People are talking about the significant impacts that a 37-turbine wind farm will affect Penn Forest and neighboring townships.
Iberdrola Renewables, parent company for Atlantic Wind LLC, filed its application for a special exception permit before the Penn Forest Township Zoning Hearing Board.
The zoning board will continue testimony at 7 p.m. Thursday at Penn Forest Fire Company No. 1.
The 37-turbine farm near the township’s border with Towamensing Township will include 525-foot-tall towers with blades reaching across the width of a football field.
Residents opposed to the turbines have formed a Facebook group, “Say NO to the Bethlehem Watershed Wind Farm Project!” which has more than 1,000 members.
They are raising money to pay legal fees for an attorney to represent them at the meeting.
Resident Bill Winkelman posted, “I’ve been going to ‘the hollow’ since 1969 … I’ve seen 2-foot trout spawning in Wild Creek below the dam. My first bald eagle was over Muffley’s bay, named after the tavern once there.
“The most beautiful part of this last great stand of Penn’s Woods is the silence. This will be lost for sure. I’ve been to wind farms in Texas.”
In addition to the effects on the scenery and property values, opponents have debated the impact on people’s health.
Dave Kocis of El-do Lake, just over the border in Monroe County, posted, “Their mild use, for a minute, could be pleasantly stimulating. The effects invigorating the whole body for hours thereafter. Excessive use would produce grave illness however, excessive aggravations of the heart being the most dangerous aspect of the stimulation. The entire body ‘rang’ for hours with an elevated heart rate and greatly stimulated blood pressure. The effects could be deadly.”
Pediatrician Nina Pierpont has written a book about wind turbine syndrome and attributing the symptoms and outcomes to living within an unspecified distance to a wind turbine.
Pierpont, who is married to Calvin Luther Martin, a retired associate professor of history and longtime anti-wind advocate, writes that migraine headaches, irritability, forgetfulness and sleeplessness can all be attributed to the proximity of the wind turbine to the sufferer.
The wind industry has challenged that her studies were not properly conducted.
Dr. Farhad Sholevar, chairman of the Department of Psychology at St. Luke’s Medical Network, questions Pierpont’s research.
Sholevar, whose office is less than a half-mile from the wind turbine at Cedar Crest College, says there is no medically recognized disorder known as Wind Turbine Syndrome.
“I have never seen one peer review article which discusses or acknowledges the existence of such a syndrome,” Sholevar said.
“There are definitely illnesses which are attributed to psychosomatic causes, but this is not one of them.”
Sholevar said no discussions have occurred in countries in Europe and in China where green energy is more commonly used.
It appears to only be here in the United States that people even mention it.
“Pierpont’s studies, from what I can see, were not extensive and did not use a large control group. She is basing her opinion on relatively few subjects,” Sholevar said.
Sholevar does not discount that people within the area might show symptoms similar to what Pierpont found, but he attributes them to stress and fear related to the wind turbines and not an actual, medically known illness.
“Stress is a major factor in irritable bowel syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, migraine headaches and many other illnesses,” Sholevar said. “Psychosomatic illnesses are disorders caused by or attributed to psychological factors.”
Sholevar said psychosomatic illnesses are real, recognized disorders that will not go away simply because one moves away. He stressed that no one should deny the symptoms exist, but that they may be attributed to something other than the wind turbine’s operation, but more likely related to anticipation, stress, fear or concern about the wind turbine.
Craig Poff, director of business development for Iberdrola Renewables, echoes Sholevar’s position.
“There is no scientific proof that wind turbines are harmful to human health,” Poff said. “But it is an indisputable scientific fact that climate change is real, and that unless checked, climate change will affect all species, including humans.”
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