Resource Documents: Scotland (17 items)
Documents presented here are not the product of nor are they necessarily endorsed by National Wind Watch. These resource documents are provided to assist anyone wishing to research the issue of industrial wind power and the impacts of its development. The information should be evaluated by each reader to come to their own conclusions about the many areas of debate.
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Author: Jackson, Aileen
Dear Mr Lang
We are the Jackson Family (Aileen, William, Andrew and Brian). We have lived here for 28 years and always enjoyed excellent relations with our immediate neighbours and other landowners in the area until March 2010 when a Proven 35-2 (15m hub height, 15kw) turbine, the first of three granted planning permission, was erected by our neighbour 300m from our house, 600m from his own property.
Within days we realised we had a problem with noise every time the prevailing wind turned the turbine to face our house (depending on wind speed, it could sound like anything from a diesel engine ticking over to a helicopter or a washing machine on spin). The noise was clearly audible with the windows shut, particularly in two of our bedrooms, conservatory and bathroom. We were unable to sleep, causing us to move to other rooms in the house to gain respite from the noise. In warm weather, forced to keep our windows shut, we overheated. We informed our neighbours who agreed the noise was much worse than they had anticipated but unfortunately no help from them was forthcoming and in desperation we contacted Environmental Health which led to a deterioration in our previous excellent relationship.
Environmental Health were very sympathetic. Our EHO installed a Matron* to record the noise in our bedroom, made frequent visits to our home and confirmed the noise was audible in our house with our double glazed windows firmly shut. Unfortunately EH did not have the equipment or the expertise to confirm whether it was breaking the planning condition of 35dB or background +5db (whichever is the greater) but they were certain that it was.
East Renfrewshire Council put pressure on the Agents to commission noise testing, by refusing to accept any further applications for that particular type of turbine and 7 months after installation we were visited by a consultancy of noise experts (allegedly) on behalf of the turbine manufacturer. They tested for only 2 hours in the wrong location at the wrong time of day and tied a plastic carrier bag around the noise testing equipment. This rustled in the wind raising background noise levels and as a result they arrived at the conclusion that “the turbine made little or no noise”. Having taken pictures of the aforementioned “plastic bag” and consulted our own acoustician Dick Bowler regarding their methodology, he prepared a report which was sent to Environmental Health who refused to accept the outcome of the test. It took a further 4 months for the manufacturers of the turbine to commission another company to monitor the noise at our property. The consultant was only available to attend on four occasions, none of which being when the noise was at its worst. He concluded in his report that the noise was 4.4dB above background, 0.6dB below the condition (9 dB above background at low wind speeds when it did not quite reach the 35dB limit) and therefore although the two other turbines with planning consent could not be erected, this one would be allowed to remain.
We were distraught. Two members of the family were on medication and one moved out.
As planning applications were resubmitted, there was a great increase in the number of objections as many local residents were now aware of the noise from this one erected turbine. It was at this time we began to experience some disturbing incidents ranging from vandalism to threats. We discovered that other objectors were suffering the same kind of treatment and as a result a number reluctantly gave up submitting objections as they feared for their family’s safety as well as the effect on their businesses/careers/friendships.
The flurry of applications were all refused again on noise grounds but after further resubmission with different, quieter models of turbines, repositioning and appeals, most were eventually consented. An appeal by neighbours against the refusal of planning permission
for three P35-2s, 500m from our house, which was refused by Councillors on noise grounds was allowed by a Reporter after a public hearing, despite us already suffering a noise nuisance, neighbours giving evidence that the one already erected beside our house could be heard at up to 1250m and the acoustic consultant who assessed the noise at our house admitting that the Matron in our bedroom failed to record , the data had been flawed by the noise from the cows in our neighbour’s cow sheds, he had not managed to attend to test the noise by turning the turbine on/off when the noise was at its worst despite my emails and texts and there was no accurate assessment of background noise at our property on which to base his conclusions! None of this had been mentioned in his report which had already been accepted by the Council. The Reporter informed us that he wished to hear the noise in our bedroom himself and that he would return on a day when the wind direction was favourable. He failed to return despite my phone call to DPEA. He concluded in his Decision that a further 2.5dB from the proposed development would not have a further adverse effect on our residential amenity.
