Which are the dangerous technologies?

Image: Australian Conservation Foundation
Image: Australian Conservation Foundation

Yes 2 Renewables’ South Australian correspondent David Clarke:

Wind farms and solar power are replacing fossil fuel burning power stations. And electric vehicles powered by renewable energy could replace fossil fuel powered vehicles.

Wind turbines have been blamed for making people sick but both the NHMRC (National Health and Medical Research Council) and the AMA (Australian Medical Association) have recently made public statements that there is no evidence to support this claim. And, let’s face it, what could possibly be coming from wind turbines to cause illness? They are, after all, basically quite simple, although sophisticated, machines.

What about the other side of the coin? If we don’t replace fossil fuels with renewables how many deaths and illnesses can we expect from ‘business as usual’ with fossil fuels? A new report from the World Health Organisation (WHO) states that “Air pollution has become the world’s single biggest environmental health risk, linked to around 7 million – or nearly one in eight deaths – in 2012”. The WHO ascribed nearly half of these deaths to ambient air pollution (the other half were down to indoor pollution, from smoking, stoves, etc). Most of the world’s ambient air pollution comes from coal burning and vehicles powered by fossil fuels.

If we build more wind farms and solar power installations we can not only help reduce this health burden, but, at the same time, reduce greenhouse gas emissions causing climate change and ocean acidification.

Politicians such as Senators John Madigan, Nick Xenophon and Chris Back talk about the (entirely unproven) claims that wind turbines cause illness. The fact that we never hear anything from them about how wind power is reducing the deaths due to reducing fossil fuel air pollution is strong evidence that they are, for some reason perhaps known only to themselves, biased against wind power.

More information

  • For more information about the World Health Organisation’s report on air pollution, visit The Guardian
  • Check out David Clarke’s blog Ramblings more commentary on renewable energy in the bush.

25 thoughts on “Which are the dangerous technologies?

  1. Reblogged this on Take A Stand and commented:
    Unfortunately the government here in the UK do not follow our view, they are determined to frack the life out of our environment.

  2. As a neighbor of an industrial wind project I learned these projects are neither clean nor green, and are quite harmful to the environment. Before the project was built we thought it a good idea based on what the developer told us, unfortunately the facts prove otherwise. A huge swath of trees were cut and then the ridge was blasted bull dozed eliminating the swamps and wetlands and replaced with fill and crushed rock. What were pristine clean clear cold streams became intermittent and flash after it rains only to be a trickle a few days later. Then the turbines were installed and started, and our quiet rural neighborhood was turned into and industrial power plant. The ridge is largely devoid of the wildlife that used to be there, but I do find dead bats. At times the noise is so loud and irritating sleep is difficult or impossible. In the past I used to sleep soundly, but more often than not I get up in the morning and don’t feel rested. Some of my neighbors have it much worse, one family abandoned their home without recourse, and others can’t and continue to suffer. It’s not either IWT’s or fossil fuel powered plants, as wind turbines can’t be dispatched because of demand and need to be backed up. Too bad the investment isn’t going to PV systems on existing properties, where it won’t disrupt large tracts of land for installation and importantly PV would reduce demand to the grid, something IWT’s can not do!

      1. Hoosac Wind, it’s in western Massachusetts near VT border. 10 GE 1.5 mw turbines on 2 ridges.

      2. Hi Larry. I don’t know much about the wind developments in the US but I can assure you that here in Australia, we don’t have ridge lines cleared of trees or levelled off. To the best of my knowledge, every wind farm has been constructed on farming land (mostly). I think there might be one or two projects where part of the wind farm used publicly owned land.

        As far as side-effects go, there are no credible claims here in Australia. Certainly a few people have claimed to be affected but further investigation reveals other issues. There is a neat correlation between people who claim to be affected and the prevalence of anti-wind spokespeople going into areas and upsetting local populations with bogus information prior to the commencement of projects.

        I’m around 8 km from 12 x 1.75 MW turbines. The wind farm has been running for over 10 years and there are no complaints all issues from the surrounding population of around 700. Another smaller wind farm is right next to a larger town with a population of around 7000. Again, there are no known health issues that have been reported. Some concerns were expressed before the construction of both projects but wind farms around here are a nonissue these days.

