"We now have proof that wind farms DO affect mammals living nearby.
Humans are mammals. It's not rocket science....."
I'm known for my opposition to wind farms, I believe that it is unethical to hoodwink a well meaning public into thinking that the energy produced by wind turbines is green and clean. It is neither.
My main arguments against wind energy, apart from it being inefficient and intermittent, have always been that vast wind farms create catastrophic environmental damage in both manufacture and installation - and cause havoc to ecosystems and wildlife habitat.
Wind Turbine Syndrome - ridiculed by the industry
But I was always less convinced about the much repeated claim that wind turbines cause health problems in humans. The phenomenon popularly known as 'wind turbine syndrome' relates primarily to the effects of infra-sound on humans who live in close proximity to turbines. It is often described as a 'psychosomatic' disorder, suggesting that it might be all in the sufferer's mind, and dismissed by the wind industry as being a largely fabricated illness - though that is to be expected, the mammoth public relations machine behind the big wind companies is very good at ridiculing its critics - I know this from personal experience.
So when it comes to such controversial matters as wind turbine syndrome, the wind industry PR machine goes into full throttle, dismissing the claims as nonsense. They imply that the people complaining are a bit odd and prone to hysteria, calling the condition a classic case of a 'communicated disease', in other words an imagined illness that is transmitted to others through rumour alone.
Court rules in favour of sufferers...
Last week a Scottish court decided in favour of a couple whose lives have been ruined by the menace of nearby turbines. Andrew and Rosemary Milne found themselves living in the shadow of three turbines, each in excess of 260 feet in height. The couple had moved to their Scottish home before the turbines were built and say that they never had any chance to object to the installation because they were not notified during the planning process, even though the turbines would clearly have an impact on their property. The court heard from the couple that noise from the giant machines affected their sleep and their enjoyment of their home, both indoors and outside, to the point that it drove them to keep pursuing some means of stopping the noise which they described as sounding "like never ending jets landing." Mrs Milne said that she became more upset and emotional as time went on due to the impact from the turbines on her peace of mind and quality of life.
The court agreed with Mr and Mrs Milne and imposed an order which means that the turbines must be muffled to cause less stress for the couple.
There have been other similar cases during the past few years in which people have won the right to have nearby wind farms silenced.
In Devon, at the opposite end of the UK to Mr and Mrs Milne, residents last week complained to the local council that noise levels from their neighbouring wind farm were not being monitored as they should be. And it is a story that is repeated across the UK - and globally.
NHS: "it is plausible that noise generated by wind turbines can affect people"
The wind companies wield a huge amount of power and influence in contrast to the tiny communities affected by their developments. Nevertheless around the world people continue to fight their own battles against the big industrial companies whose wind farms, they say, are ruining their lives.
The wind industry would have us all believe that these people are trivial, maintaining that the noise from wind farms is no worse than 'general background noise' and as such is harmless.
They are bolstered by a body of research into the subject, much of which comes to the vague conclusion that the noise emanating from wind farms is probably acceptable. One wonders if some of the studies were commissioned by energy companies and wind farm developers themselves such is the inherent denial of a problem, but there are those who disagree.
A famous study into wind turbine syndrome by Dr Nina Pierpoint back in 2009 was widely criticised for using a weak study design, though as pioneering research it received a great deal of publicity. However, despite being skeptical of Dr Pierpoint's findings, the British NHS (National Health Service) concluded that "it is physically and biologically plausible that low frequency noise generated by wind turbines can affect people".
Planning consent for 800 wind farms in England alone
Now many will argue that the problem is overblown due to the fact that wind farms are sited in remote places, out of the way of human habitation. That may be the general case for now but some countries, including Scotland, Wales and Ireland, seem hell bent on covering every available inch with turbines in pursuit of 'green' energy targets, so it won't be long before more and more of us are living in their flickering shadow. There is already pending planning consent for nearly 800 wind farms in England alone, a potential nightmare and one that any incoming Labour government has worryingly vowed to embrace wholeheartedly.
High levels of stress hormones in land dwelling mammals living near turbines
So, given that studies so far have been dismissive, I decided to change tack slightly and do a little research into the effects on animals - specifically mammals - that live in the vicinity of wind farms. And I was more than a little surprised by what I found.
In contrast to the research carried out in connection to wind turbine syndrome in humans, many studies have shown that wild animals are adversely affected by living in close proximity to wind farms. And I'm not talking about the huge numbers of birds and bats that we know are killed by the things. Studies show that ground dwelling mammals are severely impacted too.
For example badgers. A 2013 study found that those living within 1km of a wind farm had levels of the hormone cortisol 264% higher than badgers living in other areas away from turbines. High levels of cortisol signifies that the badgers were physiologically stressed and the increased levels of cortisol would likely affect their immune system, leaving them open to infection and disease. Even when monitored over a period of time, the levels remained high suggesting that the badgers do not get used to living with wind farms and remain permanently affected.
That's badgers. It might as well be any other mammal. A similar Polish study last year, focusing on rodents, came largely to the same conclusions. Voles living in the shadow of wind farms were highly stressed. Voles living near the wind turbines had high levels of stress inducing corticosterone, although oddly Field Mice in the same area showed no such increase, merely proving the desperate need for more research.
As I've often said, perhaps there should be more research before more turbines....
The Polish report concluded that more attention should be given to the effects of wind farms upon wildlife.
So we now have proof that wind farms DO affect mammals living nearby.
Humans are mammals. It's not rocket science.....
"Wind farms will spread like a virus over the land"
Perhaps, with last week's court ruling in favour of the Scottish victims of wind energy, the tide is turning.
It needs to. Because by the time we are all surrounded by industrial wind farms, we might all be living with the headache - and worse - of wind turbine syndrome.
Before anybody accuses me of buying into conspiracy theories or spreading panic, let me assure you that I am acting alone. I am not influenced by any organisation, industry or individual, nor am I beholden to any particular theory or ideology. I am just evaluating and interpreting facts. I believe that the wind industry is not necessarily acting in the best interests of people or nature. The expansion of wind energy is merely going to make a few people a great deal of money through employing a clever green marketing gimmick and exploiting the current trend for environmental awareness.
It is likely that, in spite of any incriminating evidence, wind farms will spread like a virus over the land.
But that doesn't mean that we are all complicit.
For those of us who speak out against the industry can at least have a clear conscience when the inevitable happens.....
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