Letter: Learn from Heath on wind turbines
To the editor of THE EAGLE:
Peru is similar to Heath, a town I have enjoyed with my family for many years. Peru and Heath are rural and peaceful, with magnificent wildlife.
Peru faces an industrial wind project, and Heath considered this possibility last year. The Heath Renewable Energy Committee analyzed regional industrial wind (less biased and more comprehensive than any state report I have seen) and focused on a cost/benefit analysis for the town. With a goal of supporting renewable wind energy, members came to a clear unanimous conclusion: industrial wind was not the right choice.
This was based on many factors, including the state noise limit of 10 decibels (dB) above background (3 dB is a doubling of noise power, 10 dB is 10 times the power!). Rural nighttime background noise is 20-25 dB, and turbine noise has been measured at 40-48 dB a half-mile away in similar terrain even under moderate conditions. Based on these facts the committee knew setbacks would need to be a mile or more.
Where could we put them? As a research scientist and a clinician I took an oath nearly 50 years ago to "first do no harm." I know people differ greatly in their sensitivities and tolerances, and children, the elderly, and the sick are our most vulnerable members of society. The World Health Organization recommends no more than 30 dB for a sleeping child at night, and we recognize sleep as essential to every aspect of health -- metabolic, psychological, cardiovascular, hormonal. Sleep deprivation impacts learning and memory significantly and increases risk for diseases and chronic conditions like diabetes and cancer.
Physiological effects of pressures and noise are well-documented, and the unpredictable and modulated qualities of wind turbines make them a unique stress. With prospective and randomized research lacking, and huge turbines only recently moving so close to people, health effects of turbines can still be denied by wind energy boosters. Quality research needs adequate funding and could take many years, but for now the emergence of problems, worldwide, cannot be ignored.
Perhaps most alarming: the Heath Committee concluded that there is no significant electricity production or carbon reduction with land-based wind in Massachusetts. The committee came to this conclusion using several different mathematical approaches. This report is available online if you search "Heath" and "Renewable Energy Committee."
JOHN SCHWARTZ, M.D.
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