1/7/11 Calling all wind project residents: Australia wants to hear from you AND Do you hear what I hear? Loud complaints about noise from people who live in wind projects and denials from the wind industry AND How much electricity does it take to run an industrial scale wind turbine? AND Tell it to the Judge: One man's worry becomes a wind developer's nightmare
The purpose of this message is to encourage the international community to actively participate in a full Federal Senate Inquiry into Windfarms. This is a Federal inquiry and it could have a significant impact globally. It includes the social and economic impacts of windfarms and will involve Senators representing all parties in the Australian Parliament.
The Deadline is for submission is February 10, 2011
Comments are welcome on the social and economic impacts of rural wind farms, and in particular:
(a) Any adverse health effects for people living in close proximity to wind farms;
(b) Concerns over the excessive noise and vibrations emitted by wind farms, which are in close proximity to people's homes;
(c) The impact of rural wind farms on property values, employment opportunities and farm income;
(d) The interface between Commonwealth, state and local planning laws as they pertain to wind farms; and
(e) Any other relevant matters.
Why should I make a submission?
It is an unprecedented opportunity to provide evidence and comments to the Senate Inquiry and to support those in Australia , who are at risk from wind energy projects.
International submissions, including submissions from researchers are most welcome.
Submissions can be made on a confidential basis if you wish. Note that Australian citizens are protected Parliamentary Privilege. Senate extension of Parliamentary privilege (guaranteeing confidentiality for those who require it) only extends to residents currently in Australia . Therefore, it will not protect people who wish to give evidence from other countries who are bound by gag agreements.
Let’s support this inquiry and make our submissions. Post on a website or forward this email to others. See suggestions below this message.
How to make a submission
The link to the windfarm Senate Inquiry website is:
For information on how to make a submission, please see the following link:
Submissions are preferred in electronic form submitted online or by email to email@example.com as an attached Adobe PDF or MS Word format document. The email must include full postal address and contact details.
Alternatively, written submissions may be sent by mail to:
Department of the Senate
PO Box 6100
Canberra ACT 2600
For additional questions in relation to the inquiry, please do not hesitate to contact:
Senior Policy Advisor
Office of the Leader of FAMILY FIRST
Senator Steve Fielding
Ideas for submissions
Topics could include risks to:
- the environment
- animal life including farm animals and pets
- birds and bird habitat
- marine life
- aquatic life
- endangered species
- economic impact
- cost / benefit
- reliability and viability
- electrical pollution
- social impacts to people and the community
Who should submit:
- researchers, academics in all topics
- experts in all topics
- victim impact statements from those who are suffering symptoms
- concerned residents globally on all topics
“It makes me seasick and nauseous,” said Eaton, who carries a cane. “I take medication for it, but it just keeps it slightly balanced so I’m not vomiting all the time, to be honest with you.”
The constant swoosh-swoosh of wind turbines cutting through a downwind gust can be excruciating for Eaton. For others, like Dan Williams, who live nearby just a few miles south of the Columbia River, the sound is more than just annoying — it keeps him up at night, which causes stress.
“It’s like a train that’s neither coming or going, or a plane that’s constantly hovering, or an ocean that’s not breaking or receding,” said Williams, an otherwise healthy middle-aged man. “I will also sometimes get real tight in the chest and feel like I’m having a panic attack.”
The pair recently told their stories at one of three public meetings the state Office of Public Health held in eastern Oregon to assess the possible health effects from wind turbine noise. How and at what distances sound from these giant turbines affects human beings has triggered a brush war in the search for renewable energy, a war that has seen battles from Denmark to New England to the U.S. Midwest — and Oregon.
So far the issue hasn’t hobbled the nation’s push for wind energy, which currently generates about 2.4 percent of the electricity used in the United States. But the noise issue will likely become more salient as the search for available land brings wind turbines closer to tranquil backyards. The Acoustic Ecology Institute, for instance, describes turbine noise issues as “the exception rather than the rule” except in rural areas with neighbors within a half-mile or so.
(Which is one reason some researchers have suggested placing turbines closer to already noisy roads.)
Eastern Oregon’s high desert plains and notorious winds make it an ideal place for wind projects. And while overall turbine installations are down in 2010, Oregon led the nation in the third quarter, according to the American Wind Energy Association, and is fifth in the nation in its cumulative capacity from installed windmills.