We were left in a desperate situation where greatly against our will, we had no option but to take our neighbours to court to force the removal of the turbine which was causing us most problems. After seeking legal advice, we first of all approached our neighbours in an attempt to come to a compromise. After seeking advice themselves, they are cooperating with us and we are in the process of identifying an alternative site for the turbine which will be of benefit to us noise wise and not too costly for both ourselves and our neighbours.
Since the outcome of the appeal, landowners in the area have grown in confidence, with the certainty that even if their applications are refused by POs and Councillors, they will be allowed at Appeal. The number of applications has increased so dramatically that the local authority cannot cope. Landowners, not happy with one turbine are submitting applications for up to three at a time and singularly thereafter as this increases their chance of approval and lessens the likelihood of needing a full EIA assessment. With those already consented, there is no window in our house which will not have a view of turbines. More applications arrive on a weekly basis and shortly it will not just be Uplawmoor which disappears under turbines but the whole of East Renfrewshire as ERC has outlined 34.7% of ER’s greenbelt for windfarm development. The rest of the greenbelt appears to be earmarked for vast housing developments in Newton Mearns.
Our once peaceful and happy family life has been destroyed, our health and financial situation has deteriorated and good neighbourly relationships are a thing of the past. It has split the community apart, putting strain on once firm friendships and dividing families and I see no respite from the misery inflicted upon us and other communities in similar positions.
*A Matron is a noise nuisance measuring instrument that records sound but does not measure noise levels in decibels. It is used by Environmental Health to establish if there is a justified complaint.
Author: Mountaineering Council of Scotland
Summary and introduction
The mountains and wild places of Scotland are a national asset beyond price, yet they risk being irrevocably damaged by commercial wind farm developments.
This document reflects the determination of the Mountaineering Council of Scotland (MCofS) to defend this precious resource. It examines some of the issues and proposes practical action to balance the need for clean energy with the need to conserve our natural heritage.
As the recognised representative body for Scottish mountaineers and hill walkers we believe our uplands and wild places are at risk from climate change. They are also in danger from our response to climate change – industrial-scale wind farms in landscapes which should remain wild. The threat is not just from individual schemes, but from their cumulative impact. With ever-more schemes in the pipeline we need urgent action.
Scotland can achieve its aims for renewable energy without industrialising our most important mountains. We should lead the world in clean energy good practice as well as generation. As a pragmatic response the MCofS is calling for an immediate moratorium on commercial wind farms which encroach on our highest mountains, the Munros (peaks over 3,000ft) and Corbetts (2,500-3,000ft). These are among our finest mountain landscapes and are vital to our cultural and historical identity. They form a clearly identifiable group and are among the last parts of the UK free from obvious, or extensive, human presence.
The MCofS calls for clear policy statements by the Scottish Government, local authorities, political parties and developers that commercial wind farms will not be permitted to impinge on the Munros and Corbetts – or their visual amenity (ensuring the visual quality of these areas remains exceptionally high). Policies must be tightly defined to end the current situation where piecemeal regulation allows varied and subjective interpretation, sometimes putting the interests and profits of energy companies and landowners ahead of our countryside, and ultimately, Scotland’s national interest.
Our mountains are of essential importance for many reasons including:
- Scenic beauty and Scottish culture – they are among our defining features
- Recreation – for activities like hill walking and ski touring
- Employment – sustainable jobs in remote communities
- Tourism – Scotland’s countryside is a leading attraction
- Wildlife – providing habitats for threatened species
- Health – getting people out of doors and active
The MCofS wishes to engage with all those who have an interest in conserving our natural heritage in order to strike a proper balance between the need for clean energy and the conservation of our natural heritage.
Scale of the issue
No technology can be considered truly green if it harms the very environments we seek to conserve. The SNH wind farm footprint map of July 2011, while incomplete, gives some idea of the huge extent of development proposals.
It is claimed that SNH has recorded some 400 wind power projects of 3MW or more, with 130 operational or approved and the rest in the consent process (for Scottish Government figures see also 2020 Routemap for Renewable Energy in Scotland).
The norm is increasingly for turbines of 100-125m from base to blade tip. Wind farms may also require many kilometres of service tracks, usually 6m wide, to be cut through unspoilt countryside. Transmission cables and pylons can cause further damage. Construction work can harm some bird species and the removal of peat releases carbon into the atmosphere. Large schemes occupy many square miles of land, transforming their character and degrading the visual amenity for miles around.
