Sunday, January 16, 2011

A study on the impact of wind turbines? Of course!

By Thomas Walkom, Toronto Star, January 15, 2011
Bob McMurtry (That is Dr. Robert McMurtry, former Dean of Medicine at the University of Western Ontario and brother to Roy McMurtry former Ontario Attorney General) began as a strong advocate of wind power, keen to have a turbine built on the 16-hectare Eastern Ontario farm he bought four years ago for retirement.

As he explained in a telephone interview this week, he hoped to generate his own power and sell the rest to Ontario’s electricity network.
But being a scientific sort of chap, McMurtry began by researching the issue.
What he discovered alarmed him. In particular, he ran into evidence — re-enforced by personal encounters later — that low-frequency humming associated with wind turbines may lead to chronic sleeplessness, stress and even hypertension causing heart disease for anyone living within two kilometres of a machine.
What alarmed him more was that the provincial government did not even monitor this low-frequency noise. As well, under Ontario rules, giant windmills need be no more than 550 metres from any residence.
So in 2009, he made the not terribly radical suggestion that Queen’s Park conduct a proper, arms-length study on the health effects of industrial wind turbines before authorizing any more.
Failing that, he said, it should insist that new turbines be set at least two kilometres away from any dwelling.
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The question of the disturbing noise and consequent impact on personal health and wellness, to be blunt, needs a formal, objective, scientific study, for all observers, investors and political leaders to know the facts.
One municipality, Wolfe Island, has already had some 86 giant wind turbines erected to take advantage of the rather consistent winds that blow off Lake Ontario, and another project is being contemplated just off the shoreline of that island.
I have walked among these monsters every weekday since their completion, and have experienced the sounds emitted from these giant whirling birds. When the wind source is light, they barely move, and therefore make very little sound; when the wind is strong, they emit a considerable sound that has been compared to an overhead jet aircraft. And when the wind continues, so does the sound.
Naturally, those farmers who rent land to the owner/operators of these machines are pleased with their revenue. Presumably, the power grid benefits at least to some degree from the infusion of new energy to light and heat homes, offices and factories in the Kingston area. (Wolfe Island is approximately three kilometers offshore from Kingston itself.)
However, the politicians who are funding much of these development have, to be candid, put the cart before the horse. To have removed from municipalities the right to determine whether or not to permit such development in their backyard was both excessive and short-sighted. Provinces may need extra energy and may need those very municipalities onboard in their pursuit of that energy. Why then would the Ontario government remove the option to determine that possibility from local area municipal leaders?
It would seem, to an outside observer, that the move may have been calculated to eliminate the "naysayers" who resist change, especially in their backyard.
Nevertheless, removing the right to decide leaves the province vulnerable to the political charge of bullying, or at least of being heavy-handed, and that, in a province and country where heavy-handed smacks of arrogance, will redound against such political masters.
It is neither radical nor anti-green for Dr. McMurtry and his group to continue to insist on an authentic scientific study of the impact of these machines, including what happens if and when they stop producing power, as has happened in northern U.S. where they have been left to decay and impose their ugliness on the landscape.

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