      3. Hi Blair,
        As I mentioned I thought the project was a good idea based on what the developer told us. Then I learned the facts as the project was built, and I was NOT tainted by anti wind. I’m not anti wind, but pro environment. First I watched the destruction of the ridge. It was a large area (almost 5000 acres) that had few man made improvements and visually stunning. Was only lacking federal jurisdiction, otherwise had the elements of Wilderness designation and was excellent wildlife habitat. As to side effects, it’s well known sleep deprivation does have health impacts, and there is no doubt the project does keep us from sleeping from the noise. It happens enough that I get up in the morning more often than not and don’t feel rested. Before the project I did sleep very well as it was typically very quiet at night here as it’s very rural.

      4. G’day Larry, I also believe I’m pro-environment but I think it extends beyond my immediate surroundings. Every megawatt of electricity produced by renewables is one less that needs to be produced by polluting fossil fuels which affect huge areas across the country.

        The wind farm here exist without affecting farming activities. Some tried to claim that they prevent aerial contractors from spraying or spreading fertiliser but the fact is, those activities are not conducted in windy weather as a general rule. Tourism has not declined, the population has increased by around 10% and land property values have increased by around 30% since the projects were commissioned. These facts are easily verified via the census data.

        You mentioned swamps and let wetlands being filled in. Are they adjacent to the ridgelines? The whole project sounds completely different to anything we have here. I doubt such a project would get the go-ahead here.

        How far do you live from the wind farm?

        I disagree with you about wind farms and demand, my neighbouring state, South Australia has proved conclusively that wind farms are reliable and can displace coal-fired electricity. It probably helps that we have an integrated electricity distribution grid on the East Coast of Australia. Nevertheless, South Australia has closed one coal-fired power station and another only operates for around six months of the year – while windfarm developments continue. But even in Western Australia, wind farms there have been, at least in part, responsible for the closing of one fossil fuel fired generator. Wind energy doesn’t need to be backed up any more than any other form of generation does. There has to be a reserve in any electricity grid. Here its most commonly done via the use of gas powered generators. Before any windfarms were constructed here, the coal-fired generators still had to modify their output according to demand, it’s hard to believe windfarms further reduce the poor efficiency of coal-fired generators.

        Recently, here in Victoria we have had a run of problems with coal-fired generators from flooded mines, fires and even a small earthquake knocking the coal-fired generators out of action. We didn’t lose any supply and the windfarms ticked along quite nicely supporting the grid.

        I agree with you that PV should also be promoted but I don’t believe it’s a case of either/or. I think anybody who is serious about improving the health of the planet should be arguing for any and all forms of renewables in areas where they are best suited.

        Thanks for your information. I hope your concerns are resolved satisfactorily. Sorry for the long post.

      5. Hello Blair,
        Every MW of wind power doesn’t reduce 1 MW by other means. Wind Turbines require a fair amount of electricity to run. Around here the Winters are cold and electricity is used to deice the blades. The hydraulics alone require considerable electricity and where do you suppose is comes from? Another factor is I’ve noticed the wind turbines do not turn at a constant rate and this needs to be balanced on the grid and typically is gas fired generators that even out the power to the grid. This ramping up and down constantly lowers the efficiency of the gas power plants as well as using fossil fuels compensate for the variation. Fact is 1 MW of wind power doesn’t mean 1 mw less of fossil fueled power is saved. Demand peaks everyday here at the same time, and the wind doesn’t care and does what it wants. Also Winds tend to be higher in Winter when demand is typically less. On the other side winds typically are lower here in the Summer when demand is higher, so you see wind power can not be relied on for peak demand at all, and is more chance than anything. Energy efficiency and people taking personal responsibility is past due. Electricity is the tip of the problem here as far as fossil fuel consumption, and heating and transportation are a bigger part of the pie. Too many people consuming to much and living in unsustainable ways.

      6. G’day again Larry. Wind turbines do not require a fair amount of electricity to run, that’s an anti-wind myth I have seen promoted frequently, and addressed just as often. The industry term is “parasitic load” or LPF (Lost Power Factor). They only require a tiny amount when inactive for basic system monitoring and nacelle reorienting. It’s a fraction of a turbine’s overall output. I don’t know where you got your information from regarding electricity usage but it is grossly mistaken.