In 2011 the Scottish Government raised the country’s renewable energy targets to 100% of domestic demand by 2020. Wind power generation is now big business with large profits available to companies and land owners. But a heavy price is being paid – the industrialisation of our countryside. The profit motive must always be constrained by wider public and national interests.
The Scottish Government’s claim that strict planning guidelines are preventing unacceptable harm to the environment looks increasingly questionable. We would cite the RSPB’s concerns about the scale of the Viking development in Shetland, and our own objections to proposals such as those for Sallachy and Dalnessie, which are based on existing planning policies, as examples.
The James Hutton Institute asserts that climate change is having a lasting impact on the Scottish landscape. Much marginal land will become viable for agricultural use – potentially increasing pressure on our wild places. More generally we face an erosion of our natural capital with habitat loss and over-exploitation of land. We strongly agree with the institute’s emphasis on balancing economic, cultural and environmental demands to achieve more sustainable use of land.
In common with the Scottish Government we are impressed by the prospects for renewables in Scotland – with an estimated 10% of Europe’s wave power and 25% of its tidal potential, combined with tremendous offshore wind capacity. We welcome the investments being made to make Scotland a pioneering force in the exploitation of these resources.
So great is Scotland’s renewables potential that it can choose the best way ahead. The MCofS suggests that this opens the way for a new strategy to determine how to reach its renewables targets while keeping onshore wind farm developments away from the Munros and the Corbetts.
A strategic approach
The Scottish Government has been quick to recognise that our planning policies and guidance need updating. We welcome the ongoing process in which local authorities are drafting new local plans.
However, Scotland needs a national strategy to protect its mountains from unwelcome developments and to provide clear guidance on where wind farms will and will not be permitted. In some cases we would be keen to see a distinction drawn between types of project, recognising the value of certain small-scale developments which bring power and some income to local communities. At present there is little consistency about which landscapes are designated for protection. This is despite the admirable work of many planners, and organisations such as SNH, and efforts at standardisation using Special Landscape Areas.
Change is needed urgently, with clear and firm protection for the Munros and Corbetts in particular. Their futures should not depend on factors such as whether they happen to be in a National Park.
Scotland’s Munros and Corbetts form a coherent and internationally-recognised group and are of great worth to the tourism industry. Access is relatively easy yet they provide a real sense of wildness, tranquility, adventure and solitude. They are also places where the local communities are very small, so weight of public opinion cannot be relied on to deter unwelcome development proposals. The Munros and Corbetts hold some of our highest-quality environments and must remain free from further major visual intrusion.
The Scottish Government has a strongly stated belief in the contribution that wind farms can make to our clean energy needs. This can encourage decisions which favour the desires of developers and landowners over the interests of our natural heritage, despite the emphasis on landscape conservation in the National Planning Framework 2 (NPF2) and the 2010 Scottish Planning Policy. Indeed, there are cases where implementation has failed to meet the aspirations of policy.
We also share with SNH, and others, a deep concern that the scenic value of our landscapes can be corroded by an accumulation of wind farms within sensitive areas, or around their edges. With so many proposals going through the planning system the reality of their cumulative impact may only be recognised when it is too late. As a result we are joining the RSPB in its call for an evidence-based strategic energy policy taking a holistic view of all relevant economic, social and environmental factors.
A central plank of such a policy would be the explicit protection of Corbetts and Munros as landscapes which are, to use the words of SNH, ‘recognised as being rare, unusual, highly distinctive or the best or most representative example in a given area’.
In this way Scotland can be even more effective in championing the cause of renewable energy. As WWF says, wind farms must avoid causing environmental harm and need to have public acceptance. It is essential to build and maintain a consensus in favour of renewables, the poor siting of wind farms can undermine public support – which is already showing signs of strain.
The Scottish Government claims that research shows wind farms are not incompatible with tourism. This is probably true, so long as the developments do not encroach on landscapes specifically valued for their openness, wildness and absence of obvious human presence and industrialisation.
But it is a potentially serious error to give too much weight to the findings of reports such as The Economic Impacts of Wind Farms on Scottish Tourism or the VisitScotland survey commissioned in 2011. Such work tells us little as it is being conducted at a time when relatively few wind farms have been built in the locations of key interest to tourists.
