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Wind turbine syndrome: farm hosts tell very different story

By johnboy - 18 September 2013 95

wind turbines

By Simon Chapman

People who host wind turbines on their properties and derive rental income from wind energy companies have important stories to tell about living alongside turbines, but they’ve largely been absent from the debate on wind farms and health. Australian filmmaker and researcher Neil Barrett is finally giving this critical group a voice in his new short film, The way the wind blows, released today.

In Barrett’s short film, 15 hosts and some of their neighbours from the central Victorian district near the town of Waubra tell what it’s like to live surrounded by large turbines.

Turbine hosts at Waubra earn A$8,000 a year for each turbine on their land. In the bush, the expression that wind farms can “drought-proof a farm” is common: a land owner with ten turbines can wake up each morning comfortable in the thought that a tough year with poor rain or bad frosts can be ridden out, thanks to income from wind generation.

All of Barrett’s interviewees say they can hear the turbines but none say they are bothered by them or suffer from any health problems they attribute to the turbines. If there is such a phenomenon as “wind turbine syndrome” it would seem it is a condition that, remarkably, can be prevented by the wonder drug called money.

Significantly, too, none of those interviewed say their contracts prevent them from speaking publicly about their experiences with hosting turbines, repudiating the mantra of wind farm opponents that suffering hosts are gagged from speaking out by evil wind companies.

In 2010, a small group comprising mostly wealthy landowners established the Waubra Foundation, which opposes wind farms being established near their country estates. None of the directors of the foundation nor its chief executive, an unregistered former GP Sarah Laurie, live within 125km of Waubra, yet took on the name of the town to highlight what they believe are serious health problems associated with living near wind turbines.

Barrett’s film reveals the deep resentment that Waubra residents feel about these out-of-towners hijacking their town’s good name. None say that Laurie has ever contacted them, with one commenting, “I wouldn’t give them the time of day if they turned up here.”

Laurie and the Waubra Foundation have done all they can to spread concern about the harms they allege are caused by living near wind farms. One former Waubra resident has been particularly prominent, speaking emotionally at anti-wind farm meetings about how wind farms have ruined his health and caused his family to move to Ballarat, at great personal expense.

In a statement that would be of immense interest to Apple, Samsung and Nokia, he recently told a meeting in Barringhup that electricity generated by wind turbines started charging his cell phone without it being plugged in:

I’ve had my … mobile phone go into charge mode in the middle of the paddock, away from everywhere.

Turbine hosts at Waubra earn A$8,000 a year for each turbine on their land. Image from shutterstock.com

In 2012, he wrote a public submission to a parliamentary inquiry where he revealed he had suffered a serious head injury some eight years before the wind farm opened in 2010:

I have been in brain training care and rehabilitation for about ten years because of an unfortunate, unrelated accident.

Indeed, the most common health complaints voiced by complainants are problems such as disturbed sleep, anxiety, hypertension and normal problems of ageing that are very prevalent in all communities, regardless of whether they have wind farms.

In a 2012 Ontario legal case, complainants were asked to provide their medical records going back a decade before the local wind farm commenced operation. This would have provided relevant information about any pre-existing health problems. When they failed to so, their case failed.

In a peer-reviewed paper of mine to be published shortly, I conducted an historical audit of all known health and noise complaints made about Australia’s 51 wind farms from 1993 to 2012. Using four sources (wind company records, submissions made to three parliamentary enquiries, local media monitoring records and court affidavits) I calculated the number of complainants around Australia.

More than two-thirds of Australian wind farms including more than half of those with large turbines have never received a single complaint. Two whole states – Western Australia and Tasmania – have seen no complaints.

Of the 129 individuals across Australia who have ever complained, 94 (73%) are residents near just six wind farms which have been targeted by anti wind farm groups.

Almost all (98%) of complainants made their first complaint after 2009 when anti wind farm groups began to add health concerns to their wider opposition. In the preceding years, health or noise complaints were rare despite large and small-turbine wind farms having operated for many years.

In late 2012, anti-wind farm campaigners launched an anonymous website, Stop These Things. The apparently well-funded site specialises in emotive videos of wind farm victims, but in nine months has only run profiles of 18 mostly aged complainants. Barrett’s film profiles nearly that number of people telling a very different story.

Image from shutterstock.com

Anti-wind farm activists have promoted a bizarre and ever-growing number of health problems associated with turbine exposure. My favourite is the alarming problem of disoriented echidnas.

