Helen Schwiesow Parker, PhD, is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist and a Past Clinical Supervisory Faculty member at the University of Virginia Medical School. Her career includes practical experience in the fields of autism, sensory perception, memory and learning, attention deficit and anxiety disorders, including panic disorder and PTSD.
In this well-crafted piece, Helen details the misery and suffering which is caused by incessant turbine generated low-frequency noise and infrasound and maliciously covered up by the wind industry and its political enablers.
The Secret, Silent Wind Power Peril
Helen Schwiesow Parker
7 February 2017
The General Problem
“From a distance, many view the massive turbines as majestic – as a clean, seemingly quiet and free source of endless energy. To numerous residents clustered within 2km (1.25 miles) or more of the pulsing machines, however, the Industrial-scale Wind Turbines (IWT) bring strangely debilitating illness – incapacitating for some, yet scoffed at by the Big Wind industry.”
“Common sense tells us that a forty-story-tall metal structure with blades as long as football fields moving at 180 mph at their tips would negatively impact quiet neighborhoods, pastoral and wilderness areas. But the extent and severity of the IWT’s effect on body, mind and spirit comes as a surprise to most people.”
Schools and airlines have become highly responsive to people with peanut sensitivities – going so far as to ban peanuts, peanut butter, peanut oil and related items. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and many state agencies have implemented regulations that set allowable power plant, factory, vehicle and other emissions as close to zero as possible, hoping to prevent any potential adverse effects on people thought to be the most sensitive to air and water pollutants.
But with wind power, nearly all federal, state and local authorities gloss over, ignore or bury increasing evidence that wind turbines affect numerous people living in proximity to them.
Legislators and regulators appear unwilling even to consider the possibility that some segments of our population might be extremely sensitive to infrasound, flicker, and other “emissions” from these turbines – and wind energy companies and advocates are working hard to ensure that this approach remains in effect.
Indeed, even those who seek increasing scrutiny of the wind industry generally speak of mandates, subsidies, bird and bat deaths, and impacts on wildlife habitats. Few pay attention to, or even acknowledge, the often devastating and long-lasting health impacts suffered by human wind turbine neighbors, even though clear evidence of the hazard has been available for decades.
Proper attention to this serious and widespread problem is long overdue. It is hoped that this review of available knowledge will accelerate that process.
Disregard for Turbine Health Impacts: A Longstanding Problem
Neil Kelley was principal scientist at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory Wind Technology Center from 1980 until 2011. During the Windpower ’87 Conference, he presented one of many similar studies published in this decade by acousticians working under grants from the Department of Energy (DOE), Department of Defense (DOD), and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).
Their findings quickly became a hot topic. Infrasound (inaudible) and low-frequency (audible) noise (collectively referred to as ILFN) produced by Industrial-scale Wind Turbines (IWTs) directly causes adverse health effects, experts stated. The disturbance from the turbines is often worse indoors than outside. “Far from becoming inured to the disturbance, people become increasingly sensitive to it over time,” they noted.
The wind industry response was immediate. Any regulatory standards will reference only A-weighted measurements, they insisted, which exclude the ILFN that are known to cause problems. We will measure only outside, not inside dwellings, insist that neighbors “will get used to it,” and deny that the victims’ suffering has any basis in reality, let alone science.
NOTE: A-weighted noise measurements reflect the relative loudness perceived by the human ear, but drastically reduce sound-level readings in the lower frequencies: the slow periodic vibrations that were found to directly impact human health and wellbeing. Noise meters in common use can present measurements in both A- and C-weighted figures, using built-in electronic filters to adjust the way in which the instruments measure noise. Clearly, the C-weighted measurement, which more fairly represents the low frequencies, must be included in any regulatory standards that address the impact of sound from wind turbines.
With billions of dollars at stake, the wind lobby overpowered any community or organization that tried to raise concerns or slow its advance. Big Wind expanded rapidly around the globe, devastating wilderness areas and agrarian and shoreside communities, while forming fraternities with other powerful interests to advance and protect its agenda.
From a distance, many view the massive turbines as majestic – as a clean, seemingly quiet and free source of endless energy. To numerous residents clustered within 2km (1.25 miles) or more of the pulsing machines, however, the IWTs bring strangely debilitating illness – incapacitating for some, yet scoffed at by the Big Wind industry.
