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Wind turbines don’t make you feel sick or healthy, but spin can

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…

People report symptoms from wind farms even when the wind turbines aren’t in operation. Image from shutterstock.com

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.

Infrasound

Speculation in the media and on the internet often attributes the symptoms to sub-audible sound produced by operating wind farms (infrasound). But the reality is that infrasound (sound below 16 hertz) is consistently present in the environment and is caused by wind, ocean waves and traffic. Importantly, research demonstrates there is nothing unusual about the levels of infrasound produced by wind farms.

A study released this week by South Australia’s Environment Protection Authority (EPA) once again concluded there was no evidence linking noise from wind farms to sickness among residents living near the Waterloo Wind Farm. It found that noise produced by the turbines was within authority guidelines and below internationally accepted thresholds for perceiving noise.

Interestingly, the EPA report revealed that symptoms attributed to wind farm sound have been reported even when the turbines in question were not in operation. This presents important questions about what may be causing health complaints and how such symptom reporting can be addressed.

The ‘nocebo’ effect

A recent analysis of noise and health complaints in Australia found that adverse health reports have coincided with negative publicity about the health effects of wind farms. Media reports about perceived environmental hazards can trigger symptom reporting, even when exposure is to something harmless or benign.

This is because such information can create a nocebo response: where it is the expectation of ill effects that lead people to report symptoms. Information about the adverse health impacts of wind turbines can elevate anxiety and create symptom expectations that prime people to notice physical symptoms and sensations.

The nocebo effect occurs when harmless substances or environments make you feel sick. Flickr/jk5854

Previous research by my laboratory group showed that providing people with information from the internet that infrasound exposure may cause health problems, prompted them to report symptoms during exposure to both sham infrasound (silence) and genuine infrasound. This indicates their experiences were provoked by symptom expectations rather than any effect of actual infrasound.

Curiously, there is information on the internet about the therapeutic benefits of infrasound. Various infrasound devices are currently marketed as tools to alleviate the very symptoms infrasound produced by wind farms is said to create. So we wondered whether creating positive health expectations about infrasound would have improve perceptions of health during exposure to wind farm sound.

Positive and negative effects

In our new study, we took 60 participants and divided them into two groups – positive and negative. We then exposed them to audible wind farm sound, overlaid with infrasound, during two seven-minute listening sessions.

Prior to exposure periods, participants in the negative-expectation group watched a DVD integrating television footage about the adverse health effects said to be triggered by infrasound produced by wind turbines.

Contrastingly, positive-expectation participants viewed a DVD with information from the internet outlining the alleged therapeutic effects of infrasound exposure, emphasising that infrasound is created by natural phenomena, such as ocean waves and the wind.

At baseline and during exposure sessions, participants evaluated their experience of 24 physical symptoms (including headache, ear pressure, tiredness) and the extent to which they felt 12 positive mood items (relaxed, peaceful, cheerful) and 12 negative mood items (anxious, nervous, distressed).

Creating positive health expectations about infrasound can improve perceptions of health. Flickr/abrinsky

The results showed that the experience of symptoms and mood during exposure to audible windfarm sound and infrasound was influenced by the type of expectations provided before exposure periods.

Negative-expectation participants reported significant increases in the number and intensity of symptoms and a significant deterioration in mood during listening sessions.

And positive expectation participants had a significant reduction in the number and intensity of symptoms from baseline, as well as a significant improvement in mood.

Framing expectations

The fact that negative expectations in the current study were once again formed by watching television material, extracted from the internet, raises important issues about the way in which the media portrays wind farms.

If expectations about infrasound were framed in more neutral or benign ways, then reports of symptoms or negative effects could be ameliorated. Interestingly, framing expectations about wind farms in a positive manner could have a positive impact on the subjective experience of wind farm sound.

The onus falls on the media to report on health fears about wind farms cautiously, particularly given strong evidence that it is the discussion itself that may be creating and perpetuating health complaints.

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  1. John Pickard

    Eclectic naturalist

    Good story Fiona, and a great decision in Victoria.

    But why should you expect the media to "to report on health fears about wind farms cautiously, particularly given strong evidence that it is the discussion itself that may be creating and perpetuating health complaints."? The media is only about filling space between ads, and bad news stories are always better.

    My favourite effect of turbines was the bloke who was affected by one over 100 km away!

    I have no respect at all for the Warby…

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    1. Mike Jubow

      forestry nurseryman

      In reply to John Pickard

      G'day John, if the nocebo effect is having such strong effects, why not start promoting the placebo effect of something, say, a magnet worn in the left shirt pocket over the heart. All we need to do is to put a story about Professor Whyfrunt Daks on the web describing how wearing a magnet like that will pick up the infra sound and power up the magnet to the next quantum state which will stimulate the immune system, produce a clear and calm state of mind, eliminate headaches within 30 minutes, cure ingrown toenails, skin cancer, hives and bleeding noses and whatever else you can dream up. Then we'll have to con a newspaper to pick up the story and run with it in the interests of the nations health.
      And then, before you can say broken bandicoot, everyone will be demanding wind farms be set up in their suburb. Easy!

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    2. Henry Verberne

      Once in the fossil fuel industry but now free to speak up

      In reply to John Pickard

      "As a consequence, they will scream that your rigorous research and that of others is just plain wrong!"

      I heard a spokeswoman from one of the anti-wind turbine groups respond to the findings of the research on radio yesterday morning in exactly the way you have described.

