This post was featured at Renew Economy, Australia’s leading source for energy news and analysis. Victorian Senator John Madigan (Democratic Labor Party) has alleged that Australia’s wind power generation sector is responsible for a health cover-up comparable to those perpetrated … Continue reading Pollie Watch: More hot air from Sen Madigan
By Ketan Joshi
The most interesting places on Earth are the subduction zones where tectonic plates of science and emotion scrape relentlessly. Buried in these dynamic boundaries we find the most telling insights into human nature. Wind energy spans the continents of science and sentiment, and discourse is dominated by this violent collision of empirical reality and unbridled passion.
Though living full time in this fissure might seem unenviable, I guarantee it is stirring. Yesterday, the plates grated once more, as the South Australian Environmental Protection Agency (SA EPA) released the long-anticipated results of their study into low-frequency noise levels at Waterloo Wind Farm.
First, some history. In May 2012, Graham Lloyd of The Australian mused in an article whether the Waterloo Wind Farm could be the culprit behind the mutations of chicken embryos, spikes in “sheep deformities” and “reports of erratic behaviour by farm dogs” – a joyful foray into absurdity that served as a textbook example of implication by proximity. Continue reading “Collision of science and sentiment – Waterloo wind farm cleared by EPA”
By Fiona Crichton, PhD candidate in psychological medicine at University of Auckland.
Despite at least 19 reviews of the scientific evidence universally concluding that exposure to wind farm sound doesn’t trigger adverse health effects, people continue to report feeling unwell because they live near wind turbines.
We’ve known for some time that exposure to negative messages about wind farms makes people more likely to report feeling sick after exposure to turbines. And new research, published by my colleagues and I this week in the journal Health Psychology, shows positive messages about wind farms may have the opposite effect – improve perceptions of health. Continue reading “Wind turbines don’t make you feel sick or healthy, but spin can”
Picture this: A man sits nervously in the witness stand, his hands bound by cuffs, his every move watched closely by a jury. A lawyer slowly steps up to him, and says:
“Sir, the evidence is irrefutable. You murdered Mr Wales, in cold blood”.
The accused smiles at the corner of his mouth.
“Hear this, my good man: you are wrong. It is Mr Wales who murdered me, and I shall avenge his crimes, mark my words!”
I call it the Stupefaction Gambit. If you stand accused of some wrongdoing, steel yourself, swallow your self-awareness, point at your accuser and accuse them of that same folly. In the ensuing chaos, the irrationality of your claim sneaks quietly past the other parties.
Recently, Neil Barrett, a film-maker from Victoria with an interest in renewable energy and a small share in the Hepburn community wind farm (also in Victoria) released a set of videos (condensed version below) interviewing residents near the Waubra Wind Farm. Continue reading “Waubra Wednesday #5 – The Stupefaction Gambit: “Community Acceptance Will Fuel Community Division””
In a new analysis, the Australian Energy Market Operator estimates Victoria will have 4,090 MW of new wind energy capacity installed by 2020. Those who support more renewables in the energy mix will welcome the forecast, yet it may be optimistic.
Today (Friday September 27), the Victorian Civil Administration Tribunal (VCAT) will resume the decision making process on the Cherry Tree Range wind farm proposed for central Victoria. Despite meeting the world’s strictest wind farm planning laws and laying outside the multitude of no-go zones imposed by the Baillieu government, the project could be thwarted. By what? The self interest and pseudo-science trumpeted by anti-wind farm groups.
The fate of the Cherry Tree Range wind farm is a test case for wind energy in Victoria. If it’s approved then there’s hope Victoria will achieve the high-penetration of wind energy AEMO predict by the end of the decade.
VCAT adjourned with an interim determination in April, finding the permit application was in accordance with all the planning considerations that the Mitchell Shire had contested. However the Tribunal decided it would await the outcome of an EPA SA study into alleged noise complaints at Waterloo wind farm, and also a new review by the National Health and Medical Research Council.
VCAT left us to ponder the question: whether there is a causal link between sound pressure emissions from wind turbines and adverse health effects of a physiological nature. Continue reading “Wind farms: What we can’t hear, can’t harm”
One complaint voiced by wind turbine opponents is that the turbines create too much noise — even noise below the range of human hearing, known as infrasound. These concerns fuel claims about “Wind Turbine Syndrome,” which advocates say is a medical condition that involves mental health problems, heart disease, and vertigo.