The MCofS wants to ensure that wind farm developments do not damage our tourism and recreation industries. The value to the economy, especially in remote and fragile communities, is enormous. Wind farms create few lasting onsite jobs, but Scotland’s reputation as a place for relaxation and adventure leisure pursuits underpins many permanent and sustainable jobs which our rural areas desperately need. These jobs are highly dependent on the fact that visitors enjoy our wild landscapes.
The country attracted 14.7 million visitors in 2010, spending £4.1 billion. The top reason for visiting Scotland was the scenery and landscape (58%). Some 40% of visitors went on longer walks (two miles and above). For 35% of visitors long walks, hikes and rambles were among the most popular activities.
Mountaineers and hill walkers are often young people from the most affluent social groups – a valuable tourism market as HIE’s Economic Impact report of 2003-04 underlined. Scottish Government figures show that 5% of Scots go hill walking on a regular basis.
Our tourism industry has suffered serious and unexpected shocks in the recent past which show that visitor perceptions are sensitive to change. Nowadays Scotland faces tough competition from overseas markets which offer wild mountain areas and superb countryside at lower cost. Scotland has to compete at the premium end of the market on quality of experience. Our international image is of a country offering beautiful and open mountain landscapes. We cannot allow a situation to emerge where visitors are disappointed because the countryside is seen as spoiled by industrialisation.
Most mountaineers see Scotland’s landscape and wildlife as being as important as adventure and physical challenge. The great scenic beauty of our mountains gives them a powerful appeal. Nature-based tourism and recreational activities in the mountains are of immense value to Scotland overall, and to our more rural communities in particular. The Macaulay Institute found that hill walkers and climbers contributed an estimated £245.7 million in expenditure to Scotland’s rural economy in the HIE area in 2002-03. In order for this contribution to be sustained and enhanced, the landscape quality of our mountain areas must be conserved.
What can be done?
The sparsely populated areas we seek to protect from wind farm industrialisation have small or no local populations so weight of local opinion cannot be relied on to resist undesirable change. As the representative body for Scottish mountaineers and hill walkers (with a membership of more than 11,000 and a 40-year track record) the MCofS fights to protect our mountains.
Far from opposing wind farms, we argue that it is in the interests of Scotland and of the renewables sector to get their location right so they are a popular and accepted part of life. In mountain areas we also appreciate that low capacity, small-scale projects sited sensitively (and probably close to existing buildings) may well be more acceptable if their primary role is to generate power and income for the community. In order to balance the need for clean energy with the interests of our natural heritage the MCofS is calling for:
- A halt to all commercial wind farms encroaching on the land of the Munros and Corbetts or having an adverse or significant impact on their visual amenity.
- Clear, unequivocal national and local policy statements declaring that there will be no future commercial wind farm developments in these areas
- A holistic Scottish energy strategy which includes the siting of wind farms
- Firm commitments by parties, politicians, planners and wind farm developers that they will protect Scotland’s mountains from unwelcome change.
The MCofS will be supportive of planning authorities in preparing positive policies and supplementary guidance to protect our upland landscape. It will also seek to influence how such policies are implemented.
Scotland’s upland landscape is under threat from many directions. The proliferation of wind farms is one of them and must be controlled. Our mountains have a scenic, cultural and economic worth which needs to be balanced with their value to renewable energy companies and their marginal contribution to the reduction of Scotland’s carbon footprint. Preventing wind farm developments that encroach on the Munros and Corbetts – among the finest Scottish landscapes – would be a bold step forward.
The mountain landscape provides venues for recreation, exercise and participation in a wide range of outdoor sports – as such is of huge benefit to public health and wellbeing. It is also an asset for the tourism industry, supporting thousands of local jobs.
Scotland’s renewable energy targets can be achieved without recourse to extensive wind farm industrialisation. But urgent action is needed to secure the future of our mountains and wild places so they can be enjoyed for recreation and relaxation.
Scotland needs coherent policies, strategies and implementation to replace the current piecemeal and subjective approach. These must guarantee that the Munros and Corbetts are protected. In doing this, the country can become a leader in renewable energy best-practice, contributing to the long-term success of the switch to clean energy by maintaining public support and by protecting places that are of irreplaceable scenic, cultural, social and natural significance.
For further information please contact David Gibson, Chief Officer
Author: Tharpaland International Retreat Centre
Tharpaland International Retreat Centre (TIRC) is the main international retreat centre and residential centre for the educational programmes in Scotland of a major worldwide Buddhist tradition (see Tharpaland, 2003a and 2003c). It is located within the beautiful and isolated setting of the Forest of Ae, in Dumfries and Galloway.