      The correct spelling is "Waubra" by the way John :)

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    3. Robert Tony Brklje
      Robert Tony Brklje is a Friend of The Conversation.

      retired

      In reply to John Pickard

      Negative emotions have a real and significant impact upon human health. As in the case of a neighbour who has to put up with the noise and visual impact of a wind turbine whilst getting none of the revenue, so envy, jealousy, frustration, all combine to generate a negative health impact.
      So quite the interesting problem. How great an impact is a neighbour who generates a profit via an action allowed against a neighbour who suffers as a result, taking into account the real nature of the suffering…

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    4. wilma western

      logged in via email @bigpond.com

      In reply to John Pickard

      Sorry the Waubra Foundation is intrinsically political,and opposed to wind generation per se. ... check the board members' background etc. And the township of Waubra is trying to get its name back from this group most of whom live many ks away . Sarah Laurie, a no longer recgistered medico, lives in SA.

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    5. wilma western

      logged in via email @bigpond.com

      In reply to Robert Tony Brklje

      The "noise " of a turbine at close quarters is similar to waves on a beach which many find soothing. There are planning restrictions re proximity to dwellings so that any new windfarms will not be similar to Toora in South Gipps(built about 2002 )where turbines can be very close to dwellings , but despite this , nearly all nearby residents are ok with them.

      In Vic anti- wind previous premier Baillieu sponsored unreasonably restrictive planning rules - 2 km away from dwellings .

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    6. Blair Donaldson
      Blair Donaldson is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Researcher & Skeptic

      In reply to Mike Jubow

      Mike, a variation of that was already being sold in Australia, it was called the "Power Balance Band", essentially a rubber band with a fetching hologram on it. Of course it came with the usual sciencey sounding blurb and was being flogged for around $60 a pop at gullible chemists and various sporting outlets. It was a good little earner for the distributors and retailers until the Australian Skeptics blew the whistle and spoiled the party.

      Maybe the Waubra Foundation might rebrand and flog a similar bracelet as part of its all-encompassing (cough cough) medical research? The Waubra Foundation, its medical director Sarah Laurie and assorted wind farm opponents would probably think that was legitimate behaviour given their current activities.

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    7. Blair Donaldson
      Blair Donaldson is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Researcher & Skeptic

      In reply to Robert Tony Brklje

      Robert, any negative impact is entirely self induced. It's time wind farm opponents stopped their special pleading and accepted that people around the world live with, or next to activities they don't particularly like yet they manage to get on with the neighbours and live happily enough. And then there are people with any number of medical conditions who I'm sure would be quite happy to live near a wind turbine rather than suffer from some debilitating disease if they had the choice. It's all a…

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    8. Stephen H

      In a contemplative fashion...

      In reply to Mike Jubow

      Mike, that's how the quack industry works - and yes, it has many products that tout the benefits of magnets and quantum thingys. (The ads generally demonstrate that the product's manufacturer has no idea what "quantum" means - but it sounds scientific so people will believe, just like those who protect their property investments by screaming "health concerns").

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    9. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Stephen H

      ...generally a bit of cunningly wound copper wire is also helpful, I believe...

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    10. Robert Tony Brklje
      Robert Tony Brklje is a Friend of The Conversation.

      retired

      In reply to Blair Donaldson

      Well no, it is not self induced, whilst it is somewhat unreasonable, there are still reasons behind it. We live in a capitalist society and that results a whole range of damaging psychological impacts, real and actual (this as a result of capitalism being designed by psychopaths to favour them).
      Those people accrue losses due to visual and acoustic depreciation of the value of their investment and do not get a fiscal return. Under our crazy capitalist society that causes real and actual psychological harm (in a non-capitalist society it would not cause the same psychological harm).
      I said interesting, not fair and reasonable, more of a why it occurs, rather than reasonable justification of action, more something to bear in mind when dealing with them or finding ways to avoid the confrontation.

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    11. Blair Donaldson
      Blair Donaldson is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Researcher & Skeptic

      In reply to Robert Tony Brklje

      Robert, It might not be self induced in every case but the alleged illnesses are certainly self-induced in some cases, primarily because of misunderstanding, ignorance or being deliberately misled by the likes of Sarah Laurie/Waubra Foundation and others who have vested interests in industries competing with renewable energy. There is also, with some people, and element of envy or sour grapes because they miss out on a direct benefit unlike their turbine hosting neighbour.

      Prior to the construction…

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  2. Paul Prociv

    ex medical academic; botanical engineer at University of Queensland

    Thanks for a thoughtful and important article. Trouble with the media is that they're more interested in entertainment and controversy than in education. "No news is good news." Controversy and sensationalism sell. And we've seen many examples of mass hysteria over the years, including those amazing outbreaks in schools when someone thought they could smell a toxic gas, subsequently found not to exist. Yet, within minutes, hundreds of kids would be lying around, nauseous, short of breath, dizzy, headachy and even vomiting, gaining close attention from teachers, nurses, ambulance folk and so on. There are good psycho-physiological explanations for this phenomenon, but with wind farms, I suspect a mercenary element might also be at play.

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    1. wilma western

      logged in via email @bigpond.com

      In reply to Paul Prociv

      Sometimes motivation seems even worse. Some months before the 2010 election in Vic the ABC 7.30 report ran a longish segment on Waubra depicting the windfarm as creating all sorts of health impacts for residents and making it appear as if the majority of townspeople were opposed to the windfarm .

      The journalist involved became Ted Baillieu's media person after the election.

      Now the residents of Waubra appear in a film and have made radio etc interviews outlining the advantages of the windfarm and saying that they want the opponents of windfarms not to be allowed to use the name of their township, because it depicts the town as an unhealthy place etc,

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  3. Mike Swinbourne

    logged in via Facebook

    Thanks Fiona.

    Of course, despite the overwhelming evidence that wind turbines are not hazardous to health, this won't stop the usual suspects from putting forward their usual nonsense.

