Boston’s WGBH has been doing a series about the noise and health problems people are experiencing in Falmouth, Massachusetts since a big wind turbine began operating in their neighborhood last year. This extensive series provides the public with one of the first honest discussions about the issues associated with siting big wind turbines near people. The series is posted on WGBH’s website called Climatide, which is focused on climate change issues. You can find the series here.
Thank you to WGBH for this thorough discussion of the issues.
The Falmouth Experience: The Trouble with One Town’s Wind Turbine
March 15, 2011 | 10:45 AM | By Heather Goldstone
Last week, we ran an in-depth series of reports on claims of health impacts caused by wind turbines, focusing on the experience of Falmouth, MA residents living within a quarter of a mile of a town-owned turbine. My colleague Sean Corcoran reported the series. I reviewed the relevant science and provided analysis and commentary. Here’s everything in one place. Enjoy!
And stay tuned for continuing coverage of this issue, including a live chat with David McGlinchey of the Manomet Center for Conservation Science on the state of the science and how to shape responsible wind turbine siting policies in the face of incomplete data … Wednesday, March 16th at 10am.
The Falmouth Experience by Sean Corcoran
Encouraged by the Patrick Administration’s goal to expand wind power, communities across the commonwealth are considering or constructing wind turbines. In the town of Falmouth, MA, some residents say a 400-foot tall turbine installed last year has changed their lives – and not for the better.
Some residents of Falmouth say the sounds coming from a large, town-owned wind turbine are making them sick. While turbines are not silent, claims of health impacts, including sleep disruption, headaches, ringing in the ears, and depression, are often controversial. And there’s limited scientific data to resolve the debate.
Residents in the town of Falmouth say that a nearly 400-foot wind turbine has severely impacted their quality of life. They talk about noise and health issues, but sound isn’t the only thing generating discontent. There also are complaints about a phenomenon called ‘shadow flicker’.
Efforts to install land-based wind turbines on the Cape have slowed, largely because of opposition to a turbine that was installed last spring in Falmouth. Prominent pro-wind spokesperson Liz Argo says the Falmouth experience is an isolated incident, but anti-wind advocate Eric Bibler says the same thing could happen anywhere.
Because of its strong winds, Cape Cod is a crucial part of Governor Deval Patrick’s plan to erect enough wind turbines to power 800,000 home by the end of the decade – a quarter of them on land. But complaints about a wind turbine in Falmouth are raising the possibility that one bad experience could jeopardize Patrick’s state-wide push for wind energy.
Analysis and Commentary by Heather Goldstone
Proposals for offshore wind energy development around Cape Cod have met with stiff opposition from fishermen and environmentalists. It’s been argued that there’s plenty of space on land, so why develop the ocean? But complaints from people living nearby wind turbines on land are raising a different and challenging question: how much room is enough room for a wind turbine?
Climatide readers weigh in on the relative strengths and weaknesses of various forms of energy generation and share their visions for a sustainable energy portfolio.
We’ve all experienced annoyance of one sort or another, but probably never considered seeing a doctor about it. But a technical definition of annoyance used by some scientists and medical professionals goes well beyond workaday irritation to encompass a significant degradation of quality of life. This semantic difference contributes to misunderstandings in the debate about potential health impacts of wind turbines.
Despite claims of health problems coming from nearby neighbors of some – by no means all – wind turbines around the world, the American Wind Energy Association maintains that wind turbines do not cause adverse health impacts. A review of the limited science available suggests more research is needed to better understand the nature and origin of complaints.