“When I’m at home I’m usually sick with headaches, nausea, vertigo, tinnitis, anxiety, hopelessness, depression. My ears pop a lot and I hardly ever sleep…. My husband and I are trying desperately to find a cheap little house we can afford away from here…. We own six acres and a beautiful home, but it’s now toxic and unsellable.… Suicide looks to be my only relief. Land of the FREE Home of the BULLSHIT! … Million to one odds anybody contacts me back.”
The Surprising Extent and Severity of Problems
Common sense tells us that a forty-story-tall metal structure with blades as long as football fields moving at 180 mph at their tips would negatively impact quiet neighborhoods, pastoral and wilderness areas. But the extent and severity of the IWT’s effect on body, mind and spirit comes as a surprise to most people:
“We reside in what used to be a wonderful home. After just two weeks of this machine running full tilt, I was a physical and emotional wreck! So tired. Headaches that do not go away. Dizzy and nauseous. Body functions go haywire – I start dropping things (can’t seem to make my hand close all the way) and fall down basement stairs. Heart palpitations. Go to ear specialist: along with Vertigo, Anger, Teeth grinding – break a tooth. Crying – no more sanctuary of home. Depression. Suicide plans. Call suicide hotline. How do you explain that you are being abused every day by a wind turbine!”
The primary pathway of turbine assault on human health and wellbeing is no mystery. The Israeli army has used low-frequency sound pulse as high-tech crowd control for years. Low-frequency noise at high intensities creates discrepancies in the brain, producing disorientation in the body: “The knees buckle, the brain aches, the stomach turns. And suddenly, nobody feels like protesting anymore.… It has no adverse effects, unless someone is exposed to the sound for hours and hours.”
But indeed, thousands of IWT neighbors around the world are subjected night and day, some now for decades, to these sub-audible (slowly vibrating) sound waves sent out as turbine blades spin past the shaft, setting up vibrations within body cavities: ears, eye sockets, skull, lungs, and belly.
People are made nauseous and confused, with blurred vision, vertigo, headaches, tachycardia, heightened blood pressure, pain and ringing in the ears, difficulties with memory and concentration, anxiety, depression, irritability, and panic attacks arising when awake or asleep.
“The effects of the turbines run from annoyance with the audible sound and shadow flicker to downright anguish from panic attacks which can feel like a death/dying episode of extreme pain. These are brought on by first a bit of nausea and upset stomach, extreme light headedness, and then the bad part: constriction and wringing of my insides. Sometimes I try to hang by a doorframe, other times I just lie on the ground if I can’t make it to the house. It is truly an inner body disturbance.”
Nina Pierpont and ‘Wind Turbine Syndrome
“Imagine fighting Goliath in compromised health: lives given over to complaint protocols, sound measurements, lawyers, delays, appeals, desperate pleas for relief. For some, it becomes a life of learned helplessness.”
“How have we been brought to such an extraordinary betrayal of basic human rights and social justice – a Kafkaesque world where corporate, local and state government personnel ignore and elude victims’ pleas? It is a tale of money and power shunting aside integrity and compassion, of well-intentioned individuals who don’t do their homework, of a new industrial health crisis shunned by news media who are supposed to educate, inform and protect.”
Nina Pierpont paved the way
This is the Wind Turbine Syndrome (WTS), a constellation of symptoms first given a name by the brilliant young MD/PhD, Nina Pierpont. She followed up her astute and compassionate observations of turbine neighbors around the world with epidemiological research, using a robust case-crossover statistical design: subjects experienced symptoms that varied with proximity to the turbines. When the same subjects were placed some distance from the turbines, their symptoms abated; returning to the scene brought the symptoms back.
Pierpont found that the 1.5-3.0-MW industrial wind turbines she studied wreak these adverse health effects on about 10% of those living within 2km (1.25 miles) or more. Later studies place the percentage of people affected at 20-40% or more. Even at “just” the 10% level, this would never be tolerated by politicians or regulators with regard to peanuts, air emissions or water pollution.
As with seasickness, not everyone is similarly affected. But for many, the experience becomes literally intolerable. Most vulnerable are the young, the old, and those who are especially sensitive to stimuli – including the autistic, those with a prior Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and some of us who have retreated to rural areas for just that reason.
