back to article Wind farms make you sick claims blown away again

In certain parts of the world, campaigners against wind farms argue that clusters of giant turbines make nearby residents ill. Australian researcher Professor Simon Chapman's work in the field asserts that “wind turbine sickness” is a “ psychogenic” disease that only occurs when people are told that wind farms might make them …

  1. Jos

    Not just windmill nutters

    Reminds of of the time when a GSM mast was erected on top of our office building (shared defense contractor and Telecommunications R&D company, which helps the conspiracy loonies).

    Queue letters coming in to the local council about headaches, sleepless nights, nausea, whatever you can come up with, caused by our new antennae. Next, questions by the council, and a petition.

    Did I forget to mention the the array was not operational yet, the equipment still shut-down and the antennae dark?

    Left some people really embarrassed. Good times :-)

    1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Re: Not just windmill nutters

      Queue letters coming in to the local council about headaches, sleepless nights, nausea,

      Some people do get all of these. They are not however related to GSM, WiFi sensitivity or other psychobabble. The microwave intensities are simply not there for that. The root cause is different.

      Plain and simple - these are people that have very low tolerance to vibrations and infrasound. Different people have different sensitivity, however every one is affected. As an experiment - you can put infrasound ~ 7Hz at >40 db in an office. Nobody will hear it (it is under the hearing threshold). It does affect every one, so by the end of the day people will have headaches, nausea and will be at each other's throats. Some will be violently sick too.

      A turbine field will generate infrasound - it is the laws of physics - the collision of air waves deflecting off the blades off neighbouring turbines as well as lower harmonics generated from interference of higher frequency sounds from blades, etc. So will a lot of the power supplies for a lot of electronic equipment - they all generate ultrasound (from the power conversion part) and some generate infrasound as well as a result of intereference between higher frequency harmonics.

      Usually the intensities are nowhere near 50 db :) This however does not mean that you may not run into someone with a "weak inner ear" who will be affected at lower intensity. It also does not mean that a particular turbine field has not been designed so badly that it resonates and some more sensitive people sick over time. Ditto for basestations and other electronic equipment.

      1. Evil Auditor Silver badge

        Re: Not just windmill nutters

        And now you're going to explain how a powerless GSM mast creates infrasound?

        1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

          Re: Not just windmill nutters

          powerless GSM mast - Err.. BOLLOCKS.

          As someone who has worked for 7 years designing GSM basestations, there is no such beast. If GSM mast is operational it is powered and has equipment attached to it. The only case where it is not powered is a DAS, but that is usually not used for masts, only for in-building antennas and very rarely urban deployments - f.e. multiple antennas on building edges..

          Your average GSM mast has 1+ antennas, a basestation and for most of them a power unit which feeds the BTS and (in the case of microwave backhaul) the microwave P2P links which connect the basestation to the network. In addition to that the basestation cabinet and the power unit may also have environmental - heating and cooling (depending on the geographical location and the basestation model). All of these do generate sound across the spectrum. Usually (unless you are dealing with some really idiotic design) it is not much, but it is there.

          1. JeffyPoooh
            Pint

            Re: Not just windmill nutters

            @vrh

            He wrote it was a *new* installation that had not *yet* been powered up.

        2. tony2heads

          Re: Not just windmill nutters

          wind blowing past & through the struts of the mast cause it to vibrate.

          You would need to check its resonant frequencies - they could in the infrasound region.

          check out some values

          http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/hbase/waves/string.html#c2

        3. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: Not just windmill nutters

          "And now you're going to explain how a powerless GSM mast creates infrasound?"

          Wind vibration springs to mind.

          About 20 years ago I read about a hi-rise "sick building" which turned out to be caused by infrasound from wind passing through the cooling towers of adjacent hi-rise and geometry of neighbouring buildings focussing the sound. In that case a simple reworking of the cooling tower solved it.

          That said, infrasound is unlikely unless the complaints come from people living/working in the floor directly under the antenna farm. Most complaints about "radio waves" are purely psychosomatic.

          On the other hand, given that broken blades from 2MW windmills have been known to travel over a mile, there's a good reason for not siting the things near housing. German standards require ~2 mile separation for this very reason.