On the ranch land above the Eatons’, about 200 miles east of Portland, Caithness Energy is planning one of the largest wind farms in the world: 845-megawatt Shepherd’s Flat. The site is a giant plateau of dry grassland just beyond the Columbia River Gorge, which funnels wind gusts from the west.
Towns, some with just a few hundred residents, are scattered miles apart, and counties are largely strapped. As ranching and farming get tougher each year, wind projects offer opportunities to both governments and individuals, but they also bring drawbacks.
One of those is noise for people who have to live next to them.
Eaton, Williams and two other households along Highway 74 southeast of Arlington have hired lawyers. They want Chicago-based Invenergy LLC, which owns the Willow Creek wind project behind their homes, to compensate them for the noise, which they say exceeds limits set by law. They’re after far more than the typical payment of $3,500 or $5,000 that wind project developers typically pay neighbors that might be affected by noise. They want the company ultimately to buy their homes, which developers have done in some cases.
In northeastern Oregon, where giant windmills marching across the prairie, conflicts such as these are sowing negative opinions about wind energy projects.
In Union County, where Horizon Wind Energy is planning a 300-megawatt project, 52 percent of voters on Nov. 2 rejected the wind farm even though it would bring jobs and millions of dollars in tax revenue. Opposition in Oregon and across the country is driven mostly by their appearance on the landscape, effects on wildlife — and fears over noise.
The sound that comes off wind turbines can create a little-known side effect — dubbed wind turbine syndrome by researcher Nina Pierpont — that bothers some people up to a mile or more from the source. Pierpont was among the first to say low-frequency noise is the main culprit, although concerns about the noise are growing. Windfall, a documentary exploring the issue, debuted at several film festivals this year.
The wind farm industry has largely denied any ill health effects from wind turbine noise; the British Wind Energy Association, for example, characterizes Pierpont’s research as “work [that] flies in the face of decades of established medical research. … Bad science is not just misleading; it can be damaging and disruptive.”
A panel of experts hired by the U.S. and Canadian wind energy associations last year said the noise from wind turbines is no more harmful to human health than the average annoying sound. Setbacks less than a mile, they determined, are fine. Noise problems reported by neighbors, they said, are psychological.
What exactly might be happening to people like Eaton and Williams raises questions about the way we hear. It also raises a compelling question about public policy and where to draw the line when it comes to noise.
Sense of Perception
Lawmakers have tried to set the bar on noise ever since the first person complained about a nearby train track or an airport flight path.
Researchers, too, have a good sense of what noise does to people. Most people can handle nighttime noise at about 40 decibels, about the same as suburban background noise. At 55 decibels just outside the home, the World Health Organization estimates a “sizable proportion of the population” could experience sleep disruption or irritability, and there’s “evidence the risk of cardiovascular disease increases,” according to an August 2010 report.
But wind turbine noise is somewhat different, with some research suggesting its palpitating swoosh is exceptionally more irritating than other sounds. One reason could be the low-frequency component. Nighttime tolerance levels for wind turbines, therefore, are generally set at 40 or 45 decibels — found at about 1,000 or 1,500 feet away from the average tower — compared to 65 decibels for airport traffic.
Another study showed how attitudes toward wind turbines affected people’s perception of the sound. Researchers in The Netherlands surveyed 725 people living near turbines and found “annoyance was strongly correlated with a negative attitude toward the visual impact of wind turbines on the landscape.
“The study further demonstrates that people who benefit economically from wind turbines have a significantly decreased risk of annoyance, despite exposure to similar sound levels,” according to the paper published last year.
Dennis Wade, another homeowner in Oregon with noise problems, didn’t need a scientific study to observe the obvious. “I don’t know how else to say this,” he told me at the public meeting in Pendleton. “If they’re on the moneymaking end of it, they don’t seem to hear it. They don’t seem to feel it.”
In Arlington, where turbines flank the entire town, few people reported any problem with the noise. Mike Weedman, a Sherman County rancher with 36 turbines on his property, is decidedly on the “moneymaking end of it.” And he doubts people could feel as sick as they say they do from wind turbines.
“People can make themselves sick,” Weedman told me. “And that’s all it is. I’ve been living by them for almost six years, and I don’t even know they’re there except for the lights at night blinking.”
Raising Ear Hairs
A small group of researchers is looking into whether the symptoms of wind turbine noise could be more physical than mental. Leading this area is Alec Salt, who’s been experimenting with the hearing of guinea pigs for about 10 years. The journal Hearing Research in August published Salt’s paper showing that the human ear might have more acute sensitivities to low-frequency sound, like the kind produced by wind turbines, than previously understood.
