Anti-turbine Activist Given Role as Observer on Australian Wind Power Health Review

Wed, 2012-08-22 11:51Graham Readfearn
Graham Readfearn's picture

Anti-turbine Activist Given Role as Observer on Australian Wind Power Health Review

THERE are very few health symptoms these days which anti-wind power activists and suggestible and anxious residents have not at some point blamed on those spinning steel turbine blades.

According to a list compiled by Simon Chapman, the University of Sydney's Professor of Public Health and much-awarded enemy of the tobacco industry, wind farms have been blamed for more than 180 different symptoms including weak bladders, cancers, weight gain, weight loss, herpes, kidney damage and, in one case, a woman having not one, but five menstrual periods in a single month.

Apparently, wind farms also cause chickens to be hatched with crossed beaks (and eggs being laid without yolks), cats to produce small litters, horses to get club feet and crickets to disappear.

Chapman noted recently at The Conversation that in Australia health complaints about wind farms have been relatively recent, despite some wind farms having been in operation for almost 20 years. In one area, Chapman said complaints had only been made after “a visit to the area by a vocal opponent, spreading anxiety”.

The Australian Government's National Health and Medical Research Council has begun its second review of the “evidence” for such claims, examining studies and reports from around the world. The agency's 2010 review looked at a range of issues which anti-wind groups often cite as the causes of symptoms in people living in wind farm areas. These included noise, low frequency sound and infrasound, shadow flicker, blade glint and electromagnetic radiation.

The review concluded that in each case, there was no evidence that wind turbines could have a direct impact on people's health. The review said it was possible that people were getting annoyed by their sound, but also pointed out that a wind farm with 10 turbines at a distance of 350m was about as loud as a quiet bedroom. People were more likely to be annoyed by the sound if they also didn't like the look of turbines on the landscape.

However, the review pointed out that “renewable energy generation is associated with few adverse health effects compared with the well documented health burdens of polluting forms of electricity generation”, and then concluded,

This review of the available evidence, including journal articles, surveys, literature reviews and government reports, supports the statement that: There are no direct pathological effects from wind farms and that any potential impact on humans can be minimised by following existing planning guidelines.

The NHMRC is currently reviewing the scientific literature on wind farms in order to update its public statement, which it hopes to publish by May 2013.

To direct the review, the NHMRC has created a reference group which also includes two observers. One is Russell Marsh, a policy director at the Clean Energy Council, and the NHMRC clearly describes Marsh as being a representative of the renewable energy industry.

But the second observer is Peter Richard Mitchell, the founder of the Waubra Foundation, an Australian group which the NHMRC says was formed to “facilitate properly reviewed, independent research”.

Yet in reality, the 77-year-old Mr Mitchell has a long career in the mining and fossil fuel industries. Rather than the “independent research organisation” described by the NHMRC, the evidence suggests the Waubra Foundation has already made up its mind that wind farms are causing a multitude of health impacts, despite all the credible evidence suggesting the contrary.

For example, the Waubra Foundation produced a YouTube video posted in December 2011 in which it claimed categorically that people had left their rural properties “because of serious ill health caused by wind turbines” and that “we still have a lot to learn about why they are making people sick”.

Watch:

Mr Mitchell's Waubra Foundation is also affiliated with the Massachusetts-based National Wind Watch group which has a stated aim “to save rural and wild places from heedless industrial wind energy development”. Affiliates are required to “acknowledge their shared mission”, says NWW.

Between January 2007 and December 2009, Mr Mitchell was the registered public officer for the anti-wind farm group the Western Plains Landscape Guardians. During this period, in November 2009, this group placed an advert in local newspaper the Pyrenees Advocate which was guaranteed to stoke fear and alarm over wind farms.

The advert read “Coming to a House, Farm or School Near You? Wind Turbine Syndrome” before listing “rapid heart rate”, “sleep disturbance”, “Tinnitus”, “Headaches” and “Vertigo” as the symptoms residents could expect.

In an interview on ABC Radio National last week, Canadian academic and wind turbine health expert Dr David Colby, of the University of Western Ontario, suggested that it could be these kinds of adverts which are making people sick, rather than the turbines themselves.