Among Laurie’s more interesting claims is that wind turbines cause lips to vibrate at up 10 kilometres, and that within 1km to 2km of wind turbines, air pressure changes occur “sufficient to knock them off their feet or bring some men to their knees when out working in their paddock” and “have been reported by farmers to perceptibly rock stationary cars”.

Laurie has repeatedly claimed that “a large number” or “over twenty families” and most recently “more than forty” families are “wind farm refugees” who have had to abandon their homes. But Laurie has declined requests to make her list public.

Another prominent activist George Papadopolous, claims to be able to sense a wind turbine at 100km away: from Sydney’s CBD to Lithgow, as the crow flies.

Barrett’s film brings a fresh and important perspective to a debate that has so far been dominated by a small number of complainants and those oxygenating their fears.

Fifteen years ago, Australian news media ran countless stories on community fears about mobile phone towers. Those still worrying about health risks from the towers are rare today. Wind turbine syndrome is likely to go the same way.

Simon Chapman AO receives no financial or other material support from any company or person in the wind energy industry or agents acting on their behalf.

The Conversation

This article was originally published at The Conversation.
Read the original article.

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95 Responses to
Wind turbine syndrome: farm hosts tell very different story
magiccar9 2:16 pm 18 Sep 13

Has it occurred to anyone else that if the farmers don’t like the noise or other associated going-ons then they can just say ‘no’ when they’re approached by the wind companies?
Nobody is forcing them to build one, but the $$ seem to haze their brain function to weigh up the pros and cons.
Frankly if you didn’t do your research before signing the contract then you have no right to complain afterwards.

laraeddy 2:06 pm 18 Sep 13

Russ said :

You can go and quote all the so called “scientific” studies all you like (most likely commissioned and paid for by Big Wind) but answer me this: why is it that all pictures of wind turbines *never* show the ground directly beneath the turbine? Every shot has the camera subtly tilted up for “some reason”. Even the feature pic in this post has used fog to obscure the feathered carnage.

Ummm, windmills are really tall. People with cameras are kinda tall, but not THAT tall. Pictures of the bit of a windmill at head height would be really boring.

On the subject of biased studies, you might like to explain why a non-practicing doctor operating out of the office of a mining investment company (http://www.skeptics.com.au/features/bent-spoon/nominations/ and read “Sarah Laurie and the Waubra Foundation”) has more credibility than a Professor of Public Health with a swathe of peer-reviewed research behind him. – reckon I know who I believe more.

Oh, and really suggest you reconsider “Big Wind” as a term of derision – it’s gonna backfire one day.

Here_and_Now 1:55 pm 18 Sep 13

Russ said :

You can go and quote all the so called “scientific” studies all you like (most likely commissioned and paid for by Big Wind) but answer me this: why is it that all pictures of wind turbines *never* show the ground directly beneath the turbine? Every shot has the camera subtly tilted up for “some reason”. Even the feature pic in this post has used fog to obscure the feathered carnage.

Far from ‘all’. I just spent about a minute on Google Images and turned several up. If it’s a conspiracy, it needs work.

I’m going to take a guess that the angle is tilted up because the photographer is standing on the ground and the turbine is very tall.

c_c™ 1:48 pm 18 Sep 13

EvanJames said :

The low-frequency noise issue still worries me. it’s not “loud”, but if you’ve lived in an apartment building with low bass rumble from someone’s stereo, you’ll know the effect it has.

Quite a few normal folk who had the capital wind farm at Bungendore move in next door were very upset about the noise it made.

And if wind farms are so harmless, when are they going to start building them nearer to the users of the power: towns and cities?

Ah yes, the ‘low-frequency noise’ that the syndrome brigade often speaks of.

A 10 turbine wind farm will have a sound pressure of 35-45db at 350m away. Rural background noise pressure levels are 20-40db.

(Macintosh & Downie, 2006)

beardedclam 1:44 pm 18 Sep 13

Russ said :

You can go and quote all the so called “scientific” studies all you like (most likely commissioned and paid for by Big Wind) but answer me this: why is it that all pictures of wind turbines *never* show the ground directly beneath the turbine? Every shot has the camera subtly tilted up for “some reason”. Even the feature pic in this post has used fog to obscure the feathered carnage.

hahahaha HAHAHAHAHAHAHA, because in this picture, if the fog wasnt there, you would be able to see what was sitting under the windmills. Mate, i put my money that if an elephant was riding a tricycle beneath the windmill holding a 20 foot neon sign saying “there are dead birds here”, you still wouldnt be able to see it.

