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Invalid fear?

The Clean Energy Council (CEC) has hit back at allegations from anti-wind farm protest groups who claim that noise emitted from wind turbines creates health problems for neighbouring residents.

Wind farm critics have long stated that low frequency noises and infrasound emitted from turbines could be causing symptoms including hyper-tension, nausea, high blood pressure and headaches.

Pressure groups such as the Landscape Guardians and Australian Environment Foundation have repeatedly requested independent reviews into the health impacts of wind farms as well as the net amount of carbon they actually abate.

In defence of wind farms CEC chief executive Matthew Warren has pointed to an independent report prepared by Sonus, a South Australian acoustics consultancy involved in noise and vibration assessments for industries and traffic.

Mr Warren said the report drew from the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council and a panel of medical and acoustic specialists from overseas to state that “wind farms developed and operated in accordance with the current Standards and Guidelines will not have any direct adverse health effect”.

The report suggests health problems stemming from wind farms might be related to the anxiety and stress a person might feel about living near turbines which is then “exacerbated by rhetoric, fears and negative publicity” in the media.

It also includes the passage; “…anti-wind farm activists may be creating with their publicity some of the problems they describe”.

But Waubra Foundation medical director Sarah Laurie questioned whether the Sonus review could really be considered independent with the consultancy firm regularly contracted by wind farm proponents.

Dr Laurie said telling people that it was their concerns about turbines that was actually making them sick could be a clever ploy to stop people from raising issues.

“I suspect this bit is a deliberate attempt to discredit what I am doing,” she said.

“I am not an anti-wind farm activist – rather a concerned physician seeking answers.”

But Mr Warren said the report found Australian guidelines for wind farm acoustics were among the most stringent in the world and noise levels were improving with advancement in turbine and blade technology and anti-wind farm campaigners could be responsible for creating their own health problems.

“Wind farms have been generating clean energy safely for many years in Europe,” he said.

“We conducted this study to see how the Australian guidelines stack up.

“The results are very reassuring for communities in regional Australia who will directly benefit from the investment in wind energy.”

The CEC response comes at a time when debate over wind farms heats up in the south-west.

There are currently more than 500 turbines either in development or various stages of the planning processes in the Moyne and Southern Grampians shires.

An open day held by Penshurst wind farm proponent RES this morning is expected to attract between 50 and 60 protesters from around the state.