Salt’s findings could mean that even low-frequency sound, which people can’t hear, could affect them, though more research is needed to say for sure. It could also mean that low-frequency sound has a way of modulating the ear’s ability to hear higher-frequency sounds, which could be one reason wind turbines are more annoying.
“Even when you can’t hear a sound, there are parts of your ear that are responding to it,” Salt said from Washington University in St. Louis. His research essentially found that the outer ear hairs responded to low-frequency sound while the inner hairs did not. “That means sound like wind turbines can affect people or wake them up from sleep or disturb the fluids of the ear, and the levels of sound that cause these things are totally unrelated to what you hear.”
Most government agencies that oversee wind farms don’t consider low-frequency sound when measuring noise levels. But Salt said they most definitely should, adding that based on what he’s learned, it’s insane to site turbines less than 2 kilometers, or about 1.3 miles, from someone’s home.
“The auditory science community has been asleep at the wheel,” he said.
Dr. Robert Dobie, an ear, nose and throat physician and clinical professor at University of California, Davis, doesn’t see it that way. Dobie served on the industry panel that assessed health risks last year. He said the scientific literature is clear about sound’s effect on the ear, and wind turbine noise is no different.
“What debate?” Dobie wrote in an e-mail. “I do not consider it to be a high priority and would not like to see my tax dollars spent on this when there are much more important issues in medical research.”
Combination of Factors
Many government agencies that oversee wind farms allow them up to 1,000 feet from homes. The World Health Organization advises 1,500 feet. But neither measure would do anything to prevent what happened to the Eatons, who live almost a mile from the nearest blades. The wind energy industry, meanwhile, rejects extending this setback to, say, a mile.
If lawmakers imposed 1-mile setbacks in Ontario, Canada, or the U.S. Midwest, wind energy would be nearly impossible, said Erik Nordman, a Grand Valley University assistant professor of biology who led a health assessment by the West Michigan Wind Assessment Project.
Nordman examined scientific studies on sound and human health, concluding that about 1,000 feet on average was sufficient setback for most wind turbines. He also argued that the health benefits from decreased air pollution that wind energy provides outweigh the potential health side effects of the noise.
Geoff Leventhall is a noise and acoustics expert based in the United Kingdom who’s been working for about 40 years with people who complain about low-level noise. Leventhall served on the wind farm industry panel that concluded last year there were no health effects from turbine noise and has been pictured as a wind turbine syndrome denier by some.
“What has been proven is that a person’s response to noise, especially low-level noise, is conditioned by their attitude to the noise source,” Leventhall said.
As for Eaton, he said, “there are a very small number of people with extra sensitivities. He may be one of them. Also it could be what people are expecting to happen. One thing people have been told about wind turbine noise is that it can upset their vestibular systems, which leads to dizziness. Perhaps it’s susceptibility that’s been enhanced by expectation.”
A similar response came from Dobie, who also served on the industry-backed panel.
“At levels far too low to cause hearing loss, any audible sound can, under certain circumstances, be annoying,” Dobie wrote in an e-mail. “Imagine a dripping faucet. Annoyance can also be a stressor that can contribute to illness in vulnerable people, just as other stressors such as job and relationship stress can. If I paint my house bright purple, my neighbor might find that so upsetting that he eventually suffers migraines and high blood pressure. That does not mean that the color purple is toxic.”
Whenever policymakers draw the line on noise, there are going to be a certain percentage of people who may still be harmed. The Federal Aviation Administration assumes 25 percent of people will still be annoyed at the sound of airplanes, despite property setbacks at airports. In the case of wind farms, it may be far fewer.
Try telling that to Mike Eaton, for whom percentages mean nothing.
“If this means we have to move, we have to move,” he said. “What do you do when you live someplace 21 years and you have to move?”
He studied the inner workings of a modern wind tower and pondered whether any net energy is produced.
Let's look at some of the devices inside a wind turbine that consume power.
* Rechargeable batteries -- Large wind turbines contain a number of rechargeable batteries to power the electrical systems when the wind is not blowing. These systems include aircraft lights, brakes, blade control devices and weather instrumentation. If the wind doesn't blow for an extended period, these batteries must be recharged with power off the electrical grid.
* Heaters -- Gearboxes in wind turbines contain fluids that must be kept warm in frigid climates. Turbine blades also have built-in heaters to prevent icing, which the author suggested could consume up to 20 percent of the electricity produced by the turbine.
