A new center is being formed in Vermont to study the sound impact industrial wind turbines have on the surrounding area. But an advocacy group claims such studies would be biased, pointing to the sponsoring group’s anti-wind stance.
Energize Vermont announced last week that it is creating the Vermont Center for Turbine Impact Studies to promote scientific research into the impact of industrial wind development. It is setting up the center on property abandoned by a family that claims the adjacent Vermont Wind 16-turbine complex caused adverse health effects from wind turbine noise. Energize Vermont Board of Directors President Mark Whitworth: “We're focusing on audible sound and we’re focusing on low frequency noise and infra-sound. One of the reasons that we're focusing on sounds is that in Vermont Wind’s Certificate of Public Good there are restrictions on the amount of noise that they can make. And we know that they regularly exceed their limit. So we intend to measure it, record it, document it and demand that the state take enforcement action.”
The group plans to engage Dr. Ben Luce, a professor of natural resources at Lyndon State College, to conduct the research. Luce is a member of the Energize Vermont board and in 2010 published the paper: A Wind Advocate’s Case for Why Industrial Wind Power is the Wrong Choice for Vermont.
The choice of Luce as the researcher has led Vermont Public Interest Research Group Climate and Energy Program Director Ben Edgerly Walsh to question the integrity of the study before the research even begins. “This is an individual who has called wind power a travesty, has said that it is not something we should be doing at all in Vermont. And when that's your starting place there are very legitimate questions about what your research would show and whether that would be tainted.”
Funding for the study was included in a $50,000 legislative allocation to Lyndon State College, which must be matched by the school. VPIRG’s Walsh is also critical of the state’s authorization of the funding. “This was a line item appropriation that was in the capital bill. It kind of flew under the radar until well after the legislative session. If the legislature saw this as an issue that needed additional study in Vermont we have experts on staff at the Department of Health who have already been looking into this. And that would have been the appropriate place for this funding to go.”
Calls to Dr. Luce were not returned in time for broadcast. Vermonters for a Clean Environment Executive Director Annette Smith, who opposes industrial wind development, calls VPIRG’s criticisms inflammatory and inaccurate. She says Luce is one of the best qualified researchers available to study turbines. “There is absolutely nothing to their allegation that Ben Luce is the wrong person to do it. Ben Luce is absolutely the right person to do it and is uniquely qualified because of his support for wind turbines in the right places. For the cost benefit analysis it just doesn't work for Vermont. So his approach is not one based on emotion. It's not one based on anything other than science. And when he first came here he didn't think the noise issue was a problem. And he has read the science on it. And so VPIRG has brought nothing to the table in the way of science. Nothing.”
The Vermont Center for Turbine Impact Studies hopes to conduct a range of studies including the impact of turbines on water quality, wildlife, and invasive species.