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Speech at the General Meeting of Vestas  

Credit:  Mauri Johansson, Speech at the General Meeting of Vestas, Thursday 29 March 2012 at 14.00, Aarhus Concert Hall ~~

To my great joy, I read on Vestas’ website that “Vestas welcomes the public debate about wind energy – and we hope to provide factual inputs and balanced perspectives”. I would like to avail myself of that today.

I searched for ‘noise’ and ‘health’. Issues like noise and health, visual impact and wildlife are often debated when discussing wind energy. I did not find anything about this topic on the Danish website. However, the English website showed a couple of video clips where a neatly dressed gentleman in a convincing voice alleged that noise has NO negative health consequences. He managed (in a biased manner) to smear one critical report but did not mention a single independent scientific report documenting that there are NO problems. This is because such reports do not exist, neither in Denmark nor in any other countries, but there are many that document a growing number of serious problems. http://www.vestas.com/en/about-vestas/strategy/political-affairs/green- energy-race/public-acceptance/health-and-wind-turbines.aspx (No negative consequences of wind turbine noise – link to video on Vestas’ website).

Vestas has a huge market in Australia. At a senate hearing in the Australian Parliament in March 2011 on the health consequences and potential illnesses caused by neighbouring wind turbines, Vestas’ local representative in Australia (Ken McAlpine) stated: “Obviously, the one [issue] that is of most interest to us and closest to our heart is safety. Vestas has safety as its No. 1 priority.” … “There is nothing about wind turbines that is unsafe. There is nothing about them that is unhealthy” … “ I can tell you again that there is nothing about the wind turbines that we are installing that would be unhealthy or harmful to people’s health and wellbeing.” I think Ken McAlpine’s statement was weak and untruthful in several respects. The Chairman of the National Health and Medical Research Council in Australia, Professor W. Anderson, indeed refuted Ken McAlpine’s allegations at the same hearing. Ken McAlpine’s submission to the New South Wales [draft proposal] on wind turbines dated 14 March 2012, which proposes that the entire section on health be deleted, is even more outrageous. Is it really good export policy to despatch a man like McAlpine to run errands on behalf of Vestas in view of the Danish Government’s recently announced policy on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), now that Denmark clearly HAS recognised that wind turbine noise causes considerable problems, especially low-frequency noise, and has proceeded to regulate the area? Isn’t the moral standard too low compared with Vestas’ ethical high jumps?

By contrast, I am impressed by what Vestas writes on its website and in the 2011 Annual Report on topics that have been a great interest of mine throughout my adult life and still are: social conditions, environment, human rights (including the right to health), as my medical specialty is community and occupational medicine, including environmental medicine.

A couple of quotes:

Principles in the Vestas Code of Conduct on Ethics and Morals: The Vestas Code of Conduct is a set of rules governing ethical behaviour. It sets standards in different areas which all Vestas employees must adhere to in order to uphold Vestas’ reputation as a company with a high degree of integrity and trustworthiness …

p. 8: All Vestas managers and supervisors must act as role models for the employees by adhering to the Code of Conduct.

p. 5: … we will be judged by the methods we use to achieve results.

p. 32: Competition: The only way in which Vestas can maintain its position as No. 1 in Modern Energy in the long term is to conduct business in a legal, honest and competitive manner. In addition to harming Vestas’ business and reputation, illegal and anti-competitive measures will result in severe punishment for Vestas …

p. 36: Vestas’ role in society: A company is responsible – according to legislation and public opinion – for the impact the company’s activities have on nature and the local and global society. [MJ: I must presume that this also applies to humans, i.e. the health and quality of life of wind turbine neighbours?]

Vestas is an international company and endeavours to be a socially responsible company at a global level … However, Vestas is also of the view that it is in the best interests of the company, the employees and the owners in the long term to take responsibility for Vestas’ impact on its surroundings: the environment [MJ: In this regard, Danish and EU environmental legislation very much covers the health of individuals and the general population] and the local, national and global [MJ: cf. Australia] society and their inhabitants.

Environment

“Environmental considerations are a fundamental part of Vestas’ business concept. Vestas endeavours to produce wind turbines that are as environmentally friendly as possible” [MJ: i.e. also for people living in the immediate vicinity of erected wind turbines – or?]

Vestas undertakes:

… to comply with legal requirements to environmental protection [MJ: the Act on Environmental Protection says: “Section 1(1). The Act shall contribute to protecting nature and the environment to ensure that societal development takes place on a sustainable basis with due respect for man’s living conditions and the protection of flora and fauna. (2) This Act specifically aims at preventing and controlling pollution of … as well as nuisances caused by vibration and noise].

… to consider the environmental consequences of all new products …

… to reduce waste and pollution in all its activities [MJ: i.e. also the considerable amount of noise emission, which is not mentioned at all in the 2011 Annual Report? Or, what has also not been mentioned, the considerable emission of CO2 and other toxic emissions from traditional power plants as a result of the extensive back-up requirements that will always exist due to the unreliable power production of the wind turbine system – these are external factors for Vestas but deadly serious issues for the average power consumer, tax payer and citizen].

Political co-operation

Vestas supports political activities that promote wind energy. These include activities such as the lobbying of governments, information campaigns or meetings about wind energy with public servants or politicians. But what about the neighbours?

But what happens in real life?