    I doubt we will have to wait very long before we have a post from George Papadopolous on this thread........

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  4. John Newlands

    tree changer

    My suggestion to those who sneer at rural people claiming to have adverse affects is to have wind farms built in their suburbs. I sense this issue is a red herring for other wind farm problems, notably loss of adjoining property resale value and the high cost of CO2 avoided by wind. In one case a neighbour to a new wind build is suing for 35% of property value. No doubt those who can't afford lawyers get stress related illness instead.

    Since wind power can drop to 3% of its rated output (particularly in heatwaves) it needs to be shadowed by dispatchable generation elsewhere, notably increasingly expensive gas fired electricity. Even though there is some fuel saving the investment costs are duplicated. The modest emissions reduction might work out at over $100 per tonne of CO2 saved. For now the official CO2 price is $24.15. That makes me feel stressed and I'm not even near a wind farm.

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    1. Mike Swinbourne

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to John Newlands

      "....My suggestion to those who sneer at rural people claiming to have adverse affects is to have wind farms built in their suburbs...."

      Where can I sign up John? And if I get a wind farm, will they pull down that power station up the road?

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    2. Adam Gilbert

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to John Newlands

      [My suggestion to those who sneer at rural people claiming to have adverse affects is to have wind farms built in their suburbs.]

      Sign me up too!

      There's a small project planned here in Fremantle, WA. Unfortunately the only thing stopping it is the Port Authority and its refusal to lease a series of small circles of land on which to place the turbines.

      http://www.fremantlewindfarm.com.au/

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    3. Mike Barnard

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to John Newlands

      Wind farms don’t harm property values: six major studies in the US and UK of almost 100,000 property transactions confirm this. As with health complaints, anti-wind campaigners whipping up fears are responsible for minor lulls before wind farms become operational, with properties often accruing value faster near operational wind farms. This makes sense: more jobs and more tax-revenue funded services make wind farm regions more attractive to people. http://barnardonwind.com/2013/02/19/property-values-evidence-is-that-if-wind-farms-do-impact-them-its-positively

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    4. David Osmond
      David Osmond is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Wind Engineer

      In reply to John Newlands

      Thankfully the back-up spinning reserve is already there. It needs to be there just in case a large power station suddenly fails for one reason or another, such as on March 9 of this year when the Millmerran Coal Power staion suddenly failed, with the resultant loss of 823MW of power. The grid is designed to be able to cope with the loss of two of its largest generators, which are much larger than any wind farm. So coping with a reduction of wind power is trivial compared to the sudden loss of a large coal powerstation. Untill you get wind penetration rates of 30%, there's no need to build additional back-up generation for new wind farms.

      http://www.aemo.com.au/Electricity/Resources/Reports-and-Documents/~/link.aspx?_id=26097F0382294FE7BD6D66DB06CE647D&_z=z

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    5. Ian Alexander

      Reader

      In reply to John Newlands

      If we can't sneer at people who invent fake illnesses, who can we sneer at?

      (and yes, sign me up for a turbine as well)

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    6. wilma western

      logged in via email @bigpond.com

      In reply to John Newlands

      Property resale values have been studied ,reporting that there is no reliable evidence of loss of resale value for neighbouring farms.. And of course if turbines are on a farm its value would increase .

      Here in South GIppsland where the longest-running campaign against a wind-farm in the whiole of OZ took place - before the formation of the Waubra faoundation - thanks to the so-called Landscape Guardians - the most effective propaganda was about "falling land values". Bald Hills windfarm was given…

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    7. Henry Verberne

      Once in the fossil fuel industry but now free to speak up

      In reply to John Newlands

      We live in the Latrobe Valley John and we have for years had to put up with the proximity to brown coal fired power stations almost everywhere you look, three massive holes in the ground (open cut brown coal mines) as well as gas turbine stations, two sets of 500KV transmission lines, an ugly terminal station etc etc. When there is no wind the air is laden with fine particles.

      Before privatisation the power industry was the dominant employer but not anymore. Do not talk to me about property values or loss of amenity.

      On top of all that our electricity is 5.1 cents/KWhr higher than Melbourne!

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    8. Henry Verberne

      Once in the fossil fuel industry but now free to speak up

      In reply to John Newlands

      So that is why SA is generating about 21% from renewables, mostly wind?
      Wind can work well but is admittedly variable but as part of a portfolio approach to power supply it can work fine.

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    9. Blair Donaldson
      Blair Donaldson is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Researcher & Skeptic

      In reply to John Newlands

      John, turbines are not built in cities because of turbulence affecting wind flow, and a few other reasons, but you would have known this had you bothered to be informed instead of making trite comments and parroting claims that have been dismissed with credible research you can easily find if you want to.

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    10. Neil Gibson

      Retired Electronics Design Engineer

      In reply to David Osmond

      The spinning reserve is not there for wind as it is provided to back up power station generation not an intermittent wind energy source. You don't have to be too smart to work out what would have happened at Milmerran if the machine trip happened at a low point of the wind cycle when the spinning reserve was mostly committed. Apart from the environmental devastation of beautiful landscapes and the destruction of bird life these ugly monstrosities are very expensive generators when all the costs are totalled. No one would use them unless they were forced to by Government. Wind energy like solar is non-dispatchable and a power grid needs to be sized to largely ignore them as it needs to supply full grid loads on a cloudy calm day.

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    11. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Neil Gibson

      Neil, would you, then, please be kind enough to explain to the AEMO exactly how and why they are wrong when their research concludes that it is perfectly technically possible to run the Australian electricity grid from 100% renewables, with some back-up, and that this could be done within 20 years: not cheaply, but not that much dearer than replacing the existing fossil-fuel-based infrastructure, which would mostly need to be done in that timeframe anyway?