      2. ssharwood

        Re: Not just windmill nutters

        The study mentions infrasound and says turbines make it, but often at sub-ambient levels

      3. chris 50

        Re: Not just windmill nutters

        The infrasound explanation was fascinating. I won't even pretend to be anything more than a casual layman when it comes to in ins and outs, so forgive my ignorance on the subject. But tell me, isn't this example of a GSM mast being nothing more that a bit of metal on a roof no different to having, say, a tree nearby? Something for the wind to bounce of and resonate at a slightly different frequency than if it had free access to flow through?

        Plenty of people live in or near natural infrasound hotspots, most of Florida with the vast underground aquifers for instance, yet don't complain of infrasound related illness (until a non-operational dead sick of metal pops up nearby, it seems)...

      4. h4rm0ny
        Mushroom

        Re: Not just windmill nutters

        I also get sick from Wind Turbines.

        Every time an electricity bill arrives and I see how much extra I'm being charged as a subsidy for these inefficient monstrosities, I get this nauseous feeling in the pit of my stomach.

        If you want to reduce Carbon and particulates, go Nuclear. If you're not fussed stick with coal and gas. Solar, with the new technology coming actually does make pretty good sense for the right use-cases. But in no scenario does Wind Power make good sense.

        Unless you really hate birds, I suppose.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Not just windmill nutters

          "Every time an electricity bill arrives and I see how much extra I'm being charged as a subsidy for these inefficient monstrosities, I get this nauseous feeling in the pit of my stomach."

          <rant>

          It is a tragedy. Government policy is pushing for electric vehicles. We can't meet the instantaneous demand of any volume of cars charging across peak, so with ambitions by DFT for 10% of the car fleet to be EVs by 2025, we will like-it-or-not need to schedule the demand off peak. This then lifts off peak consumption dramatically (with a lot of unintended but predictable consequences). Throw in some peak demand reduction, and you've got a very flat demand curve. That's very different to the current "Dougal the dog" demand profile, and one that is fabulously suitable for nuclear. Instead of scheduling generation to meet demand, we will be able to despatch EV charging demand to meet the generation output, reducing overall costs of nuclear by at least 30%, maybe as much as 50% (because it is outputting power 24 hours that people want, rather than having to put up with 2p/kWh overnight because there's no demand).

          Tragically DECC and our idiot UK and EU politicians have committed to all this gormless "renewables", and by my fag packet estimates we're now committed to around £24bn of capital wasted on windfarms and solar PV.. So even if we now build the nuclear, we'll have the blasted wind and solar destabilisng the wholesale market whilst the owners hoover up the various explicit and tacit subsidies.

          And even more depressingly, that £24bn spent on sodding tree hugger toys, that could have been far better spent installing solid wall insulation on the circa 7m UK houses that have uninsulated solid walls - the costs of the programme would still be added to all of our bills, but the 7m houses insulated would see their energy use (or waste) reduced, and would benefit to the tune of around £200 a year for the life of the property, creating enduring economic and environmental benefits.

          It's enough to make me tear my clothes off, paint myself in woad, and invade DECC with a spear to attack the evil-doers who have made such a pig's ear of energy bills, energy policy, energy efficiency and in fact everything else.

          </rant>

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Not just windmill nutters

          "Every time an electricity bill arrives and I see how much extra I'm being charged as a subsidy for these inefficient monstrosities, I get this nauseous feeling in the pit of my stomach."

          I suspect you're actually suffering a severe aversion to meddling politicians, rather than windmills.

          Particularly those who peddled the ROC insanity, which has turned a simple engineering solution to low carbon electricity into an economic nightmare for the consumer.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Not just windmill nutters

            "Particularly those who peddled the ROC insanity, which has turned a simple engineering solution to low carbon electricity into an economic nightmare for the consumer."

            But without ROCs (and LECs, and soon to be CFDs see note1) the windmills wouldn't have been built. What place is there in a sane energy system architecture for non-despatchable intermittent plant with load factors that vary from poor to unfeasibly poor, and which wouldn't offer an economic return on prevailing wholesale prices?