A study by an acoustic engineering group in Australia found that that infrasound generated by wind turbines is less loud than the infrasound created by a listener’s own heartbeat. It found that wind turbine infrasound does increase as wind speed increases, but this is often masked by the natural noise of wind moving through the area. Continue reading “Wind turbines are quieter than a heartbeat, acoustical experts find”
Mike Barnard, the blogger with an unmatched ability to dismantle anti-wind energy spin, has reviewed 50 pieces of evidence often cited in the wind energy/health debate. Barnard has summarised, categorised, and ranked 50 papers to “assist interested laymen, journalists and others trying to understand the knotty problem of wind energy and its health impacts.”
The review is a useful aid when considering the evidence presented by both sides of the wind energy and health debate. As someone who has attended town hall meetings organised by anti-wind farm activists, community forums on wind farm proposals, and VCAT hearings, I know I’ll be taking a printed copy of Barnard’s review to events in the future.
Here’s a table summarising Barnard’s results: Continue reading “Systematic review: A new guide to wind/health evidence”
By Ketan Joshi, Research and Communications Officer at Infigen Energy. These views are his own.
On the night of May 28th, Greens MLC Mark Parnell pitched a tent directly underneath a wind turbine at Waterloo Wind Farm, and had a relatively peaceful night’s rest. Prior to his camping experience, Parnell was interviewed on ABC’s Breakfast Reloaded by Matthew Abraham and David Bevan:
Host: Mark Parnell, you being a man of science, why would you say that camping within 100 metres of the pole is going to give you an experience that people who live a kilometre away will experience?
The assertion that sound energy from a wind turbine will somehow be greater at a distance of one kilometre away and inside a house, compared to 100 metres away and inside a tent, is a good example of the homeopathic logic that characterises discourse around wind energy. Continue reading “You being a man of science: Joshi on perception and wind farm sound”
By Ketan Joshi, Research and Communications Officer at Infigen Energy. These views are his own.
If you’re looking for immediate confusion, the science of sound is a fantastic place to start. Some part of my brain seems to immediately shut down when confronted with the tricky task of trying to quantify the subjective experience of sound. It’s in this foggy field that most wind developers find themselves standing, when attempting to inform communities about the acoustic impact of wind turbines.
I was at Clean Energy Week last week, and I had a chance to experience a neat new tool developed by Arup, in conjunction with Hydro Tasmania, that seems to circumvent the need to communicate the complex (logarithms, what even are they) science of acoustic engineering.
On Thursday morning, I sat amongst six Genelec 8030A speakers, and one (beautiful) Genelec 7060B subwoofer, in front of a screen that displayed recorded video of a wind turbine (Genelec manufacture professional studio-grade speaker systems). The engineers had arrived much earlier the day before, and calibrated the device to account for the room. The speakers also cover most of the low-frequency range of wind farm sound as well – down to 40 hertz. Continue reading “Attitude and Auralisation – The Virtualisation of Wind Farm Sound”
When I was eight years old, I was on the verge of being eaten. Terrified, I buried myself underneath the blankets, and nervously listened to an unearthly howling directly outside my bedroom window. I realised soon that the noise I had heard was the wind passing through the eaves of my family’s aged London terrace house, a noise that had sounded eerily sentient. My fear was simply related to a lack of data – those few extra seconds of dogged listening eased my concerns. We are evolutionarily wired towards the sensation of threat – a sensation that is overridden by taking time to pause, and listen closely.
Objections to the installation of wind farms have, in the past four years, played on this aspect of our nature. Claims have arisen that inaudible, infrasonic noise emissions have a direct effect of human physiology, bypassing our conscious percept and wreaking biological devastation. For this hypothesis to hold true, two basic principles need to be demonstrated conclusively:
- Infrasound emitted from wind farms has to be markedly higher in amplitude than infrasound produced by other sources;
- This amplitude has to be causally linked to a direct and demonstrable pathological effect on human physiology.
The South Australian Environmental Protection Agency (SA EPA) recently took some time to investigate the first premise: that wind farm infrasound measures higher than that from other sources in the environment. If the premise were found to be true, then wind turbine syndrome might well be a reality. If it were found to be false, then it serves as firm evidence that ‘wind turbine syndrome’ is deeply improbable. Continue reading “Infrasound report: Wind turbine syndrome is everywhere and nowhere”