        I don’t know anything about deicing but as the link below states, turbines requiring deicing are not in large numbers. I imagine those types of conditions do require some sort of heating system but I’d be very surprised if the requirement was extensive or electricity usage was high. I suspect it’s intermittent but I’d have to check that.

        But I do know that wind turbines require no more “balancing” than any other generating system. An old school friend of mine used to work at what was once called the SEC (State Electricity Commission) before it was privatised. He was a controller there and explained what they did – mostly nothing because much of it was computerised, they just monitored the system – but he did explain how the load was managed as it varied throughout the day. This was well before the first wind turbines were constructed in Australia. Load management will always be a function of an operating electricity grid, with or without windfarms.

        Throughout the day demand varies greatly, the AEMO (Australian Energy Market Operator) monitors this and retailers purchase power accordingly. Monitors around windfarms and elsewhere provide plenty of warning (many hours at least) regarding wind speed differences. Turbines have the ability to feather the blades to counter gusts and varying wind speeds, thereby balancing the varying wind conditions. Its basic aerodynamics.

        Our local wind farm has a high power and low power operating mode, depending on wind speed. I’m pretty sure that is the case for most windfarms. One other thing, the turbines operate around 80% of the time, just not always at full power.

        Keep in mind that wind energy is just one of a number of systems we will need to use together to offset the use of fossil fuels. It is happening now at an increasing rate. The facts speak for themselves. Here in Australia, overall electricity usage has declined by a couple of percent each of the last three years, coal-fired power stations have closed down while more wind farm projects come online. They do help replace coal-fired electricity.

        Here Is some more information which hopefully clears up the myths you’ve been told. All easily verified by checking the links.

        I wholeheartedly agree with you that consumption and efficiency issues need to be addressed by everybody at a personal level. I guess awareness is the first step. Hopefully this discussion along with the millions of others going on elsewhere are a start 🙂

        Again, apologies for the long post but it’s important to correct misunderstandings. Cheers.

      7. Hi Larry, you might find this report interesting. It’s from the generating industry and provides a good insight into the costs of coal-fired electricity. Straight from the horses mouth. Sorry it’s not a quick read…

        If nothing else it puts costs of different generating types into some sort of perspective.

      8. Hello Blair, I don’t have any idea what the significance of links to costs of coal fired electricity in a discussion about the merits, or lack of wind generated electricity? Actually here in New England very little power generation is from coal. Gas powered turbines are the top of the heap.

      9. Hello again 🙂
        The link I provided regarding costs of coal-fired electricity was to highlight the overall costs of maintaining a coal-fired grid and comparing it to renewables – and it didn’t include environmental costs.

        Unfortunately my state relies a lot on brown coal, the most polluting form of coal-fired generation there is. In the last five years, we have had three mines flooded and the water pumped into rivers while being exempted from the usual environmental protection laws – exemptions no other industry can obtain. A very serious fire in an open cut coal mine that directly affected 11,000 people living within a kilometre of the mine. And another power station was shut down urgently after a minor earthquake. In all these cases serious amounts of generation were lost but we survived without any blackouts because the grid is interconnected with other states allowing us to access electricity generated by wind, solar, hydro, gas and black coal. We use gas here but only to cover brief, high demand periods. It’s also extremely expensive.

        These events have directly undermined the arguments used by opponents of renewables who claim that renewables cannot produce effective amounts of electricity and that they introduce problems into the grid. I submit that a coal-fired power station dropping off-line suddenly is far more problematic than advanced warning of a windfarm going off-line.

      10. Destruction to the mountains with the neighbors suffering from lack of sleep from noise from wind turbines. Impacts being more than noise and includes property value loss and quiet rural communities changed to industrial power sites. As if that’s not enough, for less than 25% of rated capacity and can’t be dispatched for demand. Much of it financed with billions of public funding to multinational corporations, what a scam!


      11. Larry, I have visited both windfarms many times in different weather conditions. I know how the sound varies when it’s windy compared to calmer days, when it’s raining or sunny. Your claims are exaggerated. You have worked yourself into such a state of denial that you no longer think objectively.

        You have also chosen to ignore what I said about output and continue to confuse average output with peak output.