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    12. David Osmond
      David Osmond is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Wind Engineer

      In reply to Neil Gibson

      Neil,

      You are correct, the spinning reserve is not there specifically for wind farms, it is there to provide back-up for all power generation. That seems to be a point lost on a lot of people, who think wind farms need constant spinning reserve backing them up, while coal, gas or nuclear don't. As a matter of fact, additional spinning reserve must be built in the UK to back up the new Hinkely nuclear power station, as a result of it being so large.

      http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/mar/27/renewable-energy-cost-nuclear-reactors

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    13. Neil Gibson

      Retired Electronics Design Engineer

      In reply to Felix MacNeill

      The AEMO report was a flight of fancy generated to appease political masters and is unlikely to be repeated now the adults are in charge. That fact that it is not a serious document is obvious in that nuclear power is not mentioned while wave power,biomass and geothermal all get a guernsey. Base load seems to no longer be needed in this future fairy tale world running on sunbeams, sea breezes and pixie dust.

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    14. David Osmond
      David Osmond is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Wind Engineer

      In reply to Neil Gibson

      Further to your response Neil. You ask what would have happened if Millmerran tripped when wind power was low. The answer is exactly the same as if wind power was high, as the spinning reserve has to be there ready regardless of how much wind generation is currently available. And as mentioned before, the amount of spinning reserve required is determined by the size of the largest generators on the network, not by how much wind generation capacity there is, or how much wind is currently generating…

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    15. Neil Gibson

      Retired Electronics Design Engineer

      In reply to David Osmond

      The tacit assumption in your reply is that wind energy is dispatchable and it is not by any definition.
      Dispatchable energy has two criteria- the capacity to generate and available fuel. Wind is not an available fuel 24 hours into the future. Load schedulers have a pretty accurate idea of what the load curve is for the next day and schedule turbine startup in steps to meet the load curve. Variation in demand is easily handled this way. Incorporating a 3 GW generator that may or may not be there at any instant is completely different. Another problem is that the wind may not be there for long periods as in the UK recently 8 GW of wind capacity averaged around 100 MW for nearly a week. Would "spinning reserve " solve that problem or would you need real dispatchable generators?
      Incidentally I would be interested to know how much wind generators are contributing to the cost of running the extra spinning reserve.

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    16. David Osmond
      David Osmond is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Wind Engineer

      In reply to Neil Gibson

      I made no such assumption that wind energy is dispatchable, and I agree with you that it isn't. But you have completely ignored the fact that wind energy is accurately forecastable the next day. Your statement that the 3GW of wind may or may not be there at any instant is complete hyperbole, they know well in advance whether it will be, and can plan accordingly. Wind power increases or decreases quite slowly in a predictable and forecastable manner, unlike a multi GW generator which can fail in a matter of seconds.

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    17. Neil Gibson

      Retired Electronics Design Engineer

      In reply to David Osmond

      I have a boat and use BOM forecasts. Their forecasts are often inaccurate and I wonder who is doing these accurate forecasts you refer to.

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  5. Peter Gerard

    Retired medical practitioner

    Great article. Australia seems to be in the vanguard of countries when it comes to the large scale uptake of "ailments" that are strongly influenced by the common stresses of everyday life. This happened with the "repetitive strain injury" epidemic that swept through the nation's offices many years ago and more recently we are witnessing an increasing level of absenteeism from work places because of "depression".

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    1. Henry Verberne

      Once in the fossil fuel industry but now free to speak up

      In reply to Peter Gerard

      I recall the RSI epidemic that impacted employees whose job involved a lot of typing. In my workplace this led to "multiskilling" where typists retrained to do more non-typing tasks and non-typists had to type much of their own work. Some of the epidemic was probably psychological though.

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    2. Rene Oldenburger

      Haven't got one

      In reply to Henry Verberne

      Good old RSI. Had an accident in 1985 with my right wrist, x rays didn't find anything, few days off and back to work

      3 years later, my wrist started to play up, could be as simple as picking up a pen or opening a door. That went on for 12 years, four to five times a year. Literally couldn't use my right hand for a week at the time. Seriously frustrating when you're right handed.

      Went to the quack a few times and diagnosis was, RSI. Those days RSI had a bit of a stigma attached and a lot of…

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    3. Henry Verberne

      Once in the fossil fuel industry but now free to speak up

      In reply to Rene Oldenburger

      I am sorry to hear you've had such a bad run with your wrist Rene. I hope it does not worsen and require the more drastic intervention you describe.

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  6. Ai Rui Sheng

    Retired

    This article might have even been more relevant if it had noted that oil companies had been implicated in much of the creation of the negative publicity. I have always been cynical about conspiracy theories that claimed the oil companies were behind the non-development of sources of energy but we may have to re-evaluate some of them.
    Medical treatment is greatly enhanced by the placebo effect and I know of studies where a placebo has outperformed medical treatment.
    The Liberal Nationalist Party in Queensland has long known about the Nocebo effect and has saved us from global warming and skin cancer, reducing sunlight hours by avoiding daylight saving. It is now ridding us of fluoride to improve children's health.

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    1. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Ai Rui Sheng

      The thing with conspiracy theories is not that they are universally and axiomatically wrong, provided they don't talk about things like 'world government' or claim almost superhuman cunning and power for the conspirators. However, lower-level and more local or industry-specific action by intersted parties - a kind of semi-conspiracy - is perfectly real...every piece of price fixing and market tampering by interest groups is arguably a kind of small conspiracy.

