More Needed on Wind Turbines

Posted By COLIN MACKAY – Belleville Intelligencer

The use of wind turbines as a cleaner source of renewable energy has generated much discussion lately.

Six possible wind farms with many wind turbines are in the process of coming to Prince Edward County over the next few years.

Complaints about wind farms are not new. Comments from residents living near wind turbines from around the world point out that there are issues that need to be addressed.

This has pitted environmentalists and turbine manufacturers against local residents. To date the provincial government has managed to muffle the concerns of its own residents. However, the voices of concerned Ontario residents are starting to grow louder.

For me turbines sounded like a great idea. I thought this was just a “not in my backyard” issue. Cleaner energy would be produced and the local farmer would get some much needed cash of $5,000 to $15,000 by leasing the land used for the turbines.

Wind farms would be a huge source of clean renewable energy of the future and the provincial government certainly agreed. Power companies would make money while at the same time most people would see this as a friendly environmentally sustainable action.

However, a slow backlash against wind turbine farms is growing mainly because of health concerns being raised by residents.

Unexplained illnesses that appear to have been caused by close proximity to wind turbines is referred to as Wind Turbine Syndrome. The closer people resided to turbines, the more likely they were to have symptoms.

Residents near turbines have complained about losing feeling in parts of their bodies, dizziness, headaches and sleep disruptions.

Dr. Nina Pierpont, a researcher at John Hopkins University School of Medicine, published a book entitled, Wind Turbine Syndrome. Dr. Robert McMurtry conducted a survey in which 53 out of 76 people living near wind turbines reported adverse health effects.

In Japan where turbines have been around since the early 1990s, residents living near turbines are increasingly complaining of headaches, dizziness, insomnia and other ill effects.

Similar adverse health effects have also been reported by Japanese residents living close to factory boilers that produce the same low frequencies as those emitted by wind turbines.

The Canadian Wind Energy Association points out nearly 10,000 turbines have been in North America with few complaints. As well there is no evidence in peer-reviewed science journals suggesting that there are health issues.

The association also listed seven prominent publications including the World Health Organization and the Ministry of Environment that state wind turbines do not cause adverse health effects.

So, who should one believe?

When wind turbines first began, they were installed a fair distance away from people. As the population has grown and remote locations have dried up, wind turbines have been moved closer to where people live.

In Ontario, at present, the law states wind turbines should be 400 metres away from buildings. Other countries have suggested 1.5 to two kilometres away.

The provincial government needs to protect its own citizens and pay attention to these concerns.

Wind turbines could potentially be a major benefit to the environment. However, to residents living close to wind turbines they may be a health disaster.

Further research is needed to explain why residents living close to wind turbines are reporting adverse health effects and figure out exactly what is a safe distance.

At the moment wind turbines and close-by residents trying to live a normal life are not in harmony.

Colin MacKay is a longtime resident of Belleville and a member of the Intelligencer Writers Group. He has benefited from the expertise of both doctors and nurses and is a strong supporter of medicare.