The Environmental Protection Agency announced last week it will carry out further testing for infrasound around the Energy Australia wind farm at Waterloo over the coming months.
Infrasound is defined as noise whose frequency lies in the band from 1Hz to 20Hz and is commonly thought of as being below limits perceptible to human hearing, but may still be heard if levels are high enough.
The EPA announcement was made on the same day as the results of a University of Adelaide study into wind farm noise around Waterloo were released at a meeting held in Clare and convened by the Waterloo Concerned Citizens Group.
The university study, conducted by Associate Professor Con Doolan of the School of Mechanical Engineering with the cooperation of three households near the Waterloo wind farm, found a correlation between noise levels and degree of ‘annoyance’ experienced by householders but could not conclude wind turbines were the cause.
Equipment to measure noise levels was installed in three houses one kilometre, 2.5 kilometres and 4.5 kilometres from the turbines, and household members were asked to define noise characteristics and note when they heard the sound or experienced physical symptoms.
Noise characteristics ranged from a “quiet hum” to “roaring and rumbling”.
As the volume of the noise increased the level of annoyance experienced by those taking part in the study also increased, but the study could not extend to determining whether there was a link between noise and health problems.
Associate Professor Doolan said that further research would need to be undertaken to determine whether or not the noise experienced by residents was a result of the wind turbines, and to do this researchers would need the cooperation of the wind farm operator, Energy Australia.
He said that Energy Australia had declined to cooperate with researchers on this study, however Energy Australia disputes this.
Energy Australia, when asked about this claim, said they were in the process of talking to University of Adelaide researchers about their proposed study, directly, and via the Clean Energy Council, which represents all wind farm operators.
Last week’s meeting in Clare to announce the results of the study was attended by about 40 people, including those from around Waterloo and from proposed areas of future wind farm developments, including Burra, Hallett, Yacka and Keyneton.
Only members of the Waterloo Concerned Citizens Group, other interested individuals and Channel 7 Today Tonight television program were notified of the meeting and invited to attend; the Northern Argus, Energy Australia and nearby local councils were only informed of the meeting at the last minute and through word-of-mouth.
Independent member for Frome, Geoff Brock, Clare and Gilbert Valleys Council Mayor, Allan Aughey, Councillor Elizabeth Calvert and Energy Australia Waterloo Wind Farm Manager Michael Head were present at the meeting.
A statement from Energy Australia, in response to this latest study said, “We have and will continue to assist regulators further their understanding of wind farm noise by working with them on valid studies.
“However the important point to keep in mind is that wind farms must already comply with strict government noise level criteria.
“Waterloo wind farm has recently been tested and shown to comply with these guidelines that are regulated by the EPA.
“Our view is that the perceived impact of infrasound from wind farms has been comprehensively addressed by a range of industry-wide investigations.
“These studies, including a report released last week by the EPA, prove that wind turbine infrasound levels are insignificant in comparison with the background level of infrasound normally occurring in the environment.
“This report concludes that the level of infrasound at houses near wind turbines is no greater than in other urban and rural environments, and states that “the contribution of wind turbines to the measured infrasound levels is insignificant in comparison with the background level of infrasound in the environment.”
Frank Nicholls from near Brinkworth attended the meeting to find out more information about the issues surrounding wind farms.
He had been approached by an energy company to construct 20 turbines on his property, but will not do so while there are many questions surrounding them.
It is not just noise issues that concerned those at the meeting, there are also problems regarding the visual impact of turbines including flickering light/shadow, environmental impact, legal and contractual implications for landholders where turbines are sited.
Roger Kruse no longer resides in Waterloo, having purchased a property in Saddleworth to get away from the noise he believes is generated by the wind turbines, but because his earthmoving business is located in Waterloo is unable to totally remove himself from the source of his discomfort.
Mr Kruse said his symptoms ranged from ear popping, swelling in his neck and chest pain and to not being able to sleep.
Mary Morris, who convened the meeting, lives between Marrabel and Eudunda, about 8 kilometres from the present Waterloo Stage 1 wind farm.
She says that even though the Stage 2 development will only see another six turbines added, it will take the wind farm closer to Marrabel and potentially impact on many more people.
Not everyone living or working around the wind farm is against the development or has experienced any ill effects from the turbines.
Darryl Schutz lives about 1.5 kilometres from the turbines on a farm just outside of Waterloo.
He says that whilst the turbines are noisier than he had expected, mainly when there is an east wind, but they do not bother him at all and he has got used to living with them.
Mr Schutz describes the noise as a rumbling, a bit like an empty semi-tipper driving towards you, but says that it is just background noise.
“As soon as my head hits the pillow I’m asleep.
“The noise isn’t so loud that it keeps me awake at night.
“Everyone likes switching on their lights, we all like to have power and it has to be generated some way,” Mr Schutz said.
He acknowledges that with one turbine on his property he does receive some financial benefit from the wind farm, but says it is only a small amount.
“I wouldn’t say the issue has split the town.
“There are only a few people who are really bothered by the wind farm, but they are a very vocal minority.
A sub-contractor working on the wind farm, who spoke to the Northern Argus, but as asked to remain anonymous, said that he has been working on the project since it had begun and he has never experienced any ill effects from the turbines.
Associate Professor Doolan was asked why the residents in the vicinity of the Waterloo have experienced wind turbine syndrome and yet residents of Snowtown seem to be happy with the wind farm development at Barunga Gap.
“I don’t know, but would love to find out.
“We’d need to do a study of households around Snowtown and compare variables in both sites to answer that question,” he said.
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