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Windfarm fears raised by study

Scots communities living in the shadow of windfarms have been warned that the threat to their health may have been underestimated.

A new study has found that the effects of so-called “wind turbine syndrome” (WTS) can be far greater than that recorded by previous studies conducted within Europe.

The research at the University of Adelaide in Australia raises health concerns about mechanical noise from the turbines and aerodynamic noise from their blades.

It suggests that larger turbines create more low frequency noise, increasing the effects of WTS, which are said to include insomnia, headaches, nausea, stress, inability to concentrate and irritability, all of which researchers say can lead to poorer health and a reduced immunity to illness.

Now anti-windfarm campaigners and a Scots politician are calling for the full study to be made public and its findings given serious consideration.

More than 150 windfarm projects have already been installed or approved across Scotland and countless more are at application or scoping stage.

In Tayside and Fife there have already been 13 windfarm sites given the green-light by Scottish ministers, while more than 15 are in the planning process.

Within Perth and Kinross, the local authority has maintained its record of objecting to every development put in front of it, only to have its decisions repeatedly overturned on appeal.

Mid-Scotland and Fife Tory MSP Murdo Fraser described the new report on wind turbine noise as “an important addition” to existing research into the impact of wind farms on local communities.

He said it was vital that greater efforts are made to investigate potential negative effects of windfarms on residents before more are erected within Scotland’s communities.

The Australian study on wind farm noise was conducted as part of a masters dissertation by Zhenhua Wang, a graduate student in geography, environment and population at the University of Adelaide.

He made a survey of communities in the vicinity of the Waterloo windfarm in south Australia, which is composed of 37 Vestas V90 3 MW turbines.

These mega turbines are reported to emit more low frequency noise than smaller models.

The results showed that 70% of respondents living up to 5km away reported being negatively affected by wind turbine noise, with more than 50% of them “very or moderately negatively affected”.

Wang’s figures were considerably higher than those found in previous studies conducted within Europe.

The full masters dissertation has not been made available to the public, but in the interests of public health, the European Platform Against Windfarms has asked the University of Adelaide to release the document.

The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) accepts that wind turbines cause noise and says it “takes seriously the potential for noise impacts from all forms of new development on local communities and those working in the vicinity”.

Its guidance makes it clear that good acoustical design and siting of turbines is “essential to minimise the potential to generate noise”.

The DECC does, however, describe the indicative maximum noise level of a wind farm at 350m as comparable to leaves rustling in a breeze.