All people are suggestible… There's also a 'nocebo' effect. If people believe that a certain stimulus will have adverse effects, then they will start to feel badly as a result of that. People would not be human if they were not effected by these suggestions that some people have [made], that wind farms cause genuine illness. There's really no evidence to support that at all.

A December 2011 article in the Sydney Morning Herald documented some of the links between the Landscape Guardians and climate sceptic groups. Mr Mitchell, who hasn't expressed scepticism of climate science, told reporters that his opposition to wind farms was “based on health concerns”.

But in a submission to a 2009 NSW Parliament Upper House inquiry into rural wind farms, Mr Mitchell has used a raft of other arguments to oppose wind farms.

Writing as the chairman of the scientific and economics committee of the Australian Landscape Guardians, Mr Mitchell didn't bother raising “health concerns” but did conclude that wind farms were a “monumental and total waste of money”.

Last week, it also emerged in Climate Spectator that the Waubra Foundation had been using money raised through tax deductible donations to fund a court case challenging a wind farm development in South Australia.

And what of Mr Mitchell's own career background? Under the heading “declared interests”, the NHMRC says Mr Mitchell's “Family members/family company hold shares in a large diversified energy company which is also an owner and operator of wind projects.” The NHMRC doesn't say exactly which energy company and which wind projects.

Apparently not relevant, is the fact that the 77-year-old Mr Mitchell has a long career in oil, gas and metal mining behind him. The family company mentioned by NHMRC is likely to be Lowell Pty. One Lowell subsidiary is Lowell Capital, an investment management company which runs the “Lowell Resources Fund” which is described as specialising in “emerging mining and energy companies”.

In 2004, when Mr Mitchell was part of the fund's four-man investment committee, his biography stated:

“Mr. Mitchell was founding Chairman of the Moonie Oil Company Ltd. and Chairman or a Director of related companies including Clyde Petroleum plc, Avalon Energy Inc., North Flinders Mines Ltd., Paringa Mining & Exploration plc. He was also on the Board of the Australian Bank Limited and other public and private companies. His experience is derived from over 25 year’s involvement in companies that explored for, developed and financed gold and base metal mines, oil and gas fields and pipeline systems in Australia and overseas.”

Now, the NHMRC are well within their rights to have anyone they choose around a table to observe their inquiry, including the renewable energy industry and its opponents.

But in my opinion, it should be more honest about the true motivations, background and views of at least one of its observers who has been engaged in a fear campaign that could be a key suspect of so-called “wind turbine syndrome”.

Comments

This is a troubling article. It accuses the Waubra Foundation of having already made up its mind “despite all the credible evidence suggesting the contrary”, the latter insertion belying a mind made up. It questions the objectivity of observer Peter Mitchell and is apparently completely comfortable with the obvious conflict of a renewable energy industry representative. The article also picks out only some information about Mitchell. The rest of his bio from the Waubra Foundation website suggests he is much more qualified to observe a process concerning public health than his counterpart Russell Marsh:

Peter Mitchell, AM, BChE [Chairman], is currently a Patron of the Children First Foundation and a Governor of the Florey Neuroscience Institutes. He has previously been National President of The Queens Trust for Young Australians (now the Foundation for Young Australians), President of the National Stroke Foundation and a board member of the World Wildlife Fund Australia. During his business life he has been chairman of various engineering and resource companies, some listed on the Australian, New York and London stock exchanges.

Russell Marsh [Policy Director, Clean Energy Council]. Russell has over 10 years experience in climate and energy policy, working in senior positions for a range of non-government, environment and business organisations, mostly in the UK. These include the UK Business Council for Sustainable Energy, the CEC’s sister organisation in the UK. He was closely involved in the development of a number of elements of the UK’s climate change policy including the UK Emissions Trading Scheme, EU Emissions Trading Scheme, UK Renewable Energy Target (RET) and the development of a heat market in the UK.