I personally remember the mother of a young, blind autistic boy. Worried about how her son might respond to IWTs proposed for installation near their rural Indiana home, she decided to explore her question by driving with him toward one of the already up-and-running Big Wind “farms” some forty miles north. This “wind factory” had been inserted in an area that for generations had been a breathtakingly open sweep of endless farmland south and east of Chicago.
When mother and son were still miles away from the turbines, which of course she could see although her son could not, he began to whimper, holding both hands to his ears. Writhing with increasing discomfort, he eventually became distraught, in a panic, shouting in his own language and careening against the confines of the front seat, pleading with her to turn back, go home, get him out of there!! Which she did that day. But she was powerless to stop the Big Wind installation coming to their backyard – and into her young son’s already severely impacted life.
Michigan State University noise engineers explain that “Inaudible components can induce resonant vibration in liquids, gases and solids, including the ground…, building structures, spaces within those structures, and bodily tissues and cavities – potentially harmful to humans.”
Pierpont hypothesized that, in addition to these bodily sensations, a significant pathway from ILFN to symptoms includes disruption to the balance mechanisms located in the inner ear.
Research results – and Big Wind response
Audiological and acoustical consultants Jerry Punch and Richard James provide an excellent review of the recent research findings linking ILFN from IWTs with effects on health and quality of life.
In particular, Punch and James describe fascinating basic research conducted at the Washington University School of Medicine by Dr. Alec Salt, Otolaryngologist, which supports the biological plausibility of Pierpont’s hypothesis.
By focusing on distinctions of anatomy and function between the inner hair cells (IHCs) and outer hair cells (OHCs) of the inner ear, Salt and colleagues found that Infrasound and low-frequency noise signals reach the brain via OHC displacement, leading to unfamiliar and disturbing sensations outside the auditory realm paralleling Wind Turbine Syndrome victim complaints. As utility-scale wind turbines increase in size and power, the blade-pass frequency goes increasingly deeper into the nauseogenic zone.
Installed turbine size is indeed trending upward, with a lot of money riding on keeping the science under wraps or under the radar of public awareness, and regulations to a minimum.
When Denmark’s environmental protection agency proposed severely tightening turbine noise regulations to protect turbine neighbors from ILFN (May 2011), the Vestas CEO wrote the DEPA Minister: Turbines send out ILFN; the bigger they are the more intensely they do so. It isn’t technically possible to curtail the ILFN output. Not only would your new standards serve as an unfortunate model which might be copied by other countries.
More simply, “Increased distance requirements cannot be met whilst maintaining a satisfactory business outcome for the investor.” DEPA folded, in fact turning instead to looser standards, “likely to be copied by other countries,” to the detriment of thousands of people.
The European Platform Against Windfarms (EPAW) and the North-American Platform Against Windpower (NA-PAW) – representing a total of nearly 600 associations from 26 countries – then put out a press release citing the exchange and criticizing DEPA’s manipulation of noise measurements to advance wind industry interests, to the detriment of people’s health.
But the potentially increased endangerment of tens of thousands of turbine victims around the world was somehow deemed unworthy of widespread media attention, and Big Wind’s central players ramped up their game plan undeterred.
While turbine health impacts due to ILFN radiation may be the least intuitively obvious, another frequently disturbing and often-minimized assailant is Turbine “Flicker” – a strobe-like effect caused by turbine blades alternately blocking and allowing sunlight to sweep the land after sunrise and before sunset. It can “pull your attention in the direction it’s moving, making you dizzy, even sick to your stomach.”
Environmental impact statements will tell you that “Shadow Flicker only impacts objects within 1400 meters of the turbine” – but 1400 meters is 0.87 mile, greater than 15 football fields placed end to end!
The common reassurance that “any issue pertaining to flicker is easily remedied” is at-best poorly thought out, at-worst deliberately false and misleading, and in any case dead wrong.
At a public forum in Fairhaven, MA, where an established neighborhood of some 6,000 people would soon host two 1.5 MW turbines, to be erected within ecologically sensitive salt marshes surrounding a quiet estuary, wind developer Sumul Shah brushed aside a question about Flicker saying: “Not to worry. It occurs mostly before 7am.”
What!? “Shadow Strobing” results from rotating blades passing between the sun and any object which the sun would otherwise illuminate. When the sun is directly behind them, the blades of 40-story-tall wind turbines throw extensive shadows that skim rhythmically and repeatedly across buildings, trees, roadways, lawns, meadows, ponds – and people.
