the five turbines are shielded by trees, said Jereme Kent, general manager of One Energy. Those within a direct line of sight are farther away from the turbines and will be little affected, he said.
Some have said wind turbines detract from an otherwise picturesque landscape.
Turbines also have been accused of emitting sounds that bother people.
People’s experiences with wind turbine sounds vary based on a number of factors, said noise control engineer Ken Kaliski.
Kaliski is senior director of Resource Systems Group in White River Junction, Vermont, and a board-certified member of the Institute of Noise Control Engineering.
“It’s not clear-cut whether somebody is going to be annoyed or not” by wind turbine sounds, he said. “And annoyance also depends not just on the sound, but on attitude, and visibility, and a whole other number of factors that are unrelated to the sound of the wind turbine. It’s not a very straightforward issue.”
To demonstrate its confidence that the turbines will not be a nuisance, One Energy says it will construct its own corporate office building at the site this year, and it will be the closest structure to the turbines.
Most residential neighbors of the wind turbine site interviewed recently by The Courier were either in favor of the turbines or indifferent.
“I think it’s a good idea. … It’s going to save their (Ball Corp.’s and Whirlpool Corp.’s energy) bills,” said Lois Lane of 128 McKinley St. “It’s good for the environment.”
“It’s not going to bother me up here,” said Jim Trapp of 12169 Hancock County 216. “I don’t have a problem with that if we can generate some energy and save a buck someplace. … I don’t think it’s going to make any noise.”
Judy Wineland of 220 McKinley St. gave a thumbs-down sign.
“Down with them!” she said. “I think it’s going to be a health issue. I think the hum of it is going to ruin our ears.”
John Kreinbrink of Ludington, Michigan, worries about his 95-year-old mother, Mary, who lives on Allen Township 215. John Kreinbrink’s hometown has the Lake Winds Energy Park, which has 56 turbines.
He said some neighbors of that wind farm abandoned their homes because low-frequency sounds emitted by the wind turbines caused them vertigo and other motion-sickness-type symptoms.
Kreinbrink said there should be a public hearing for people to ask questions and learn more about wind turbines. But no hearing is scheduled. One Energy’s wind turbine plans are too small to fall under the state’s rules for wind turbines.
The five 1.5-megawatt turbines, at a combined 7.5 megawatts, would be large enough for state regulation.
However, One Energy has classified the turbines as separate projects: three turbines, or 4.5 megawatts, for Ball, and two turbines, or 3 megawatts, for Whirlpool.
The state regulates wind farms with a total generating capacity of at least 5 megawatts, said Matt Butler, spokesman for the Ohio Power Siting Board, which regulates wind turbines.
For wind farms having a total generating capacity of at least 5 megawatts, the state requires that a turbine must be at least 1,125 feet from the nearest property, measured from the tip of the turbine’s nearest blade at 90 degrees.
One Energy’s turbines will come nearer than that to a neighboring property, according to One Energy’s Kent.
Some health experts and researchers have said wind turbines can cause sleep disturbances, nausea, headaches, dizziness, and memory and concentration problems for some people who live from 1,000 feet away to up to three-fourths of a mile or a mile away.
An informal Courier survey found over 120 homes or mobile homes within a half-mile of the proposed turbine site.
People who are prone to motion sickness tend to be more vulnerable to ill effects from a wind turbine, said Stephen Ambrose, an acoustician and certified member of the Institute of Noise Control Engineering, who has studied wind turbines’ effects on people.
There are no studies which have determined what percentage of the population might be vulnerable to ill effects from wind turbines.
The motion-sickness-type symptoms come from low-frequency sounds which people do not hear, said Alec Salt, an otolaryngology professor at Washington University in St. Louis, and Rick James, an acoustical engineer and principal consultant for E-Coustic Solutions, Okemos, Michigan.
Those low-frequency sounds occur when the ends of the turbine blades come down and pass the tower, Ambrose said.
Wind trailing off the edge of the blade hits the tower and splashes into the air like the wake of a boat hitting a sea wall and soaring into the air, Ambrose said. Those low-frequency pulses make their way to human ears and, though not consciously heard, are sensed by the ear, Salt said.
Some people are bothered by them, others are not, Salt, James and Ambrose said.
Kent dismissed the three men’s criticisms.
“There are a host of studies out there that are crap studies,” Kent said.
Other, credible studies have found that wind turbines do not cause people health problems, Kent said.
He cited a 2009 study by a panel of physicians and sound experts. That panel found no evidence that wind turbines emit sounds that cause adverse physiological effects.
A 2012 study by a sleep medicine specialist, and environmental health, epidemiology and wind energy specialists concluded it has not been determined yet whether wind turbines cause sleep issues, stress or affect the inner ear, which helps a person’s sense of balance.
“I don’t think the low-frequency sound that is inaudible is causing any problems,” Kaliski said. “It’s audible sound that people are annoyed by. I haven’t seen any studies that show that the inaudible sound is directly related to any effects.”
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