State Senator Rob Ortt hosted a forum at ECC’s North Campus on Tuesday afternoon to help the public better understand some of the possible health effects of building wind turbines.
Most windmill projects fall underneath the Article 10 Law, which is a New York State process that guides energy projects that project over a certain amount of production. Basically, it’s a statewide board that is tasked with determining whether these kinds of projects should go forward. According to Ortt, he only knows of two projects that have gone completely through the Article 10 process.
“Wind has obviously been a focal point of the New York State climate strategy, and we’ve seen more projects being proposed across Western New York,” said Ortt. “Advocacy groups have raised concerns about the public health impact of turbines, and we would like to get an understanding of what those are. I’m sure there are people here in the audience who would be directly impacted by these projects because they may live next door or live in close proximity to these turbines.”
Ortt continued by essentially warning more rural residents that wind turbines could become a more common issue in their areas.
“If you live in a rural community, you will see more of these projects because the goals, as outlined by Governor Cuomo and this legislation, it’s going to mandate, essentially, more wind, more solar and more renewable energy projects to meet the energy output demand from New York State residents,” he said. “The output, in many cases, isn’t changing, but how they have to deliver that is.”
Much of Tuesday’s discussion focused around the idea of sound and acoustics, and how those two variables can impact nearby residents.
Dr. Jerry Punch holds a degree in audiology, and he explained that sleep disturbance is the most well-documented symptom of wind turbine noise.
“The National Institutes of Health tells us that there are a number of things that happen when we lose sleep,” said Punch. “High blood pressure is one; we lose the ability to think properly, to recall and to learn. There’s lowered immunity to disease; there can be weight gain in some people because of prolonged sleep disturbance; there are negative effects on children’s health and growth – particularly in children, it can also happen in terms of tissue growth and muscle growth…”
However, not everyone in attendance came away completely impressed by the forum. Lew Staley is from North Carolina and is currently in Western New York working with power generators, and he says that he hasn’t experienced any health effects that can be traced to wind turbines, and he added that the forum appeared to be biased.
“The program here is very interesting because it’s only one side – five speakers, two of them are elected officials…and they’re basically introducing the other four – and they’re all opposed to this type of generation, so it’s not balanced at all,” said Staley, who noted that the public should not simply take the words at the forum as gospel. “I think they should take a look at their references, take a look at the information if the slides are available, and they also should do some research…there’s a significant amount of wind generation in the U.S., even moreso in Europe, and so find out why it works in Europe and perhaps why it could work here, but you have opposition.”