            And that's before the compounding mistake of applying the merit curve rules, that give a de-facto must run status for renewables. The original merit curve design of allowing the plant with the lowest marginal cost onto the system was a really good, practical approach for despatchable plant. Now it means that renewables take load that would otherwise have gone to despatchable plant (fossil, storage, or nuclear), those plants are still needed but now are uneconomic due to reduced loads, so we need yet another subsidy cludge, this time to pay subsidies under the guise of a capacity guarantee. And even then, due to incompetent law maker and incompetent mechanism design, we'll be making fat and unnecessary capacity payments to the UK nuclear fleet who would have continued to run anyway, and maybe even to the French nuclear fleet, as they're likely to bid the interconnector into the Capacity Mechanism auctions.

            If you actively set out to deliver the worst, most complex, inefficient, costly energy system you could, you'd end up with something like the UK now has.

            Note 1: For those not familiar, Renewable Obligation Certificates and Levy Exemption Certificates are tradeable bits of paper that are issued to (eg) wind power operators for each MWh generated over and above the wholesale power prices they get paid. They sell these on to fossil generators who have to buy them, and this creates the subsidies for wind power. In future wind power will be paid under a scheme called "Contracts for Difference", where they directly get paid an amount of subsidy on top of the wholesale price, thus cutting out the not very hard work of having to trade the ROCs and LECs.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Not just windmill nutters

      @Jos, we are talking about problems with windmills but you bring up GSM masts which is something totally different and not relevant in this case.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Not just windmill nutters

        I thought that @Jos was inferring that the symptoms maybe psychosomatic or not in my back door.

    3. JeffyPoooh

      Ideally, the methodology could have been tested

      This windmill study is looking for something, didn't find it, and then made conclusions; which is trying to prove something via a negative result. Their conclusion is therefore an inference, and might be wrong for any number of unknown reasons.

      Solution. Perform the same methodology on a sample of subjects living (or not, for control) where, for example, a criminal motorcycle gang or crack house moved into the neighborhood. It may turn out that the signal they seek is weak, even if it is real. Or maybe not.

      Remember, science is self correcting. At any point in time, a sizable fraction of the peer reviewed, journal published, seemingly correct science is still wrong, awaiting correction. This is implicit in the scientific method, but everybody forgets it.

      1. User McUser

        @JeffyPoooh

        This windmill study is looking for something, didn't find it, and then made conclusions; which is trying to prove something via a negative result. Their conclusion is therefore an inference, and might be wrong for any number of unknown reasons.

        If I told you there was a massive hoard of ravenous 30-foot tall flesh-eating purple monsters outside your house and you looked out a window and saw that there were no such monsters, would you then be unable to prove I was lying via a negative result?

        1. h4rm0ny

          Re: @JeffyPoooh

          "If I told you there was a massive hoard of ravenous 30-foot tall flesh-eating purple monsters outside your house and you looked out a window and saw that there were no such monsters, would you then be unable to prove I was lying via a negative result"

          Let's make the analogy more accurate. Firstly, lots of people have been reporting to you that they have been seeing a purple monster. Though you didn't see one when you looked out of your window lots of your neighbours say that they have.

          Secondly, instead of whether or not a 30-foot tall flesh eating purple monster exists, lets say that it's whether or not a new and large scale technology could have a side effect.

          There, now your analogy is better and less loaded. Glad I could help.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Don Quixote

    Have at ye!

  3. Tringle

    So they're annoying . .

    . . not to mention virtually useless most of the time, but if people near them get paid they don't mind them so much. Can I have a grant to work at the University of Stating the Bl**dy Obvious please?

  4. Gray
    Holmes

    Strung out

    There was one report of a hobbyist kite flyer getting wound up ...

    1. 2+2=5 Silver badge

      Re: Strung out

      Obligatory XKCD... http://xkcd.com/1378/

  5. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge

    Imaginary illnesses are real

    The mere thought of eating oysters turns my stomach. Walking past an oyster bar triggers deep revulsion and the same. The oysters aren't per se responsible for that reaction but it is very real.

    I wouldn't be happy if someone proposed opened an oyster bar next door to me and I imagine those who are psyched-out by the thought of wind turbines feel the same way.

    Simply telling people it's all in their head isn't good enough but I will admit that I am at a loss as to how we do deal with such issues.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Imaginary illnesses are real

      Simply telling people it's all in their head isn't good enough but I will admit that I am at a loss as to how we do deal with such issues.