        I have already mentioned that I am not speaking about what goes on in the US, only my experiences here in Australia. If you’ve got a problem with ridges being cleared (and I would too), take it up with your legislators.

        As for your continual petulance about people using fossil fuels when they advocate ending the use of those same fuels, there is no inconsistency as I have explained. It’s impossible to switch to a new technology overnight but reducing usage is a start as is changing progressively to newer technologies. You are just desperately trying to find fault while avoiding being reasonable or accountable. Notably, you claim to be concerned about the environment but offer no viable alternative. Your pretence of concern is not matched by any meaningful action so your criticisms are pretty hollow.

        Most telling is your failure to provide the name of the windfarm developer you supposedly spoke to. I made an offer which you have ignored so I question your sincerity.

        You can insult me all you like but you’d still be wrong attributing certain motives to me. Your reaction is typical of those lacking any evidence or understanding of the facts. You continue to post links from known anti-wind sites and expect me to take you seriously and respect your opinion? Your claims about noise, property values, peak (as opposed to average) turbine output and demand are just so much hot air, a perpetuation of propaganda I have seen time and time again from wind farm opponents.

        Call the industry whatever you like. It will grow and people will get used to it just like they have every other technology that people had some initial concerns about. It’s time you moved on Larry. Try enjoying life for a change. The majority of wind farm hosts and neighbours manage to do so without any problem.

      12. I stand corrected Blair, you have visited 2 wind turbine projects many times and are an expert. So knowledgeable about them you can say I’m exaggerating. Then tell me why the noise keeps me from sleeping? I’ve never been a light sleeper, in fact the joke here is if the house catches fire when I’m sleeping I’m going to burn. I did tell you the name of the developer, David Blittersdorf of Georgia Mountain wind turbines in VT. He mocks and demeans the neighbors who complain, and went so far as to say any of us who complain are just this side of crazy. Sometime it might be fun to show just how crazy! Your response to me is similar to his, discounting my experience and saying I’m exaggerating. You see I’ve lived here for many years and the Ridge used to be quite beautiful and Natural before Iberdrola got their greedy hands on it and wrecked it. I’ve lived as neighbor of the project for over a year and can say quite honestly I’m kept up from the noise that I’m aware of at least 1 night out of 10 and get up many more mornings not feeling rested. Communities in MA and VT have lowered property values already and wouldn’t be doing so if there wasn’t a reason. Average sales have been 25% lower with homes too close that have sold recently than similar properties. You can say it’s not so but the fact is if too close no one wants to buy those homes. You are the one who doesn’t know what your talking about and believe the junk from the wind industry. Iberdrola has also been offering money to neighbors who complain, and if that’s not admitting to valid impacts then I’m covered in pixy dust as you are by the pro wind lies. You say hot air about wind having nothing to do with demand but are businesses going to stop work when there is no wind? It’s like having a car that will only work 25% of the time and not necessarily when you need it and requires a tow vehicle. Why not buy a vehicle you can depend on? Developers love wind turbines because the subsidies provide the profit and funding, and they don’t pay taxes or buy any land and here in the US it has proven without the PTC subsides projects don’t get built. If wind is so great it should spin on it’s own and not rely on handouts. Time for YOU to wean yourself off oil and people to be accountable.

      13. Larry, I have never claimed to be an expert. I have only told you about my experiences just as you have told me yours. I believe you’re exaggerating for the reasons I explained earlier. You have become so focused on the alleged noise (like a few opponents here in Australia) that I question your objectivity. Obviously perceptions differ, you hate wind turbines so are more likely to be critical, I think they are benign so I’m less critical.

        I’m sorry I missed the name of the developer. I will see what I can find out about him. In any case, is there really no legislation or recourse that you can chase up, or at least get some meaningful mitigation done, may be in the form of sound insulation or some other option?

        I know for a fact that developers here go out of their way to address any concerns if a nearby property owner makes complaints. I know they have paid for insulation, double glazing etc. I’d be surprised and disappointed if project operators in the US failed to provide the same options.

        As for house prices/property values, at both the local windfarms, property values have increased and new houses have been built adjacent to the windfarms. Again, our experiences differ. Anyway, I think the report at this link undermines your claim that windfarms devalue properties:

        Are you going to try and tell me that Berkely laboratories is in the pay of the wind industry?

