Wisconsin Health officials weigh next step after declaring wind turbines a health risk

Wisconsin Health officials weigh next step after declaring the 2009 Shirley Wind Farm a health risk to its neighbors, likely due to low-frequency noise generated by the turbines.

Brown County health officials have declared wind turbines a public health risk, but they haven’t determined how to put their declaration into action.
The county’s Health Board this month declared the Shirley Wind Farm operated by Duke Energy Renewables poses a health risk to its neighbors in the town of Glenmore. Three families have moved out of their homes rather than endure physical illness they blame on the low-frequency noise the wind turbines generate, according to Audrey Murphy, president of the board that oversees the Brown County Health Department.
“We struggled with this but just felt we needed to take some action to help these citizens,” Murphy said.
Murphy called the declaration a first step, but “the second step is up to the director of our Health Department, Judy Friederichs, and corporation counsel.”
(Photo: H. Marc Larson/Press-Gazette Media)

(Photo: H. Marc Larson/Press-Gazette Media)
The Health Department has statutory authority for licensing, inspection and enforcement for businesses where health and environmental problems are at issue, but just what that means for the wind farm has not yet been determined, Friederichs said.
State health officials have expressed interest in participating in Brown County’s discussion of the issue, Friederichs said. She, board members and the county’s lawyer need to put their heads together to determine the next step, she said. No timeline has been established.
“We’re all saying the same thing here: Now what?” Friederichs said. “There aren’t a lot of alternatives to mitigation. It really depends now on where this goes, what type of referrals we get, etc. There’s ongoing concerns. We’re going to have to really look at it, and it’s more of a legal question.”
Wind turbines in the town of Glenmore in southern
Wind turbines in the town of Glenmore in southern Brown County. (Photo: H. Marc Larson/Press-Gazette Media/@HMarcLarson )
Whatever happens, residents “are grateful to the Board of Health for reviewing the research and listening to the people of Brown County,” said Susan Ashley, who also lives in the Shirley area and who has helped rally opposition to the wind farm through the years.
Twenty families in the town have documented health issues since the wind farm started operated in 2009, Ashley said.
Wind turbines in the town of Glenmore in southern Brown County. (Photo: H. Marc Larson/Press-Gazette Media)

Wind turbines in the town of Glenmore in southern Brown County. (Photo: H. Marc Larson/Press-Gazette Media)
Duke Energy Renewables was not invited to the health board’s discussion and would have cited tests that determined sound levels from the wind generators were low and could not be linked to adverse health impacts, company spokeswoman Tammie McGee said. The company has not received any formal word about the board’s declaration, McGee said.
Dr. Jay Tibbetts, vice president of the Brown County health board and its medical adviser, said he knows of no science that proves there isn’t a link between health problems and the low-frequency noise the giant fans produce.
“There’s been nothing that’s debunked anything,” he said. “As far as what’s happening to these people, it doesn’t make a difference whether you’re in Shirley or Denmark, or Ontario, Canada. Forty people have moved out of their homes, and it’s not just for jollies. In Shirley, three people have moved out of their homes. I know all three. They’re not nuts. They’re severely suffering.”
People might not be able to hear the sounds the Shirley turbines produce, but Tibbetts said he knows of a teenager living in the area who can tell when the turbines are off or on without being able to see them. Area residents or former residents report headaches, nausea and other symptoms they say are brought on by the turbines, and those symptoms clear up when the residents move elsewhere for a time, Tibbetts said.
The board’s declaration may be cutting edge and controversial, but it wasn’t made lightly or without the weight of science behind it, Murphy said
“This is a serious step,” she said. “We didn’t make it lightly. There is science from around the world — the World Health Organization, Denmark, Poland, Germany. We believe there’s enough science.”
Darrell Ashley, who is Susan Ashley’s father-in-law and lives within a mile of the Shirley turbines, said his wife moved out of the house for several months until her symptoms disappeared. She has since moved back, and her symptoms are coming back, he said.
“I’m getting worse and I can’t afford to move out,” he said. “I’m just getting weaker — my legs, back, feet. My concentration is gone, head pressure, ear aches, headaches, it just goes on and on.”
Prior to 2009, when the turbines weren’t operating, he and his wife had no such problems, he said. He praised the health board and said he appreciated that someone finally listened to residents’ complaints.
Murphy said Brown County is probably the first governmental body in Wisconsin and perhaps the first in the country to make the formal declaration.
The board has been wrestling with the issue for about the last four years, Murphy said. While some scientific studies have failed to find a link between health risks and the low-frequency noise that wind turbines generate, two studies done recently on the Shirley Wind Farm specifically say otherwise, Murphy said.
“While there may still be debate about the precise mechanism that causes these sounds to induce the symptoms, it is clear from (these studies) … that acoustic energy emitted by operation of modern wind turbines is at the root of adverse health effects,” Murphy said.
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Citizens’ Task Force on Wind Power – Maine