      Seemingly by putting some of the take into their wallets. Once it's only 90% in their head and 10% in their wallets, the symptoms fade.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So when Mr or Ms Nimby lose their umpteenth appeal against the wind farm (having wasted millions of government money in legal fees THEY don't have to pay; I wonder how many appeals we'd get if they did have to pay both sides costs if they lose?) and the thing is actually built, every time they look at one of the turbines they get all stressed at the "injustice of it all" and their blood pressure soars.

    After a few months of this they probably do have symptoms caused by their elevated stress levels and anger management issues.

    Much more likely than anything caused by the farm itself!

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      One solution to this might be some judicious bribery.

      If the whole nation is going to benefit from having HS2, a new motorway, a new nuclear plant or whatever, then we probably need to simplify planning requirements. Remember the enquiry into Heathrow Terminal 5? This took ten years. There were no extra flights, because no extra runway, and they're already at 98% runway capacity. So all they were doing was putting up a building in the middle of a restricted site that no-one's allowed to go to, except under strict controls. It should have gone through on the nod. Obviously a new runway should take a long time.

      Perhaps the solution is to bribe the locals? Since everyone's benefitting, but only a small number of locals are suffering (annoyance, drop in house prices, whatever) - we could give them some cash or some local amenities. That way the burden gets shared.

      Personally I'd like to tell them to stop being stupid NIMBY arseholes. But we do live in a democracy, so we should make legitimate attempts to please minorities, before looking at out-voting them. And I do live under 100 yards from a train line that's being upgraded.

      The new one is BANANAs: Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "Personally I'd like to tell them to stop being stupid NIMBY arseholes."

        FFS, why? Taking H T5 and extra runways. Why should the poor fuckers in Hounslow (or more likely Uxbridge & Wembley) put up with a vast amount of additional aircraft noise, when most Heathrow traffic is already transit passengers who don't stop off, don't pay air passenger duties of even VAT, and generate a handful of low value jobs.

        If CDG or AMS want the transit passengers, let them have them. They are of little economic value. LHR would still have enough traffic to create a global network, and UK airports should exist only for the benefit of the UK, not transit passengers. Fair enough if you can tax the bastards and make it a big earner that suddenly balances the government's budget. Can't see that myself, so lets stop talking about un-needed shit like HS2 and LHR's third runway. There plenty more big infrastructure projects we could do instead.

        1. HMB

          @Ledswinger

          While I loved your analysis of wind turbine electricity generation, I must admit I disagree here.

          If I move next to an airport, is it then reasonable of me to complain about the planes? Weren't the flights an implicit part of say.... moving next to an airport? Isn't expansion of that airport an overwhelmingly obvious possibility?

          Now I realise that argument doesn't extend to people who lived there before the airport, I have sympathy for them. I think they should be offered a good price for their property and then it be sold on should they take that offer up, sold on to people who are glad to have the housing and don't mind the flights.

          In an ideal world we'd make sure airports were built far away from people's homes but in reality that doesn't work, not in the crowded UK.

          I just hate to think that we're past our best, not willing to consider that we could do better. That might seem a far cry from our conversation but it's not. If we applied the modern NIMBY attitude of now to 1950s Britain, it's possible that we might not have the motorways we do now. Yet, without those motorways the cost of all our goods and services would be so much higher. Somebody had to dream of something bigger, better and newer and then it had to be done.

          My biggest concern about HS2 is that it's just a device for transferring public funds into private hands and that once it's done that the average person wont be able to afford the fare. That does disturb me as I think that's completely unacceptable.

          @Ledswinger

          What infrastructure would you go for?

  7. Fading Silver badge

    So they didn't include every community near.....

    a wind farm. Cherry picked communities perhaps?

    Who funded this study?

    1. scatter

      Re: So they didn't include every community near.....

      As it's a Health Canada study I would assume it was funded by the Canadian taxpayer.

  8. JeffyPoooh
    Pint

    Zug Island, between Detroit and Windsor

    Low frequency mysterious noise. Complaints, for years. Scientists initially can't find any evidence, so conclude it's perhaps a widespread mental issue. Eventually get better equipment, or perhaps the amplitude increased over time; so eventually it is accepted as real. But they still haven't worked out where it's coming from, because apparently these distinguished scientists don't understand how to triangulate sound sources based on correlation (GPS Time Transfer, etc.).

