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Response to New Scientist opinion essay 

Credit:  Huub Bakker | submitted to New Scientist ~~

I write to you with regard to the opinion piece, “The sickening truth about wind farm syndrome” recently published in your New Scientist.

The only positive thing I can say about this appalling piece it that it is an opinion piece and does not purport to be objective truth. Just as well because it is anything but that. The use of phrases such as “Australia’s high-priestess of wind turbine syndrome” are more commonly found in public smear campaigns than in publications like New Scientist.

I have been an independant researcher into the measurement of noise and vibration from wind farms for several years and unpaid by any funding group, including wind-farm interests, wind-farm activists and “fossil fuel interests.” I have spoken with many people living nearby wind farms in New Zealand and have measured noise and vibration levels near several wind farms including Te Apiti, Tararua and Makara in New Zealand.

Contrary to the florid and inflammatory statements Simon Chapman makes about the people and complaints regarding these wind farms, there is clear evidence that research is desperately required in this area. The noise levels from the current generation of wind turbines has very large components of infrasound and low frequency sound as the size of the turbines has doubled and trebled, lowering the emitted frequencies(1). This would explain much of Simon Chapman’s issues with complaints only occurring recently. The approach from many of the acousticians representing the wind-farm companies to this low-frequency sound/infrasound is “what you can’t hear, can’t hurt you.” If the same were said of being able to detect radioactivity with our five senses, I’m sure that we would consider the speaker ill-informed at best.

As a fairly recent entrant into the field of acoustics I find it unfathomable that acousticians appear to have so little understanding of the issues involved and give so much credence to overly-simplistic measures such as A-weighted sound level and 10-minute averages. The former largely discounts low frequency sounds and virtually ignores infrasound because it “can’t be heard.” The latter smears out the “rumble/thump” and amplitude modulation that are key issues in annoyance associated with wind farms.

The very fact that acousticians do not venture outside of the A-weighted sound measures indicates that they do not consider low frequency and infrasound at all, and it is indicative that research published by such people very rarely include anything more than these blunt instruments. Yet research from people such as Alec Salt are finding that there are clear effects within the inner ear from such frequencies(2,3).

Perhaps Simon Chapman’s 35-year career in public health have narrowed his outlook so that he is unwilling to investigate some issues in an unbiased manner.

Needless to say, this emotional, biased, uninformed and derogatory opinion piece does not reflect well on New Scientist at all and I consider it well below the standard I would expect from any such publication.

Huub Bakker, BE, PhD, Senior Lecturer, Massey University, New Zealand

(1) Moller, Henrik; Pedersen, Christian Sejer, (2011) Low-frequency noise from large wind turbines, JOURNAL OF THE ACOUSTICAL SOCIETY OF AMERICA Volume: 129 Issue: 6 Pages: 3727-3744 DOI: 10.1121/1.3543957

(2) Salt, AN, (2004) Acute endolymphatic hydrops generated by exposure of the ear to nontraumatic low-frequency tones, JARO-JOURNAL OF THE ASSOCIATION FOR RESEARCH IN OTOLARYNGOLOGY Volume: 5 Issue: 2 Pages: 203-214 DOI: 10.1007/s10162-003-4032-z

(3) Salt, Alec N.; Hullar, Timothy E., (2010) Responses of the ear to low frequency sounds, infrasound and wind turbines, HEARING RESEARCH Volume: 268 Issue: 1-2 Pages: 12-21 DOI: 10.1016/j.heares.2010.06.007

Dr Huub Bakker MIPENZ, SMIEE
Senior Lecturer, Deputy MRA Cluster Leader, Mechatronics and Industrial Automation Major Leader
School of Engineering and Advanced Technology
+64 6 350 5376 or +64 21 033 6528
physical address
School of Engineering and Advanced Technology
Room RC2.21, Riddet Complex, Massey University, Tennant Drive, Palmerston North
mailing address
Private Bag 11222, Palmerston North, New Zealand, 4320
internal mail
SEAT, Manawatu Campus, PN 456

Source:  Huub Bakker | submitted to New Scientist

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

The copyright of this article resides with the author or publisher indicated. As part of its noncommercial educational effort to present the environmental, social, scientific, and economic issues of large-scale wind power development to a global audience seeking such information, National Wind Watch endeavors to observe “fair use” as provided for in section 107 of U.S. Copyright Law and similar “fair dealing” provisions of the copyright laws of other nations. Send requests to excerpt, general inquiries, and comments via e-mail.

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