Special Report: Is going green damaging local lives?
ALBANY, N.Y. -- Huge wind turbines are dotting the landscape in New York and Massachusetts, producing megawatts of green energy. So why would people living near these giant windmills want them out?
While green energy has become a priority in many states, those who live with it in their backyard say it's dangerous to their health and their farms.
"It sounds just like a prop jet outside the house," said Keith Dillenbeck, his description of wind turbines defying many people's picture of green energy.
Dillenbeck showed the NEWS CENTER around his dairy farm - one of the 37 wind turbines that make up the Hardscrabble Wind Power Project in Herkimer County looming in the distance.
He claimed he regularly experienced disturbed sleep and headaches, but the negative impact extended to his cows, as well. Dillenbeck said there is significant loss in milk production, attributing it to not only the noise, but sediment in the drinking water.
"It's the same breed of cows that I've had 20-25 years ago," Dillenbeck said. "It's still the same bunch of cows and it's gone downhill in the last couple of years."
Dillenbeck and more than 60 other people are listed as plaintiffs on a lawsuit against Iberdrola, the company which built the project in 2010.
Attorney Melody Scalfone said the rural landscape has become an industrial site.
"They're almost 500 feet tall," Scalfone said. "One blade weighs four tons; just the scale of it is overwhelming. Then you put on top of it the noise."
A similar story 120 miles to the east of Hardscrabble is the Hoosac Wind Project in Massachusett's Berkshire County, also built by Iberdrola. The project just went online in December.
"Our lives have been turned upside down," Michael Fairneny said.
Fairneny lives 3,000 feet from the windmills, three of the 19 he can see right from his home.
"It's a constant ringing and buzzing in her ears, I am headachy in the back of the scruff of my neck, it feels like my brain is vibrating," Fairneny said.
"I think there are a lot of people, myself included, who find the turbines visually striking and pleasing to the eye," said Steven Clarke, Massachusett's Assistant Secretary for Energy.
"So you can confidently say that the positive effects outweigh the negative effects of these windfarms in the state?" asked NEWS CENTER's Taryn Kane.
"Yea, I can confidently say that we are not interested in citing any projects that cause any negative health effects," answered Clarke.
Iberdrola said both the Hardscrabble and Hoosac Wind projects were designed to be in compliance with all applicable regulations.
In a statement, the company said, "We don't expect that every person in every community will view wind energy or our projects favorably, but we treat everyone's concerns seriously."
Clarke said that while it was too early to determine if there was a violation or not, there are absolutely acoustic standards in the state.
"We're very interested and supportive of bolstering our clean energy sector, but not at the expense of public health and safety," Clarke said.
For Fairneny and Dillenbeck, the courts will decided what lies at the end of the road.
"We don't know what plan B is, and that in itself is a very scary issue," Fairneny said.
"I know just how he feels, I'm just speechless," Dillenbeck added. "It's an awful thing."
Sound studies have been conducted at the Hardscrabble Wind Project and the attorney involved in that lawsuit against Iberdrola says the results are inconclusive. Iberdrola says the data gathered demonstrates that a reduction system will work to lower sound levels at the project.
As for the Hoosac Wind project in Massachusetts, sound monitoring stations are still being established.
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