Wind biz needs to catch up on health, “duty of care” says Australian Senate Committee

The Guardian, August 3, 2015

Independent committee will set noise levels and states that refuse to adopt them barred from receiving renewable energy certificates under proposal

A windfarm near Canberra. The AMA says there is no accepted physiological mechanism through which ‘infrasound’ could cause health effects.

A windfarm near Canberra. The AMA says there is no accepted physiological mechanism through which ‘infrasound’ could cause health effects. Photograph: Bloomberg/Getty Images

An independent scientific committee should be created to set national standards on the level of sound emitted by windfarms, the final report of a Senate inquiry into turbines has recommended.

States that refuse to adopt the national limits should be barred from receiving renewable energy certificates, it said.

The independent expert scientific committee on industrial sound should report back to state and federal health ministers on the health effects of proposed windfarms, the report by the select committee on wind turbines said. If the project poses a risk, it should not be accredited.


It wants the productivity commission to look at the how wind-generated electricity affects retail electricity prices, and is urging that the Clean Energy Regulator release any information it has proving that wind power is reducing the amount of carbon emissions.

Labor released a dissenting report, labelling the recommendations “reckless, ridiculous and irresponsible”.

Committee member and Labor senator Anne Urquhart said its main aim is the crippling of the renewables industry.

“This isn’t just an attack on wind – Australia’s entire renewable energy industry would pay the price,” Urquhart said. “The majority report is belligerently deaf to the expert advice that wind energy is not only safe, but it is affordable and should play a critical role in Australia’s transition to a low-carbon economy.”

If adopted by the federal government, the recommendations will deal another blow to the wind industry, already smarting from last month’s announcement that the Clean Energy Finance Corporation will no longer invest in windfarms.

“I fear this report will only serve to feed the prime minister’s blind obsession with destroying an industry that promises billions of dollars of investment and thousands of jobs in regional communities,” Urquhart said.

“If the government follows through on the recommendations in the majority report it will just cement Australia’s place as a global climate pariah with regional communities and the environment paying the price.”

The final report also recommends that the national health and medical research council should research the ill health effects of wind turbines, a syndrome for which no evidence has been found.

“The committee believes there is an urgent need to put in place a central point of expert scientific advice on the risks of wind turbines to human health,” the report said.

The Australian Medical Association refused to front the inquiry and has said that “there is no accepted physiological mechanism where sub-audible infrasound could cause health effects”.

The report criticised the AMA’s decision not to give evidence, and hammered the research council for taking the advice of “Big Wind”.

“There are glaring planning and compliance deficiencies plus growing evidence, domestic and international, that infrasound and low frequency sound from wind turbines is having an adverse health impact on some people who live in the vicinity of windfarms. This is not something a responsible government can ignore,” he said.

A recommendation from the committee’s interim report – that the government set up the new role of wind commissioner – has already been adopted by the federal environment minister Greg Hunt, in exchange for crossbench support on the renewable energy target.


Andre Lauzon

It is wonderful to see a gov’t listening to the people and working for the people. God bless Australia.


It is stretching a point for the AMA report to state:-
“there is no accepted physiological mechanism where sub-audible infrasound could cause health effects”.

It all depends on what you define as a ‘health effect’. Werner Loewenstein’s papers on the responses to mechanical Stimulation of Pacinian Corpuscles were published in The Journal of General Physiology on September 9 1957.
The implication is that after the first firing, repetitive activity can be induced by a “suitable selection of stimulus strength and frequency…”
A combination of well spaced stimuli at an infrasound frequency – for example the 800 millisecond spacing from a typical wind turbine and a lower magnitude secondary vibration at about 170 Hertz would be rxpected to produce continuous repetitive activity in the skin mechanoreceptors.
The low frequency noise (LFN) ‘Annoyance’ response sounds like a diesel engine idling in the distance. This response can be reproduced by subjecting an observer to simultaneous light vibration and low frequency sound in the 6-10 hertz region.
This unpleasant percieved response seems to be formed by beats between activity in the auditory and somatosensory syatems. The leakage is universal- as is demonstrated by vibrotactile studies.
Low frequency Noise reports are widespread. This sympathetic transfer seems most likely to be the cause of complaints aginst the energy disturbances emitted by wind turbines. All it needs is a second, lesser, vibration at the critical frequency to be evident to the observer.

What is not known is the form or degree of pre-conditioning nesessary to produce marked Annoyance, or how widespread is the preconditioning.

Wind Concerns Ontario

The AMA has been bought and paid for. We actually had an Australian doctor accuse us of causing harm by circulating information on health effects from wind turbine noise emissions. We should keep quiet about it, he said.


My earlier comment should also contain an explanation of why the perceived Annoyance response is felt/heard at the infrasound emission frequency.

The superimposition of the higher frequency vibration peaks with spacing marginally greater than the recovery period for the touch sensors results in synchronised firing of corpuscles. This occurs across populations in the skin and also elsewhere in the body.

This heightened fluctuation in the neural transmission levels could well be why leakage occurs. Both the auditory and somatosensory systems have to carry distinct potential peaks and both are phased in resonance with the underlying infrasound frequency.

This Annoyance is very obvious and widely perceived where the low frequency stimuli are (i) sound and (ii) vibration originating from structural collisions. The two disturbance emissions are not synchronised, but both have precisely the same frequency. It requires the superimposition of the second, higher, frequency vibration, to cause the touch sensor discharges to synchronise.

The wind turbine effect is, for me, only a weakened form of the Annoyance caused by other ‘low frequency noise’ sources – including pipeline resonance.
Wind Turbine Annoyance, like all low frequency sound transmissions, is considerably heightened in mist or light rain.

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