MERC600 1:37 pm 18 Sep 13

EvanJames said :

The low-frequency noise issue still worries me. it’s not “loud”, but if you’ve lived in an apartment building with low bass rumble from someone’s stereo, you’ll know the effect it has.

Quite a few normal folk who had the capital wind farm at Bungendore move in next door were very upset about the noise it made.

E James raises a good point. When are we going to get them in the ACT ?. Why should we let NSW grab all the glory; and the enhancement to their landscape like whats happening to Lake George .
Whats wrong with a great row of them right along the Brinddys , and then one real big fker on top of Mt Franklin so we could see it in town.

And if wind farms are so harmless, when are they going to start building them nearer to the users of the power: towns and cities?

pink little birdie 1:37 pm 18 Sep 13

EvanJames said :

And if wind farms are so harmless, when are they going to start building them nearer to the users of the power: towns and cities?

umm never… but that is mostly because the wind near towns and cities isn’t of a high enough constant speed to generate electricty.

Stand in a street, stand on a surban oval, stand on an urban mountain, stand in a paddock, and stand in a mountain surrounded by a valley. each one for about an hour when the weather is the same. Describe the wind on each them…

EvanJames 1:22 pm 18 Sep 13

The low-frequency noise issue still worries me. it’s not “loud”, but if you’ve lived in an apartment building with low bass rumble from someone’s stereo, you’ll know the effect it has.

Quite a few normal folk who had the capital wind farm at Bungendore move in next door were very upset about the noise it made.

And if wind farms are so harmless, when are they going to start building them nearer to the users of the power: towns and cities?

BimboGeek 1:17 pm 18 Sep 13

Hysteria. Tell them to stay off the barbituates.

Russ 1:00 pm 18 Sep 13

You can go and quote all the so called “scientific” studies all you like (most likely commissioned and paid for by Big Wind) but answer me this: why is it that all pictures of wind turbines *never* show the ground directly beneath the turbine? Every shot has the camera subtly tilted up for “some reason”. Even the feature pic in this post has used fog to obscure the feathered carnage.

breda 12:55 pm 18 Sep 13

If you want to know what living near a windturbine is like, take a look at this short video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jrNYwpIqDsU

This guy moved to a country cottage wanting a peaceful rural lifestyle. When approached about having windmills near his house, he said sure, being a typical rural greenie.

Check out the video to see what the result was, and how he feels about it now.

It’s like living in a disco in sunny weather, and the noise is quite audible.

Grail 12:05 pm 18 Sep 13

I wonder how many people who suffer wind turbine syndrome also dislike the constant noise of waves crashing on the beach?

As for bird kills, reading this article might help you understand where the numbers are drawn from: http://science.howstuffworks.com/environmental/green-science/wind-turbine-kill-birds.htm

Executive summary: anti-turbine campaigners take the worst kill rate in the world and extrapolate to all wind farms.

gasman 11:59 am 18 Sep 13

Russ said :

While I imagine you could get used to the sight and noise of turbines if you’re being paid $8k a year for each, but I would have thought the shattered, feathered corpses scattered over the ground beneath each turbine would make a hell of a stench.

There are lots of studies that show that wind turbines kill far fewer birds than fossil fuel plants. Per gigawatt hour of electricity produced, fossil fuel plants kill 20 times the number of birds.

Below is birds killed in US data per year:
By wind turbines: 20,000 to 500,000
By fossil fuel power plants: 14,000,000
By cars/trucks: 50-100,000,000
By feral cats: up to 3 billion!!!

Wind turbines are a negligible cause of deaths of birds, even when adjusted for deaths per unit of power produced.

To put it another way, building wind turbines and reducing/replacing fossil fuel power plants actually SAVES birds lives.

Source: wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Environmental_impact_of_wind_power#Birds

RedDogInCan 11:46 am 18 Sep 13

Russ said :

I would have thought the shattered, feathered corpses scattered over the ground beneath each turbine would make a hell of a stench.

Fresh meat – extra bonus!

Russ 11:30 am 18 Sep 13

While I imagine you could get used to the sight and noise of turbines if you’re being paid $8k a year for each, but I would have thought the shattered, feathered corpses scattered over the ground beneath each turbine would make a hell of a stench.

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