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Living in the shadow of wind turbines  

Retired electrical engineer Ken Mosley, of Silverstream, feels strongly that the downsides of wind turbine farms are being shoved aside in the rush to find renewable energy sources.

He went to the trouble of paying for advertisements in Palmerston North’s paper to find out what people in Ashhurst, near Meridian’s large Te Apiti wind farm, have experienced. He writes:

THE ‘FOOTPATH Forum’ survey on the street feature “Testing the Wind: Yes to turbines: (Hutt News, 8 April) deserves to be answered by people who now live in the neighborhood of a wind turbine farm.

The people of Ashhurst in the Manawatu have lived with noise, vibration and loss of their normal mountain/hill landscape and views since 2003 when, the Te Apiti turbine farm started operating.

In October 2006 I advertised in the The Manawatu Evening Standard for residents of Ashhurst to contribute to a survey which would study any effects the Te Apiti wind farm might be having on their households. (The centre of the wind farm is 4.8km for the centre of Ashhurst). Disturbance was rated on a scale of 0 to 4, ‘0’ being listed as having no effect and ‘4’ as severe enough to make moving to another area imperative!

Ashhurst has a population of about 3,000. 22 responses were received from Ashhurst residents and four from people living in Woodville. Ther results of the survey, published last year, can be summarised:

# Of those Ashhurst householders who responded to my questionnaire, nearly one in three (32%) suffered sleep disturbances at the maximum severity level (as defined in the survey form.

# A further one in 11 (9%) suffered sleep disturbance at the next severity level down.

# Noise and vibration rated equally as the cause of sleep deprivation as well as being thought equally responsible for internal house discomfort, 18% of respondents suffered at the maximum severity level, whilst a further 12% of households experienced the next level of severity down.

# Visual discomfort from moving turbine blades and loss of natural view was described by 17% of respondents, whilst a further 9% wrote that they thought the turbines enhanced the scenery. However, this latter group had no vibration, noise or sleep problems!

Individual comments from six householders went as follows:

Household P

Since the turbines started we have experienced two under-frequency power disturbances to our home. These were to the extent that electrical equipment was damaged. Also I have developed Tinnitus in my right ear since the turbines started. We also get tired of the continual movement of turbine blades as our home has line of sight views of at least 15 turbines from the living area of our home. The only way to escape the constant Movement is to sit in the backyard next to the house looking west. My youngest son gets constant headaches (10 years).

Household B

We are affected by a low frequency beat that seems to vibrate through the house, especially the west facing bedrooms in evenings when the wind has dropped at Ashhurst, it’s still and there is a strong easterly wind blowing over the wind farm.

It is extremely difficult to go to sleep at these times as it feels/sounds like a boombox next to you.

On other less invasive occasions we hear the turbines sounding like a train or roaring stormy ocean.

We are now able to hear the turbines on the north east side of our house in a westerly wind.

Fortunately for the spring summer period our view of the closest Te Apiti turbines is restricted by large willows in our creek in leaf but for autumn and winter we have fairly clear views. We still see some of the turbines all year round as well as the Tararua wind farm.

The landscape has definitely been destroyed by their presence. One turbine closest to us is one third to one half the total height of the range.

We have been asked would we shift. That’s extremely difficult as our children’t best friends live either side of us and my elderly parents live around the corner. We are involved in many groups in this community and have invested 20 odd years here. You cannot just pack up and leave.

Household I

The noise from the turbines varies from a roaring ocean sound to the train that never stops in easterly winds. In westerly winds we hear the turbines on the N.E. side of the house and it sounds like a roaring ocean.

Often when there is an easterly wind it’s windy of the top of the range but stopped blowing in the valley we get low frequency vibration. This vibration feels like an old dentist’s drill that although wasn’t painful, vibrated through you body. It’s very unnerving. I have had people ring me from Pohangina Valley approximately 15 kms from the Te Apiti wind farm who also feel this vibration through their pillows.

We can go a few weeks without an easterly and then have periods of having them every few days.

Household X

Westerly wind is an unknown really as our home is exposed to westerlies and they are quite strong, probably masking turbine noise.

It is 9.30am. I am writing this at the kitchen table with a drumming vibration in my ear/head. No it isn’t the fridge. Last week I stayed in Feilding, woke in the night when the traffic had subsided and lo! no drumming noise in my head. The sound of the occasional train was bliss. Real trains come – and go! Not so with the turbine drumming, it is relentless, especially at night.

Recently I asked my neighbours if they could reduce the bass tone on their home theatre sound system as it was a long term problem also. I now realise that what I was hearing at 3am was the turbine noise/vibration, which in a way is similar.

Could the power that be please turn off the turbines.

Household E

Noise rattles the house in wind. It is difficult to sleep and we get exhausted if there are several days of strong wind in a row. This time of year (October) is terrible. We sometimes stay with friends in town as the noise is so bad at night.

Noise seems to come through walls, we can’t shut it out. Im summer we cook inside with the windows closed rather than have the noise come in the windows. Nothing seems to help.

Household R

Sleep disturbance, occasionally we wake because breathing in synchronous with thum sounds, irritability after 2-3 days.

Moving landscape. Loss of natural mountain view.

Not every house is affected, the strongest vibration and noise tending to be channelled or focused – certainly not uniformly insignificant in spread as the energy companies advise. However, the effect on house prices will certainly be uniform as buyers will obviously not be told whether the property is affected by vibration/noise or not.

Any high, open windy place seems to be politically blessed as “grist to the energy companies’ mill” and we are advised that the Belmont Hills will be no exception.

So reader, instead of “Ashhurst” think “The Hutt Valley” with its far greater populations and I wonder whether the same six people shown in the Nutt News article of 8 April will have cause in the future to change their perspective on wind turbine farms somewhat?

The alternative for wind farm lovers: Campbell Bell CEO of the Renewable Energy Foundation (UK) said, “As Denmark has now concluded, if wind turbine farms belong anywhere, they belong well out to sea.”

In other words as far away from people as possible.”

In New Zealand, suitable shallow seas occur close to Auckland, where the fastest growing demand for power occurs.

The Hutt News

22 April 2008

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

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