The direct impact extends to nearly a mile from the turbine – long after sunrise, and again long before sunset – during those magical early and late hours that photographers love, when low light washes the landscape. Jerking flashes ricochet yet further when the blade shadow strikes anywhere within view shed – strobing rock faces across the valley, lakes and ponds in between, or trees across the park.
Sleep disturbance and stress-related illness
Alongside the less familiar ILFN and landscape-strobing turbine assaults, sleep deprivation and stress-related symptoms are the most common health complaints of IWT neighbors. This is not due solely to the turbine sound volume (as some might expect), but also to its characteristics: constantly fluctuating with “swishing” or “thumping” sounds, akin to low-flying jets or the rumble of helicopters, “freakish, screeching sound sludge,” rhythmic, repetitive, throbbing and percussive. It is unnatural. People say the noise gets into your head, and you can’t get it out.
Sleep may be disturbed from yet another non-intuitive angle. In their “McPherson Study,” Ambrose and Rand note that the 22.9 Hz tone considered part of the signature IWT acoustic profile “lies in the brain’s ‘high Beta’ wave range (associated with alert state, anxiety, and ‘fight or flight’ stress reactions). The brain’s ‘frequency following response (FFR)’ could be involved in maintaining an alert state during sleeping hours….”
As enormous industrial wind turbines spread around the world, World Health Organization (WHO) 2009 Noise Guidelines emphasized that any investigation into health impacts must include the equally significant indirect effects.
Advising the Falmouth, MA Board of Health, Dr. William Hallstein wrote: “All varieties of illnesses are destabilized secondary to inadequate sleep: diabetic blood sugars, cardiac rhythms, migraines, tissue healing. Psychiatric problems intensify… all in the ‘normal’ brain. Errors in judgment and accident rates increase.”
Imagine bombarding a hypersensitive autistic child with strident, unpredictable, unnatural noise. Imagine our veterans struggling with PTSD, the throbbing drone of the turbines re-igniting anxiety and terror – endlessly through the years once they are back home. Imagine what happens when being “safely” back home instead predictably brings physiological destabilization: nausea, ringing in the ears, vertigo, panic attacks, memory and concentration loss, incapacity.
Imagine fighting Goliath in compromised health: lives given over to complaint protocols, sound measurements, lawyers, delays, appeals, desperate pleas for relief. At best, it becomes a challenge to re-frame every encounter, either to educate a potential ally, or to pretend this isn’t the center of your life.
For some, it becomes a life of learned helplessness: having accepted that nothing will bring relief, they give up trying. With nowhere to go, the dog sits back down on the tack. Other families and individuals … devastated, having lost their health, jobs or farms … return their keys to the bank, sell their homes at a fire-sale price, or simply pack up and flee.
How have we been brought to such an extraordinary betrayal of basic human rights and social justice – a Kafkaesque world where corporate, local and state government personnel ignore and elude victims’ pleas? It is a tale of money and power shunting aside integrity and compassion, of well-intentioned individuals who don’t do their homework, of a new industrial health crisis shunned by news media who are supposed to educate, inform and protect.
In November 2014, after a four-year investigation, the Brown County, Wisconsin board of health declared that the preponderance of evidence showed the Shirley Wind Project is a human health hazard. The news went worldwide, but the local Green Bay Press Gazette ignored it for almost two weeks.
Physician and BOH member Jay Tibbetts said, “I don’t think the average person in the United States hears anything about this issue. For some reason the news media doesn’t seem to want to cover it.
“Statements from Physicians for Human Rights and from Human Rights First are long overdue. Despite the enormity of its victims’ suffering, the Wind Scam is off limits for most of those who have become famous for speaking out for social justice and human rights.”
“Dismissing or denying Big Wind’s serious health impacts is akin to presenting tobacco as harmless because we profit from it or enjoy smoking. Hardwired into every environmental impact statement should be a Surgeon General’s Warning: Industrial wind turbines present a significant human health hazard to those residing within 1.25 miles or more!”
How did we get to this point?
Energized by the Arab oil embargo of 1973, federal and state grants, energy tax credits, subsidies and mandates spurred a stampede toward an artificial market for wind-generated electricity. It was initially most lucrative in California, where more than 16,000 turbines sprouted on the heels of the state’s 50% energy credit.
