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Seeking peace from turbine turbulence

Sonia Trist moved from Britain to the spectacular rolling hills overlooking the Southern Ocean at Cape Bridgewater in Victoria’s southwest in 2007 knowing that wind turbines would soon surround her new home.

What she was not expecting were health problems including sleeplessness, heart palpitations, high blood pressure and dizziness, which she says she began to suffer months after the turbines began operating and did not immediately attribute to the giant machines.

Ms Trist, 75, was one of six participants in acoustics expert Steven Cooper’s recent study of infrasound, or sub-audible vibrations, at Cape Bridgewater, which linked sensations including sleep disturbance to wind conditions that produced acoustic results.

“Because I’m old, you could be forgiven for thinking, ‘Oh, she’s just an old girl’,” Ms Trist said. “But it’s not that, because when I’m away from here for consecutive nights I’m fine.”

Ms Trist said she had been forced to buy a house in Port Fairy, an hour’s drive east, so that she could periodically escape the turbine disturbance.

“It brings me no joy,” she said. “Port Fairy’s very nice, but I don’t want to live in a box in Port Fairy.”

Ms Trist said she was not seeking compensation from renewable energy company Pacific Hydro, which owns the turbines, but merely wanted to be able to live peacefully in her heritage-listed homestead, one of the first built in the area.

Mr Cooper told a Senate inquiry last week in nearby Portland, about 360km west of Melbourne, that proximity to wind turbines ­affects individuals differently.

“Just as different people will be subject to seasickness, for ­example,’’ he said.

“Going out on a boat, not everybody will get seasick, and certainly not everybody will hear or perceive noise from various industrial operations, but in terms of wind farms not everybody detects the presence of the infrasound.”

The committee, which includes independent senators John Madigan and Nick Xenophon, Matthew Canavan of the Nationals, Liberal Chris Back, Liberal Democrat David Leyonhjelm, Family First senator Bob Day and ALP senator Anne Urquhart, is due to hand down its report on June 24.