Molesworth Wind Farm Action Group
Say NO to the Molesworth Wind Farm - Bythorn, Molesworth, Keyston, Brington, Clopton, Old Weston, Titchmarsh, Catworth, Leighton Bromswold
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Grounds for Objection - Health

Concerns have been raised by researchers and those living near wind farms that noise, low frequency emissions and shadow flicker from the movement of turbine blades may have both immediate and long-term impact on health.

Research cites impacts which could include:

  • loss of sleep
  • headaches,
  • nausea
  • heart disease
  • tinnitus
  • vertigo
  • panic attacks
  • migraines
  • dizziness
  • mood problems
  • inability to concentrate
  • stress
(Frey and Hadden 2007 Noise Radiation from wind turbines installed near homes: effects on health)+

Children with autism can also be severely affected and wind farm applications have been refused because of the concerns over the impact on families nearby.

As the number of wind turbine installations close to peoples' homes increase, reports of health effects have escalated, from sites across the globe: See this and this
These problems do not appear to be present where wind turbines are located at a safe distance from homes. (Frey & Hadden: 2007+)

More people living close to wind turbines - within 1.5km - complain of sleep deprivation, headaches, dizziness, unsteadiness, nausea, exhaustion, mood problems and inability to concentrate. (Frey and Hadden 2007 Noise Radiation from wind turbines installed near homes: effects on health+)

Wind turbines produce three types of sound - (a) mechanical noise from the gearbox and generators, (b) aerodynamic noise from the movement of the blades through the air and (c) low frequency infrasound. Research has shown that low frequency sound can cause serious health problems for people sensitive to its effects. People living near wind turbines have been reported to experience health problems including sleep difficulties, headaches, irritability and stress. (Frey and Hadden 2007 Noise Radiation from wind turbines installed near homes: effects on health.+)

According to Dr Nina Pierpoint, a New York paediatrician who studied the symptoms displayed by people living near wind turbines in the US, the UK, Italy, Ireland and Canada for more than five years, living too close to wind turbines can cause heart disease, tinnitus, vertigo, panic attacks, migraines and sleep deprivation (Independent 2nd August 2009)

Dr Pierpoint's findings have led her to confirm what she has identified as a new health risk, wind turbine syndrome (WTS). This is the disruption or abnormal stimulation of the inner ear's vestibular system by turbine infrasound and low-frequency noise. Symptoms can range from internal pulsation, quivering, nervousness, fear, a compulsion to flee, chest tightness and tachycardia - increased heart rate.

Dr Pierpoint observed the effects on children, including toddlers and school and college aged children. Changes in sleep pattern, behaviour and academic performance were noted. 7 of 10 children had a decline in their school performance while exposed to wind turbine noise which recovered after exposure ceased. In total, 20 of 34 study subjects reported problems with concentration or memory.

However, Dr Pierpont also makes it clear that not all people living close to turbines are susceptible., and concludes by calling for further research, particularly in children, and a 2km setback distance. Details of the whole book can be found at http://www.windturbinesyndrome.com/wind-turbine-syndrome/

Other research (Frey & Hadden 2007+) suggests that 'merely focusing on audible sound ignores the harmful impacts on human body organs of low frequency noise, vibration, and the whole combination of characters - e.g., pulsations - that act in combination to exacerbate the impact on the body's organs. Frey continues that 'although one may acclimatise to certain noises, wind turbine noise, with its pulsating nature, varying harmonics and low frequency components, does not have a time-limit factor, and continues day after day and year after year, unlike noise at work, e.g., which has a time limit factor. Because the impact on body organs builds over a long period of time, wind turbine noise is difficult to replicate in laboratory experiments.'

Noise from wind farms is assessed, in the UK, using guidance provided in the Energy Technology and assessment Unit (ETSU) document "The assessment and rating of noise from wind farms". This document was produced in 1997, on behalf of the Department of Trade and Industry, by a Working Group of industry experts.

ETSU-R-97 is used throughout the UK to assess wind farm noise in planning applications. It has been incorporated into PPS22 in England. However, it allows the permissible night-time noise level to be higher than the permissible daytime level

ETSU-R-97 is heavily criticized by many people who claim that it is out of date (the Working Group themselves recommended that the guidance be reviewed after two years); that it is inappropriate to the very tall wind turbines currently being installed; that it does not adequately take account of amplitude modulation (the annoying 'thumping' noise that some residents have complained of) and wind shear (the change in speed and direction of wind with height). See ETSU-R-97 Why It Is Wrong by Dick Bowdler (2005)

Moreover, reports from the UK Noise Association and others suggest that the harmful effects on the health of people living near to wind turbines are insufficiently assessed and that minimum separation of wind turbines from dwellings needs to be increased (recommendations range from 1.5km to 1.5 miles), particularly for the large, modern turbines, until comprehensive scientific research can fully evaluate their impact.

The issue of noise produced by wind turbines is controversial. There are widely conflicting views, an apparent shortage of scientific research and planning regulations which are based on outdated data.

Even if a proposed wind farm scheme does comply with ETSU-R-97 there is no guarantee that a noise nuisance will not occur. It seems that no one can be certain exactly what the noise implications would be until the wind farm site is operational. By then it is too late to do anything about it.

In order to give some context to the relative noise levels, it is helpful to read The Companion Guide to National Planning Policy Statement 22 on Planning for Renewable Energy which shows typical values for noise events for comparison purposes to wind turbine noise. It gives a quiet bedroom the value of 20dB(A): http://www.communities.gov.uk/publications/planningandbuilding/planningrenewable

It is impossible to accurately predict what the actual noise output of any wind farm will be prior to commissioning. There are too many variables specific to each site, and each site must be thoroughly assessed on an individual basis.