Comment Submissions to DEP Needed on Yet Taller Turbines

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Montpelier’s 90 percent solution

Credit:  Meredith Angwin | Green Mountain Outlook | Monday, August 25, 2014 | www.gmoutlook.com ~~

Since Aug. 16, I have received over a dozen e-mails regarding my editorial titled, “A Case of Solar Hubris”. Some praised me for pointing out the fallacy of covering Vermont’s hills and meadows with solar and wind power stations, while others took issue with me for taking sides with the NIMBY folks—the Not In My Backyarders.

Regarding my reference to Montpelier’s goal of generating 90 percent of its energy needs by 2025 using “homegrown” alternative energy, President Rob Roper of the Ethan Allen Institute was quick to respond that Vermont-based physical chemist Meredith Angwin ran the numbers in 2013 to determine exactly how much of an impact this lofty goal will have on the Vermont landscape. Read Entire Article>>

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Hoosac Wind fails noise test

Hoosac Wind is loud. It’s too loud to comply with  Massachusetts noise limits. That’s why an April 28, 2014 letter to the Mass. Department of Environmental Protection offers remedies for the loud sounds. Iberdrola lists the exceedences measured in tests performed in January and February 2014 at monitoring stations at Tilda Hill Road and Moores Road:
• January 9, 2014 measurements were 42.4 dBA average Lmax at Tilda Hill South and 37.5 dBA average Lmax at Moores Road North. Ambient at those locations was 32.2 DBA and 26.7 dBA, respectively.
• February 20, 2014 measurements were 44.8 dBA average Lmax at Tilda Hill South and 44.4 dBA average Lmax at Moores Road North. Ambient at those locations was 27.8 DBA and 27.5 dBA, respectively. These unusual sound levels are attributed to a blade icing condition.
Too bad the company has not informed residents in Florida and Monroe, as it says in its letter it will do:
In addition to these technical modifications, New England Wind [Iberdrola Renewables] will be contacting neighboring residents inviting them to an information session. In that session New England Wind will listen to the concerns of landowners, discuss the sound test results, and detail our technical modifications. In addition, New England Wind will be offering scheduled tours of the site.
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Citizens’ Task Force on Wind Power – Maine

Anti Wind ads hit Portland Press Herald

Saving Maine’s ad campaign has expanded to the Portland Press Herald, with two ads on different pages in the National section.  The ads which started today are this one here and, two pages later, the “Saudi Arabia of Wind” ad that I posted a few days ago that had run in the “Forecaster”.

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Utility buys out Vermont wind turbine neighbors

