Supporters and objectors to Shetland’s planned Viking Energy wind farm have welcomed a report into the potential health impact of the 103 turbine development.
NHS Shetland’s director of public health Dr Sarah Taylor trawled through a mass of international studies produced over the past 10 years on the effects wind farms have on people’s health to reach her somewhat inconclusive findings.
Her report highlights the main concerns as low frequency noise, particularly at night, that can cause stress symptoms such as headaches, irritability and sleep disturbance.
It states: “Regardless of whether the perceived impacts of noise from wind farms are physiological or psychological in nature, they are considered to cause adverse health effects through sleep disturbance, reducing the quality of life and as a source of annoyance which sometimes leads to stress related symptoms.”
She adds that there are health risks associated structural problems such as blades flying off turbines, and from flicker, which can cause annoyance that leads to stress as well.
Such problems can be mitigated by following government guidelines to set turbines at least two kilometres from properties and by ensuring communities are consulted properly ahead of wind farms being built, she says.
Taylor concludes that “noise and shadow flicker…are sources of annoyance, sleep disturbance and symptoms of stress in some people”.
“Current mitigations do not entirely deal with the annoyance caused by wind farms, the results of which are a cause of distress and related ill health for a number of people living in the vicinity.”
Evelyn Morrison, who lives less than two kilometres from the proposed wind farm at Setter, Weisdale, said the report showed “significant concern regarding the health impacts for people living in and around wind farms”.
She said: “It’s a bit incomplete and a wee bit out dated, but overall I would say that she’s done a good job, it’s good that we have got it and it highlights that these problems exist.
“I can write letters until I am blue in the face, but no one will pay a blind bit of attention. At least this has been taken on board and hopefully will be looked at.”
However Viking Energy project manager Aaron Priest said he was reassured by the report that the Shetland wind farm would not harm people’s health.
“As with all wind farm developments, the previously well-documented concerns regarding noise and shadow flicker have already been fully addressed in the careful design of the Viking wind farm,” he said.
“Together with the planning conditions, we are confident that these will mitigate concerns about these issues.
“We are reassured from our reading of the report that Viking wind farm will have no negative impact on people’s health.”
The report was written at the request of Shetland Charitable Trust last December, but was carried out by Taylor in her own time and published on the NHS Shetland website without fanfare some weeks ago.
Drew Ratter, former Viking Energy director and chairman of the trust’s investment committee, which oversees its 45 per cent stake in the wind farm, said he did not think the report would have much impact as the development had already received government consent.
“If there was going to be a health impact assessment which produced any outcomes it would have needed to be done prior to planning consent being granted,” he said.
“I would hope this document will now be of some value for anyone proposing to develop another wind farm in Shetland in the future.”
Ratter said that he would be writing to Viking Energy LLP chairman Alan Bryce to check what mitigation measures were being put in place to minimise any health impacts and would report the findings to the trust.