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Wind Turbines: Not Harmful to Health, But Residents Are Up in Arms Anyway

Does "Wind Turbine Syndrome," in which sufferers complain of fear, increased heartbeat and other symptoms, really exist? Will turbines reduce the value of nearby property?

The answers to these two questions were not immediately apparent, but researchers have done their best to allay fears with two studies released this year. The first showed no appreciable change in the value of 7,500 homes near turbines. In a second, made public this week, a multidisiplinary panel could find no evidence of adverse health effects from turbines.

It may be impossible to do a study of a more insubstantial issue -- how residents who never expected to live near a wind farm feel about having ever-spinning turbines overhead. As more of the generators spring up around the country, local resistance seems to be on the rise.

A newly opened Chevron wind farm in Wyoming has angered nearby homeowners after only four days in operation:
Bright flashing lights, broken internet signals and increased noise are some of the complaints from local homeowners. Some feel their once peaceful property has been destroyed. Many can't understand why the wind farms had to be constructed near their homes.

"It wasn't fair to us we haven't gotten anything for the decrease in our property value, so we're stuck," says resident Tammy Clark.

The "property value" Clark is referring to would be difficult to measure, as it includes different terms than the Lawrence Berkeley Lab study cited above; beyond just monetary value, she's likely thinking of her happiness value.

Similarly, the many people who have complained of health problems stemming from the noise turbines make (there's even a book out on them now) aren't likely to put much stock in the study suggesting that their symptoms are illusory.

Troubled by the reports from their constituents, regulators are beginning to take a harder look at where turbines should be located. Near Bismarck in North Dakota, the state Public Service Commission is considering blocking turbines that Just Wind wants to place within 850 feet of homes. Local regulations require only 750 feet of clearance.

How large of a problem this will be for wind farm developers remains to be seen -- but it could prove to be significant. Even in rural areas, huge wind farms border on many inhabited areas.

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