Monday, December 26, 2011

wind farming the countryside

Last week I was talking to my boss (a USAmerican), who actually didn't believe me at first when I started talking about one of the arguments against wind farms in Australia being the health impact of noise levels.

I should have told him about daylight savings fading the curtains.

So this will go well: NSW landowners to get veto on wind farms
Just two days out from Christmas, Planning Minister Brad Hazzard revealed draft planning guidelines which give landowners the right to veto wind farms proposed within two kilometres of their homes.
Of course I am all for community consultation. I love community consultation. I just don't trust Australians to go into this as informed as they need to be.
The British Acoustics Bulletin has just published what is now the 10th independent review of the evidence on wind farms causing annoyance and ill health in people. And for the 10th time it has emphasised that annoyance has far more to do with social and psychological factors in those complaining than any direct effect from sound or inaudible infrasound emanating from wind turbines.
Much angst over wind turbines is just hot air explains part of why I'm so skeptical at this consultation process. We have a significantly-sized anti-wind farm lobby in Australia, and it preys on fears of things that are widely considered to not be an issue.

One of the most recent major reports on the health impacts of wind farms was issued by a Canadian Working Group (The Potential Health Impact of Wind Turbines). It drew no conclusions, unable to find any direct causal link between wind turbine noise and health impacts. The only thing it highlighted is that "some people may find it annoying" (pg10). A reading of the report implies to me that the report has drawn the same conclusion the opinion piece above does, that "[c]oncerns about fairness and equity may also influence attitudes towards wind farms and allegations about effects on health." That is, people are more likely to report health effects from wind farms if they're not getting a financial benefit. And most reports find that the only significant noise coming from wind farms are during construction and maintenance, rather than during operation.

There’s Australian research into the topic as well. As recently as the beginning of December, an article in Adelaide Now (I know, hush) has been talking about the fallacy of the health impacts of wind farms. And a senate committee handed down findings in July that there was no conclusive evidence around wind turbine syndrome.

It pains me to dismiss someone else’s medical issues just because they’re not internationally recognised, but even if wind turbine syndrome exists and is a real problem, how does it compare to the health impacts of coal?

A few health impacts of coal: particulate related issues such as cardiopulmonary and lung impacts, the injection of mercury and selenium into the water systems and then potentially into people, leading to neurological issues, and the potential for respiratory and cardiovascular issues.

As someone who currently lives in Beijing, is anticipating coming home with a respiratory issue, and who has lived in apartments in Beijing and Melbourne situated on major road traffic routes, let’s just say the potential buzzing of wind farms is probably not an issue for me.

1 comment:

  1. I live in an area with a lot of wind turbines and used to live in an area with a lot of dams that fed fresh water to Melbourne while the locals got bore water. Of course, rural areas also have the coal-powered power plants (and the mines!) so we get the health negatives from that too.

    A lot of the anger seems to be related to the fact that city people get all the benefits while rural people get all the negatives - and in the case of wind farms, it's there for you to look at and hear every day. And why do social and psychological issues not also deserve respect? You're talking about air in Beijing but it's not really the same issue in Australia.

    I should say that I'm not at all opposed to wind farms - especially growing up around coal mines and power plants - but I think the local effects deserve more consideration than "the air is bad in the city".