Saturday, October 24, 2009

Wind towers discussed at West Rutland meeting

By Gordon Dritschilo STAFF WRITER - Published: October 23, 2009

WEST RUTLAND — Two speakers said wind towers need to be a safe distance from homes and another said they do not need to be in Vermont during a forum Thursday.

Vermonters for a Clean Environment organized the meeting at West Rutland Town Hall in light of the proposal of Vermont Community Wind Farm to build an 80-megawatt development in and around Ira.

VCE executive director Annette Smith moderated the meeting, which opened with a reading of a poem by Marshall Squier of Tinmouth and a performance of the Vermont state song.

Smith, who advised Ira residents who were against the proposal at a meeting in April and whose group has petitioned the Public Service Board in opposition to the placement of wind testing towers in association with the proposal, objected to being called an opponent of the development.

Smith said she reached out to VCWF early on, offering to help them work with the community in a constructive way, and was ignored. No one from VCWF was seen at the meeting.

Richard James, a sound engineer from Michigan, said he has studied more than 30 wind projects since 2005 and seen some designed well and some designed poorly. The well-designed ones, he said, had no homes near the turbines.

"Normally, we recommend wind turbines be 1.25 miles from the nearest home," he said. "When turbines are lined up in rows, we recommend that distance be 2 miles to 2.5 miles."

James said having wind towers in a row, as along ridge lines, amplifies sound effects in a way often not accounted for in computer modeling used by wind companies, and that developers need to be required to adjust for it.

James also said the intermittent nature of noise from wind towers causes it to agitate people at lower sound levels than that of other noise sources, so different standards should apply to them.

Carmen Krogh, a retired pharmacist from Canada, described suddenly getting sick when she vacationed near a wind tower. She said a significant body of medical literature on adverse health effects from tower-generated noise is dismissed by wind companies and ignored by the government.

Krogh said she has found many people near wind farms describing symptoms just like those listed in the studies and that there needs to be third-party studies of the health effects.

"We have competing claims right now," she said. "The industry says don't worry, the government says don't worry and we have victims saying we're worried."

In previous statements, VCWF spokesman Jeffrey Wennberg has said that improperly sited towers can cause problems, but that 80 percent of wind farms do not generate noise complaints and that the company believes it will be able to meet standards with half-mile setbacks.

Kevin Jones, former Rutland City alderman and current director of power market policy for the Long Island Power Authority, said that while he supports wind development, Vermont does not necessarily need it.

Jones said Vermont can meet its goals for renewable energy production without building any wind towers with a blend of imported wind power, biomass, hydro and solar.

He also said Vermont has an electricity surplus and that closing Vermont Yankee should not be used as an argument in favor of building wind towers because the state has enough power to close the nuclear plant now.