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Wind Power Takes a Hit as Charlestown Rhode Island Bans Wind Turbines

By Andy Soos | Thu, 15 September 2011 13:05 | 1

Wind mills are a clean alternative energy supply but not everyone agrees. The Rhode Island General Assembly’s newly enacted laws facilitating the siting, construction and power-purchase agreements for commercial-grade renewable energy projects recently took a big hit. On September 12th, the town of Charlestown Rhode Island became a U.S. trendsetter in the renewable-energy sector when the Town Council voted to pass the first-in-the-country ban on any size or type of electricity-generating wind turbines. The sweeping prohibition applies to large commercial turbines as well as smaller, residential models.

After working for three years to craft an ordinance that was acceptable to residents, the most recent, and heavily redacted, incarnation of the town’s wind ordinance was passed by a vote of 3 to 2. Council members Greg Avedisian and Marjorie Frank were the dissenting votes, while members Lisa DiBello, Dan Slattery and President Thomas Gentz all cast "yea" votes on the ban.

The idea for an outright ban was borne of the mind of town solicitor Peter Ruggiero. This month would have marked the one-year anniversary of the previous moratorium on wind-turbine construction. According to Ruggiero, Rhode Island case law insists moratoria, by legal definition, should be short term, stopgap measures to allow local governments more time to craft sufficient and efficient ordinances. 

"It is better, from a legal standpoint, for the town to enact the ban, and work on crafting a new wind ordinance from the ground up," Ruggiero said.

When the Town Council was asked by former member Deborah Carney how long the ban was expected to be in place, Councilman Dan Slattery stated that the residential turbine ordinance should be ready in three months and an ordinance concerning commercial turbines should take no more than a year to write.  The implied concern was to install wind mills with minimal impact on people’s health or the environment where there has been some controversy.

As the 21st century began, rising concerns over energy security, global warming, and eventual fossil fuel depletion led to an expansion of interest in all available forms of renewable energy. Worldwide there are now many thousands of wind turbines operating, with a total nameplate capacity of 194,400 MW. Europe accounted for 48% of the total in 2009.

A 2009 expert panel review, described as being the most comprehensive to date, delved into the possible adverse health effects of those living close to wind turbines. Their report findings concluded that wind turbines do not directly make people ill.

The 85-page study was sponsored by the Canadian Wind Energy Association and American Wind Energy Association. The academic and medical experts who conducted the study stated that they reached their conclusions independent of their sponsors. 

The study did allow that some people could experience stress or irritation caused by the swishing sounds wind turbines produce. "A small minority of those exposed report annoyance and stress associated with noise perception..." [however] "Annoyance is not a disease." The study group pointed out that similar irritations are produced by local and highway vehicles, as well as from industrial operations and aircraft.

By. Andy Soos

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  • Anonymous on September 15 2011 said:
    It is my observation that the kind of people who have in the past demanded that we give up on nuclear power for all time, are the same kind of people who want to ban windmills the first time they experience the whoosh-whoosh-whoosh sound that windmills make when doing their job.

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