      Of course the general principle that, if there are two possible explanations for any event and one of them is stupidity (as opposed to a conspiracy of any kind) you're wise to go with stupidity. Nonetheless, putting together a bit of propaganda, an astro-turfed group or two (Waubra, Landscape Guardians, Stop These Things), getting the risible Alan Jones to address a sad little 'protest' and applying some good old fahioned political lobbying is all in day's work for a big organisation like a conventional energy corporation.

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  7. Andrew Gilmour

    logged in via Facebook

    This article is interesting.

    However, I have several considerations to mention and highlight that the problem is not as simple as it seems. Let’s put it first that wind turbines generate sounds in the spectrum below 20 Hz, which are called infrasounds, and now move on…

    When I was a 20 y.o. kid I assembled a device which is named as infrasound generator. It generates sounds exactly in the spectrum of up to 20 Hz, where humans cannot hear the sound but our ear can still feel it and react on it…

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    1. Mike Barnard

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Andrew Gilmour

      Infrasound produced by wind farms is harmless; humans evolved with infrasound and wind farms produce less than waves on a beach, yet beach front property is in major demand. Most myths about infrasound such as those stated Mr. Gilmour's comment were debunked decades ago. http://barnardonwind.com/2013/02/20/humans-evolved-with-infrasound-is-there-any-truth-to-health-concerns-about-it/

      As for sonic weapons, they don't use infrasound. In fact, the canonical study on sonic weapons dismissed all claims about the usefulness of infrasound for sonic weapons. Every single claim linking wind turbines to sonic weapons falls apart under the slightest scrutiny. http://barnardonwind.com/2013/09/17/wind-turbines-and-the-sonic-weapon-myth/

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    2. Henry Verberne

      Once in the fossil fuel industry but now free to speak up

      In reply to Andrew Gilmour

      The REAL science has dismissed all your points Andrew. Not much more to be said unless you can point to evidence that stacks up scientifically rather than anecdotes from your childhood.

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    3. Henry Verberne

      Once in the fossil fuel industry but now free to speak up

      In reply to Andrew Gilmour

      "I would not want to have a wind farm located not far from my backyard".

      Unless you are wearing your tinfoil hat, then it should be fine.

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    4. Andrew Gilmour

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Mike Barnard

      Re: As for sonic weapons, they don't use infrasound

      Infrasound is up tgo 20 Hz. Sonic weapons have a variety of spectrums and one of them is exactly lower than 20 Hz.

      Mike, have you ever been in a room named the music box? Do you know what is it used for?

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    5. Andrew Gilmour

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Henry Verberne

      Re: The REAL science has dismissed all your points

      Then one more time read the conclusion number 3 from the Wind Turbine Noise Conference which took place in Rome in 2011.
      http://www.confweb.org/wtn2011/

      3. The main effect of daytime wind turbine noise is annoyance. The night time effect is sleep disturbance. These may lead to stress related illness in some people. Work is required in understanding why low levels of wind turbine noise may produce affects which are greater than might be expected from their levels”.

      Do you see what the real science says?

      You are perfectly entitled to live near a wind turbine farm but please do not offer this living to everyone.

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    6. Andrew Gilmour

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Mike Barnard

      Re: Infrasound produced by wind farms is harmless; humans evolved with infrasound and wind farms produce less than waves on a beach

      You are obviously aware that ocean waves are having a spectrum shifted mainly to 0.1 Hz with the maximum density
      http://www.wikiwaves.org/Ocean-Wave_Spectra
      which is too far apart from 10Hz or 15 Hz? Right?

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    7. David Osmond
      David Osmond is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Wind Engineer

      In reply to Andrew Gilmour

      Hi Andrew, you seem to be confusing the frequency of waves with the frequency of the noise that waves make.
      Have a look at the summary graph on page 5 of this report comparing noise from a wind farm to the noise at the beach. You will see that there's a whole range of frequencies present at the beach, quite different the the wave frequency spectrum. At most frequencies the noise at the beach is at a higher level than the noise 200m from a wind turbine:
      http://www.pacifichydro.com.au/files/2011/10/Sonus-Report.pdf

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    8. Andrew Gilmour

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to David Osmond

      Thanks David. This report is very good. It aslo covers some international results to corroborate.

      Questions.
      1. Table 18 sets various measurments conducted overseas with different turbines. Some of them show high dB levels in the vicinity of 200 - 500 m or so.
      What is the min distance from the farm and the nearest house? Is there any AU standard on this? How close the houses can be built to wind farms?
      2. Looking at the graph on page 5 it seems the spectrum of the beach is wide spread as the wind farm's one. is this right or a farm can still have a max somewhere within 20 Hz which is much higher than the surrounding frequencies?
      4. How the results of this report might be extrapolated to various farms having more turbines? What I am saying is that a bunch of 10 turbines is no equal to a bunch of 50 turbines even if they are staying far away...
      4. What is your theory as to the conclusion 3 of the Wind Conference 2011 I mentioned?
      Thank you.

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    9. Mike Barnard

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Andrew Gilmour

      Please provide me the reference for your claim Andrew. Or you could just read the lengthy assessment of the subject, which contains extensive references to actual sonic weapons and studies on them.

      Until you provide a verifiable reference, you are just making wild claims.

      Please note this material for how to assess the credibility of evidence. Assessing five factors — quality of publication, hierarchy of evidence, full declaration of any biases, inclusions and exclusions of references and methodology and structure of the evidence — can assist in rapidly getting a sense of how much weight to put on individual wind and health pieces of evidence. http://barnardonwind.com/2013/06/27/how-should-you-assess-the-quality-of-a-wind-health-study/

      So far your evidence has not been of high credibility. I would you suggest you look at this assessment of credibility of 50 commonly cited pieces of evidence, both pro and con. http://barnardonwind.com/2013/08/06/health-studies-reliability/

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    10. Mike Barnard

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Andrew Gilmour

      Andrew, setbacks for wind farms in most parts of the world take this into account already and are at or below World Health Organization (WHO) guidance for environmental noise annoyance.

