Monday July 28, 2014


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The question of wind turbines

William Stodalka photo

Greg Dueck, a salesman for the Peace Energy Co-operative, explains new wind turbine technology at the Co-operative’s office on Wednesday.

As the days get colder and the wind grows more severe over the winter, wind energy turbines will get more intense.

“More people are looking at [wind power] but it’s a good chunk of money,” said Greg Dueck, a salesman for the Peace Energy Co-operative, a for-profit co-operative designed to advance the green energy source,

Despite the improvements in wind technology, there are still many challenges the technology has to overcome to grow, he noted.

“Some of the older ones, the ones that killed the birds, they’ve now gone by the wayside,” said Rupert Kirk, the president of the organization.

Wildlife conservation groups have raised concern over the wind farm because of reports that show its operation killed an estimated 156 bats and 82 birds in 2010, including two species of bats that have been recommended to be listed as endangered by the federal Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada.

More of these windmills could come to Dawson Creek.

Other concerns about the health issues surrounding the turbines, especially the noise, have also been addressed by newer technology, said Kirk.

“I can talk to you [very close to the windmill] and the only thing you’re going to hear is a little bit of a woosh.”

Dueck claimed that the Northern Lights College approached him about possibly putting a V-bine windmill – whose blades spin in circles around the pole itself, rather than older models that would spin in a circle in front of the pole.

The Northern Lights College could not be reached for comment as of press time about any future windmill plans.

Those who wish to place wind power faces challenges in doing so, said Dueck. Precise placement is key, as a few 100 metres could mean much more or much less wind. As well, one meeting attendee noted that contracting workers to build the wind turbines could double the price, a claim which Dueck did not dispute.

Some researchers and people who live near wind turbines have also expressed concerns about what effect this could have on their health.

Recently, the CBC reported that Gary Levesque, who says he lives near the Bear Mountain Windpark near Dawson Creek, said that he started to experience health problems after wind turbines were placed near his home, including higher blood pressure.

Other researchers have found cases that show the problems that wind power can produce.

A recent report in the scientific journal Noise and Health reported that there may be a link between the risk of depression and how close a person’s home is to a wind turbine.

Jeff Aramani, an Ontario-based researcher and a director for the Society of Wind Vigilance, took part in the study that interviewed certain Maine residents who lived near wind turbine farms.

The study was self-funded by Dr. Michael Nissenbaum, a Maine doctor who Aramini said had been told by some patients who lived near wind turbines that they were experiencing problems, prompting Nissenbaum to self-fund a study into this.

On one of the hills studied, those living around 250 metres measured 50-57 LAeq, which is the average decibels spread out over an hour. That number went down to 32-43 LAeq at around 1,800 metres away from the turbines.

Aramini said that a quarter of the people who lived more than 1,400 metres from wind turbines experienced sleep problems. Aramini said that this type of problem was common among the general population.

However, about half of those residents who lived closer to the wind turbines reported sleep disturbances, and Aramini said they were considered at risk for clinical depression.

Nine of the 38 participants in the study who lived near the turbines said they had been prescribed psychotic medications, while only three of 41 in the far group had done so as well.

“The noise from [wind turbines] results in similar health impacts as other causes of excessive environmental noise,” the study concluded.

Aramini claimed other reports had found similar results, and that anecdotal evidence also backed up his claims.

He suggested that because of these findings, certain actions were needed.

"It's pretty simple - either shut the turbines off at night or move the people out."

However, he admitted that his study could be missing some information.

Aramini said that all the wind turbine models in the area of Maine he researched were the same model, and that more work would be needed to determine if other models produced the same effects he saw in Maine.

While the Maine wind turbines were General Electric 1.5 Megawatt wind turbines, the kinds used in Bear Mountain were Enercon-E82’s.

However, members of the Peace Energy Co-Operative disputed these claims.

Dueck said that this study went against the “predominant” research into wind turbine effects, which he said did not show any abnormal ill effects.

Kirk also questioned whether or not this study was a “self-fulfilling prophecy.”

“If someone wants to prove something is such, they’ll find a way to produce testing and experiments and whatever they want to monitor and say, ‘Yeah, this is the case.’ ” He said. “There’s a lot of people who are out there who will try and do that.”

Dueck also pointed out that under provincial guidelines, wind turbines can only produce 40 decibels. Dueck said that the Bear Mountain Windpark met these guidelines, even under the worst-case scenario the group measured.

However, part of Aramini’s group’s study said that it was apparent that the value would have to be less than the typical night time value of 40 LAeq to not disturb the sleep of nearby residents.

“The balance of scientific evidence to date clearly demonstrates that wind turbines do not have an impact on human health and that this perspective has been confirmed by numerous independent reviews of the scientific literature,” stated the Canadian Wind Energy Association in July this year.

A Health Canada study on the effects of wind turbines on those living nearby is expected to come out in 2014.



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