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Wind turbines causing blowback from neighbors

A group of seven wind turbines in Johnston was just turned on in January, yet they’re already causing some blowback from neighbors across the city line in Cranston.

“It’s a little unnerving that all of a sudden, 519-foot structures can end up right near your home, and no one knows anything,” said Renee Petrone, who lives in the Alpine Estates neighborhood of Cranston and can clearly see the turbines from her home.

“If it’s going to affect our families and our health, it’s our business to understand and know what to expect,” said Kerri Carreiro, another Cranston neighbor.

Petrone, Carreiro and other neighbors who spoke with the NBC 10 I-Team said they’re concerned about possible health impacts from the turbines, especially a group of symptoms known as Wind Turbine Syndrome. They point to turbines in Falmouth, which were turned off in 2017 after more than seven years of lawsuits from neighbors who complained of health problems.

“You hear these issues coming from one turbine. We’ve got seven, and ours are the biggest ones around,” said Jessica Simpson, who also lives in Alpine Estates.

But the company behind the project said there’s no reason for concern.

“That is an assumption that doesn’t bear out in facts,” said Bill Fischer, who is the spokesman for Green Development LLC, the company behind the Johnston wind farm. “[Wind Turbine Syndrome] has not been supported by the medical community. That has not been supported by the scientific community.”

Fischer point to a 2012 Massachusetts state study that found no conclusive link between physical or mental health symptoms and wind turbines.

Legally, Green Development didn’t have to notify Cranston neighbors, because the turbines are located on leased industrial land in Johnson. The company secured all local, state and federal approvals before constructing the wind farm, Fischer said.

“I would say they have no standing in this,” Fischer said of the neighbors’ concerns. “We’re not in Cranston’s backyard. We’re in Johnston.”

Green Development already operates turbines in North Kingstown, Coventry and Portsmouth, where some neighbors have also expressed concerns.

“For us, it’s a fear. I’m afraid of what’s coming,” Petron said, noting that neighbors on Cape Cod reported sleep problems, anxiety, hearing problems and other issues.

In Bourne, the Board of Health recently deemed wind turbines in neighboring Plymouth a public nuisance, although board members noted that Bourne doesn’t have jurisdiction over Plymouth based on previous legal rulings.

Fischer said the Johnston turbines are state-of-the-art, with serrated edges that reduce noise and a new type of motor that’s much quieter than technology used on Cape Cod. He said neighbors will likely grow used to the turbines.

“Over time, they seem to blend in,” Fischer said.

But Petrone and her neighbors said they aren’t giving up, and they plan to look into all options to fight the turbines.