Green Leaf Inn Project
by Catherine McQueen
December 10, 2013
People usually have a fear of the new or unknown. In my experience, nothing has stirred up more fear and anger than the construction and the running of our Endurance 50 kilowatt wind turbine. It stands proudly on our 5 acre property 120 feet high – the perfect height to catch the prevailing breezes over the tree tops. No explanation, communication or township meetings were able to calm the hysteria and anger generated by its construction. We humans are extremely creative. We can imagine trouble where none exists.
Here then, is my list of things to do if you are ever faced with a wind turbine for a neighbor.
Relax about your land values. The worth of your property is unaffected by a turbine next door. If your home is next to high voltage transmission lines, a factory or a noisy highway, you might have a problem. The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) funded by the US Department of Energy, has recently completed two major studies researching land values near wind farms. One of the authors of the latest report stated: “Although there have been claims of significant property value impacts near operating wind turbines that regularly surface in the press or in local communities, strong evidence to support those claims has failed to materialize in all of the major U.S. studies conducted thus far.”
Don’t worry about bird deaths. Yes, birds do collide with turbines, but according to the research from Focus on Energy, destruction of habitat due to pollution or human habitation as well as collisions with other manmade structures like buildings and transmission lines pose the real problems. In fact, according to Focus on Energy, the three biggest problems for birds are buildings and windows which account for 55% of annual deaths followed by domestic cats at 10% and high tension lines at 8%. Bird deaths due to wind turbines come in at .1%.
Compare the sound to the traffic or a lawn mower. Sound level is measured in decibels, or dBs. At a sustained level 90-95 dBs begins to cause hearing loss. A riding mower averages 80 dbs, while a normal conversation averages 60 dBs, traffic sounds are at roughly 80 dBs and a Diesel truck is around 85 dBs. Most of the sound from our turbine – and others like it or smaller, comes from the sound of the blades passing through the air. It’s been described as being as loud as a typical refrigerator which averages 40 dBs. Remember, that as the turbine is moved by the wind, so are other things like trees, fields or man-made structures – all of which add to the natural or ambient noise. However, even though the wind turbine may not be as loud as other sounds, the fact that it is a different sound may make it easier to hear.
Be aware of the health dangers to humans and animals. There aren’t any. There are no documented cases of the sight or sound of turbines – even in the large solar farms out west, or in Northern Wisconsin – making any person or animal ill. The Chicago Tribune printed an article a few years ago about a farmer in Illinois who lost some goats and attributed their deaths to the recent Installation of a turbine next to his farm. He believed deeply that this was the cause. There was no medical proof. Many people talk about the dangers of ice on the blades being thrown off during the winter. Turbines are designed not to turn when the weight on their blades gets too heavy. The ice will eventually fall straight down to the base.
There is also no interference with cell phones or any electronic devices. One of our neighbors was convinced that their poor cell phone and television reception was due to the turbine, but the blades are made of fiberglass which does not interfere with any electronic signals. The area where our turbine stands is notorious for bad cell phone signals – and the TV antennae used by the neighbor would have the same difficulty. I asked Randy Faller of Kettleview Renewable Energy (the company that constructed the turbine) about the complaint. He chuckled and said that he would often be on his cell during construction when he was up at the top of the turbine near the blades, and in spite of being inches away from the generation equipment, had terrific service. Another safety fear is someone being hurt trying to climb the turbine’s tower. This problem can be extended to any tower in the neighborhood – radio, cell, water, etc. We solved this worry by removing any hand or footholds for the first 20 feet. When technical work needs to be done, a lift is used to reach the ladder.
Think about the sustainable energy being made. You know that expression “Lead, follow or get out of the way?” This technology is the wave of the future and the future is here now. Of all of the ways we create energy in this country, wind is, along with solar panels, one of the least damaging to our planet. If we can support green energy now, even during challenging economic times, we and the earth will be better off in the long run.
Use it as a land mark. The great majority of people feel that wind turbines are fascinating and lovely to look at. Many people told us they changed their route to work so they could see our turbine gently turning each day. They are a symbol of this country’s energy independence and should be a source of pride, because they stand for our attempts to live gently on the planet.
We should all be so lucky to live near a wind turbine – or better yet – own one. – Catherine