Anti Windmill vs Pro Windmill Two GMG Contributors Express Their Views- Sarah Kelly and Ed Collard

Sarah Kelly writes-

Massive 404-foot (that is FORTY STORIES) Turbines Are Coming!

The city of Gloucester is allegedly going to share in the excess electricity generated by two 40-story turbines, soon to be installed by the Gloucester firm Varian. Unfortunately, the residents of the rest of Cape Ann will have two 40-story structures to look at for the rest of our lives without accruing any of the benefits of the energy allegedly generated. And before people respond by saying how much they love the Earth and turbines, let me state for the record that I am very fond of the Earth myself (I even capitalize the word!) and I’m all for turbines, by which I mean the responsible use of appropriately-scaled turbines as a back up for conventional energy sources — sources which come in handy when the wind doesn’t blow or blows when you don’t need it, which, frankly, is much the case with wind — and why we don’t move freight around the world anymore via sailing ships.

All over the globe (especially in the American Midwest, English countryside and in Australia), there is a race to install massive, utility-scale turbines in what appears to be an effort to make a pile of money from tax credits while taking advantage of the public’s low-grade (or full-throttle) hysteria about replacing conventional energy sources before the polar bears all die. This well-intended, deeply-felt desire to use energy more responsibly is circumventing common sense, and the profiteers have seen an opportunity to make a whole bunch of money, tearing around the planet to install massive turbines and wind farms — which can sometimes mean hundreds of massive turbines placed too close to homes in a scattershot, absolutely inefficient manner — before the public understands anything about utility-scale wind. The facts about utility-scale wind technology indicate that wind is just not viable as a mainstream energy source, utterly unsuitable for mass distribution. The technology, such as it is, lends itself to micro-development. So if someone wants to mount a wind turbine on the top of their house (or a turbine in a fast-moving body of water running through his/her property for hydro power) to offset the cost of their electricity, fantastic. But wind turbines become less efficient the more you scale up, which begs the question: why are the Varian turbines so huge? Would an installation of 1.0 megawatt turbines — more along the lines of 200 feet, and more to scale with Cape Ann’s existing structures — have served Varian’s needs just as well? By installing two 40-story skyscrapers, Varian has irrevocably, for all practical purposes, altered a landscape that belongs to all of us. And land is the ultimate non-renewable resource. Once land is industrialized, it is not easily reclaimed, which is why rural areas are zoned differently from urban areas. And while the area where the turbines will be located is zoned as industrial, I would bet that no one on the Zoning Board in Gloucester understood “industrial” to include skyscrapers when the zoning laws were put in place.

So I’m wondering: how is it that Varian can install two skyscrapers without a period of public comment from their non-Gloucester neighbors? Where’s the nearest 40-story structure? A city, of course. In Boston,  248 skyscrapers make up the cityscape, only 27 of which are taller than 400 feet. But no longer will you have to go to Boston to experience the joys of seeing one of those 27 structures. We’ll have our very own skyscrapers, a view of which we’ll have from practically every window in downtown Gloucester, Lanesville, Annisquam, Rockport and Pigeon Cove.

Another factor is that these two 2.0 megawatt turbines, although in an area zoned for industry, are still potentially located too close to residences.  International recommendations for the installation of utility-scale wind turbines vary, but the general consensus in Europe is that industrial scale turbines should not be installed within 1.5 miles of a residence, due to shadow flicker and low frequency vibrations that can cause serious health problems for some people. This is no joke, a fact to which people who have been made sick by living too close to massive wind turbines can attest. This situation may be great for Varian, arguably great for Gloucester (we’ll see if the estimations of energy generated actually materialize), but what about the rest of us?

Ed Collard writes-

Windmill Musings

So the windmills are coming to Gloucester. I am of mixed thoughts on this but I’d have to say that overall I’m in favor of this. With the high cost of energy in dollars, the environment and human lives. I believe that we have to make some changes regarding our energy sources and windmills seem to be a clean, domestic and economical choice. Varian has put in a lot of  time and money researching alternatives for their energy needs and would not be spending their money without careful consideration of the return on their  investment. We have charged our elected officials, for one thing, to be prudent with our money and they have come to the conclusion that this will save us, the taxpayers on the city’s energy needs. Regarding the visual aspect I for one will look at them knowing that we are being pro-active in our exploration for alternative energy sources. I don’t like telephone polls but I sure do like my phone and cable. There will be many discussions about this in our coffee shops in the months to come but I think we can be proud of the fact that our city is doing something regarding our energy needs.

Any comments that are not civil on this post will not be approved.

