Tag Archive | wind industry

Lobbyist for wind power apologizes

A lobbyist for an industry group supporting wind power apologized to a Vermont Senate committee on Wednesday after a witness she brought in called health concerns connected with wind power “hoo-hah,” nonsense and propaganda.

Gabrielle Stebbins, executive director of Renewable Energy Vermont, called the remarks of acoustics expert Geoff Levanthall unhelpful and offered an apology to the Senate Health and Welfare Committee after Leventhall testified at the hearing by phone from England.

“There’s no scientific evidence behind what they (critics of wind power) say,” Leventhall said. “It’s all made-up, make-believe, trying to find something to object to, and trying to find something that will be difficult to disprove. It’s a technique, a propaganda technique, and they’ve been very, very effective.”

Afterward, Stebbins said she regretted Leventhall’s comments. “I don’t think that’s helpful for the debate and, for the record, I do apologize for that.”

Stebbins’ comments came at the end of the hearing in which two Vermont doctors — one of them critical of a wind power project near his home in Ira and of the industry generally — testified about what they said were ill health effects connected with wind power among people living near the turbines.

Leventhall did describe for the committee low-frequency, inaudible “infrasound,” that some blame on problems connected with wind turbines but that he said have less of an impact on people than sounds generated within the body, like the heartbeat.

The committee also heard from Luann Therrien, a Sheffield resident who said she and her husband have suffered severe sleep loss leading to depression since 16 turbines operated by First Wind began operating within about two miles of their home, with the closest being about a half mile away.

“We did not oppose the project, not until it was up and running and creating noise,” Therrien said. “I have constant ringing in my ears that can be very distracting. My husband has been feeling so bad that he is currently unable to work. His doctor has pulled him from his job.”

Discussion centered on sleep loss due to audible sounds from the turbines and on infrasound, the low-frequency noise inaudible to human ears but which some doctors have linked to ill health effects — sometimes called wind turbine syndrome.

Dr. Sandy Reider, a primary care provider practicing in Lyndonville, told the committee he had seen “a half dozen or so patients who are suffering from living in proximity to these turbines.” He told of one particularly tough case of a 33-year-old, healthy man who developed problems after a wind turbine began operation on Burke Mountain near his home.

The man “began to experience increasingly severe insomnia, waking multiple times at night with severe anxiety and heart palpitations, and experiencing during the daytime pressure headaches, nausea, ringing in his ears and difficulty concentrating,” Reider said.


Novel Photon-Counting Technique Helps Measure EGFR Proteins

For scientists to improve cancer treatments with targeted therapeutic drugs, they need to be able to see proteins prevalent in the cancer cells. This has been impossible, until now.

Thanks to a new microscopy technique, University of Akron researcher Dr. Adam Smith, assistant professor of chemistry, has observed how clusters of epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) — a protein abundant in lung and colon cancers, glioblastoma and others — malfunctions in cancer cells.

“We can directly observe protein clusters, in a living cell membrane, that are invisible to traditional methods. This opens up the possibility to directly measure the effect of drugs on the target proteins,” Smith says.

Smith’s work lies at the heart of current-day cancer research, which focuses on developing targeted drugs that kill cancer cells without the collateral damage associated with traditional treatments like chemotherapy.

Specifically, Smith used a cutting-edge photon-counting technique, which enables scientists to measure the cluster size of EGFR proteins. The technique represents a significant advancement from studying the cultures with a traditional microscope, which cannot visually capture objects as small as the EGFR clusters, according to Smith, a lead author of “Conformational Coupling across the Plasma Membrane in Activation of the EGF Receptor,” published in the Jan. 31 journal Cell, which highlights the technique.

“Another difficulty with studying EGFR is that it’s located in the cell membrane, which can be thought of as a fence line that defines the cell boundary, but in reality it is more like an untamed hedge row,” says Smith, explaining how the new laser-based microscope technique overcomes that obstacle and allows scientists to study, in real time, how EGFR works in healthy cells and also how it malfunctions in cancer cells.

Smith’s subsequent work studying the interaction of drugs with the targeted EGFR “will significantly improve drug discovery, which too often relies on indirect measure of efficacy,” he says.

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Scituate limits scope of wind-turbine study

Scituate’s Board of Health has decided on a narrow study of the town’s wind turbine, despite requests from residents for a broader analysis.

In a meeting Monday night, Board of Health officials said they were wary of undertaking an extensive study that would provide a more detailed sound analysis, as suggested by residents who say the turbine has harmed their health.

“The methodology will get challenged, results will be challenged, and I don’t know how to interpret results with an invented method,” said board member Michael Vazza.

Vazza recommended sticking with the turbine owner’s suggested analysis, which mainly will assess whether the power-generating equipment meets guidelines set by the state’s Department of Environmental Protection.

Board members also declined to mandate a flicker study, which would look at health impacts from the flickering shadows created when the turbine’s blades rotate against the sun, or a survey asking residents whether they have noticed any health affects, both steps sought by neighbors.

Tom Thompson, who has represented the residents, citing problems from the turbine’s operation, said they anticipated the board’s decision. “This is an expected outcome . . . there is no surprise here that the Board of Health would simply embrace the strategy espoused by the wind developer,” he said.

Still to be determined is who will conduct the study. The residents and the turbine’s owner, Scituate Wind LLC, have brought several recommendations to the table, and Board of Health members said they’ll assess the candidates at a later meeting.

The board made its decision after a steering committee that had been appointed to recommend the scope of the study was unable to reach a consensus.

Siemens installed two colossal offshore wind turbines this week, demonstrating technology that could have a significant impact on the economics of wind power.

The German company has been developing the turbines, which produce double the maximum power output of its current models, for several years. It has been testing the technology on land, and installed the first ones offshore with the help of a new ship designed specifically for the task. The turbines feature test blades that are 60 meters long, but Siemens intends to employ world-record 75-meter blades eventually.

Yet for offshore wind power to compete with fossil fuels, wind turbines may need to get even bigger. The new turbines generate six megawatts of power in good wind. Several companies are designing 10- and even 15-megawatt machines with 100-meter blades. These blades would reach two-thirds of the way to the roof of the Empire State Building. The push to supersize wind turbines is part of an effort to reduce installation and maintenance costs, which can be far higher than the cost of the turbines themselves. The pictures in this slideshow give a sense of just why installation is so costly.

As political opposition falls away from offshore wind projects, opponents are turning more toward economic arguments against further development of this technology, suggesting it will increase electricity rates and ultimately cost jobs.

As with any new product or technology, the first U.S. offshore wind farm will undoubtedly face steeper costs of construction and development than its successors. But as the industry grows, experience, technological developments, and economies of scale will cause those costs to decline. Multiple studies of the offshore wind industry in Europe have shown that the “learning rate”—the rate at which the overall cost of offshore wind energy development declines over time—can be as high as 10 percent per year.