* Motors -- A common misconception is that the blades of a wind tower sit still when the wind is not blowing. In fact, a tower uses its generator in reverse as a motor to spin the blades slowly. The movement of the blades is almost imperceptible to the naked eye. The blades move to prevent brinelling (grooving) of the bearings on the main shaft. This occurs when bearing components rock back and forth without much movement. Consequently, electricity is taken either from the storage batteries or off the grid to power the blades during these periods.
Wind turbine manufacture's don't report how much electricity is consumed internally or must be purchased externally. The amount is likely to be quite variable because system designs vary by manufacturer. Moreover, there likely are both good and bad economics of operation as turbine sizes increase.
So, is this really an issue to be concerned about?
The editor concluded his article by saying, "We've commissioned so many wind turbines that we will need to build new coal-fired power plants to run them."
The question could be solved easily if tower net metering was available. Net metering monitors the quantity of electrical power flowing in both directions.
Overall, the point is rather moot, though, because the editor failed to realize that wind turbine generators are rated on a net power-producing basis. In other words, each turbine has a nameplate with its power rating listed on it.
What is a more important consideration is the power curve that describes the level of electricity produced at various levels of wind speed. Wind speed is highly variable in each geographic area, so that is a more important factor to consider.
LEGAL CHALLENGE COULD STALL ONTARIO WIND PROJECTS
SOURCE: Toronto Star, www.thestar.com
January 5, 2011
By John Spears, Business Reporter,
One day in the summer of 2008, Ian Hanna went to an open house in Prince Edward County about the possible health effects on wind turbines on people who live near them.
He came away worried.
His worries grew to the point that later this month his lawyer will be in a Toronto courtroom, arguing a case that could put further wind power development in Ontario on hold.
That could put a crimp in Ontario’s just-announced long term energy plan, which forsees a significant expansion of wind-generated electricity.
Hanna is challenging to a provincial regulation that requires large wind turbines to be set back at least 550 metres from any residence.
“There appears to be significant scientific uncertainty about the question of an appropriate setback distance between industrial wind turbines and peoples’ homes,” says Hanna’s lawyer, Eric Gillespie.
That, he says runs against the “precautionary principle.”
“The precautionary principle simply says: Until that uncertainty is resolved, we should not be proceeding with further development.”
Wind opponents say the turbines can cause sleep disorders, hearing problems and a host of associated health effects.
“The fact that the government is setting these things back already more than half a kilometers demonstrates that the government is aware there is a risk,” says Gillespie.
Hanna moved to Prince Edward County from Richmond Hill in 2003 and runs a wine importing business from his home on Big Island, just off the shore.
After he bought his property, a developer proposed a wind project on the island and Hanna started asking questions about the impact on local residents. (The project was ultimately withdrawn because of a nearby military airstrip.)
“It became apparent to me there were a lot of unknowns, and that worried me very much,” he said in an interview.
That Thanksgiving, he started circulating a petition. In his travels, he met Dr. Robert McMurtry, a former dean of medicine at the University of Western Ontario, who also owns property in Prince Edward County.
McMurtry shared Hanna’s concerns and had the professional heft to command attention. McMurtry has given expert evidence on the case, along with two other doctors.
A spokeswoman for Ontario’s environment ministry said the ministry cannot comment on the case because of the imminent court date.
But last May – months after Hanna had filed his challenge – Ontario’s chief medical officer of health Arlene King published a report on wind turbines.
“The scientific evidence available to date does not demonstrate a direct causal link between wind turbine noise and adverse health effects,” the report says.
Although the sound may be “annoying,” they are “well below the pressure sound levels at which known health effects occur.”
Hanna is not persuaded. He says he has talked to many people whose health has been ruined by nearby turbines.
“I’ve spent time with people who have suffered unbelievably from living too close to these things,” he said in an interview.
“Their lives have become a living hell. I think maybe sleep deprivation does this to people. They’re in such terrible condition. I could never walk away from it now.”
He figures he needs $250,000 to see the case through, and has about $200,000 now – partly his own money, partly donations. (None of the money, he says, comes from companies competing with wind power producers in the energy market.)
In a written reply to questions, the Canadian Wind Energy Association says Ontario’s 550-metre setback is “clearly among the more stringent setback requirements for wind turbines in North America.”
If Hanna’s action succeeds, it “would increase uncertainty in the wind energy project approval process and potentially have a significant negative impact on the workers and communities currently benefitting and poised to benefit from wind energy development in the province,” the association says.