        I’ll say it once again, slowly. I have never claimed that some people are not affected by wind farms. It is evident they believe they are. I just don’t believe the impact is as great as they claim. Particularly when I know of at least two examples where people complained bitterly about the new by wind farm, eventually received high payouts and now live only slightly further away from the same windfarms. It’s obvious, with hindsight that they were making lots of noise to get a larger payout. There is also the fact that the majority of opponents have links with the fossil fuel, nuclear and mining industries. Surely even you can recognise a conflict of interest when one exists?

        I’m not going to try and correct your misconceptions about wind energy, availability and general performance. I have tried twice and you have chosen to ignore what I said. You still confuse average output with peak output.

        If fossil fuels were so great, they should operate without subsidies don’t you think? Wind energy in this country does not receive subsidies. Please try and understand that.

      14. Blair, well over one year with Hoosac Wind is online and the neighbors are not getting used to it. How does one get used to sleep deprivation due to noise? Move on to where, as it is well documented around here that noise affects property values? We used to enjoy living here but the noise keeps us from sleeping soundly and we can’t afford to take a loss of property value in selling.

      15. How far do you live from the turbines?

        Your problem is that there are millions of people around the world who live quite happily close to turbines, under aircraft flight paths, alongside highways and railways. You might deny this but it’s a fact.

        Have you asked the company to help you with insulation or sound minimisation options? I’m not there Larry, I’m relying on you to be honest with me but so far all I’ve had is abuse, denial and exaggeration from you.

        I have tried to understand your position but as I pointed out earlier, millions of other people close to turbines are surviving with them quite happily. It’s not that I don’t care, I just think there are far more important issues we need to address.

      16. Blair I live close enough to the turbines that we are woken and kept from sleeping at times. We live about 1500 meters from the closest of the 10 turbines and there are another 9 turbines on the other side of the mountain as well. Some of the neighbors live about 520 meters from the turbines on the other side of the project. We choose to live here because there are no highways, railroads or airports close by. When airplanes do pass over the sound is gone in a minute or so, and is not constant as when the turbines are cranking.

        We chose this neighborhood because of it’s rural qualities and for the scenic values and opportunities to commune with Nature where we live. The turbine sound is quite different and the the multiple thumping from the 10 turbines not in sequence is more than annoying. Saying that millions of other people live in various places and situations is acceptable to them doesn’t have anything to do with our situation and is not my problem. A friend loves living in NYC, and I can barely stand to visit for one day and there is no right or wrong answer, only personal choices. For over 25 years I used to make photographs for advertising including fortune 500 companies, but I gave up the business because I didn’t want to live the hectic lifestyle of conspicuous consumption the business demanded. Moving to this neighborhood was part of that lifestyle change to a more sustainable self sufficient way.

        An Iberdrola representative told me that not one person has complained about one of their projects worldwide, which is an outright lie. As he told me that, a community in NY had recently started litigation for one of their wind turbine projects. That’s beyond denial and the fact is Iberdrola doesn’t care about the neighbors and it’s about the bottom line and profits. They came in, not buying one acre of land, not paying taxes, and ruined 2 separate ridge lines for electricity that can’t be dispatched on demand. If the public funding was used for PV systems on local residences it would actually lower demand to the grid and not ruined the ridges, and have the property values increase and allow people more independence. We have seen the generation portion of electric bills rise 50% in the last 2 years. In a deregulated market the fox is taking care of the hen house.

        I take exception to your accusation that I’m in denial or exaggerating the situation here. I’ll remind you that I was in favor of the project as presented, only to learn the facts of the impacts of this project, which proved otherwise. It wasn’t because of what I read or was told, but watching the destruction and then hearing the noise that has changed my opinion about the lack of merits. Some of the neighbors have to live with 65 dB(A) of noise at times in an area that can get down below 20 dB(A). The fact is Hoosac Wind has altered a large, mostly unspoiled natural area dramatically and turned it into an industrial power generation facility.