As Buddhists, we cherish the natural environment and all who live in it, and are committed to the development of clean and sustainable forms of energy and are therefore not opposed in principle to the development of windfarms.
However, in March 2003, following news of a proposal to build a massive windfarm in the Forest of Ae, Tharpaland set about assessing the wider implications this would have on the Centre’s ability to provide suitable conditions for meditative retreat, if the windfarm was approved. To this end, Tharpaland decided to study the possible impact a windfarm might have on meditative retreaters, in particular. Studies were then carried out at 3 Scottish windfarms – Hagshaw Hill, Beinn An Tuirc and Deucheran.
The findings of these studies (see ‘Effects of Windfarms on Meditative Retreaters – A Human Impact Assessment’ Tharpaland, 2003b), were so surprisingly negative and adverse that there was little room for doubt that the proposed windfarm, if approved, would force Tharpaland to close. However, although originally concerned with the impact that the proposed windfarm would have on just Tharpaland, it became increasingly apparent that the results of the studies could have potentially serious implications for the health of the Scottish population as a whole. Therefore, a follow-up analysis of the data was also carried out to explore this further (see ‘An Assessment of Infrasound and Other Possible Causes of the Adverse Effects of Windfarms’ Tharpaland, 2004).
This submission ‘Three Windfarm Studies and An Assessment of Infrasound’, presents a synopsis of the results of the Tharpaland windfarm studies (2003b). Whilst covering most of the topics requested in the remit, the submission focuses on those issues most relevant to the main points of the Tharpaland studies (2003b, 2004), such as planning and local issues, and in relation to windfarms specifically. Tharpaland welcomes the opportunity to share their concerns and positive recommendations with the Committee and hopes they will bring clarity and benefit to those in charge of renewables policy.
Human Impact Assessment of Windfarms
In our response to Scottish Power’s Scoping Report (see Appendix 1 – Tharpaland, 2003b), we stated that the current assessment methodology proposed in Scottish Power’s Scoping Report to assess the impact of the proposed windfarm on human beings, in general, and on highly sensitive meditative retreaters in particular, was inadequate.
An Environmental Impact Assessment must include an appropriate and vigorous human impact assessment, because human beings constitute an essential part of the environment. A human impact assessment must
take into account human experience and since the very nature of human experience is subjective, a subjective assessment methodology is required. Objective measures of physical variables alone, such as decibel noise levels and landscape features, are not enough to adequately predict the human impact. To assess the probable impact of a proposed windfarm on the human experience requires a thorough assessment of subjective variables including many psychological, health, social and spiritual factors not included in the standard assessment methodologies. The Tharpaland study (2003b) has to some extent redressed this omission. The assessment methodology adopted is explained in more detail in the full report (Tharpaland, 2003b).
Effects on Concentration and Psychological and Physiological Health
As the development of concentration is absolutely central to all of the education and meditation programmes at Tharpaland – indeed, to the whole Buddhist spiritual path – concentration was selected as the key variable against which windfarm impact was assessed in all of the studies (Tharpaland, 2003b). However, it should be noted that the development of concentration is also essential to learning ability in general and therefore the whole educational process, as well as job efficiency at work, and so the results of these findings point to implications beyond those concerning Buddhist retreat alone.
Loss of Concentration
The 3 windfarm studies (Tharpaland, 2003b) showed a consistent and progressive average 70% loss in ability to develop concentration over the various distances approaching the windfarms, and virtually a total loss in ability to develop concentration at the turbine site itself (see Appendix 4 – Tharpaland, 2003b). A simple preliminary regression analysis (see Appendix 6 – Tharpaland, 2003b) of the data of two of the windfarm studies indicates that …
(1) Proximity to a windfarm does have a significant adverse impact on the development of concentration (at a 99% level of confidence)
(2) To be able to meditate normally, a meditative retreater would have to be between 6-10 km from the windfarms (at a 95% level of confidence)
A control study at a non-windfarm site was conducted to assess the methodology, but showed no significant change in ability to develop concentration, indicating that the assessment methodology itself did not contribute to the observed results of the windfarm studies (Tharpaland, 2003b).