28 thoughts on “Anti Windmill vs Pro Windmill Two GMG Contributors Express Their Views- Sarah Kelly and Ed Collard

  1. Why hasn’t ocean tides and currents as energy generators been allowed into the ‘mix”. Oregon is installing a megamillion dollar something to that effect off its coast. We have the Annisquam River, constantly flowing “both ways” and the ocean tides “powering” our pocket coves, as they do along the Maine coast, and Northard. There’s supposed to be an “audit” to assess our coastal capacity for this alternative energy source. Why must we settle for wind? On an island, surrounded by the ocean?


  2. I am not opposed to wind turbines, as long as the appropriate research has been done, the community benefits from the reduced use of the electric grid, and the community is well informed. We must start embracing new forms of energy.

    Has an education and communications initiative been implemented? When is this due to happen? What are the facts about how it affects people and birds and the environment?

    I am in favor of a calm and productive exchange of ideas, where both sides truly want, and make an effort, to understand the others’ positions. Conflict and irrational thrashing creates its own waste of human energy, and also has negative health impacts.


  3. I’m on the fence. I am a tree hugging commie liberal so of course I like wind and solar. 😉 Some of the wind farms are beautiful. North of Palm Springs on Route 10 you have to stop and take photos they are almost as cool as the Pee-Wee Herman dinosaurs further up the road. But there are no houses within miles of those wind farms.

    But then I have some friends who live near a Falmouth turbine on the other Cape. They hate it. Some neighbors are moving. Headaches, nausea, sleepless night as the low frequency thrum travels quite a distance. Huge blades and the thrum can reach quite a ways downwind. If you happen to have a bedroom in the wrong location downwind you might be upset. The town promises now to stall the blades if the wind exceeds certain speeds but then what is the point?

    But bigger might be better for that problem and the newer designs might also negate that type of impact. But if they are awful it sure is going to be difficult to get rid of them. Some in Falmouth are trying very hard and getting nowhere.

    [edit] Actually, by googling wind turbines Falmouth mass they may be shutting them down at least temporarily. Are these things a tax credit boondoggle that short term looks great on the books but in the long run the tax payers have to bend over once again? (I think the Falmouth turbines are quite a bit smaller than the Gloucester ones.)

    Contrary to the claim of Massachusetts DEP Commissioner Ken Kimmell in a recent Boston Globe article, the noise and adverse health effects produced by a wind turbine in the town of Falmouth are not unique. In fact, wherever wind turbines are constructed too close to homes, people suffer from the noise, the consequent loss of sleep, and other chronic impacts.
    The Boston Globe reported on May 16, 2012 that one of the two town-owned wind turbines in Falmouth, known as Wind I, is to be shut down temporarily due to excess noise.
    Wind Turbine Syndrome experts consider 1.25 miles to be the minimum safe distance between homes and wind turbines, recognizing that serious health effects may also be experienced by people living up to six miles away or more.
    The Boston Globe reports in today’s paper that “all but one of the 54 wind turbines of 100 kilowatts or larger that are operating in Massachusetts are within a mile of homes.”


    1. I’m no NIMBY I lean way further in the Pro-Development camp than anything, nor am I a “tree hugging commie liberal” I feel bad for those poor neighbors, real bad.

      I hope my cynical this is just getting approved so politicians can put the “Hey look at me I’m for green energy stamp” on their political passport on the back of the taxpayer in the form of tax credits.

      Hope that the financial benefits do indeed add up and are significant. I also hope we someday get a true financial analysis of it.


  4. I am of the Collard camp that hates the phone pole but loves the wired services. Also of the Morrison camp that believes wind farms are truly beautiful. Hmm, also knowing that more-than-Falmouth has noise complaints–my sister used to work as a journalist in Newburyport, where a number of citizens were quite distressed by the noise of the turbine. But I’m not on the fence–I want wind power.
    I don’t think that use of tidal power has been ‘dis-allowed’ as much as under-researched. I think it’s a fantastic idea for marine-related use of our waterfront (as long as marine-related does not have to contribute directly to the fishing industry). But it’s for another day. Thinking about Holland and the windmills all over the landscape (smaller than turbines, of course)–wind power has been with us for centuries, and we have underutilized it.