At this general meeting, it is impossible to present the entire amount of evidence of well- documented serious nuisances, sleep disturbance, stress and illnesses that exist today, but Vestas in Denmark, in Australia and elsewhere continues to deny it, and continues to ignore scientific knowledge. An extremely brief reference list is attached. Vestas says that the company has spent DKK 15 billion on research, but not a single krone of this huge amount of money has been spent on impartial research to ensure that wind turbine neighbours do not suffer nuisances or become sick. Is this in accordance with Vestas’ ethical principles? Research aimed at preventing the considerable increase in the proportion of low-frequency noise, including infrasound, in the latest wind turbine models do not exactly impress – just think of the rumbling of the 3 MW wind turbines.

For decades, Vestas and the wind turbine industry have ruthlessly been pressurising politicians and public servants with demands not to impose stricter rules on noise and minimum distances, knowing full well that the ever larger wind turbines cannot comply with the current (as of 1 January 2012) threshold values aiming to ensure the health of the population, which they fail to do. All problems can be prevented 100% if the limits for noise and distance are high enough. Exactly what is ‘ENOUGH’ must be clarified by impartial professional health research with the assistance of other disciplines. Until then, all precautionary principles must be strictly adhered to. This is the responsibility of the municipalities, but they do not know enough about the subject. I and others have obtained documentation for all this by means of our right of access to public documents, including a letter from Managing Director Engel dated 29 June 2011 to the Minister for the Environment (is a CEO a good role model here?) and minutes of meetings from the Danish Environmental Protection Agency, etc. showing how a powerful industry makes demands that are more like ultimatums to the authorities who give in to the powerful industry and ignore weighty, even medical hearing material; documentation that clearly demonstrates that the authorities are bending the ‘truth’ to the detriment of wind turbine neighbours. The Danish rules, and often financing schemes as well, have been exported together with the wind turbines and are thus causing damage the world over. The wind turbines have grown steadily larger due to the unhealthy subsidy schemes – money-making machines rather than power plants. Is this an honest and legal way to conduct business? Does it amount to social responsibility? Social consciousness? Trustworthiness?

Why is the company’s lack of acceptance of the potential harmful impact of wind turbines on neighbours during operation not mentioned but only the health and safety issues in connection with production and scrapping? And why do the auditors accept this?

On the basis of the above, I have come here to strongly recommend that Vestas, now that so much has to be radically changed anyway, admit the errors they have committed by denying the facts that the wind turbines DO HAVE negative health consequences and start afresh with the development of a completely new wind turbine concept that is sustainable, without subsidies, and of a type that does not harm the health of nearby residents but provide them and others with an additional option for sustainable energy and electricity for the benefit and joy of others than the wind turbine industry and wind turbine owners. Why not focus on wave energy and geothermal heat? Contact the health authorities and start collaborating with the Danish Society of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (DASAM). Take a look at the more restrictive Swedish noise regulations and adopt them, spearheaded by the two Swedish members of the new board.

References:

1. Christopher D Hanning & Alun Evans: Wind turbine noise seems to affect health adversely and an independent review of evidence is needed. Editorial, BMJ 8 March, 2012

2. Carl V. Phillips: Properly interpreting the epidemiological evidence about the health effects of industrial turbines on nearby residents. July 19, 2011

3. Wolfgang Babish: in Occup Environ Med 2003;60:739–745: Policy implications: “Chronic environmental noise stress increases the risk of ischaemic heart disease.” “Two conclusions can be drawn from the study: Firstly, noise annoyance/disturbance is associated with IHD incidence (shown in men without pre-existing disease) and may be a risk factor. Secondly, annoyance/disturbance ratings from subjects with health problems (men with pre-existing disease) may be influenced by other factors.”

4. Same author: Editorial from 2011 in Noise & Health (May-June, 13:52,201-4): “It is well understood that noise levels below the hearing damaging criterion cause annoyance, sleep disturbance, cognitive impairment, physiological stress reactions, endocrine imbalance, and cardiovascular disorders.” “The question at present is no longer whether noise causes cardiovascular effects, it is rather: what is the magnitude of the effect in terms of the exposure-response relationship (slope) and the onset or possible threshold (intercept) of the increase in risk.”

5. Bolin/Bluhm: Review of wind turbine noise (Environ. Res. Lett. 6 (2011) 035103): “the effects on the cardiovascular system by noise are assumed to be stress related and triggered by noise annoyance and sleep disturbance (Babisch 2002). Wind turbine noise is causing noise annoyance, and possibly also sleep disturbance, which means that one cannot completely rule out effects on the cardiovascular system after prolonged exposure to wind turbine noise, despite moderate levels of exposure.”

6. Moller & Pedersen: Low Frequency noise from large turbines. J Acoustical Society America 2011 129:3727-3744: http://www.wind-watch.org/documents/low-frequency-noise-from-large-wind-turbines-2/

7. Vestas submission to NSW Dept of Planning: http://www.planning.nsw.gov.au/Development/Onexhibition/tabid/205/ctl/ View/mid/1081/ID/66/language/en-US/Default.aspx

8. David Shepherd & al.: Evaluating the impact of wind turbine noise on health-related quality of life. Noise & Health September-October 2011 13:54,333-9

Mauri Johansson, MHH
Specialist in community and occupational medicine – last draft for speech, corrected 30 March in accordance with what I said at the meeting.

CERTIFIED A CORRECT TRANSLATION OF THE DANISH DOCUMENT
4 April 2012
Margit Pehrsson, Danish translator, NAATI No. 37342
www.translationz.com.au, Melbourne, VIC

Source:  Mauri Johansson, Speech at the General Meeting of Vestas, Thursday 29 March 2012 at 14.00, Aarhus Concert Hall

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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