It is also ironic that Simon Chapman is so dismissive of the growing body of evidence (the very thing justifying a new NHMRC review), considering his experience in the fight against tobacco. There was a time when those seeking to inform and protect the public concerning tobacco were similarly derided by industry and its apologists. (It is also troubling that a site dedicated to fight climate change denial so readily sides with industry concerning the increasingly reported health effects of giant wind turbines.)

“The rest of his bio from the Waubra Foundation website suggests he is much more qualified to observe a process concerning public health than his counterpart Russell Marsh”

I don’t think that being involved in unrelated medical bodies, in a NON-EXPERT capacity - nowhere in his CV does any medical qualification make itself known - make Mr Mitchell any more able to form judgements on what is going on than any other lay member of the panel. Russell Marsh, however, has direct experience of the field under discussion. It’s like consulting a gastroenterologist when your eyes are playing up. Worse than that, its like going to a gastroenterologist who used to work for a company making antacid medicine - prone to tendential diagnoses. “Of course low-frequency noise makes people ill.” No evidence, but plenty of hysteria. Do you call that an unbiased viewpoint? The fact that Mitchell is heavily involved in companies that are into fossil fuel resource extraction and exploration biases him and his foundation, in direct support of their bottom line, against any alternative - which is and has been shown repeatedly. Not impartial, in any sense, and definitely not forthright in his associations. Nor is Mr Marsh, but then he doesn’t pretend to be, and has no hidden agendas attached to his presence.

All we can draw from his inclusion is that the NHMRC were searching for ‘balance’ in oversight - but without a very deep dig into the CV of this particular observer.

The purpose in pretending that there are concerns with wind farms is to make oil and gas look better by making Wind look worse.  I’d like to address that.

Lets be really clear.  Oil and Gas kills more humans, birds, animals, etc that Wind could ever hope to achieve.  This is an undisputable fact.

http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/article/983857–hydrogen-sulphide-leak-at-alberta-oil-well-site-kills-1-worker-injuries-more

“According to the 2007 Annual Report of the American Association of Poison Control Centers’ National Poison Data System, 1134 single exposures and 13 fatal outcomes were reported.

It is very important to realize that 25% of fatalities usually involve rescuers, professionals, or bystanders.

In Alberta humans maimed or killed in the industry is just another fact of life.  We all take training to avoid becoming a statistic, but the fact is that innocents are killed as well.  Cancer rates downstream of the tar sands are disproportionately high.

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/worker-killed-in-alberta-sour-gas-leak/article578321/

Given the fact oil and gas industry currently kills many many humans.  It seems silly to be looking into issues of loss of sleep as dreamed up by supporters of the oil and gas industry.

Bird deaths are a similar concern;

http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/story/2010/09/07/oilsands-tailing-ponds-bird-deaths.html

Here’s a farmer who’s been fumigated by deadly H2S in Alberta.

http://www.saboteursandbigoil.com/FlareUp.pdf

Does anyone still believe Wind is a concern?  Heck, Canada tried to weaponize H2S for chemical warfare.


Edit:  I just found this.  Deaths per Terawatt Hour by Engery Source;

http://www.forbes.com/sites/jamesconca/2012/06/10/energys-deathprint-a-price-always-paid/

Yup…. Oil and Gas and Coal… kill a lot of people.  Way more than Wind or Solar could ever hope to do.

Rosa, its as though you’re hired to do this.  Wind article comes out… you attack it.  Have you found your mysterious CO exhaust port in Wind Turbines yet?  In looking at the electrical schematics for Wind Turbines I haven’t seen anything looking like an exhaust port.  Although I have learned a fair bit about Cogeneration plants.  An engineer designing an oil refinery for Dilbit in Alberta told me all about it.  (I’m contemplating co-generation at home.)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cogeneration


To the meat of the matter… I do believe that Wind farms can cause health effects.  Although what was provided in that Waubra Foundation video was not evidence.  Merely claims and statements.

Here’s an equally valid comparison;  Note the difference between the wind farm and say the traffic intersection, or flying geese (who aren’t honking).

