(Life sucks) In the Shadow of Wind Farms

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This is a very comprehensive study, investigating individuals from all over the USA, regarding the negative effects of living in the shadow of BigWind…

A six-month GateHouse Media investigation found that wind developers representing some of the world’s biggest energy companies divide communities and disrupt the lives of residents forced to live in the shadow of their industrial wind farms.

Reporters interviewed more than 70 families living near three dozen current or proposed wind farms. They also spoke to 10 state and local lawmakers, read hundreds of pages of public-service-commission records about wind projects, reviewed court filings in seven wind-related lawsuits and inspected lease agreements from at least eight wind farms.

GateHouse Media also identified through public documents and media reports an additional 400 families living near industrial wind turbines that have publicly complained about shadow flicker, noise, health problems and/or misleading statements by wind companies in an effort to solicit land agreements.

The investigation found that companies convince landowners to sign away their property rights for generations based on the promise of potential profits and the minimization of potential problems associated with wind turbines.

Those problems include shadow flicker, loud noises and low-frequency vibrations that have driven dozens of families from their homes. Many of them claim to have suffered serious health issues from the turbines before departing. Some say they’ll never be the same.

The wind industry has known about these issues for years – many of its contracts contain clauses acknowledging these effects – but it denies turbines affect human health, even as complaints mount nationwide.

Landowners often overlook potential problems until it’s too late. Many who sign contracts can’t terminate the agreements, even if they later beg for relief from what they deem intolerable living conditions. Some covenants bar people from suing or even publicly criticizing the projects.

Those who don’t sign agreements can face the same impact of living near wind turbines erected on neighboring properties. But they receive no compensation for the shadow flicker, noises and vibrations…

Wind developers have settled more than a half-dozen such cases nationwide, even while admitting no wrongdoing. Among the companies to settle is Michigan-based Consumers Energy, which owns Lake Winds Energy Park. The Shineldeckers were among several neighbors who sued the company…

Proposed wind projects also have fractured rural communities across America, pitting neighbor against neighbor in fights over property rights and money.

Many worry about the impact these turbines will have on their homes – some families interviewed have moved out of their houses after wind farms started operating; others have stayed but suffer from shadow flicker, noises and vibrations.

Elected officials tasked with voting on these developments have, in many cases, signed their own contracts with the wind companies, raising concerns about conflicts of interest.

Cary and Karen Shineldecker in their Mason County, Michigan, home. | Lucille Sherman | GateHouse Media

Among the investigation’s findings:

• Despite a growing chorus of complaints, the wind industry has expanded largely unopposed. Ten years ago, less than 300 industrial wind farms dotted the U.S. landscape. Today, more than 1,000 exist. Much of the growth has been funded by American taxpayers. Billions of dollars in state and federal incentives have made wind farms so profitable that companies are racing to develop them before the handouts disappear.

• Industrial wind turbines generate countless complaints nationwide about sleep disturbances, migraines, nausea, ear pressure, blurred vision, tinnitus and heart palpitations. Rampant reports about such effects from the Shirley Wind Farm in Brown County, Wisconsin, prompted the local Board of Health to declare the turbines a human health hazard.

• Wind industry officials have denounced people who complain about these symptoms, calling them misinformed or “anti-wind.” Some wind companies offer money or other concessions to frequent complainers, often in exchange for silence and a waiver for turbine-related claims. “I call it a shut-up clause,” said Jim Miller of South Dakota, who refused to sign such an agreement with Florida-based NextEra.

• Wind developers have used what some landowners describe as misleading tactics to get their contracts signed. Attorneys asked to review several such contracts called them one-sided, giving wind companies sweeping control over people’s property with few rights for the landowner.

• Wind farms have divided communities across America. Contracted landowners eyeing profits spar with neighbors opposing turbines near their backyards. Lifelong friendships can end. Families sometimes fray. Hopkinton, New York, resident Janice Pease said she stopped talking to relatives who support a proposed wind farm in their town. Pease adamantly opposes it.

Turbines from the Glacier Hills Wind Park in Columbia County, Wisconsin, churn in the late afternoon sun. | Arturo Fernandez | GateHouse Media

WIND INDUSTRY DENIES CLAIMS

GateHouse Media reached out to seven wind energy companies, including some of the nation’s largest, and two nonprofit groups that support the wind industry. Those representatives denied almost all of the investigation’s findings.

Every wind industry official interviewed said that relatively few people complain about wind turbines compared to the thousands of Americans living peacefully among the structures.

“We have 1,300 turbines in operation across the United States,” said Duke Energy spokeswoman Tammie McGee. Except for one wind farm in Wisconsin, “we don’t see these types of complaints at our other turbines.”

Many of the people who do complain, several representatives said, are well-known among industry insiders and comprise a small but vocal group of anti-wind activists…

When asked about the studies that do establish a link, those same wind officials disputed the validity of those papers and the credentials of the researchers…

People might be annoyed by wind turbines, several wind representatives said. But they’re not getting sick from them…

Rather than divide communities, they said their projects improve the lives of all residents. Some towns hold festivals commemorating their wind farms. Enyo Renewable Energy Principal Christine Mikell mentioned the Wind Fest in Spanish Fork, Utah, which hosts a nine-turbine wind farm.

