Prime Minister Julia Gillard would like to see more of these stars of Australia’s clean energy future in operation across Australia. There is suggestion that around 3200 of these machines could be employed to help with the renewable – green energy requirements Australia has set for itself. Currently, wind farms power two per cent of Australia’s energy needs, with the federal government eyeing a total renewable energy target of 20 per cent by 2020.
But are these wind turbines all they are cracked up to be? Obviously as the government is pushing for more of them, we will only get to hear what they consider to be ‘positive’ comments about them. Other’s have very different opinions. ABC chairman Maurice Newman favours the analogy that wind turbines will turn out to be for power generation what the zeppelin was for air transportation: it looked promising but was not the answer.
Across the world where these monstrosities are springing up like fungus on damp ground – there are reports that they kill wildlife and cause serious illness to people in living in their neighbourhoods. But, Ms. Gillard denied knowing anything about that!
At Gunning, Ms Gillard brushed off concerns about health risks and said she had not received any advice about their dangers. I’ve stood underneath these wind turbines and they’re remarkably quiet,’ she told reporters.
Family First’s Steve Fielding last month successfully established a Senate inquiry to investigate the health impacts of living near windmills, and the submissions have started to roll in.
The inquiry will examine any adverse health effects for people living in close proximity to wind farms; concerns over excessive noise and vibrations; the effect of rural wind farms on property values; and the interface between commonwealth, state and local planning laws as they pertain to wind farms.
Germany is the World leader when it comes to Wind Turbines. More than 19,000 windmills now dot the countryside — more than in any other country. Green power has become a point of pride in Germany in recent years and Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel would now like to construct vast new wind farms along the country’s North Sea and Baltic Sea coasts.
No Time for Testing
Generous government subsidies have transformed wind power into a billion-euro industry within just a few years. Because energy providers have to purchase wind power at set prices, everyone, it seems, wants in.
But it is precisely the industry’s prodigious success that is leading to its technological shortcomings. “Many companies have sold an endless number of units,” complains engineer Manfred Perkun, until recently a claims adjuster for R+V Insurance. “It hardly leaves any time for testing prototypes.” No Time for testing – accidents happen.
Building mounted wind turbine failures in Hobart
On 11 August two of the four large wind turbines mounted on the roof of the Marine Board building in Hobart suffered an impressive (but fortunately, it appears, not catastrophic) failure. For some of the news coverage read The Mercury (here and later here), ABC News (here and here), and the Sydney Morning Herald (here). This is of course a very damaging case for the small wind industry, particularly in the building-mounted sector.
And as for the public Health Issue:
Some residents in a small Victorian farming community are claiming the noise from nearby turbines has made them sick and subsequently forced them off the land. Noel Dean and his family left their farm in Waubra, about 30km north of Ballarat, after experiencing constant headaches when turbines went up two kilometres away from their home.
‘We’re refugees in our own country, we’re leaving here because of danger,’ he told ABC TV’s Four Corners program on Monday.
He said his home sits in an amphitheatre – a bowl-shaped valley between two hills – which funnels the noise from the turbines towards his house. His doctor diagnosed him with electromagnetic spasms in his skull.
Another Waubra resident, Carl Stepnell, had turbines 900m away from his home and experienced similar problems.
‘I started getting a sort of tingling in the head and headaches and then it just, you could feel it eventually getting worse and worse,’ he said. ‘(It’s) like being in a cabin of a plane … it’s just the ear pressure and headaches and the nausea just in, the pressure in my ear – it didn’t go away.’
He moved his family to Ballarat to escape.
Electrical engineer Graeme Hood from the University of Ballarat used audio equipment to check sound levels near the turbines.
He said although the turbines don’t sound very loud, they’re actually producing sound at a frequency too low to hear.
‘The brain thinks it’s quiet, but the ears may be telling you something else or the body may be telling you something else, it’s much louder,’ he said.
Anti-wind farm campaigner Dr Sarah Laurie said people within a 10km radius of turbines could be at risk of health problems such as elevated blood pressure and headaches.
But University of Adelaide professor Gary Wittert, who has conducted one of the first independent studies into wind farm health issues, denies there’s any link.
He used data from the the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme to compare medical prescriptions of people living in areas with and without turbines.
His study involved 12,000 people living within a 10km radius around wind farms in South Australia and Victoria.
‘There is no hint of any effect on a population basis for an increased use of sleeping pills or blood pressure or cardiovascular medications whatsoever,’ he said.
Last month, a Senate inquiry into the health effects of wind farms called for more scientific investigations.
But as your Prime Minister has never heard about any health issues relating to Wind Farms – they must not exist! Perhaps she should be given a copy of this:
BE ADVISED that, as a result of information gathered from the Waubra Foundation’s own field research, and from the clinical and acoustic research available internationally, the following serious medical conditions have been identified in people living, working, or visiting within 10km of operating wind turbine developments. The onset of these conditions corresponds directly with the operation of wind turbines:
* chronic severe sleep deprivation;
* acute hypertensive crises;
* new onset hypertension;
* heart attacks (including Tako Tsubo episodes);
* worsening control of preexisting and previously stable medical problems such as angina, hypertension (high blood pressure), diabetes, migraines, tinnitus, depression, and post traumatic stress disorder;
* severe depression, with suicidal ideation;
* development of irreversible memory dysfunction, tinnitus, and hyperacusis.
Until the recommended studies are completed, developers and planning authorities will be negligent if human health is damaged as a result of their proceeding with, or allowing to proceed, further construction and approvals of turbines within 10km of homes. It is our advice that proceeding otherwise will result in serious harm to human health.