Wind turbines are good for our health

The following letter to the editor appeared in the Eau Claire, Wis., newspaper The Country Today and is reprinted here with permission of the author.

To the editor:

A letter to the editor on Feb. 8 commended the Brown County Board of Health for recent resolutions requesting compensation for families living near the wind farm in the town of Glenmore.

Though many hours have been spent researching a “sickness” (coined “wind turbine syndrome”), the medical community has yet to discover any scientific basis for recognizing it as a valid illness. Epidemiological studies such as those from Ontario, Oregon and Massachusetts all say the same thing — wind turbines annoy people who don’t want them. Our state emergency funding should be used for real and tangible disasters, not for “believed” or “perceived” illnesses claimed by a handful of angry wind power opponents.

The town of Glenmore hosted the first large wind power project in Wisconsin 15 years ago, consisting of two utility-scale turbines. Local farmers, neighbors, schoolchildren and the press all rallied around Gov. Tommy Thompson at the dedication ceremony. It was a celebration of innovative technology and homegrown power. No one complained and no one got sick. But when more turbines were proposed a few years later, some neighbors were convinced they would be adversely affected and their property values would plummet. At one town board meeting, the people inside became so unruly that the chairman called the sheriff’s department to restore order. It’s no surprise the same people who were claiming they would be affected are now calling themselves “victims.” This is a desperate and politically driven attempt to further delay state legislation on wind farm siting rules for community projects like Shirley’s eight turbines.

An effective tactic used by wind farm opponents is to claim that more studies are needed. It’s a smart argument, as it shifts the burden of proof. Proving that something doesn’t happen or will never happen is a logical and scientific impossibility, no matter how many studies are done.

It’s your right to be annoyed by the sight of wind turbines and to have a certain amount of local control, but it’s not your right to impede progressive and sound energy policy. Wind turbines are good for our health. They don’t use imported fossil fuels, water or emit pollution. And despite cleverly planted rumors, they are safe, make lots of electricity that stays within state lines and provide good jobs in many sectors.

By Jenny Heinzen, Midwest Renewable Energy Association, President, RENEW Wisconsin board of directors,