      This is definitely true in Australia, where the acoustics-modeling based setbacks require 35 dB at homes, a very conservative number, and well below the levels at which WHO considers annoyance to start.

      In other words, your smoking gun was understood and incorporated in siting guidelines and regulations long…

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    11. Henry Verberne

      Once in the fossil fuel industry but now free to speak up

      In reply to Andrew Gilmour

      Again: the science has examined those claims and found they do not stand up to scrutiny.

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    12. David Osmond
      David Osmond is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Wind Engineer

      In reply to Andrew Gilmour

      Hi Andrew, all of the turbines in Table 18 that have high dB levels are the downwind style turbines. These are no longer used today, all modern large scale turbines have the blades upwind of the tower.

      Australia generally has a noise limit standard rather than a minimum distance requirement. The noise limit is generally 35 or 40 dB(A). This normally means you can't place a turbine closer than about 600m to a house, but this distance increases if there's more than one turbine near the house…

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    13. Elena Berwick

      Accountant

      In reply to David Osmond

      david Osmonde wrote; "The more we study wind farm noise, the less likely it seems that there can be any direct effects from the noise. None of the audible or infrasound noise levels measured are in any way excessive, particularly in comparison to what most people are exposed to in their lives. That is the whole point of the noise regulations that wind farms must abide by. The only reason that seems to make sense to me is the nocebo effect."

      I agree and I saw this through reading of several reports from Colorado conference of 2013. It is highly likely that the problem is elsewhere but it is seen that the problem exists for SOME people. It might be even psychological but this does not mean the issue should be neglected.

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    14. Elena Berwick

      Accountant

      In reply to Henry Verberne

      Henry Verberne wrote: "Again: the science has examined those claims and found they do not stand up to scrutiny."

      Henry, just could you please attentively read several reports from the Colorado Conference on Noise. I provided links to them.

      Then please read the same from Rome conference.

      Both conferences are not saying what you are saying.

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  8. Andrew Gilmour

    logged in via Facebook

    One more bit I wanted to mention is the results of various studies.

    This article references a study by South Australia’s Environment Protection Authority which concluded there was no evidence linking noise from wind farms to sickness among residents living near the Waterloo Wind Farm.

    First, it is well known that the amount of infrasound depends on many factors, including the turbine manufacturer, wind speed, power output, local topography, and the presence of nearby turbines and their geometry…

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    1. Mike Barnard

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Andrew Gilmour

      Salt's peer reviewed work is on guinea pigs. His non-peer reviewed anti-wind articles have been called wildly speculative by the Australian inventor of cochlear hearing implants, the most widely cited acoustician working in the world of wind and health today and other scientists who assessed it.
      http://barnardonwind.com/2013/02/20/humans-evolved-with-infrasound-is-there-any-truth-to-health-concerns-about-it/

      Infrasound isn't a problem. Anti-wind hype like Mr. Gilmour's is.

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    2. Andrew Gilmour

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Mike Barnard

      Then you just ignore the conclusions of the Noise Conference which took place in Rome in 2011 and the item 3 above in particular.

      No surprise because you accept crappy reports issued by SA when such reports do not address a variety of factors which must be addressed when conducting such research, such as different turbine manufacturers, local topography and various distances. This report is for kids but will fail in the court of law as inconclusive.

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    3. Elena Berwick

      Accountant

      In reply to Mike Barnard

      What I noticed MIke is that to support your views you provide links to your own web-site :) which is having blogs in there. Very funny. On the one hand, you are saying that a doctor who presented his paper at Int Conference in ome in 2011 and highlighted health issues with wind turbines does not have a peer review for his work. On the other hand, your links are just links to your own blogs. Is this some sort of peer review?

      Also, a peer review means nothing now as it often means that both scientists do not know what they are doing and therefore asking each other to provide a peer review.

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    4. Mike Barnard

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Elena Berwick

      Yes, I write one of the more respected blogs debunking disinformation related to wind energy. I read voraciously and broadly across studies in the areas of health, grid management, technological design, politics and economics. I gather those results into blog posts which I update regularly as new evidence arises.

      I assess the pro and con studies and provide full references to them so that people can both read my assessments, but also follow through to all of the peer-reviewed research and governmental reports which support the perspective.

      This is in no way a peer review. This is an accessible and referenced assessment of peer-reviewed material, supported by that material.

      As for your final paragraph, it's clear that you do not understand peer review and in not understanding it find something in it to disdain.

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    5. Elena Berwick

      Accountant

      In reply to Mike Barnard

      Mike Barnard wrote: “This is in no way a peer review. This is an accessible and referenced assessment of peer-reviewed material, supported by that material.”

      Then all your links to your web-site and blogs have no value, sorry. To me and people like me reports from conferences are much more valued than blogs from own web-sites.

      Mike Barnard wrote: “As for your final paragraph, it's clear that you do not understand peer review and in not understanding it find something in it to disdain…

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    6. Mike Barnard

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Elena Berwick

      False. And false.

      Peer review is not a personal invitation. The journals that researchers submit their studies to request peer reviews from the peer reviewer pool that journal maintains. Ms. Berwick may be confused because Ms. Pierpont avoided peer-review and instead asked her husband -- a retired associate professor of history -- and other anti-wind campaigners to review her massively inflated pamphlet. This is not, however, standard for peer review.