    The case is a poster worthy in providing an example of just how inept some scientists can be.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Zug Island, between Detroit and Windsor

      What do you call a scientist that got C- on his PhD classwork and thesis?

      "Doctor"

    2. Tac Eht Xilef

      Re: Zug Island, between Detroit and Windsor

      Obviously you've never tried your suggested method of triangulating the source of sounds yourself.

      Utrasound? Easy.

      Audio frequencies above ~1KHz? Fairly easy.

      LF sound above a few 100's of Hz? Getting difficult.

      LF sound from 20Hz to a few 100's of Hz? Bloody difficult.

      Subsonic/infrasonic? Fuckin' difficult (excuse my French).

      It's also very difficult to triangulate repetitive signals you don't control (e.g. from rotating blades...) by TDE / TDOA (time-correlation) - you don't know which individual pulses correlate across receivers. Single-shot is much much easier, which is why infrasound triangulation works for detecting unauthorised nuclear tests, avalanches, and (I believe) large artillery emplacements.

  9. Wade Burchette Silver badge

    Wind farms make me sick

    But not the kind where I have headaches.

    Wind farms make me sick because of how much taxpayer money is spent to subsidize building new ones. It makes me sick to think about all that wasted money. Because of this taxpayer subsidy, it is cheaper to build a new wind turbine than to repair one. It makes me sick to think about all the dead wind turbines littering our world. And they are not green. It makes me sick to think people think that the concrete, mined aluminum, and mined rare earth metals are somehow better for the earth. It also makes me sick that large wind farms are bird slaughterhouses. How is it good for the earth to kill so many birds? Here in the US of A, if I shoot a bald eagle I am going to jail for a long time, if a business accidentally kills a bald eagle that business is in serious trouble, but if a wind farm kills a bald eagle nothing bad happens. Hypocrisy makes me sick.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Wind farms make me sick

      "And they are not green. It makes me sick to think people think that the concrete, mined aluminum, and mined rare earth metals are somehow better for the earth"

      WTF? You think mined Uranium is better? Mined Coal? Gas?

      Not sure what your point is about mined rare earths - you do understand that regular power stations also use generators with rare-earth magnets in them too, right?

      Looks like engineering is busy solving the problem anyway, so you won't have to be upset much longer: http://www.engineerlive.com/content/24112 ... "High-performance motors dispense with expensive rare-earth magnets"

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Wind farms make me sick

        "High-performance motors dispense with expensive rare-earth magnets"

        The biggest expense of rare earth mining right now is dealing with the thorium. If that's used properly (LFTRs) instead of being regarded as toxic waste then rare earth mining becomes a cheap byproduct of the thorium mining industry.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Pretty Similar to WiFi "allergy"

    I'm sure we have all heard the stories about office workers who claim to be getting headaches from new Wireless Access Points.

    I know somewhere this happened. I was working there.

    As soon as we announced that we would be doing WiFi, this lady announced she was allergic to it. At the time, she would probably never have been anywhere near it.

    When a point was put in, about 10 metres from her, she had regular headaches. We did not react but my manager sabotaged the point by breaking the orange LEDs. (Perhaps he just disabled them). We never said anything about it but the secretary stopped having headaches although, unknown to her, the point was still working. In fact, the amount of WiFi would have gone up as we were putting in lots more points.

  11. Zmodem

    they should use a directional mic and check for sub hz hums, if all atmospheric pressures are right, wind farms probably cause the subliminal bass drop that would get on your nerves if you never leave you house

  12. Brian Allan 1

    Lots of Wingnuts Out There!

    A whole bunch of NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) types out there. We have a natural gas well on our property. Receiving income from this well offsets any (nonexistent) problems it might pose. I'm sure the wind turbine folks also like their revenue and the wingnuts are simply annoyed they didn't allow a few WT's on their property...

    If someone wants to build a few wind turbines on our ranch, I'll be happy to discuss the opportunity!

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I once lived near a wind farm

    The farmer raised pigs.

    1. Malc
      Happy

      Re: I once lived near a wind farm

      How high did he raise them? Inquiring minds...

      1. Martin Budden Bronze badge
        Coat

        Re: I once lived near a wind farm

        Is this a wind up?

  14. Dr Patrick J R Harkin

    I wonder...

    ....did people in the 12th century complain about the noise from these new windmills which were ruining the landscape?

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