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JD0v9_zV2uk

I believe there could be health issues because I’m a light sleeper.  In my case I’m OK with regular noise.  Its irregular noise like words, or loud music that will wake me up and send me to work in a huff.  And yes, the only cure if that is a concern is to move.  There is no legal redress.

So you can image my consternation 4 years ago when the neighbours rented their house to a pile of university students who wanted to party all summer long.

I became intimately familiar with the noise bylaws of my city.  I recommend that anyone thinking there are issues with wind turbines look up the noise by laws in their area, and compare that to what a Wind Turbine produces.

I was shocked to learn just how high the noise levels are allowed to be.

“Continuous Sound in Residential Developments
28. (1) No Person shall cause or permit to be caused a Continuous Sound that exceeds the greater of the following Sound Levels:
(a) 65 decibels (dBA) Leq measured over a one (1) hour period during the Day-time; or
(b) 50 decibels (dBA) Leq measured over a one (1) hour period during the Night-time;
at any Point of Reception within a Residential Development.
(2) Notwithstanding subsection (1), where the Ambient Sound Level for an area is at or above the maximum allowable Day-time or Night-time Sound Levels referred to in subsection (1), measured over a one (1) hour period, a Sound Level must exceed 5 decibels (dBA) Leq over the Ambient Sound Level before it becomes an offence.”

And here’s what the rules are for air conditioners;

“Non-Continuous Sound in Residential Developments and Downtown
(2) No Person shall cause or permit to be caused a Non-Continuous Sound that exceeds:
(a) 85 decibels (dBA) Leq measured over a period of 15 minutes during the Day-time; or
(b) 75 decibels (dBA) Leq measured over a period of 15 minutes during the Night-time;
at any Point of Reception within a Residential Development or Downtown.”

And here’s how much noise a wind farm generates versus wind speed;  (Note that the wind is louder.)

http://www.bwea.com/ref/noise.html

Also….  If noise is a valid concern… our cities would be bat ass crazy full of insane people who never sleep.  This issue would have occured 100s of years ago.

By the way, the city says that if you have a noise problem, stay inside, and shut all your doors and windows.  I solved my noise problem by buying an air conditioner, enabling me to shut my windows and doors in hot weather.  That has been a god send for me this year.

There is another paradox about Chapman and the concerns over Peter Mitchell’s involvement as an observer in the NHMRC Wind Farms and Human Reference Group.

Firstly, why would one even question the background of an observer? If the Waubra Foundation chooses Peter Mitchell, then that the point of the exercise - he presumably has been chosen because he is the best person from the “anti-wind” camp. [not my label] If they chose the wrong person then that’s the WF’s grand stuff up and no one elses.

Secondly, why shouldn’t we focus on the credentials and backgrounds of the actual members of NHMRC Wind Farms and Human Reference Group panel? It surprises me as to why Chapman and other pro-wind figures don’t actually mention anything in relation to this committee. Is that because there are a few too many pro-wind energy people on these committee?

Just to name three people who I think deserve a little more scrutiny: Dr Elizabeth Hanna and her associations with CAHA and Chapman; Dr Norm Broner and his associations with SKM - which are not even disclosed to the NHMRC; and lastly Professor Wayne Smith who, thanks to the freedom of information requests by the FoE, is known for his attitude towards this issue of wind turbines and human health.

If we are ever going to get to the bottom of this issue, it requires a little more objectivity and concern for public health.

There are other renewable technologies available if wind is proving such an issue.

 

No… Wind isn’t dangerous.  Its not dangerous to birds.  Its not dangerous to humans.  These are indisputable facts.

Oil and Gas currently kills more birds and human beings than wind can ever hope to.  Noise and sound from Wind is at a level which is legal within all cities and rural zones.

There is no concern other that hyper inflated issues raised by the oil and gas industry and those paid by the oil and gas industry.

wind turbines kill bats; wind turbines cause raptors to avoid the wind farm and also a long way down wind.

I have a report of a pasturage which was ruined because of the small rodent population exploded in the absence of raptors.  I also have a report of an abandoned bat cave about 2 km from the nearest wind farm.