      And of course science is not a solitary effort and neither is any profession. Bridge engineers get their designs and constructions certified for safety by independent organizations. Accountants' are audited, even CPAs.

      Ms. Berwick doubles down on her ignorance. Pity. She could have chosen to step back and learn something instead of making it clear she doesn't know what she is talking about.

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    7. Elena Berwick

      Accountant

      In reply to Mike Barnard

      Mike Barnard wrote: "False. And false. Peer review is not a personal invitation. The journals that researchers submit their studies to request peer reviews from the peer reviewer pool that journal maintains. …Bridge engineers get their designs and constructions certified for safety by independent organizations. Accountants' are audited, even CPAs…”

      You are again kidding Mike.

      First, Einstein's paper on relativity theory and Watson’s papers on DNA were not 'peer reviewed', but somehow managed…

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  9. Rene Oldenburger

    Haven't got one

    Problem would be solved if you start building wind farms in the sea as they do in a few Western European countries.

    probably too easy a solution for some

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    1. Elena Berwick

      Accountant

      In reply to Rene Oldenburger

      Agree. Even in case if technically wind turbines are not casing harm directly, indirect influence might take place. If turbines noise causes some sleep deprivation to a number people who live within a close proximity, say a km or two of a turbine, feelings of such people should be respected. For some people sounds might be annoying in absolutely similar manner how people are annoyed with same songs from a neighbour who listens them day after day. Unwanted sounds for a long period of time could lead to real symptoms. It might not be about power, it is about constant influence year after year.

      Even in case if our lovely wind science tells us that signals are okay in terms of power, symptoms coming from psychology still remain and they might be very serious. Therefore, building in the vicinity of several km is not a good idea, in my view.

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    2. Blair Donaldson
      Blair Donaldson is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Researcher & Skeptic

      In reply to Elena Berwick

      So you have never even been to a wind farm Elena? Had you done so, you would know that sound from a wind farm is trivial in comparison to background noise and certainly far less intrusive than traffic noise, aircraft noise or the sound of strong winds.

      Why aren't you questioning those like Sarah Laurie who are going around the countryside telling lies and worrying people unnecessarily?

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    3. Rene Oldenburger

      Haven't got one

      In reply to Elena Berwick

      Strangely enough, this article doesn't say outright, that there is zero possibility of not becoming ill because of the noise or whatever, due to wind farms.

      With other words there must be people whose health is affected and more than enough articles from overseas that it does affect sleep deprivation for some.

      And of course a lot depend on the wind direction and strength of the wind as well

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    4. Elena Berwick

      Accountant

      In reply to Blair Donaldson

      Blair, I posted a large message linking several papers from the most recent Wind Turbine Noise International Conference in Colorado, the USA. Papers are investigating issues and highlight that issues exist.

      Please have a read before asking your questions. Please read all reports attentively as I read tyhem all, they are all informative, simple, interesting and not as optimistic as your words.

      On top of that, please have a read a conclusion number 3 from a similar conference in Rome (already…

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    5. Mike Barnard

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Elena Berwick

      Having read the papers -- and provided analysis of a couple to your main post -- I can safely say that the conference was divided into two sets of papers.

      The first set was concerned with noise and its potential impacts, had high quality papers and was interested in edge conditions where excess noise was generated in a minor number of cases. It was characterized by efforts to advance methodology for accurately assessing and modelling wind farm noise and its impacts on human bodies.

      The second…

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    6. Elena Berwick

      Accountant

      In reply to Mike Barnard

      Mike Barnard wrote: “Having read the papers -- and provided analysis of a couple to your main post -- I can safely say that the conference was divided into two sets of papers”

      This is not exactly right. Some papers are saying there is no problem, some are saying there is a problem, some are admitting that more research needs to be done as some unknowns are seen. Papers I referenced belong to groups 2 and 3.

      You support the views of the group 1 but your knowledge is not absolute. What we see…

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    7. Blair Donaldson
      Blair Donaldson is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Researcher & Skeptic

      In reply to Elena Berwick

      Elena, it appears Mike has already addressed your comments. As for claiming I said we should not care, you are deliberately misrepresenting what I said. I am more than happy for more research to be done because the evidence to date suggest that additional research will only confirm what we have discovered to date, that wind turbines do not directly cause ill-health.

      Far from neglecting people who claim to be effected, I argue we should be finding the real cause of their alleged health issues…

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    8. Elena Berwick

      Accountant

      In reply to Blair Donaldson

      Blair Donaldson commented: “Elena, it appears Mike has already addressed your comments.”

      Yes, Mike said that all 50% of scientists who reported in Rome in 2011 and in the US in 2013 are wrong and he is right :). Mike also accused me of being anti-wind which is a surprise looking at my posts but anyway. A couple of more posts from Mike in this manner and I would really join the Waubra Foundation, although I do not even know who they are.

      Blair Donaldson commented: “I am more than happy for…

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    9. Mike Barnard

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Elena Berwick

      Elena, everything I say seems to make you angrier. Sorry, but I'm likely about to do the same again.

      There have been 20 literature reviews by qualified groups and individuals around the world of the evolving literature on wind energy and health over the past decade. Literature reviews are the first step performed when health concerns are raised and are an essential step to assess what is known, whether additional research is required and what kind of research would be most effective. They all…

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    10. Blair Donaldson
      Blair Donaldson is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Researcher & Skeptic

      In reply to Elena Berwick

      Elena, if you were really as informed as you like to think you are, you would know that the non-science-based 2 km setback currently in place in Victoria effectively rules out 95% of the state and has effectively killed further developments since its inception. Your notional 5 km setback would prevent developments across 100% of the state – all because a few individuals think they are too precious to look at a wind farm and a few others have managed to convince themselves something they cannot hear…

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    11. Blair Donaldson
      Blair Donaldson is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Researcher & Skeptic

      In reply to Elena Berwick

      Elena, a very simple question. Do you live within 10 km of any wind turbine?