Adverse Health Effects
In all of the windfarm studies, subjects reported a variety of other, often intensely disturbing, adverse effects (see full subjective reports in Tharpaland, 2003b):
(1) Effects on the Development of Concentration
The subjective reports for all 3 windfarm studies indicate a progressive intensification of three of the principal obstacles to developing concentration, (1) mental excitement (2) mental dullness and (3) mental sinking, during the approach to and within each windfarm. [Mental Excitement – occurs when the mind wanders to an object of desirous attachment; Mental Dullness – functions to make both the body and mind heavy and inflexible; Mental Sinking – caused by mental dullness, the mind loses clarity and intensity of the object of meditation.]
(2) Acute Physical Symptoms
Many of the subjects reported the development of acute physical symptoms including (1) head and chest pressure and pain, and even intense pain (2) heart palpitations (missed beats) (3) nausea, stomach pain and dry retching (4) breast pain and (5) dizziness, both approaching and on site at all 3 windfarms.
(3) Negative Psychological Reactions
Subjects also reported disturbing negative psychological reactions including (1) confusion (2) loss of self- confidence (3) effects similar to depression (4) effects similar to mania (5) irritability and anger (6) heightened emotionality and crying.
(4) Adverse Auditory Impact
Most of the subjects reported that they found many of the different types of sound/noise produced by the turbines to be highly intrusive and disturbing. The mechanical noise (high pitched, pervasive humming sounds) emitted by the turbines was clearly audible at 2.2 km, and the aerodynamic noise (whooshing sounds) of the turbine field at Beinn An Tuirc could be heard at a distance of 4 km. The noises made by the turbines were clearly not masked by ambient background sound/noise.
(5) Adverse Visual Impact
The visual impact of the turbines, even at considerable distances of up to 8.6kms, was found to be highly disturbing. Amongst other visual factors reported to be disturbing at all 3 windfarms studied were (1) the constant rotation of the turbine blades (2) the lack of synchronicity of blades within clusters of turbines (3) the view of partial blades ‘flicking’ on a horizon (4) the strobe effect of shadow-flicker and (5) the dominating presence of the turbine structures. These findings indicate that ‘visual impact’ is not merely in the ‘eye’ of the beholder and related to visual amenity alone, but is related to deep physiological and psychological processes within that beholder.
(6) Disturbing After-Effects
Subjects also reported a number of disturbing visual after-effects. Many of the other preceding adverse effects as well as other symptoms or reactions that developed later, persisted after leaving the windfarms, sometimes into later that evening or even over the next few days.
(7) Adverse Effects at Varying Distances from Windfarm
The greater number of these adverse effects (74%) were experienced at the assessment points within a 2.2 km distance from the turbine fields. However, 26% of the effects were reported at assessment points at a distance of 3.8 km or greater from the turbine fields and 6% of the reports were made at a distance of 8.6 km from the turbine field.
For most of the subjects in these studies, these windfarms were centres of massive and traumatic disturbance, even after only a few hours. In almost all cases, subjects reported a ‘relief’ in leaving the turbine field. The subjects participating in the 3 windfarm studies (Tharpaland, 2003b) represent not a general population, but the specific population of meditative retreaters who frequently attend retreats at Tharpaland. However, many people living near existing windfarms have reported adverse effects and experiences that are very similar and, in many cases, identical to those reported by the subjects of the 3 windfarm studies (see Appendix 7 – Tharpaland, 2003b).
Possible Causes of the Adverse Health Effects
Many possible causes of the adverse health effects reported in the windfarm studies (Tharpaland, 2003b) are listed in the follow-up report to these studies (Tharpaland, 2004). However, although the findings of the studies (Tharpaland, 2003b) indicate that many aspects of the auditory and visual impact complex were functioning to produce many of the reported effects, many of the symptoms reported were closely correlated with those related to ‘infrasound’. Therefore, the follow-up report (Tharpaland, 2004) includes a detailed comparative analysis between the Tharpaland windfarm studies and extensive citations from the research literature on low frequency noise and infrasound and their effects.
Infrasound is mainly inaudible sound, below the threshold of human hearing, at or below the frequency of 20 Hz (Leventhall, 2003). It is well-known that not only do large turbines produce infrasound, but that “the peak acoustic energy radiated by the large wind turbines is in the infrasonic range, with a peak in the 8-12 Hz range” (Kelley, 1998). In other words, the main acoustic output of large turbines is infrasound, not the audible sounds of the turbines which can be heard.
