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There’s nothing quaint or old-fashioned about Big Wind

Residents described it as an explosion in an industrial wind turbine, part of the Sheldon Wind Project. They heard it in Orangeville as far away as Route 238, approximately 10 miles. As news of this leaked out, it also reached me. Not surprising that no news of this late August explosion was picked up by major media outlets in Buffalo, Batavia or Rochester. Is that because the usual practice of “gag orders” – confidentiality clauses accompanying the wind company leases signed by landowners, requiring them to keep their mouths shut – essentially block any negative publicity regarding industrial wind turbines?

One Sheldon resident told me directly that he and his wife heard a series of loud booms as they watched TV and mistakenly thought they were distant fireworks. It turned out to be a single IWT located west of North French Road, south of 20A, off in a farmer’s field.

A second Sheldon resident confirmed that the noise sounded like something breaking apart, over a duration of about two hours. Each turbine has a high-voltage transformer at its base and a generator with a gearbox in the nacelle at the top of the tower. She described the noise as intensifying—a whining, creaking and groaning that culminated in an explosion. She said the last time she called Invenergy’s so-called emergency hotline about a wind turbine with intolerable noise, she didn’t get a response for two days.

Residents cannot look to the Town of Sheldon; they will not take complaints. This illustrates the frustrations of many residents who live near these wind projects and have no other recourse for their complaints after projects are constructed.

Alarming is the realization that residents have not even been informed of this serious malfunction, which could have cost property damage or lives.

Was the state Department of Environmental Conservation called? Was any fire company summoned? Some wind turbine explosions have caused fires if parts are spinning out of control and “component liberation” takes place, flinging blade parts onto dry fields or even on rooftops.

All this is a cautionary tale for residents of Niagara and Orleans counties: History repeats itself.

Towns under siege by a giant mega-million dollar industrial wind corporation like Apex need to realize that this scenario could have led to many dangerous outcomes to people living there. Both Sheldon and Orangeville, where I used to live, had town municipal employees who struck contracts with the developer. Having leases on their personal property makes signers beholden to the company first; all others are secondary.

Apex salesmen, trying to put another notch in their turbine sales belt by destroying Somerset and Yates residents’ tax base, property values, health, safety and welfare, have said that their industrial wind turbines will last 20 to 30 years. It’s interesting to note, however, that the aging, 320-foot Sheldon wind turbines, only 10 years old, are constantly being taken apart and under repair. Amazingly, Orangeville’s 430-foot turbines threw a blade within the first few days of operation in 2012. These also have been extensively under repair. In nearby Weathersfield, oil leakage from turbines has been a problem. This was seen to cause contaminated wells in Watertown in 2007.

I write here a cautionary warning for those who may mistakenly think that today’s wind energy is that quaint throwback to olden days. Old-fashioned windmills were not connected with miles and miles of high voltage underground and overhead wires. If your rural community is presently under siege by a mega-billion, industrial-scale wind turbine developer, buyer beware.

Cathi Orr, Somerset