    1. I agree wind power has been underutilized, but that’s because the technology just hasn’t been capable of meeting our energy needs — at least in the way we use the grid, which is based on centralized energy sources distributed over a vast region. Wind energy can’t be stored and can’t really be transported. This is why it only works on a small, hyper-localized scale. Building giant turbines looks great on paper — lots of statistics about “potential” energy generated, etc. etc. — but just doesn’t pan out in real life. Harnessing the wind is, at this point, an inherently retro technology. And rushing to build giant turbines to make us feel as though we are “doing something” does not do justice to the very real and complex problem of meeting our energy demands. Here’s an interesting take on what is happening with Denmark and the rest of Europe in terms of wind energy:


  5. I’m sympathetic to neighbors; these do seem to be much taller than most current ones. But. I routinely bike within 10 feet of the Deer Island ones and wouldn’t even know they were there if I closed my eyes; they’re no louder than baseline winds. And wind is actually an ideal power source for Massachusetts. We have poor solar prospects; ocean water is caustic to machinery; and we have outstanding consistent winds, better than most places on earth:


  6. Thanks for providing a civil, well thought-out platform for this debate (and thanks to Sarah and Ed for giving their sides.) One point — no way you’ll get an accurate view of what people think with a poll question like this, “Are You In Favor Of 440 Foot Tall Windmills At Varian?” By highlighting the main complaint about the wind mills in the question (the height) and not mentioning any of the benefits, you’re steering people to answer “No.”


    1. The scale of the turbines at Varian is central to the issue in Gloucester (this isn’t the case everywhere — in some places the height is not a factor). And height is quantifiable and verifiable, unlike estimates of the potential energy produced.


  7. These wind turbines were manufactured in Germany so jobs were created for Germans, not US citizens. The only reason they are “economic” is because of the large, Obama administration tax subsidies which are paid for by borrowing more money from the Chinese. The turbines will be a blight on the viewscape for the rest of our lives. They will kill many birds, year after year. They will cause health problems for nearby residents and workers which will not go away and for which there is no cure. They will be a hazard for airplanes. They will not replace any fossil fuel plant because the need for electricity is constant but the wind is not.
    Other than these reasons, I think they are a great idea.


  8. There are wind turbines in Hull, MA on their high school property, which is right on the water. They have been there for years and no one seems to complain. Been down there and stood right beside these turbines and heard no noise. Hull also has their own Electric Company, Hull Electric, so the residents electric bills are very reasonable. Energy independence .. I think Wind Power..


    1. Wind power doesn’t contribute to energy independence, unless you have your own turbine on your house and are willing to live with power outages when the wind doesn’t blow when/if you need it to. All wind energy tied into a grid depends on conventional energy to regulate it and back it up.


  9. For Tidal power, BIG time. Also for wind power. I have tried to get my landlord to install mini wind platfroms and solar on our roof. (ain’t gonna happen). But wait. I , as many owners of “Mom & Pop” companies spend more time at the work space than at home. Am I at physical risk being only Yards away, not miles?


  10. Ms. Kelly has clearly stated the folly of the 40-story windmills. When you cross the bridge coming home to the Cape and are greeted by these monsters (and perhaps even before you reach the bridge) you may not be thinking “Thank you Varian”. The sky belongs to the commonwealth, not to Varian and not to the City.


  11. The Gloucester Times covered the wind turbine project on August 18th, and to sum up the delivery schedule as of that time to Cruiseport and then the assembly: “Varian’s twin turbines are expected to arrive by boat from Germany at Cruiseport the week of Sept. 17. After it moves through the streets, erection will begin about Oct. 1,” said the company’s director of facilities, Rick Johnson. From what I understand from the article, a third 404 foot tall wind turbine will be located near Gloucester Engineering: “At nearby Gloucester Engineering, the hills will be alive with its $8 million windmill. It will provide enough power to offset 90 percent to 100 percent of the city’s electric bills for municipal offices, schools, fire and police stations, etc.” My opinion: Bad idea.


  12. Here is an informative article that was published in the Boston Globe about Scituate’s 400 foot high wind turbine that was installed last spring. It’s got a great 15 photo sequence on how the windmill was installed on the site:

    On September 25th this year, the same newspaper posted a story about 20 Scituate residents petitioning the town’s Board of Health to remove the newly installed wind turbine, because of the negative health effects of turbine noise and shadow flicker:


    1. Really interesting. I didn’t realize Scituate had installed a turbine. (Neither, apparently, did some Scituate residents). The comments below the article are also interesting, illustrating the dynamics of every conversation about utility scale turbines I’ve ever participated in. I’ve generally found that people opposed to implementing the technology as it currently stands are knowledgeable about the pros and cons of wind energy, while people in favor of utility scale turbines speak in the vaguest terms possible about the need to make changes, do something, etc. Research at the most cursory level lends to skepticism about the state of the wind industry, and I hope that all of us are checking this issue out as much as possible, with a preference toward getting actual facts from non-wind industry sources. The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), for instance, is a pro-wind lobbying organization with press releases quoted, sometimes nearly word for word, in every major news outlet when papers publish articles about wind development, which is kind of depressing to realize.


