In September, 11 Wisconsin residents living near the Shirley Wind Farm filed notarized statements describing how nearby wind farms have abjectly affected their health. They noticed a marked difference when the wind farm powered off for a few days.
“I could finally sleep in my own bed,” said one resident, according to the Green Bay Press-Gazette. “I slept less and woke up earlier with more energy…it was as if a great weight was lifted off my shoulders.”
The wind farm’s neighbors have a simple request for the Brown County Board of Health: Simply do a bit more research to see if the science backs up what they’re saying they’ve experienced. Unfortunately, they face an uphill battle.
Welcome to the world of renewable energy, which has embraced a shocking double standard.
The environmental left has been unrelenting in its insistence that the federal government, states and academia exhaustively scrutinize all possible health risks from traditional energy extraction and generation. But when it comes to green energy, they don’t want the same standard of scientific inquiry.
“Wind energy enjoys considerable public support, but wind energy detractors have publicized their concerns that the sounds emitted from wind turbines cause adverse health effects,” says the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), the trade group representing this largely subsidized industry. “These allegations of health-related impacts are not supported by science.”
That wind-lobby claim isn’t honest. The science examining wind energy and public health is still developing, yielding mixed, ambiguous evidence that merits further, unbiased inquiry. But the wind industry and its green allies are trying to shut down conversation and stagnate research by claiming the science is settled.
For instance, AWEA cites a report from Australia’s National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), claiming that it “refutes” claims of health consequences from wind turbines.
But that’s not an accurate characterization of the report, which actually found “no consistent evidence” of an adverse affect—and concluded that “given the limitations of existing evidence and continuing concerns expressed by some members of the community, NHMRC considers that further high-quality research on the possible health effects of wind farms is required.”
AWEA also points to a similar 2010 report by Ontario’s chief medical officer of health. But though that study says the research has not yet established a “direct causal link between wind turbine noise and adverse health affects,” it also notes that “some people living near wind turbines report symptoms such as dizziness, headaches and sleep disturbance.”
Three years after the AWEA-cited Canadian report’s publication, an Ontario-based study, published in the official publication of the College of Family Physicians of Canada, documented how many residents near wind turbines “experienced symptoms that include decreased quality of life, annoyance, stress, sleep disturbance, headache, anxiety, depression and cognitive dysfunction.”
Similarly, a researcher at Washington University in St. Louis has examined some of the inner-ear impacts of the low-frequency sounds and infrasounds produced by wind turbines.
Those are just a few of the credible scientific reports raising questions about potential health risks and emphasizing the need for further research.
But the AWEA would have the public believe that any emerging evidence is purely anecdotal, the accounts of “a small number of sensitive people,” as it said in a 2010 report. That minimizes the experience of hundreds of people around the globe who have reported similar symptoms.
Also worth noting, the green lobby is willing to seriously consider and publicize much lesser claims from residents living by hydraulic fracking sites.
In Colorado and elsewhere where the left is pursuing fracking bans and moratoriums, green activists have publicized stories of residents living near fracking sites, giving their stories outsized credence. Do those people also count as a “small number” of “sensitive” and “stressed” reporters, as the wind lobby has described residents complaining about turbines?
Then again, renewable energy is used to getting a pass on the same standards rigorously applied to the fossil-fuel industry. For instance, in May, the Obama administration proposed a regulation that would allow wind-energy companies to kill or maim as many as 4,200 bald eagles a year. Meanwhile, the corpse of a single eagle is enough to halt operations of an open-air coal mine.
Out of concern for public health, regulators need to hold renewable energy to the same exacting standards it has established for traditional energy. The residents of Shirley, Wisconsin, as well as the general public, deserve decisions grounded in sound science, not dubious political preference.
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