        Solutions need to solve the problems, not just change what form the problem is expressed. It’s not just electricity, but how people don’t live sustainably and in harmony with Nature. What’s not important about the environment being ruined and people suffering? I’ll go back to my cave now…

      17. Larry, I’m not denying you like or want to live in a quiet environment. Obviously the ambient noise is lower in that situation and any new sounds will likely be more noticeable however I have the evidence of my own ears and of those people I know who live around the nearby wind farm, some much closer than you are to the windfarm in your area. They have no problems. So the question is why the difference in opinions between yourself and the locals I know who also live near wind farms? How are people supposed to reconcile the contradictory claims?

        Would you mind telling me how much dispatchable electricity is produced by PV systems at night? You see, ignoring the obvious and major failure of PV at night highlights your selective arguments and makes me question your objectivity.

        Electricity prices have risen here as well but only around 3% of that rise was due to renewables. I can’t speak for the US.

        If we continue on our way using fossil fuels with gay abandon, the environment, the climate and the livability of the planet for generations to come will be seriously diminished. That’s the bottom line that forms my opinion on the matter of renewables generally and wind energy in particular. Very few people live without having to tolerate some sort of distraction or loss of amenity.

        I agree that many people do not live sustainably but so long as we have megacities springing up around the world and a large number of people refusing to acknowledge the dangers of climate change and the overuse of fossil fuels, those of us who do care have to show the way.

      18. Blair, I’m glad the people you know who live near wind turbines are not bothered, but that has nothing to do with our situation here. Additionally, because you don’t live with the noise from them, how can you judge whether it’s an issue or not? Not being able to leave and have the noise go on at times for days means sleep is difficult if not impossible. Try setting the alarm to go off every hour for several nights and you begin to know about sleep deprivation. You have the luxury off turning off the alarm, something we don’t! You bring up the solar at night, well right now in New England with over 750 MW of wind installed the grid is getting 26.49 MW from industrial wind turbines. .21% of 12611.41 MW which is a relatively light load. Billions spent on wind turbines and electricity supplied for about 26,000 households. Fortunately we have dependable sources for power generation. I’m saying tax $ spent on residential PV systems will increase property values, not wreck the communities where installed, and decrease electricity demand to the grid. All things IWT’s can not accomplish. You will show me, when you have compassion for people who live too close to IWT’s, otherwise your just another callous hypocrite who doesn’t practice what they preach and tells me I need to suck it up or move. I say, I’ll see you in Hell, and I’m already half way there…

  3. Blair,
    I did read a study done at the University of Michigan about wind turbines that were installed there. The results seem to indicate the the wind turbines there used about 13% of the rated capacity to run the turbines. Michigan is a cold place, as New England is and deicing requires a substantial amount of energy. Otherwise the blades can become coated in ice, which as you might imagine is a very bad thing. Even with deicing measures in place I’ve seen craters 5 feet long from ice being thrown from the blades from the project located here. This is a big issue here in New England where in spite of climate change we do have some long cold Winters. This past cold season required the wood stoves burning from October and the forecast is for snow this week and it’s not rare for snow in May. As for other power requirements for wind turbines, I’ve observed the turbines being spun with power from the grid to get them started in marginal conditions numerous times. They make a racket trying to start up. We have a deregulated market here in new England and they try to take advantage of spiking wholesale prices to make money with the turbines and I spent more than an hour observing the turbines trying to start up with no success, which I imagine uses a fair amount of electricity considering the blades are 125 feet long and weigh 22 tons each.

  4. Quote Blair Donaldson: “Call the industry whatever you like. It will grow and people will get used to it just like they have every other technology that people had some initial concerns about.”

    You are totally out of touch, you are not even reading the articles from your own propaganda machine, only this time, they just happen to be right.


    Look at the so called ‘RET review road trip’, they are struggling to get half a dozen interested people for the photo shoots.

    People have switched off from wind energy, they see it for the scam that it is and want nothing more to do with it.

    All of your ranting and raving is falling on deaf ears, Blair, you are just talking crap!


    1. Blair claims ignorance about the environmental degradation where IWT’s are installed…how convenient for him. And that I’m exaggerating and I only need to accept and just get used to the foreign invasion. I won’t get used to these aliens taking over our communities, turning rural country into industrial zones so those who waste resources can continue on living unsustainable and not feel guilty, because someone else is making the sacrifice that they are not willing to make. Blair by all meant continue to tell us how to live and what we need to sacrifice while you hide behind your excuse of doing what you can. Such an example of humanity…

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