“Infrasound is difficult to control” … “attenuating factors, such as absorption by the ground and shielding by barriers are also low at low frequencies … The net result is that the very low frequencies of infrasound are not attenuated during propagation as much as higher frequencies … Attenuation by an enclosure requires extremely heavy walls, whilst absorption requires a thickness of absorbing material up to and about a quarter wavelength thick, which could be several metres” (Leventhall, 2003).
The infrasonic impact of an operational windfarm, may therefore be far greater than that which the audible noise of the windfarm would indicate, may produce its effects at a far greater distance from the windfarm than the audible noise level would suggest, may be impossible to mitigate in situ by either enclosure, shielding or absorption, and may be subliminal, and therefore not consciously attributable to its source.
The most frequently reported health effects reported in both the research literature on infrasound and the 3 windfarm studies (Tharpaland, 2003b) are: head pressure/pain, chest/heart pressure/pain, nausea, loss of concentration, mental excitement, fatigue, anxiety, disturbance, distress, impaired performance and sleep disturbance (see Table 3 – Tharpaland, 2004)
Many adverse health effects have been attributed to long-term exposure to low-frequency noise and infrasound, including heart disease, stroke, cancer, epilepsy, rage reactions, and suicide (Alves-Pereira, 1999b). Scotland is already a world leader in the incidence of cancer and heart disease (ISD, 2003). The siting of windfarms near locations of human habitation, especially major cities such as Glasgow (Whitelee Forest) and Aberdeen (off-shore) may dramatically increase the incidence of heart disease and cancer in those cities in the coming years.
The ETSU-R-97 guidelines (1996) for noise assessment of windfarms stipulate noise limits only at frequencies above 20 Hz and therefore infrasound is not measured.
Therefore, at present, the measurement and assessment of the infrasonic outputs of windfarms are not required within the statutory or advisory guidelines of the wind industry, are not a part of their standard Environmental Impact Assessment methodologies, and are therefore not included within the Environmental Statements accompanying windfarm development applications. To safeguard the health of those residing in the vicinity of windfarms, these should be re-considered and incorporated into all relevant noise policies, planning policies and advice notices.
The Human Impact Assessment carried out by Tharpaland (2003b, 2004) demonstrated that windfarm impacts can produce a wide range of the same kinds of adverse health effects known to be caused by exposure to infrasound. The results of the Tharpaland (2003b) study are also corroborated by surveys of the physical and psychological complaints of communities living near existing windfarms in the UK, Sweden and Germany (see Appendix 7 – Tharpaland, 2003b). Infrasound should therefore be considered to be one, but not the only one, of the main probable causes of many of the adverse health effects observed in the Tharpaland studies.
The synopsis presented above indicates that a rigorous overhaul of the guidelines and policies on windfarm development is required with regards to the population as a whole. However protective measures are also needed to safeguard those other centres of human activity sensitive to the various impacts of windfarm developments including, for example:
- Educational establishments (such as nurseries, schools, colleges and universities)
- Spiritual and religious centres and institutions, especially those concerned with reflection and meditation (such as monasteries, churches and retreat centres)
- Hospitals and places dedicated to convalescence, care, and the enrichment of health and well-being
- Charities and businesses whose existence particularly depends upon the maintenance of present environmental conditions and standards (such as tourist accommodation)
As an international spiritual retreat centre offering regular educational programmes, with the aim of enabling others to find physical and mental well-being; as a thriving charity whose aims and functions depend upon a pure, quiet and mentally healing environment, and as a business whose financial viability depends on all of these factors, Tharpaland recognises the importance of the statutory protections needed for such establishments.
Windfarms as Tourist Sites
Windfarms should be seen for what they are – ‘industrial power-generating plants’. In view of their potential health hazards, tragic consequences could result if windfarms are turned into tourist attractions.
Community Ownership of Windfarms
Simply diverting windfarms from corporate to community ownership will not redress their adverse effects on health. A small windfarm of only 7 turbines of moderate size presently operating in Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria has been causing enormous suffering to at least 18 residents for over four years (see Appendix 7 – Tharpaland, 2003b). Even community owned windfarms, no matter how small, should be sited far away from human habitation.
Possible Consequences of Meeting Current Renewables Obligation Targets Prematurely
Whilst the intention underlying the Renewables Obligation targets is to be applauded and sustained, without adequate research and a realistic strategic plan, the current rush for windfarm developments throughout the country and the impacts this will bring, could bring dire consequences for Scotland in the coming years.