Don and Shirley Nelson, neighbors and longtime opponents of Green Mountain Power Corp.’s Lowell wind turbines, have settled with the power company and will move away.
Green Mountain Power will pay the Nelsons $1.3 million for their 540-acre Albany property on the east side of Lowell Mountain, directly downhill from where the utility has installed 21 wind turbines. The Nelsons will retain 35 acres and have up to two years to remain on the property, the utility said Monday in a statement.
“The agreement meets the needs of the Nelsons as well as those of our customers,” Green Mountain Power spokeswoman Dorothy Schnure said. “We believe that this settlement represents an opportunity for both to move forward.”
The Nelsons have fought various plans for installation of turbines on the mountain for a decade. The project finally came to fruition in 2011 when a neighboring landowner leased the ridgeline to Green Mountain Power and the town of Lowell voted to support the project. The project was completed in 2012.
The Nelsons’ land on Bayley Hazen Road has been in the family for 72 years and is where Don Nelson grew up. After the wind project was completed, the couple complained that the noise from the turbines made them ill and disputed the company’s noise measurements that showed them to be within standards set by the state.
The couple, who are retired dairy farmers, said Monday in a written statement that they plan to move “well away” from the turbines. They said they realized that the turbines would never be removed.
During the planning stages for the project, the Nelsons said they turned down an offer from Green Mountain Power to buy their property for $1.25 million, countering with $2.25 million that the utility rejected.
In 2011, Don Nelson said, “After 40 years of working, if you had to sell to someone who wanted to destroy what you built, would you? They’re changing the character of the Northeast Kingdom.”
Green Mountain Power sued the Nelsons for failing to keep protesters away. The Nelsons countersued, contesting the property boundary. Monday’s agreement will settle the still-pending court cases. As crews began blasting on the mountaintop to make room for the turbines’ concrete pads in 2011, the Nelsons tried unsuccessfully to persuade a judge to halt blasting and declined to deter protesters who sympathized with them. Six protesters were later arrested.
Ridge Protectors, a group of sympathizers, issued a statement Monday in support of the couple, saying they were forced off their property by a foreign-owned corporation in reference to Green Mountain Power’s Canadian owner, Gaz Metro. “Yes, they were paid for that property, but money runs a poor second to beauty, peace, quiet and a love for your land,” the group said.
Annette Smith, executive director of Vermonters for a Clean Environment, who worked with the Nelsons in their opposition, said the Nelsons tried unsuccessfully to find another use for their property once the turbines were built. “Green Mountain Power’s robbed it of its value,” she said. “There’s really no alternative.”
Smith said the Nelsons offered to sell the property to Green Mountain Power and then have it donated to nearby Sterling College, but the utility declined.
Schnure declined to say how the $1.3 million additional cost would affect the cost-benefit of the project or discuss other issues related to the settlement beyond the written statement the company issued Monday. “That’s all we’re really saying,” she said.
Smith wondered how the settlement would affect the rates Green Mountain Power charges customers.
Smith said the Nelsons’ fight shows that those who are affected by renewable energy projects can find no relief from state agencies. “The solution is get a lawyer and sue. It’s the only hope,” she said.
The turbines are designed to generate 63 megawatts of power, or enough electricity for the needs of about 24,000 Vermont homes.
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VICTORY FOR NEIGHBOURS OPPRESSED BY WINDTURBINE NOISE IN VINALHAVEN !

PRESS RELEASE from Fox Islands Wind Neighbors :
Contact: Alan Farago /Rufus Brown esq. 207 831 0569

After three years of litigation, a Maine Superior Court decision has finally found in favor of wind turbine neighbors complaining about excessive noise from three nearby 1.5 megawatt GE wind turbines. Although citizens across the United States living near wind turbines are complaining — including lawsuits against wind turbine operators — this is the first court case where a state judge has found against a state agency charged with enforcement; the Maine Department of Environmental Protection. Continue reading

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High court overrules agency OK of multi-million-dollar wind energy deal

