By George Harvey
One of the responses to the article, “Windpower – don’t be Fooled,” in Green Energy Times’ August issue, challenged me to try living within 750 feet of the noise of a commercial wind turbine. The idea put me in mind of my youth, when I was a college freshman.
I lived in a dormitory at Pratt Institute, in Brooklyn, and the Myrtle Avenue El ran on tracks about 250 feet from my window. The El was like a subway train, except that it was elevated three stories above the street. It ran by my window every fifteen minutes, all night long, breaking up what quiet the city night afforded with its screeching iron wheels. It was like camping out in a subway station.
I did not sleep well the first four nights I was in the dormitory. After that, however, I slept quite happily. Nothing could arouse me from my dreams, partly because, though I was a bit too stupid to realize it at the time, I was falling in love.
Many years later, I lived on a mountain top in New Hampshire. I often slept with the window open, but was waked by the sound of a distant diesel locomotive. I could see it from my window, and found it on a map. When the train came into view, about ten minutes after I first heard it, it was seven miles to the south. It rumbled around my home, spending an hour switching tracks and then departed to the north-east. I could often hear it for over two hours. Though it bothered me at first, I eventually made it my friend.
Some people like to say wind turbines are different, as they make infrasound, with a pitch so low no one can hear it. But infrasound is everywhere. I was first introduced to it about forty years ago. The head of a lab I visited showed me a highly sensitive seismometer. He said the needle on its recording chart kept going constantly from about 5:00 am to 9:00 pm, every day except Sunday, when it was usually motionless. Puzzled, he did a little research. It turned out that it was recording the infrasound of traffic on a highway about four miles away.
One place I lived had heavy-duty infrasound every time the weather kicked up. I was about two miles from ocean beaches, and crashing waves create lots of infrasound. Living near the shore is a rather magical experience, and I wonder whether infrasound has any part of that.
Of course, none of this proves that people can live near wind turbines comfortably. Some people who live near them in Vermont complain bitterly. I decided to ask people from other parts of the country who live inside wind farms to see how they feel. I called the municipal buildings of a couple of communities in the Midwest, where the people lived in very close proximity to wind turbines.
Roscoe, Texas is in the middle of the Roscoe Wind Farm’s 634 commercial turbines. A very nice lady who answered the phone told me everyone she knew really liked the wind farm. Her mother has one on her property.
A call to the municipal building at Greensburg, Kansas produced similar results. Greensburg has a wind farm about three miles away, but the city never passed an ordinance against turbines. The John Deere dealership has two of them. The school has one. The arts center has three. And there are three more at the Best Western, which presumably are there in to sing customers to sleep at night. The prettiest, perhaps, is at the Kiowa County Memorial Hospital. I would guess it is about hundred feet from an entrance.
So this brings us to a question of how some people find wind farms terrible to be around, like the Myrtle Avenue El was when I got to Pratt, while others find them pleasant, like the Myrtle Avenue El is in my fond memories.
The Australian Medical Association says the human health effects of wind power are produced by stress from anti-wind activists. One German researcher told me the trick to keeping people happy is to be careful not to allow them to feel disenfranchised. My advice to all is, “Be kind, and do as little harm as possible.”