Many have mourned the death of an estimated (who knows how accurately) 1,100 birds every year at Altamont Pass alone, including 75-110 Golden Eagles annually. They surely celebrated the fact that 14,000 of California’s first 16,000 turbines had failed and stood idle by the early 2000s, abandoned to the industry’s inexorable move eastward.
Keen to minimize power lost in transmission to population centers, the wind industry expanded into the Midwest, siting clusters of forty to fifty 2MW turbines on numerous 36-square-mile parcels of mixed-use farm and residential landscapes.
Leases were secured from ten to twenty farmers for each “windfarm.” Nearly all included “gag clauses” that silenced and penalized potential reports of ill effects. Thus the industry began an ILFN assault on perhaps several hundred innocent and uninformed non-participating farm families and residents in each location.
Few connected the dots of turbine-to-syndrome pathology, until Nina Pierpont (see yesterday’s post) shared her data with the world in late 2009.
President Obama’s federal stimulus package proposed to pump billions of dollars into the wind industry, which set its sights on installing more turbines ever closer to the more densely populated East Coast, where aggressive statutes and regulations favoring the industry became the norm.
An ironic breakthrough occurred when towns and even individuals along the East Coast – tempted by the wind industry’s offer of a minuscule share in their grotesquely-large profits – welcomed Industrial-scale Wind Turbines (IWTs) into long-established neighborhoods, where increasing numbers of victims were free to speak.
Government mostly ignored disrupted lives
The moment Fox Islands Electric Cooperative took three 1.5MW turbines online in November 2009, turbine neighbor Sally Wylie’s “island life as we knew it evaporated.” Although her eloquent description of the unexpected served as a cautionary tale to others who were considering Big Wind proposals for their communities, human health issues barely registered with the mainstream media in the United States. Impacts on birds, bats and other wildlife were more newsworthy, in their view.
The September 2009 issue of the widely-read Nature Conservancy Magazine featured a two-page full color photo spread of the Elk River Wind Project’s 100 turbines straddling the Kansas Flint Hills. Ten pages invited accolades and admiration for the agency’s joint efforts with the US Fish and Wildlife Service to turn Big Wind away from the habitat of the imperiled lesser prairie chicken.
Nonetheless, substantial research on acoustic radiation as experienced by turbine neighbors around the world had led to calls for minimum 2km setbacks between IWTs and residences, as early as 2006.
In 2009-2010, many communities were able to vote down Big Wind proposals, if angels made the citizenry aware of the plans in time to speak out before a final decision was made. In most cases, town energy committees had worked with wind industry representatives behind the scenes for years, hoping to slide the project through before word of the controversial plan got around town.
In Wellfleet, MA, very near the northernmost tip of Cape Cod, where few lights burn in the off-season, the town energy committee announced specifics of its plan to install a 400-foot-tall 1.65MW turbine near White Crest Beach, identical to the turbines that later came to adversely impact over 50 families in Falmouth.
Two citizens deeply concerned about the environment – who had thought wind energy was good and green – nevertheless chose to do their homework. With just ten hours of online research in 2010, Preston Ribnick and Lilli Green found enough credible evidence to be concerned for the people living in over 300 homes near the proposed turbine site.
Over the following month, they amassed more information, encouraged community involvement and respectfully educated their Board of Selectmen, who eventually voted 5-0 against the project. Several months later, both Wind Wise Massachusetts (WWMA) and WindWise~Cape Cod (WWCC) were born. WWCC is “an alliance of neighborhood organizations and dedicated individuals who have joined together in response to the planned proliferation of industrial wind turbines on the Cape.”
Both citizen organizations are among literally thousands of all-volunteer local, statewide, regional, national and international associations working as Davids against the Big Wind Goliath. This article is written and sent out with David’s slingshot of hope that the world might finally come to its senses and see the utter nonsense, ridiculousness and deliberate falsity of the Big Wind promise, as well as its devastating scourge.
The Cape Cod towns of Sandwich, Dennis, Harwich, Eastham, Orleans, Wellfleet and eventually Brewster turned back the turbines, despite millions of dollars drawn from a Massachusetts-mandated surcharge on consumer utility bills for the benefit of the wind industry. These millions were dedicated to funding local wind lobbyists and engineering studies for unwanted project proposals, and the majority of the funds were in fact spent on the proponents’ legal bills.