A 2012 deal worth hundreds of millions of dollars to expand wind energy projects across the Northeast was dealt a blow Tuesday by the Maine supreme court, which ruled that a state agency’s approval of the complex deal was invalid.
The transaction included prominent wind developer First Wind, Maine utility companies Bangor Hydro and Maine Public Service and Nova Scotia-based electric utilities owner Emera, Inc.
The Public Utilities Commission (PUC) had approved the proposed transaction in April, 2012. In June, 2012, the companies announced they had closed the multi-part deal to affiliate, which would provide First Wind with the cash to build wind turbines across the region.
A press release stated the joint venture amounted to $361 million in loans and investments, adding that “the completion of the joint venture could lead to up to $3 billion in future economic investment in the region in the coming years.”
But between the PUC’s approval and the companies’ announcement of the closing, three parties appealed the approval to the state’s highest court. The appeals were made by the state Public Advocate, the Houlton Water Company and the Industrial Energy Consumers’ Group, which represents large energy users and advocates for lower electricity prices.
Their primary argument was that the deal would violate the state’s landmark electricity restructuring act. That law barred electricity transmission companies like Bangor Hydro from owning electricity generation because it was seen as anti-competitive and contributing to high electricity prices.
But in their approval of the deal, the PUC commissioners determined that “the risks of harm to ratepayers do not exceed the benefits if substantial conditions on the approval of the transaction are imposed.”
The Supreme Judicial Court’s opinion, issued Tuesday, came more than a year and a half after the court heard the case. Chief Justice Leigh Saufley wrote that, “Primary among the concerns raised by the interveners” is the potential that the companies would, “through these shared economic and business connections, obtain a competitive advantage over other generators in access to transmission and distribution … thus potentially defeating the purposes of the Restructuring Act.”
Saufley acknowledged that the Act contained “ambiguous language” regarding the relationships between affiliated companies that transmit and distribute power and companies that generate it. But her analysis concluded that the PUC’s approval was based on an erroneous interpretation of that language.
Saufley wrote that the PUC had determined that the transaction should be approved because the relationships between the companies did not amount to one company having a “controlling interest” in the other.
But, a “controlling interest,” wrote Saufley, wasn’t the standard set by the law.
“If the relationship among the entities results in the T&D (transmission and distribution) utility having a financial interest that would provide an incentive to favor certain generators over others, the proposed corporate restructuring is prohibited…
“The commission misinterpreted the statute,” wrote Saufley. “The Commission must reexamine the transactions proposed here,” using the court’s interpretation of the statute’s meaning.
PUC Chairman Tom Welch said Tuesday that “the commission never enjoys having the law court reverse and negate our decisions.”
The court’s decision puts into question the validity of the deal among the four companies. The deal was undertaken after getting PUC approval; if that approval is invalid, can the deal still stand?
“It does create a certain moment of awkwardness as to exactly what the status quo is at this point,” said Welch. “We’re certainly going to be soliciting the views of all the parties in the case as to what they think the implications of this are.”
First Wind spokesman John LaMontagne said that the company was “reviewing the decision and its implications to First Wind and our joint venture with Emera. First Wind will work with Emera as the PUC determines next steps. We remain committed to the joint venture with Emera, as it provides Maine and the Northeast with substantial benefits from development and continuing operation of new renewable energy assets.”
An Emera spokeswoman did not respond with comment by deadline.
Eric Bryant, the attorney in the state Public Advocate’s office who filed one of the appeals of the PUC decision, said that the court’s decision reaffirmed the purpose of the Restructuring Act. The Public Advocate represents the interests of ratepayers in state utility proceedings.
“The Restructuring Act was a balancing of the interests of the utilities and ratepayers, and the act’s separation of generation from the regulated utility was a significant piece of that and it served to protect ratepayers, because all the financial risk associated with generation was turned away from ratepayers,” said Bryant. “I’m gratified that this decision recognizes the goals of the restructuring act, it’s a victory for ratepayers.”
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Exporting Maine’s 
wind energy

Read article:  http://www.pressherald.com/news/Exporting_Maine_s__wind_energy_.html?pagenum=full

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Vermont’s Public Service Board issued an order on Monday opening an investigation to consider the development of sound standards.

A prehearing conference will be held on January 8, 2014, 1:30 p.m., Pavilion Auditorium, Montpelier, Vermont (basement of building that houses the Governor’s office, next to the Supreme Court building which is next to the Statehouse).

Interested entities and individuals are encouraged to file written comments and recommendations on these topics in advance in order to facilitate discussion at the prehearing conference, no later than close of business on Dec. 31, 2013.

IF YOU ARE LIVING NEAR A WIND ENERGY FACILITY IN VERMONT AND EXPERIENCING NOISE PROBLEMS, PLEASE MAKE EVERY EFFORT TO ATTEND THE PREHEARING CONFERENCE. IF YOU CANNOT ATTEND, PLEASE BE SURE TO FILE WRITTEN COMMENTS.

IF YOU ARE OUTSIDE VERMONT AND HAVE EXPERIENCE WITH SOUND STANDARDS FOR ENERGY PROJECTS, PLEASE PROVIDE YOUR WRITTEN COMMENTS TO THE VERMONT BOARD BY THEIR DEC. 31, 2013 DEADLINE. WE CAN ALL BENEFIT FROM YOUR EXPERIENCE. THANK YOU

Vermonters for a Clean Environment currently is working with citizens on three open dockets before the PSB on wind turbine noise. It seems that our persistent efforts have gotten their attention. Now it’s up to those of you who are living with these big machines as neighbors, or are threatened by them, to tell the Board directly what it is you want them to do.

—————–

Annette Smith
Executive Director
Vermonters for a Clean Environment, Inc.
789 Baker Brook Rd.
Danby, VT 05739

office: (802) 446-2094

cell: (802) 353-6058

http://www.vce.org/

vce@vce.org

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