- A decline in general public health and well-being, including a major increase in cancer, heart disease and immune-deficiency related diseases, mental illness, suicide and violent crime, adding a further burden on the health system.
- A decline in standards throughout the educational system, due to a degeneration of learning ability, which depends upon the ability to develop concentration.
- The main economic sector within the Scottish economy – tourism – could be wiped out.
- Spiritual centres and communities could be forced to close and disperse.
The Renewables Obligation targets, with their current emphasis on wind energy must be re-considered in light of the results of the Tharpaland studies (2003b, 2004) if potentially major health, social, economic, and in the end, political problems are to be averted.
With further research and a comprehensive strategic plan, the Renewable Obligations’ attempts to affect climate change can be implemented and progressed without contributing to a global catastrophe of another kind, and another public inquiry a few years down the line.
Health – Research
- Research into the potential health effects of windfarms should be initiated immediately and carried out by impartial and independent organisations and consultants.
- A thorough and sympathetic assessment of the complaints of those living near to existing windfarms should be carried out.
- A detailed consideration of the human subjective experience should then be included within the Environmental Impact Assessment process.
- A full-range infrasonic radiation assessment methodology should be developed and included within the standard Environmental Impact Assessment methodology for windfarm developments.
- A systematic assessment of the complete infrasonic output of wind turbines should be undertaken.
- A complete systematic assessment of the infrasonic effects (physiological and psychological) of wind turbines and windfarms of different sizes should be undertaken.
- No more windfarms should be approved or constructed near to locations of human habitation, e.g. not within 10km (see Appendix 6 – Tharpaland, 2003b).
- Buffer zones should be included in new Planning guidelines that indicate the safe distance a windfarm can be from human habitation, and especially from sensitive developments, e.g. schools, hospitals, spiritual centres etc.
- A strategic search should be implemented to see if a few suitable locations can be found throughout Scotland, far from human habitation, tourist and environmentally protected areas, wherein all windfarm developments can be sited.
- If suitable locations are found, the national grid should then be extended into these remote areas to provide windfarm access to the national electricity supply.
Very serious implications raised by these studies are at risk of being overlooked or ignored in the rush to achieve the renewables targets so soon. These targets must be approached with a comprehensive and detailed consideration of the far-reaching impacts and implications for Scottish society.
Tharpaland are hopeful that the Committee can find ways for the Renewables Obligation targets to be met, bringing economic benefit to local communities and Scotland as a whole, whilst still ensuring the health, happiness, safety and well-being of the Scottish people.
Alves Pereira M, Castelo Branco N (1999b): Vibroacoustic Disease: The Need for a New Attitude
Towards Noise. International Conference on Public Participation and Information Technologies (ICPPIT 99)
ETSU-R-97 (1996): The Assessment and Rating of Noise from Wind Turbines. Department of Trade and Industry
ISD Scotland (2003): Information and Statistics Division. www.isdscotland.org
Kelley, N. (1998): Is Low Frequency Noise a Problem for Wind Turbines? American Wind Energy Association
Leventhall, G, Pelmear, P and Benton, S. (2003): A Review of Published Research on Low Frequency Noise and its Effects. A report for DEFRA. Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Tharpaland (2003a): Tharpland International Retreat Centre brochure. TIRC
Tharpaland (2003b): Effects of Windfarms on Meditative Retreaters – A Human Impact Assessment. TIRC
Tharpaland (2003c): Reflections on Tharpaland video/CD. TIRC
Tharpaland (2004): An Assessment of Infrasound and Other Possible Causes of the Adverse Effects of Windfarms. TIRC
Author: Tharpaland International Retreat Centre
Human Impact Assessment
Ability to Develop Concentration
On the Ability to Develop Concentration
On Subjective Experience
Conclusions on Auditory Impact
Conclusions on Visual Impact
Appendix 1 – Excerpts from Scoping Report Response
Appendix 2 – Subjects
Appendix 3 – Windfarm Biographies
Appendix 4 – Windfarm Studies
Appendix 5 – Frequency Distribution
Appendix 6 – Statistical Analysis
Appendix 7 – Health Effects at Other Windfarms
Tharpaland International Retreat Centre, Parkgate, Dumfries DG1 3LY