      Sorry, two very simple questions. Why do you not employ the same degree of skepticism to the claims made by wind farm opponents that you seem to have for those of us who support wind farms and clean energy generally?

      You seem to be operating by a curious double standard.

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    12. Elena Berwick

      Accountant

      In reply to Blair Donaldson

      No Blair, I do not live within 10 km of any wind turbine, any nuclear power station or any coal station. If I do, I would question them all with the same scrutiny.
      In case of living within 100m of a freeway I would take a device, measure the sound level and annoy the council and VicRoads in case of this level being higher than what is required. So, pls do not worry Blair, I will apply my approach to anyone and please remember that the consumer is always right. It is you who has to prove to me that your technical solutions are ok, it is not me who should prove anything to you.

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  10. James Hill

    Industrial Designer

    Any information on sound produced by electrical grids, especially those at the end of long supply line, as is often found in rural areas?
    These lines suffer from fluctuating voltages which can set up harmonic resonances in the grid frequency to produce infrasound, which could in turn resonate with parts of the body in the same manner that musical instruments resonate to the sounds from other parts of the instrument.
    Resonant frequencies are one of the most fundamental parts of modern physics, it is not so esoteric that it cannot be discussed in an article like this.

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  11. Stephen H

    In a contemplative fashion...

    "The media" doesn't operate in a vacuum. Reporters respond to people who say that they're worried about the "terrible health effects" of wind farms.

    Truth be told, I think the instigators are more often than not more worried about potential "terrible land price effects" of wind farms near their property, and the "health concerns" are just a convenient camouflage.

    It is always worth asking who stand to benefit.

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  12. Elena Berwick

    Accountant

    Both recent conferences on wind turbine noise have reports about health issues related to wind farms. I will focus on 2013 International Conference on Wind Turbine Noise. 28-30 August 2013 in Denver, Colorado. The second conference was in 2011 and Mr Gilmour provided earlier a conclusion where health issues are also mentioned.

    So, the 2013 Conference Program is here
    http://www.inceusa.org/nc13/links/WTN13_Technical_Program.pdf

    There are only several papers related to wind turbine noise and…

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    1. Mike Barnard

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Elena Berwick

      Schomer's suggestion that wind turbine related-infrasound causes motion sickness is a wild leap in two directions. It extrapolates from motion sickness induced by flight simulators which violently shake and roll a person while simultaneously giving them visual inputs that only coarsely relate to movements. It assumes that there is a physiological response mechanism where 20 reviews have concluded no direct physiological impact and when the evidence with setbacks of 350+ meters points to psychological…

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    2. Elena Berwick

      Accountant

      In reply to Mike Barnard

      Mike Barnard wrote: "Only four of 133 wind farms experienced amplitude modulation significant enough to be considered important, and only 15%-27% of the time. Only a small number of homes near these four wind farms were exposed to increased noise as a result."

      I love this.
      Does this mean we should not care about these homes or we still should?

      Mike Barnard wrote: “Schomer's suggestion that wind turbine related-infrasound causes motion sickness is a wild leap in two directions.”

      At the same time he was a presenter in the USA. It does not really matter than no one wanted to publish his theory, I believe lots of scientists experience this problem many times in their lives. This does not mean their theories are wrong and in fact may mean the opposite.

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    3. Mike Barnard

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Elena Berwick

      People such as Fiona Crichton, Professor Simon Chapman and Clair Lawrence absolutely care about the people claiming health impacts. That's why they are doing original research to find out why the people are claiming impacts in the absence of any physiologically valid reason for impacts.

      They are assessing the information and the physics, are perplexed by the lack of physiological mechanisms, doing original research and publishing results.

      The results support the work of Pedersen and van den…

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    4. Elena Berwick

      Accountant

      In reply to Mike Barnard

      Mike Barnard wrote: “People such as Fiona Crichton, Professor Simon Chapman and Clair Lawrence absolutely care about the people claiming health impacts. That's why they are doing original research to find out why the people are claiming impacts in the absence of any physiologically valid reason for impacts.”

      It appears you are talking to yourself Mr Barnard. Just please go through my posts again one more time and you would see that I’ve never said that Fiona Crichton and Co are doing a bad job…

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    5. David Osmond
      David Osmond is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Wind Engineer

      In reply to Elena Berwick

      Hi Elena,

      here is a map of Victoria with a 2km buffer around houses highlighted in grey, plus National Parks in Green, and a few other areas banned for wind farms. As you can see, there's essentially nowhere left. Putting turbines more than 3-5km, or even more than 2km from houses means no wind farms in Victoria.

      http://yes2renewables.files.wordpress.com/2011/09/nogozones.jpg

      Germany has ten times the population density of Victoria. Its land size is about 50% larger . It has about 31GW of wind power compared to about 1GW in Victoria. Germany would also have no wind farms if you tried to have set-backs of 3-5km. However it currently has about 30 times as many turbines as Victoria without anywhere near the controversy as Australia.

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    6. Elena Berwick

      Accountant

      In reply to David Osmond

      Thanks David,
      I looked at the map and my understanding is that white spots are the ones where wind farms can be still built. Is this correct? If it is, we still have plenty of space.
      On the other hand, I trust that every country has its own laws and regulations on sat-backs, so why should we look at Germany? Their territory is small and therefore they might be ready to suffer :), our territory is enormous and we have plenty of space in NT, NSW and QLD where nobody lives in the middle of nowhere. I appreciate the cost is involved in having all connected to the grid, but...

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