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Evidence for submission to the Select Committee on Economic Affairs, House of Lords  

Author:  | Human rights, Law, Noise, Property values, U.K.

1.0 Why we are qualified to respond to this call for evidence

1.1 We are Jane and Julian Davis, we farm (on a county council smallholding) in Spalding, South Lincolnshire. Julian has always farmed, in the place that is our home, and is also an agronomist. Jane is a Nurse, Midwife and Health Visitor (retired) and has been involved with mainly rural communities since 1980.

1.2 Our house, which we own, on our tenanted arable farm, is 930m from a wind farm, and is downwind of the prevailing wind. The wind farm, comprised of 8 wind turbines, each 100m high at blade tip with 2 MW capacity, became operational in the summer of 2006. Immediately we started having problems with the noise and hum coming from the wind turbines.

1.3 By May 2007 we were forced to abandon our home as a place in which to sleep and live; we currently rent a property 5 miles away so that our family can live as near a normal life as possible. Our house is now likely to have a value of just the land – £35K-£50K and is no longer marketable as a home for people to live in.

1.4 We did not object to the wind farm in the planning stage as we had no reason to think that there would be any issues for us and we believed, at that time, that wind power was a good way of meeting the energy gap.

1.5 As a result of our experiences, including the fact that to date nothing has been done by anyone even to attempt to mitigate the noise issues which we suffer, we have been invited to talk to in excess of 40 communities across the UK where wind farms are proposed, and occasionally we co-present with other noise pollution victims from wind farms across the UK.

1.6 Some of those communities have been in touch with us to suggest, by virtue not only of our own experiences, but also as a result of enormous interaction with individuals, groups, and experts in diverse fields relating to wind farms, that we are in a unique position to submit very relevant evidence to the Select Committee. We have also presented at the International Wind turbine Noise Conference held in Lyon in 2007.

1.7 We now know that we suffer from aerodynamic or amplitude modulation created by the noise from the wind turbine array. The government has found it necessary to set a specific measurement for wind turbine noise (ETSU-R-97) and has publicly acknowledged that aerodynamic modulation is not fully understood by scientists. This means that no developer can categorically state that there will not be a noise problem.

1.8 We know that not every wind farm creates noise issues but those that do make life impossible for those who live near them. By near we mean within 1.5 miles, or 2 km.

2.0 Our Response to the Committee’s Question 2: What are the barriers to greater deployment of renewable energy? …

3.0 Our Response to the Committee’s Question 3: Are there likely to be technological advances that would make renewable energy cheaper and viable without Government support in the future? …

4.0 Our Response to the Committee’s Question 6: What are the external costs associated with different forms of renewable energy, such as the impact on rural areas of an increase in wind farms? …

5.0 Tactics Employed by Developers (all of which lead the ordinary citizen to become even more suspicious of and opposed to the proposed development) …

5.17 Noise and the Nature of Noise. Our own experience and research suggests that the intrusive nature and the volume, depth, breadth and intensity of the noise are not yet fully understood. We find it very interesting that across the world people, such as ourselves, who suffer intensely from the noise use the same phrases to describe it. Phrases such as “a toy in a tumble dryer”, “a train that never arrives” “a thumping heartbeat”, “someone blowing in your ears”, “2 or 3 helicopters flying above my house”, “a low-pitched, penetrating non-directional hum”, are used by sufferers in Canada, the USA, New Zealand, Italy, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and other countries. These people usually experience the problem before realising there are others who have already been exposed. Yet developers still promise that noise will not be an issue.

5.17A A reasonable man may question why it is necessary to hold an “International Wind Turbine Noise Conference” every two years, outside the UK, with 24 countries attending over 2.5 days if, as the BWEA would contend, Wind Turbines are not noisy.

5.17B What the Wind Turbine Noise Does. Wind turbine noise is characterised by its loudness, pulsating character, low frequency component, and its continuous nature (often 24/7), which combine to affect:

  • Sleep
  • Rest
  • The ability to enjoy the amenity that is your home (or was)
  • Health issues.
  • Loss of value to home
  • Concentration making using complex equipment potentially dangerous
  • Impaired cognitive ability
  • Social lives, e.g. it was no longer possible for our daughter to have “sleep-overs”
  • Mood changes and constant tiredness which leads to increased irritability, feelings of despair, and feelings of inability to cope with normal day to day activities

Tiredness means that you become more prone to accidents, not ideal in any circumstance but dangerous on a farm. The peculiar noises that the wind turbines emit cannot only be heard, they can also be felt by the body, and thus trying to rest becomes impossible. We tried: fans, white noise machines, sleeping tablets, red wine and ear plugs. The latter mask background noises but allow the low frequency sound wave to penetrate so that it feels part of your body. Meanwhile thebeat, the pulsation, that is slightly faster than our human hearts beat, means that you feel as if you are constantly trying to get your heart to catch up with this external rhythm that is felt by the body rather than heard, so rest is impossible. The problem with the noises from the wind turbines is that they are so unpredictable, and the noise draws your attention and completely distracts you.

5.18 Safety Issues. There are an ever increasing number of reports about turbine blades breaking or fracturing and being thrown considerable distances, also some fires, ice “throws” and a small number of deaths in the construction phases. People find these worrying and concerning, particularly when homes are being built nearer to turbines in the UK than anywhere else in Europe.

5.19 Wildlife Issues. There are reports of raptors and bats being killed by turbines. Our moles have gone as they cannot tolerate the vibrations and there are ongoing studies into the effects on essential fungi and invertebrates at the bottom of the food chain, which only live in still conditions. …

Download original document: “Evidence for submission to the Select Committee on Economic Affairs, House of Lords on the Economics of Renewable Energy

APPENDIX 1: Property Values and House Prices
These pages contain letters from Estate Agents relating to difficulties with the selling and marketing of some properties near some windfarms.

APPENDIX 2: Statements from Other Noise and Flicker Victims
Demonstrating that this is not a rare occurrence limited to those with “over sensitive hearing” and is a world-wide problem exacerbated in the UK by the ever increasing proximity of wind turbines to homes and other institutions eg schools, nursing homes etc.

This article is the work of the author(s) indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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