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Green Supply Chain Expert Insight
By Dan Gilmore
Feb. 26 , 2013

Green Supply Chain Comment: Massachusetts Town Tilting at Its Two Windmills


Residents Says Just Two Turbines Making them Sick, Creating Huge Noise, and Want them Gone; An Industrial Machine is an Industrial Machine

I am neither especially for or against wind power. If there are areas where it can work, subsidy free, so much the better.

But as I noted several years ago, I am not sure how many of those supporting wind power understand how “industrial” wind turbines really are.

The first time I saw a wind farm was more than 15 years ago, at the massive complex east of San Francisco (the Altamont Pass wind farm, said to be the largest in the world), along Interstate 580 near Livermore. I have driven by it again two or three other times, and it is truly an awesome sight – mile after mile of some 5000 turbines rotating away in the California sunshine.

I was impressed by the sight and scale of it, as most would be too.

The next major installation I saw personally was one outside of Palm Springs, CA., and this one left me not quite as impressed. Why? Because those same type of turbines placed in the beautiful desert there and not far at all from the resort areas left me feeling like they had placed a giant factory there (in fact, dramatically larger than any one factory could be), clearing taking away from the surrounding beauty.

So, make no mistake about it – wind farms are major industrial facilities that many may like in the abstract, but not want anywhere near their backyard.

I recalled that thinking after seeing an article this week about the residents of Falmouth, MA, near Cape Cod, saying they have had enough of the two – that's right, just two – turbines installed in their community.

"It gets to be jet-engine loud," Falmouth resident Neil Andersen told the local Fox News affiliate there. "Every time the blade has a downward motion it gives off a tremendous energy, gives off a pulse," he added. "And that pulse, it gets into your tubular organs, chest cavity, mimics a heartbeat, gives you headaches. It's extremely disturbing and it gets to the point where you have to leave."

The turbines were installed in 2010, at a cost of $10 million. How two turbines could possibly provide a financial return on that kind of investments is a topic for another day, but many residents now want to machines gone.

The town's selectmen have voted to remove the turbines, at a cost of $5-15 million (not sure why they couldn't just turn them off). It will now be discussed at a town meeting in April, and may from there go to a vote of the residents after that.

"The selectmen unanimously voted to remove them. We think it's the right thing to do, absolutely," Selectman David Braga said. "You can't put a monetary value on people's health and that's what's happened here. A lot of people are sick because of these."

Already the turbines are operating only half a day due to the complaints.

Not everyone, however, is in favor of seeing the things go.

"I think if we end up taking these turbines down it will be a shame. It will be an embarrassment for the town of Falmouth," said Megan Amsler of the Falmouth Energy Committee.

This is not again meant to be pro- or anti-wind power. Maybe it works in empty areas say of West Texas – but then again, legendary energy investment T. Boone Pickens lost a small fortune (luckily, he has a large fortune) on a massive wind farm in that area that couldn't pull its own economic weight.

The point that everyone needs to understand that a giant industrial machine is a giant industrial machine even if it is p
roducing Green energy – and I would want one by me either, let alone hundreds of them.

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Dan Gilmore is Editor of Supply Chain Digest and The Green Supply
Gilmore Says:

Everyone needs to understand that a giant industrial machine is a giant industrial machine even if it is producing Green energy.