Who was writing their script? Lawmakers in Boston who then proposed an appointed Energy Facilities Siting Board (EFSB) which would develop controlling regulations and standards, bypassing community input. Once developed, the controlling regulations and standards would become law without even a stop back at the Legislature for final approval. Once enacted, all appeals would be addressed solely by the EFSB, without recourse to superior Court.
State-level policies that mislead the public as to the value and cost of wind, fund and fast-track the permitting process, and force utility companies into wind Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) are obviously tainted by crony capitalism. They bring enormous wealth to a favored few, in exchange for campaign contributions that help ensure the politicians and regulators remain in power. Additionally, policies favoring the industry lead to seats left open at the corporate table for the policy planner upon leaving office.
High stakes, high rewards for those with the capital to get into the game. Consider the investment opportunities advertised online in Massachusetts:
Each turbine installed in Falmouth and Fairhaven cost approximately $5 million. Nevertheless, “the newly enhanced array of Federal and State [taxpayer] subsidies and incentives … provide investors with the ability to recoup their initial investment within 60 days of start-up, depreciate 85% of total project costs in 5 years, while realizing decades of profitability; truly the opportunity to create the legacy of intergenerational wealth, with an increasing annuity that spans the decades.” [emphasis added]
And for the little guy? “Massachusetts offers great net metering laws.” Our local Massachusetts newspaper reports that a neighboring 149-foot-tall 55kW turbine installed in 2010 earned the owner an $0.88/kWh production incentive the first year and on-going net-metering payback at three to four times the wholesale rates – at state ratepayer expense, of course. No wonder Massachusetts has the third-highest electric rates in the nation.
The Massachusetts DEP/DPH example
A reprehensible contribution to the state’s internationally infamous reputation for supporting the wind industry while ignoring its health impacts is the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection/ Department of Public Health Study, which Big Wind has used to bludgeon homeowners around the world.
Widely debunked as junk science and “pure moonshine,” its conclusions absolutely contradict available evidence, as well as the heartbreaking reports submitted for consideration by turbine neighbors.
In the five years since that “utterly and profoundly dishonest” report was released (January 2012), the causality of intolerable sensations and symptoms from infrasound has been established repeatedly and predictably.
Yet despite the landmark in situ Cooper study, Krogh’s recent summary of relevant findings (April 2015), and extensive research cited above, the Massachusetts.gov website declares still today (January 2017) “…no credible, peer-reviewed, scientific evidence has been published to date identifying any syndromes or diseases caused by wind energy turbines.”
Industry/government reciprocal favors at the highest levels of power and wealth surprise no one. But the fascinating questions are how local boards can allow IWTs into neighborhoods – and how communities can vote at 2-to-1 margins to leave them in place.
Are we so lazy that we do no homework to discover the truth of the matter, or so impressed by the IWT’s enormity and supposed political promise that cognitive dissonance precludes objective investigation?
Curt Devlin of Fairhaven brings up a chilling but very real possibility: We’re witnessing an in vivo illustration of Milgram’s 1962 robust, globally-repeated findings that “about two thirds of subjects will administer electroshock torture to innocent victims, even to the point of possible lethality, when told by a perceived authority that it is necessary to do so.”
In a June 10, 2016, post, Devlin suggests that, “like subjects in Milgram’s experiments, the public is being told that ‘saving the world requires that you put up with the costs of Big Wind.’”
The truth is quite the opposite, and the science is simple. (See here and here and here.) The taxpayer billions spent on Big Wind during the Obama years squandered our financial, environmental and human resources on the most idiotic of engineering conceits.
Fundamental problems with wind power
Wind can never be more than a redundant and intermittent energy option. In fact, heavy reliance on wind turbines actually increases fossil fuel usage due to inefficiencies introduced into the system.
Unpredictable, skittering, diffuse and often weak winds blow largely off-peak and off-season. Turbines often generate electricity when it is least needed, and none when it is most needed.
No matter how large, expansive and redundant the wind build-out may be – reliable, entwined, at least equal-capacity “backup” generators are required to provide smooth, dispatchable electricity on demand. Those backup generators must therefore be “spinning” at all times and able to “ramp up” repeatedly to pick up the load (replace the electricity) that a wind project has shed when the turbines shut down due to wind velocities that are insufficient or too high. Otherwise homes, hospitals, schools, businesses and factories must be content with having electricity when it is available, instead of when it is needed.