  13. Okay, one more comment. couldn’t resist posting this quote made by a member of Scituate’s Renewable Energy Committee, pulled from an article in the Globe last Spring when the Scituate turbine was built:

    “This cost the town nothing. For all the studies and all the work and bids, the unit itself isn’t costing the town a dime. It’s all paid for by other people’s money,” Toppan said. The turbine will be owned and operated by Scituate Wind, LLC, a company created with Solaya Energy LLC and principals of Palmer Capital Corp. in 2009. Their funding, along with a $3 million bond from MassDevelopment, enabled the project to be built on land that the town is leasing to Scituate Wind for a 15-year term.

    “Other people’s money?” That would be OUR money – the taxpayers’ money! This quote would be funny if it weren’t so disturbing, revealing the mindset behind this boondoggle.


  14. I’m on the fence also. I’m all in favor or Wind and Solar energy, but that turbine is HUGE!!! I didn’t realize it was going to be that big, and I have to admit, it just doesn’t fit in with our beautiful Cape Ann scenery. I wonder if the hum will go as far as Rockport?


  15. My family in Norway has a very large farm (around 10,000 hectares). The government has formally given a license to a corporation to install 200 MV of these 400 foot beasts on our land! For generations (since the 1600’s), my family has preserved this land (which is in a wild and natural state) for subsistence farming and fishing. At this point, I’m looking for positive ways to fight this project-which is really a corporate land grab (fueled by a currently sleeping and inept national government-previously our waterfalls were confiscated for public power). Any thoughts or help would be greatly appreciated! Obviously, potentially a very heart breaking future for us…


    1. I’m so sorry this is happening to your family’s farm. I am struggling with a similar situation with my family’s farm in Ohio here in the U.S., which has been in our family for generations. Sadly, the wind developers are taking advantage over public hysteria about climate change and using it to abrogate property rights. Most wind companies are populated with PR and Sales people, not engineers, which is telling. Through dealing with the unscrupulous multinational corporation in opposing the random (and rampant) industrial wind development sweeping the globe, I can personally attest to the truth of this article that I’m linking to here:

      The sad reality is that there is no positive approach to take to defeating the wind developers, nearly all of whom are carpet-bagging snake oil salesmen. You can’t fight them with reasonable arguments or compromise — those roads are well-traveled, to no avail. The public is so anxious to “do something” about energy (to the point of becoming entirely irrational) that they are giving politicians and developers a blank check, which both parties are taking all the way to the bank. Anyone who tries to convince you of the viability of industrial wind is either: 1) completely ignorant about how energy actually works and unwilling to learn, 2) willfully delusional about the clearly documented limitations of wind technology, 3) a politician hoping to score easy political points, or 4) planning to make a ton of money through wind leases or development. And there are literally billions to be made from this scam.

      I’m more sorry than I can say to tell you that you are up against it. Good luck, and hopefully you can take some small comfort in knowing that the public will someday wake up to this scam (albeit after billions have been lost and the non-renewable resource of land destroyed) and that there are thousands of likeminded, rational people fighting rapacious wind developers all over the globe.


      1. Hi there and thank you for the information. I’ve read the document you have attached and it makes sense based on my experience so far. I plan to keep on fighting-I hope you can make a difference as well. Best of luck.


  16. Would love to see a follow-up article to the Sarah D. Kelly piece. The original September 2012 article has generated great commentary. The Emily Rooney interview with the Mayor of Gloucester which aired this past week makes one question the process and the progress. Are any of these iwt’s on line yet? I am not of the impression that they are. There appear to be too many residential streets within questionable safe distance from these turbines was this accounted for? How and who determined safe distances in the best in interest of the persons living so close to three industrial sized wind turbines? What kind of safety information was distributed to neighbors? There is remarkable new scientific evidence of health and safety issues attributable to iwt’s distancing from humans/residences; were these accounted for or considered or shared with the Gloucester public?


  17. Little Late here for a comment, hopefully you receive or see this!!
    S.D. Kelly, your points are amazing and I will be quoting you here in Peru, MA in the next few weeks while I try to drive windmill companies out of our town! Anyone who sides with industrial wind mills have never done actual research on the subject. Save MASS, get these things banned in this state! This is our state!!


    1. “Get these things banned in this state. This is our state!” I don’t even know what this means. It is MY state, and YOUR state…one where sustainable energy supply is a priority, right??


  18. It’s been some time and we should draw this one back to the top. My opinion of the three turbines: I cannot get over how majestic they look. I try and negate my feelings about them as something that creates power without burning fossil fuels and polluting and even minus that they are just as cool as ever. Driving onto Cape Ann and the three ballerinas I only fear a traffic hazard because people who have not seen them could be driving all over the road.

    We need three more. That said, the place where they are is perfect. Are neighbors complaining of flicker? Coming off Blackburn rotary at the crack of dawn the sweeping flicker is impressive but I would likely hate it in my backyard. Build them where this does not happen. Stack them up.


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