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Wind Turbine Syndrome or Turbophobia?

Is ‘wind turbine syndrome’  an allergic response by the over-sensitive?

Wind turbine syndrome - fact or fantasy?Wind turbines are making headlines again after the  recent coalition windfarm debacle  where Hayes, the energy minister, announced  ‘enough is enough’ while the energy secretary assured us there had been ‘absolutely no change in government policy’.  It seems that wind turbines are now politicised beyond rehabilitation, with the ‘anti’ side prepared to resort to increasingly strident and lunatic headlines to support their ’cause’.  We have the Telegraph’s deranged blogger James Delingpole spouting headlines such as  Alex ‘Butcher’ Salmond has destroyed Scotland while tabloids like the Express seek to employ medical metaphors with headlines like ‘Addiction to Windfarms a Disaster‘ going on to describe them as a ‘rash‘ and talking about vague  ‘health risks’.

It’s obviously a subject that gets people worked up, and one of the regular planks of  ‘anti’ campaigners countrywide is ‘wind turbine syndrome’. This is a mysterious disease allegedly caused by low-frequency sound generated by wind turbines. Symptoms reported include many that are common in the population at large such as hypertension (high blood pressure), mental health problems, sleeping difficulties, sensory problems (eyes, hearing, balance)  and learning and concentration  difficulties. 

The symptoms may be real, but are they  really caused by the proximity of wind turbines, or are the turbines a convenient scapegoat? Many independent reviews have been carried out but no scientific evidence of a connection between proximity to wind turbines and the reported symptoms has ever been established. 

So are the people who claim to be suffering from wind turbine syndrome making it up? Or is it a cover-up by the wind industry? Both explanations seem unlikely.

It seems there may be a third explanation. The symptoms are real, and in a sense they are caused by wind turbines – specifically, by an abnormal sensitivity to the technology. In a similar way to the way allergy sufferers become sensitised through exposure to their particular allergen so those exposed for long perioods of time to negative emotions and reacti0ns to wind turbines – their own or others – become unable to bear the presence of these ‘monsters’, as they now see them. The childhood bogeyman under the bed which used to keep them awake is transmuted to the menacing wind turbine three fields away. Noises many decibels below the noise of traffic on the road past their house or even of the wind in the trees – noises that most people simply do not notice – become painfully obvious to the sufferers  as they lie awake in bed with nerves at breaking point listening as hard as they can for the swish of those revolving/revolting  blades.

Their suffering is real, but it is in essence an allergy. Senitisation is brought about by exposure to anti-wind sentiment, and so it is a self-perpetuating syndrome. Once sensitised these people become upset by the very sight of a  single turbine miles away, even though it is dwarfed by the landscape it sits in and occupying a very small percentage of their field of view. They will justify this by talking about  industrialisation of the countryside and the fact that it is not the towers but the movements of the revolving blades that make them so irritating, but this is of course subjectie – pothers find turbines either newutral or attractive.  However, by spreading these ideas the sufferers joyfully  spread the contagion, hoping to infect others so the new sufferers will join the campaign.

So does it matter? How angry are you about wind turbines? Are they making you ill?  Or  is wind turbine syndrome just an extreme manifestation of  turbophobia, the  irrational fear of turbines?

 Links to recent articles

 Wind turbine syndrome: a classic ‘communicated’ disease  (Simon Chapman, Professor of Public Health, University of Sydney)

 Wind turbine syndrome: who’s doing the research? (Ros Donald, Carbon Brief)

 Nocebo Doubt About It: “Wind Turbine Syndrome” Is Catching (Basically a report on the Chapman article, ,but some interesting comments)

 

 

 

European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre Objections Withdrawn

Bouffant buffoon’s fellow objectors abandon him

Donald Trump’s hopes of stopping a windfarm situated offshore from his vanity project golf course at Menie Estate North of Aberdeen were diminished yesterday by the news that both the MOD and the RSPB had now withdrawn their objections.

The bouffant buffoon believes the planned European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre (EOWDC) would blight the view from his fairways and has vowed to battle ‘Mad Alex’ and ‘save Scatland’ from the scourge of the turbines. However, this change of position by the other major objectors has left ‘The Donald’ out of an increasingly ridiculous looking limb. The RSPB’s study showed impact on bird species would be minimal, while the MOD agreed to withdraw their objection if new radar hardware was made available at RAF Buchan.

The Deployment Centre will allow offshore wind farm developers and associated supply chain companies to test new designs, prove existing products and receive independent validation and accreditation before commercial deployment. At the heart of the project is an interaction between research, testing and training facilities alongside a commercially operated, highly instrumented offshore wind farm.  The project is a joint venture between Vattenfall and Aberdeen Renewable Energy Group (AREG)  with development consortium partner Technip. The partners are  now hoping for approval of the consent application later this year.

UPDATE 04/10/2012

As Trump flew into Aberdeen this morning it was  revealed that SNH have become the latest group to drop their opposition to the project. ‘The Donald’ is looking increasingly isolated.

Links

Non-Technical Summary of EOWDC Project

 

Funding to help planners with wind farm applications

Scottish government responds to help ‘swamped’ councils

A fund to help Planning Authorities deal with high numbers of applications for wind turbines has now opened for business. It comes after Aberdeenshire and Fife Councils asked for amoratorium on new windfarm  applications, claiming they were being swamped  by proposals from developers.

The £300,000 funding will be available to help those planning authorities who have experienced a significant increase in the number of planning applications for wind turbines, putting pressure on their ability to meet statutory deadlines. Of the money, £280,000 will go directly to Planning Authorities, and £20,000 will be used by Scottish Government to monitor how the money has been used, find out the most effective approaches, and use this to  provide advice to Planning Authorities facing unusually high volumes of planning applications in future.