Some coal and gas baseload generating plants have capacity factors of 90% to almost 100% – meaning they reliably generate electricity nearly all the time. By contrast, wind turbines typically hover between 15% and 25% capacity, and can be much lower during peak periods.
For example, generating data show that New York State wind projects have 14% to 22% average annual capacity factors – which can plummet to 5% or even zero during the worst cold snaps – and most often are indeed nil late in the afternoon on the hottest days of summer (the peak hours in the peak season of demand for electricity). During cold periods, wind turbines actually draw electricity from baseload generators, to keep the rotors spinning so that they don’t freeze up.
Further, the performance and capacity factors of wind turbines deteriorate over time, compounding the need for sufficient operating reserve and available capacity that can be utilized when ever-expanding clusters of intermittent resources are added to the energy delivery system: the grid.
Whenever intermittent wind power comes back online, rapidly responsive conventional generators are cut back (with energy shed in the process), then ramped up when the wind next goes missing (again drawing energy from the system before returning to a contributory level), multiple times every day.
This makes the backup systems extremely inefficient fuel users and increases their emissions, because they can never be ramped up to their most efficient levels and then just left to run smoothly.
In sum, Big Wind is an obscenely costly, mostly useless energy redundancy scheme that has brought unimagined profits to its inner circle, while knowingly ignoring – indeed ridiculing and leading the charge against – its victims’ desperate pleas for relief.
The vicious and greedy, massive-footprint Wind Emperor Has No Clothes!
And yet it appears that obeisance to the wind industry will continue, until the public hears enough to understand why we need to call the game on this callous, immoral experiment.
The medical community can no longer be silent
Many physicians have spoken out individually, but the profession as a whole has been irresponsibly silent. We need to hear the truth from community hospital medical boards, from state departments of health and from the Surgeon General.
Statements from Physicians for Human Rights and Human Rights First are long overdue. Despite the enormity of its victims’ suffering, the Wind Scam is off limits for most of those who have become famous for speaking out for social justice and human rights. Whatever global respect they may have on other issues, those truly attuned to profound injustice and the abuse of human rights will have the courage and decency to break through the veil of political correctitude and issue a clarion call to end this global tragedy.
Righting the ongoing wrong and preventing further abuse should be high on state legislative, congressional and Trump Administration agendas.
Dismissing or denying Big Wind’s serious health impacts is akin to presenting tobacco as harmless because we profit from it or enjoy smoking. Hardwired into every environmental impact statement should be a Surgeon General’s Warning: Industrial wind turbines present a significant human health hazard to those residing within 1.25 miles or more!
Essential next steps
To every reference to “environmental impacts of wind energy… such as bird and bat deaths,” in order to educate the public in the absence of the news media, we must add the phrase “scientifically proven harmful to human health and wellbeing.”
Injunctions on nighttime turbine operation, absolute moratoriums and minimum 1.25-mile setbacks from residences have been codified (but only here and there) around the world. (See also here and here.) The American public will no doubt clamor to follow suit once it has been educated about the wind industry’s all cost-no benefit profile.
We must, of course, focus more heavily on research and development to find sound, scientifically proven, long-term solutions which will provide low-emission, low-cost, smooth and dispatchable electricity on demand.
We must end the wind production tax credit, declare a moratorium on any further IWT intrusion within 1.25 miles (2 kilometers) of a pre-existing residence, and de-commission all IWTs within 1.25 miles of a pre-existing residence.
In addition, we need to revise Renewable Portfolio Standards away from willy-nilly support of wind (and other unproven renewable energy) technologies. Finally, we must outlaw those state-mandated utility surcharges that are biased toward specific industries.
Such actions will do everyone a favor. More investment in Big Wind means less funding of potentially valuable alternatives, the need to de-commission and remove more of these massive turbines after their brief operational lifetimes, and more victims whose plight, health and need for restitution are ignored.
Victims of Big Wind just want the noise, flicker, pain and suffering to stop. They just want their lives back. Restitution? You will never be able to return the years they have lost or truly compensate them for the suffering they have endured.
For some it has been decades, their best years – time they might otherwise have enjoyed with their children and grandchildren. For some, these were their formative years. Some will never recover their health.
The last wind towers to be permitted will be the final shameful twist in the trail of mercenary and pointless environmental destruction, including this particularly greed-driven, callous and unspeakably cruel human health tragedy.