A few weeks ago, Great Barrington’s town leaders took a bow for converting the entire town’s electric consumption to be “green” or “renewable.” Applause all around on a great job. Or was it? The bulk of this power will be generated from wind, so in Savoy and several other towns in the commonwealth, there is talk of adverse health effects from wind-generated power.
I did a few Google searches and there were a lot of vague references but no real hard scientific papers in the notes of the articles I read. No groundbreaking research from the big name schools (though MIT is referenced in explaining the vibration issues). The maladies were all well described by those experiencing them, but no one seemed to quantify it or do a study to simulate or re-create these conditions without constructing these towers. There is research on ways to mitigate what some folks believe causes the problems, but no one knows if it works until you build some, and out of fear, many communities are fighting all turbines since you don’t know if the turbines being used will harm your health, and your property values.
I do not doubt that some folks are experiencing the headaches, the sleep disruption and the other symptoms – which unfortunately are also symptoms of a whole host of other problems including PTSD and other stress related illnesses – but it seems like wind generation is being pursued worldwide at breakneck speed. It seems that with the exception of a judge in Southeastern Massachusetts who ordered a wind turbine to be shut off, the world’s governments are treating these illnesses as a non-issue. And the decision of the judge in Falmouth could lead one to ask what qualifications does he have to make this scientific evaluation?
But back to Great Barrington. If the power being generated causes health impacts; is that trade-off worth reducing your collective carbon footprint? Is it better to cause huge health issues to some folks so others can smugly say their power is “green”? And why is hurting folks with windmills to power your Tesla and Wi-fi OK, but cutting a thousand trees down in a state forest along an existing right of way is not OK? Is it OK to devalue homes in places like Florida, Monroe, or Savoy since they don’t attract the hip New York City crowd? Would it be OK if it was on the Taconics near Egremont or along Rte. 23 and atop Butternut and Catamount, ringing the town? How about near Lake Mansfield or on “the Hill” right in Great Barrington? After all if local food is great, local power should be awesome.
Out of an abundance of caution shouldn’t the good people of Great Barrington stop this deal and reduce their carbon footprint the old-fashioned way; that is by conserving power, not using A/C, building smaller homes, and mounting rooftop solar and allowing ground-mounted solar on unused farmland and other open space and eschewing power generated by hydro (flooding land that was usually clear cut for that purpose, destroying carbon sequestering forests in Canada twice the size of Massachusetts) and pausing on wind until we know if these illnesses are preventable?
As Kermit the frog used to say – it’s tough to be green. In fact in this case it’s easy. Use less. Then we need to make less.