Houses like we live in kill 10,000 times as many birds.  So… wind deaths are hardly a concern.

http://www.mnn.com/your-home/at-home/stories/window-glass-silent-bird-killer

http://science.howstuffworks.com/environmental/green-science/wind-turbine-kill-birds.htm

(In Alberta we don’t have rodents.  When ever they are found, they are exterminated.)


I believe a double standard exists here in comparison to oil and gas which absolutely gets crucified when birds get dunked in their toxic ponds.

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204781804577267114294838328.html

However Wind turbines are less dangerous for birds than oil and gas currently is.

Tar Sands habitate loss alone adds up to 24,000 to 84,000 birds a year.  Then there are the deaths from landing in the tailings ponds which are growing every year. (Hint deterents don’t work very well, and birds are always looking for ponds.)

http://cahr.uvic.ca/nearbc/documents/2009/Alberta-Tar-Sands-Industry-Pollute.pdf

We haven’t even gotten into other aspects of oil and gas like FRACing tailings ponds.  The EPA has pegged some rather high numbers on that.

(I’m not actually into this stuff, but since Rosa spouted so much garbage last time, I looked it all up and learned a lot.)

I suspect that the Alberta wheat fields support quite a good population of field mice.  Ours down here on the Palouse certainly do and every fall after harvest the red tailed hawks (and other raptors) come to lower the population.

Also, my observation was not that wind turbines kill birds.  Bats are (flying) mammals, not birds.  Jeez.

I’m not dishing on you…  I voted you up.

I think the point I’m making is that birds aren’t really a concern for wind farms simply because oil and gas are already killing far more birds that wind could ever hope to achieve.


Bats aside..  Tar sands tailings ponds kill plenty of mammals (something government tries to keep secret);

Only through a Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy request did the province release data showing between 2000 and 2008, 164 animals - including 27 black bears and 67 deer - died due to toxic tailings ponds or other industry activities, said Greenpeace Canada.

http://www.edmontonsun.com/news/alberta/2010/04/08/13519841.html


The real reason wind is attacked is to make oil and gas look better than it is.  So I like to keep coming back to the fact that oil and gas is far more dangerous for the environment than wind or even solar.

birds and bats ought to be more of a siting concern for wind farms.

Don’t build in migratory bird corridors.

Don’t build near bat caves or in bat hunting grounds (unless curtailed during bat flying hours in bat hunting season).

But I certainly agree more has to be done for environmental protection from the extractors of oil, bitumen and natgas.

I found this article interesting;

http://www.esajournals.org/doi/abs/10.1890/100103

Relatively small changes to wind-turbine operation resulted in nightly reductions in bat mortality, ranging from 44% to 93%, with marginal annual power loss (≤ 1% of total annual output).

And the bottom if this page is a discussion of bat mortality.  (Bat mortality does seem pretty low.  I’d probably be more concerned with bird mortality…  Just my opinion.)

http://www.quora.com/Wind-Power/How-significant-is-bird-and-bat-mortality-due-to-wind-turbines

The industry and governmental agencies still take bat mortality due to wind turbines seriously.  Where wind turbines impact sensitive populations, there have been interventions as significant as nightly shut downs of the entire wind turbine farm due to a single bat death.[3]  There is ongoing work to reduce bat deaths through radar, ultrasonic and higher-blade startup speeds.[4], [5]

http://www.windpowermonthly.com/news/rss/1099349/Bat-death-causes-70MW-project-shutdown/

It is believed operational changes such as increasing the speed at which a wind turbine starts generating energy from 3.5-5.5m/s can reduce bat fatalities by 50-80%.

Additionally, preliminary results from studies on acoustic devices, which generate ultra-high-frequency sounds to deter bats from turbines show a reduction in mortality by up to 70%.

Soo…. it sounds like the environmental concerns of Wind Farms are being taken very seriously and is being addressed… its just not in the public media.

Just looking through reports….  oil and gas is vastly more deadly.  Heck… Suncor got 500 birds in one pond on 1 day.  (And their legal defense was that they can’t prevent it.)

http://www.tva.gov/environment/bmw_report/bird_bat_mortality.pdf