An independent scientific committee on wind turbines established by the Coalition in 2015 failed to hold one face-to-face meeting last year and failed to have its research accepted by peer-reviewed journals.
The independent scientific committee on wind turbines was created to advise on the science of potential impacts of wind turbines on people’s health.
It was an initiative of the former prime minister, Tony Abbott, who had previously called windfarms noisy and “visually awful” and who created the position of a “windfarm commissioner” to handle complaints about turbine noise in a deal with anti-wind senators in mid-2015.
As Fairfax first reported, the committee’s second annual report shows it tried to submit a paper last year on “wind turbine sound limits in Australia and overseas and a proposed sound limit based on annoyance” to the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America on 1 June 2017, but it was rejected.
The same paper was then submitted to the Journal of Sound and Vibration on 28 November 2017 but rejected because it was outside the scope of the journal. It was then submitted to the Applied Acoustics journal and has been sent out for peer review.
The committee’s 2017 annual report shows it sent another paper last year to the online journal Trends in Hearing “on the physiological effects of wind turbine sound” but it does not say how the paper is progressing.
The committee was set up to operate for an initial three years (December 2015 to December 2018), after which it will be reviewed.
It aims to have one face-to-face meeting each year, but its annual report says that proved impossible last year. It held seven meetings via video conference, including a meeting with the wind commissioner.
The committee held one face-to-face meeting in 2016 and five meetings via telephone or teleconference.
The four-person committee is chaired by RMIT Adjunct Prof John Davy, a leading acoustics researcher. Other members include Prof Simon Carlile, the head of the auditory neuroscience laboratory at the University of Sydney, Clinical Prof David Hillman, a sleep physician from Sir Charles Gairdner hospital in Western Australia, and Dr Kym Burgemeister, an acoustic engineer from the engineering firm Arup.
In mid-2015 Abbott told Sydney radio host Alan Jones that his government’s aim in the renewable energy target deal being negotiated at the time was to reduce the number of wind turbines as much as possible.
He told Jones: “I do take your point about the potential health impact of these things … When I’ve been up close to these windfarms not only are they visually awful but they make a lot of noise.
“What we did recently in the Senate was to reduce, Alan, capital R-E-D-U-C-E, the number of these things that we are going to get in the future … I frankly would have liked to have reduced the number a lot more but we got the best deal we could out of the Senate and if we hadn’t had a deal, Alan, we would have been stuck with even more of these things …
“What we are managing to do through this admittedly imperfect deal with the Senate is to reduce the growth rate of this particular sector as much as the current Senate would allow us to do.”
In a report released in February 2015 the National Health and Medical Research Council concluded: “There is currently no consistent evidence that windfarms cause adverse health effects in humans.”
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