In an approach agreed with COSLA and Heads of Planning Scotland, Planning Authorities can bid for a share of the money to help the demand for wind applications, either individually or in groups. Authorities must provide evidence that they are amongst those with the greatest need, and make clear how they propose to spend the money to help them determine planning applications for wind turbines. Bids must be received by 19 October.

The money is not expected to be split between all Scotland’s planning authorities, but rather amongst those who are experiencing a significant increase in the number of planning applications.

Some authorities may choose to use the resources to enhance turnaround on specialist advice on, for example, noise or landscape impacts. Others may secure additional staff to deal with the applications more generally.

Planning Minister Derek Mackay said:

“Scotland has massive green energy potential with one of the best resources in Europe. The industry is already delivering thousands of new jobs and securing billions of pounds of investment in our economy in communities across Scotland. We want to see Scotland and Scottish communities continue to benefit from that economic opportunity.

“We know that some Planning Authorities are experiencing particularly high volumes of applications for wind turbines, and the funding will help by bringing in expertise, or more staff, to deal with the applications.

“I have made clear that I do not think a moratorium on wind turbine applications is appropriate but would cause undue delay and uncertainty for everyone involved in applications. But I do recognise that some Planning Authorities are currently facing particularly high numbers of applications. This funding will help them deal with this.”

 

Communities must see benefit from hosting wind farms – Davey

Reduced electricity bills if you live near a windfarm ?

Communities that host onshore wind farms could benefit from reduced electricity bills and investment in local infrastructure, Energy Secretary Edward Davey said today.

The comments came alongside the launch of a call for evidence aimed at ensuring that communities secure financial, social and environmental benefit from hosting onshore wind farms.

The community benefits consultation will seek new information on:

  • Barriers to community engagement and how to address these;
  • How wind farms could deliver wider environmental and social benefits to communities e.g. by providing grants for playgrounds;
  • Best practice in local consultation by developers;
  • Ways to maximise participation by local businesses in the economic supply chain for wind projects; and
  • Innovative ways to reward host communities, such as offsetting electricity bills.

The Government will also seek the latest information on the cost of onshore wind to confirm whether subsidies from April 2014 have been set at the correct level.

Energy Secretary Edward Davey said:

“Onshore wind has an important role to play in a diverse energy mix that is secure, low carbon and affordable. We know that two-thirds of people support the growth of onshore wind. But far too often, host communities have seen the wind farms but not the windfall.

“We are sensitive to the controversy around onshore wind and we want to ensure that people benefit from having wind farms sited near to them.

“This new call for evidence will look at ways to reward host communities and ensure that wider investment, employment and social benefits are felt locally.

“We must also ensure that our policies are based on the best available evidence, so that consumers are not over-subsidising any one technology. That’s why we are seeking new evidence on the cost of onshore wind.”

Energy Minister John Hayes said:

“This call for evidence is a recognition that both parties in the Coalition are alive to the need for fresh thinking about community engagement on onshore wind.

“Appropriately sited onshore wind has a role to play, but if we’re to make this work in a way that garners popular support, we’ve got to see a big improvement in how developers engage with local communities, new ways of ensuring a sense of local ownership and more obvious local economic benefits.

“The Government is open minded about how we go about this, and that’s what this call for evidence is about. It’s an opportunity for anyone with a view about onshore wind – proponents and opponents alike – to come forward with workable ideas and solutions.”

Giant Clyde Wind Farm Officially Opened by Scotland’s First Minister

At 350MW SSE’s Clyde is one of Europe’s largest onshore windfarms

SSE’s Clyde wind farm has today been officially opened by Scotland’s First Minister, Alex Salmond. Clyde is one of the largest single consented wind farms in Europe and represents SSE’s largest onshore wind project to date.

Scottish windfarmClyde makes a significant contribution to SSE’s position as the largest generator of electricity from wind across the UK and Ireland, and supports SSE’s generation priority of becoming a greener and more flexible non-nuclear generator. SSE currently has over 3,000MW of renewable generation capacity in operation in the UK and Ireland, of which over 1,600MW is powered by wind.

The 152 turbines at Clyde wind farm are split into three sections with a total installed capacity of 350MW, capable of producing enough energy during a year to meet the needs of around 280,000 homes*. The project is situated between Biggar and Moffat occupying around 47 square kilometres.

Consent for Clyde wind farm was granted by Scottish Ministers in July 2008 with construction commencing in April 2009. At the peak of this construction around 400 people were employed on the site. Clyde’s location presented many engineering challenges, including the need to construct around 105km of roads to enable access to the furthest reaches of the site. Associated infrastructure also included two substations, one operations building and a new radar installation in Cumbernauld.

The £500m project has contributed approximately £100m of contract value with companies in Scotland, including Wind Towers in Machrihanish supplying the turbine towers, plus associated indirect value to the supply chain. Clyde continues to provide a range of employment opportunities with 19 full-time SSE staff and 39 Siemens staff based across the site with additional jobs created off-site to facilitate operations and maintenance.

Clyde has the largest wind farm Community Investment Fund in Scotland which is expected to be worth around £22million (£875,000 per year for the lifetime of the wind farm). This includes £700,000 per year in South Lanarkshire of which 70% goes to local community projects and 30% to a regional development fund for businesses and organisations. There are also local community funds in Dumfries and Galloway and The Scottish Borders worth £140,000 and £35,000 per year respectively. Well over £300,000 has already been awarded to a number of projects from these funds providing real benefit to the local community.