The World Health Organization has found that to protect children's health sound levels should be less than 30 dBA during sleeping periods. http://www.acousticecology.org/docs/AEI%20Wind%20Turbine%20Noise%20FactSheet.pdf They note that a child's autonomous nervous system is 10 to 15 dB more sensitive to noise than adults (WHO night time recommendations for the general public are 30dB inside bedrooms, and 45dB outside open bedroom windows). Even for adults, health effects are first noted in some studies when the sound levels exceed 32 dBA, 10-20 dBA lower than the levels needed to cause awakening. The WHO researchers found that sound levels of 50 dBA or more strongly disrupted hormone secretion cycles. For sounds that contain a strong low frequency component, which is typical of wind turbines, WHO says that the limits may need to be even lower than 30 dBA to not put people at risk.

Professor Ffowcs-Williams, Emeritus Professor of Engineering, Cambridge University, one of the UK's leading acoustical experts, referring to ETSU-R-97 asserts: "The regulations (ETSU-R-97) are dated and in other ways inadequate. It is known that modern, very tall turbines, do cause problems, and many think that the current guidelines fail adequately to protect the public."
See also Peter Hadden's written evidence to the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee (2008) Thus the fact that any proposed wind farm appears to comply with ETSU-R-97 in an Environmental Impact Assessment gives no guarantee that there will be no noise problems for people living in the area once the wind farm is built.

Recently (May 2011), a High Court appeal in the case of the Gorsedd Bran wind farm in Wales, has dealt a significant blow against the guidance; in essence, the High Court judgement ruled that wind farms that comply with the noise limits given in the ETSU guidance can still be judged a statutory nuisance and that duration of noise, not just loudness, can be a determining factor. http://docs.wind-watch.org/Gorsedd-Bran-appeal-decision.pdf

Wind Shear

There is strong evidence that, at night in stable atmospheric conditions, the wind speed at rotor blade height is not accurately predicted from the 10m height wind speed measurements which is how windspeed was measured at Bythorn using a 10m anemometer.

Research has shown that wind speed at hub height at levels can be expected, relative to the same reference speed in daytime. Fritz G.P. Van Den Berg (Effects of the Wind Profile at Night on Wind Turbine Sound- Journal of Sound and Vibration - 2003) http://www.nowap.co.uk/docs/windnoise.pdf

Thus, when the wind speed is low at ground level, with correspondingly low background noise, at rotor height the speed will be higher and the noise produced by the turbines will be greater than that predicted by a normal logarithmic conversion of wind speed by height.

The audible noise coming from wind turbines will comprise a range of frequencies. High frequency sounds attenuate (die down) relatively quickly with distance in open air. Of greater concern are low frequency sounds in the range 20 - 200Hz since these are more penetrating and carry further, as anyone subjected to bass music nuisance from neighbours can testify.

In a wind farm, low frequency sounds are produced by the turbines in the form of a 'swish' and a 'thump' from the rotating blades. The 'swish' is caused by the blades carving the air.

The swishing or thumping noise associated with wind turbines seems to be particularly annoying as the frequency and loudness varies with changes in wind speed and local atmospheric conditions. While there is no doubt of the occurrence of these noises and their audibility over long distances, up to 3-4km in some reports, the actual cause has not yet been fully elucidated (Bowdler 2008) in (Hanning: "Sleep Disturbance and Wind Turbine Noise" (June 2009) http://docs.wind-watch.org/Hanning-sleep-disturbance-wind-turbine-noise.pdf

Despite recommendations by the Government's own Noise Working Group, UK research in this area has been stopped. (Hanning: "Sleep Disturbance and Wind Turbine Noise" (June 2009)

Inadequate sleep has been associated not just with fatigue, sleepiness and cognitive impairment but also with an increased risk of obesity, impaired glucose tolerance (risk of diabetes), high blood pressure, heart disease, cancer and depression. Sleepy people have an increased risk of road traffic accidents. (Hanning: "Sleep Disturbance and Wind Turbine Noise" (June 2009) http://docs.wind-watch.org/Hanning-sleep-disturbance-wind-turbine-noise.pdf

As the A14 is the major route out of Bythorn, this is of increased concern in relation to this proposed wind farm.

BBC News covered a planning inspector's decision to reject a windfarm proposal in 2010 because of the "serious effect" it would have on eight year old autistic twin boys living nearby. This followed a decision in Cornwall to reject a wind farm proposal due to the impact on a family with an autistic child.

Reported in Chester Chronicle, Consultant clinical psychologist Dr Susan Stebbings said anyone suffering with autism and living close to wind farms would be affected by turbines.

"A wind turbine creates a change in light as it spins round and a certain frequency of noise and can create vibrations, which are known to affect individuals who are much more sensitive to sensory stimulation and can become extremely distressed by what an average person would perceive as a very low sensory input," she added.

One family have fought to raise their autistic child in Bythorn indicating that the chosen site would assist them in providing a therapeutic environment in which to bring up their child. Under RWE npower renewables current plans, this 'therapeutic environment' will be significantly harmed if the proposed wind farm is allowed, as plans show a wind turbine will be sited approximately 770 metres from this family's home.

References:

* Havas & Colling: Wind Turbines make waves: why some residents near wind turbines become ill in 2011 Bulletin of Science Technology and Society

+ Frey B J and Hadden P J (2007) Noise radiation from wind turbines installed near homes: effects on health

18 November 2017
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