“We have hundreds of landowners who are pleased to have us come to their communities,” said Bryan Garner of Florida-based NextEnergy Resources, the biggest wind energy producer in America with more than 100 wind farms…

 

Communities can also benefit financially from wind farms. The construction of these multi-million-dollar projects employs hundreds of temporary workers and adds new, taxable revenue to local and state coffers…

FORCED TO MOVE

As the wind industry continues to expand, so do its critics.

Hundreds of residents nationwide have claimed industrial wind turbines make them sick. Several families say the structures have forced them from their homes…

“People don’t give up their homes for no reason,” Ed Hobart said, responding to claims the symptoms were all in his head. “It had financial and emotional and health impacts on me and my wife that we will never be fully recovered from.”…

When the sun passes behind those blades, it creates a strobe-like phenomenon called shadow flicker that can disorient and nauseate those forced to live with it….

But even as complaints mount across the nation, the wind industry steadfastly denies turbines impact human health.

“We are aware of some of the cases where individuals come to believe that wind turbines are the cause of their health concerns, and we feel great sympathy for anyone who is suffering from illness of any kind,” said Dahvi Wilson of Apex Clean Energy, which owns several wind farms nationwide.

But, Wilson said, science doesn’t support their claims. And until it does, the company will continue to build wind farms based on current best practices.

The wind industry frequently cites a 2014 Health Canada study that found no direct association between health problems and wind turbines. The study involved more than 1,200 residents in 18 wind farms.

But the same study also found wind turbines “highly annoy” about one in 10 people, especially those living closest to the structures and those exposed to turbine noises exceeding 35 decibels.

That annoyance is “statistically related” to reports of migraines, tinnitus, dizziness and high blood pressure….

Researchers using low-frequency meters have found a link between wind turbines and “sensations of uneasiness and personal disturbance,” as well as “extreme pressure” and “headache or nausea or dizziness.”

One of the first to do this was Neil Kelley, a now-retired scientist from the National Wind Technology Center in Denver. The U.S. Department of Energy and NASA hired Kelley three decades ago to investigatecomplaints about their wind turbine near Boone, North Carolina.

Kelley and his colleagues determined after extensive testing that “the annoyance was real and not imagined,” the result of acoustic impulses.

Kelley did not return calls for comment.

LIKE MOTION SICKNESS

These acoustic impulses – or low-frequency sound waves – stimulate parts of the inner ear responsible for balance, motion and spatial orientation and that they provoke symptoms similar to motion sickness, some researchers say.

“If you’re sitting still and something is causing the same fluids to move, your brain doesn’t know that it’s a false signal,” said Rick James, an acoustical engineer who has written papers on the subject. “But you open your eyes and say, ‘I’m sitting still, but I feel like I’m moving.’”

The Minnesota Department of Health noted the phenomenon in 2009 paper. It found low-frequency waves cause more problems inside a house than outside because, rather than block the pulsations, the walls amplify them.

Darlene Mueller wept as she described how turbines in the Blue Sky Green Field Wind Energy Center in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, sickened her inside her home…

 

DRAGGED THROUGH THE MUD

But some wind farm residents who spoke out about their problems said the industry belittles them. It dismisses their complaints as unfounded or labels them troublemakers, multiple people said.

It has silenced many of their neighbors whom they said suffer the same symptoms but fear the consequences of speaking out…

After Cary Shineldecker went public about his experience in Michigan’s Lake Winds Energy Park, an energy company executive singled him out at a meeting several states away.

Mike Blazer of Chicago-based Invenergy claimed to know Shineldecker’s medical history. He told a crowd in Clear Lake, South Dakota, that Shineldecker’s health woes stemmed from alcohol use, obstructive sleep apnea and an irregular heartbeat – not wind turbines…

Shineldecker said he was stunned to learn about the incident from an attorney who attended the meeting. He said he has neither sleep apnea nor alcohol problems and never received a diagnosis for those problems.

“All I ever had to go on was my integrity and honesty and work ethic,” Shineldecker said, “and then to be belittled and treated like some whack-job psycho liar is kind of unbelievable.”

Iowa wind farm resident Terry McGovern said he faced disparagement by Apex Clean Energy.

The Virginia-based company accused McGovern of holding “a personal anti-wind agenda” and claimed he would spread misinformation and generate unfounded fear of wind energy ahead of a public presentation he gave.

Apex made the claims in a July 2017 letter it sent to landowners discouraging them from attending the presentation, held near the site of its proposed Upland Prairie Wind farm in northwest Iowa.

McGovern denies holding an anti-wind agenda but is publicly critical of the industry and its business practices. His Iowa Wind Action Group calls for greater setbacks for industrial turbines to protect human health.

“Instead of focusing on the issues, they try to discredit the person,” McGovern said. “That way, they can avoid talking about the facts.”..

 

 

via In the Shadow of Wind Farms

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