Is wind energy compatible with cities? Wind energy is already here and creating controversy in some Massachusetts towns. In other cities, wind energy is hardly noticeable. For instance, there are wind turbines located at Logan airport, City Hall, the Museum of Science (more on these next post), and on Deer Island in Boston Harbor.
While most people hardly notice Boston’s turbines, Falmouth’s 1.65MW wind turbine isn’t as lucky and has even come under legal fire. According to the Falmouth Bulletin, six Falmouth residents who live within 3,200 feet of the turbine filed suit against the town and the zoning board of appeals over the zoning decision related to the turbine. Also, they and other Falmouth residents assert that the noise from the turbine has caused them to suffer physical symptoms, such as loss of sleep and headaches.
On the other side of the Bourne Bridge, Wareham residents have also mounted opposition to a proposal to construct six wind turbines on local cranberry farms, the so-called Bog Wind Power Cooperative Project. On March 23rd, Wareham held a Zoning Board of Appeals hearing on the project. During the meeting, real-estate appraiser Michael McCann of McCann Appraisal, LLC, asserted that $70 to $120 million in home market values could be lost in Wareham as a result of the 400 foot wind turbines. McCann has served as a consultant to residents in several communities considering wind turbine projects, including in Illinois, New Hampshire, and Brewster, Massachusetts. In response to McCann, Glen Berkowitz, president of Beaufort Windpower, LLC, argued that McCann’s estimates were based on large scale wind farms with dozens of turbines. Beaufort Windpower has partnered with bog owners to develop the project. It’s not yet clear what the final rulings will be on the turbines in Wareham and Falmouth.
Meanwhile, the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC) is funding community wind projects throughout the state (including Falmouth). Recently, MassCEC awarded $1 million to help fund wind energy projects in eight Massachusetts communities. The awards were a part of the Community-Scale Wind Initiative, which provides feasibility study and design and production grants for community wind projects through a competitive application process.
To help New England communities judge the worthiness of wind projects, the Department of Energy has created the New England Wind Energy Education Project (NEWEEP). This two-year program is part of the Wind Powering America Market Acceptance Program, which is funded by the Department of Energy. NEWEEP seeks to provide objective information about wind energy through webinars, online information, and public forums. Since the project’s start in 2010, NEWEEP has organized discussions on various topics, including shadow flicker, wind energy transmission, turbine sound, and the effects of wind turbines on public health and property values.
Research is needed to assure residents that wind energy does not harm human health. In July 2010, Dr. Robert J. McCunney, a research scientist from MIT, led a NEWEEP public forum that presented an analysis of peer-reviewed studies on the health effects of wind turbines. One finding McCunney presented was that wind turbine noise does not create a risk of hearing loss. Also, people experience feelings of annoyance from turbine noise, and this annoyance may manifest itself as stress-related physical symptoms. Third, existing studies indicate that sub audible low frequency noise and infrasound from wind turbines do not present a risk to public health. The simulcast of this public forum is available under Wind Turbine Noise and Health: Facts vs Fiction.
NEWEEP also explored concerns over the effects of wind turbines on property values in the Impact of Wind Power Projects on Residential Property Values Webinar. In the webinar, Ben Hoen, a consultant for the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratories (LBNL), reviews existing study findings and also presents the results of the LBNL study The Impact of Wind Power Projects on Residential Property Values in the United States: A Multi-Site Hedonic Analysis. The LBNL researchers found that there is an “absence of evidence that sales prices of homes without views of turbines and further than one mile from the nearest turbine are stigmatized by the arrival of a facility.” Also, researchers did not find evidence that “sales prices of homes with a view of the turbines are uniquely stigmatized.”
To listen to this webinar and others, you can visit New England Wind Energy Education Project Webinars. NEWEEP’S framing principle is that “the impacts of wind power projects are rarely as dire as opponents would suggest and are often not as innocuous as proponents would hope (and represent). “ They explain that “wind energy has many benefits, but some places are not suited for wind generation.” In order to discern suitable projects, the public and officials need unbiased, objective information.
Next….more on urban wind turbines.