Wind farm health risks (Andrew Halcrow)

The headline on your website regarding Dr Sarah Taylor’s recent report on health impacts relating to wind farms needs clarifying.

The Shetland Times headline read, “Wind farms annoying but not damaging to health, NHS report finds”. If the person who formed this headline had read Dr Taylor’s report, they would have found that Dr Taylor uses “annoyance” in its medical term.

She states, “Annoyance is recognised as a critical health effect, and is associated in some people with stress, sleep disturbance and interference with daily living.”

She goes on to say, “There is an increasing body of evidence that noise levels associated with wind farms cause annoyance, in a dose-related response.” She says symptoms such as, “…headache, irritability, difficulty concentrating, fatigue, dizziness, anxiety, and sleep disturbance, are often described in relation to annoyance”.

In complete contrast to your headline that wind turbines are not damaging to health, she says in her conclusion of the report, “Wind turbines are known to cause a number of effects that have an impact on health”.

Trustee Drew Ratter appears to already dismiss any action being taken. He is a former Viking Energy director and currently chairman of the trust’s investment committee. He seemingly ignores any potential risk to people forced to live within the Viking wind farm when he says, “If there was going to be a health impact assessment which produced any outcomes it would have needed to be done prior to planning consent being granted”.

The reason this report was commissioned was because Viking Energy initiated their own health impact assessment then promptly halted it before it was completed. It has never been published.

Pressure was put on SCT, not least from Sustainable Shetland, to assess if there was indeed a risk to health from people living too near large wind farms. Dr Taylor has now confirmed that risk exists.

If no action was to be taken why has the SCT spent a lot of time and money spent on this?

Mr Ratter’s comments certainly do not tie in with Dr Jonathan Wills statement at the outset of the report.

When the Shetland Charitable Trust (SCT) commissioned Dr Taylor trustee Dr Jonathan Wills said publicly that if there were any negative issues to be found with regard to health risks affecting people living near wind farms then the SCT would take action to address these problems. I hope he will keep his word and press for action now to be taken on this.

Additionally, in contrast to the report’s findings, Viking Energy project manager, Aaron Priest has said, “We are reassured from our reading of the report that the Viking wind farm will have no negative impact on people’s health.” Obviously, their reading of it was very different from mine.

One important point, which the report neglected, was the distance of industrial wind farms from houses. The closer they are and the greater the number of turbines then the greater the risk is to health.

Quite a lot of the report focused on recent references but many of the references were published ten years or more ago. Turbines have become more powerful since then and recent research papers should have considered this.

Sustainable Shetland invites Dr Taylor to publicly comment on her report and clarify that there are indeed health risks associated with living too near wind farms.

Andrew Halcrow

Chair Sustainable Shetland

Burra Isle


Add Your Comment
  • Johan Adamson

    • August 2nd, 2013 14:45

    I would imagine that Viking energy would recognise stress in their employees and deal with this appropriately after sick leave was taken. But they dont recognise that stress living next to a windfarm 24 hours a day is serious enough to worry about. Are they going to be offering some respite to homeowners and compensation for loss of livelihood?

  • Jonathan Wills

    • August 2nd, 2013 18:31

    If Mr Halcrow bothered to read what Drew Ratter, chair of the charitable trust’s finance committee, actually said, he might have noticed that trustees are indeed drawing Viking’s attention to Dr Taylor’s report, so that the developer may consider any further measures to mitigate the known effects of wind turbines if placed too close to houses. That is the action the trust said it would take but Mr Halcrow, as usual, seems to be looking for signs of insincerity and untrustworthiness.

    In this country there are no laws on the appropriate separation distance, only a recommendation that turbines should be at least 2km from towns and villages. This is considerably more than in many other countires, including England. The separation distance for individual houses (as distinct from villages) is to be decided on the merits of each case, as I understand it, and presumably that is what the Scottish Government’s Energy Consents Unit did when it assessed the Viking application. If it didn’t, no doubt Mr Halcrow will be alerting his learned and expensive friends.

    Dr Taylor’s report (which is entirely independent and was not edited or altered in any way by the trust) seems fairly comprehensive to me. It includes a lot of up-to-date references as well as earlier research, although a very recent study, published by the US National Academy of Sciences, on the beneficial effects of wind farms on public health (mainly due to a reduction in air pollution) was probably not available in time for inclusion.

    One thing I don’t understand: why the continuing silence from “Sustainable” Shetland on the massive carbon dioxide emissions (hundreds of thousands of tonnes) that are certain to result from the oil and gas developments currently under way west of Shetland?

    Yours sincerely

    Jonathan Wills
    Shetland Charitable Trust

  • John Tulloch

    • August 3rd, 2013 10:04


    Are you against those oil and gas developments? Please confirm.

    Sustainable Shetland’s attitude to those developments is a separate issue, unrelated to the rights and wrongs of the subject of this letter.

  • Ali Inkster

    • August 3rd, 2013 13:12

    Jonathan like a true politician instead of addressing the concerns of the electorate you decide to muddy the waters by bringing the oil industry’s operations into the argument.
    1. the oil industry are not spending our money.
    2. They are not proposing to build any of their infrastructure next to anyone’s house.
    3. If they were they would be compensating those folks that they disturb.
    4. And this is the most important one, unlike the council and the charitable trust they are not prone to throwing their money away on pie in the sky dreams.
    So please stick to the subject at hand.

  • Andrew Halcrow

    • August 3rd, 2013 13:45

    I did read what Mr Ratter said. He said, “If there was going to be a health impact assessment which produced any outcomes it would have needed to be done prior to planning consent being granted,”. That looks pretty much to me as if no action will be taken either to reduce the number of turbines or their output or their distance from dwellings.
    As Viking Energy have already said they see no problems with the report I would expect there will be no substantial changes and it will move ahead as planned.

    However, if Mr Ratter issues a firm protest from the SCT and demands a drastic reduction in turbine numbers or their output or that they are moved further from housing and continues to push for this then I will certainly admit I was wrong and apologise to him.

    Currently there are 70 massive turbines in the VE wind farm within 2km of dwellings. Regardless of whether or not there is a legal ruling on distance the SCT should have a moral obligation to prevent anyone from having to suffer the effects of living too near large wind farms.
    Anyone reading the comments to Dr Taylor’s report from the Australians surely cannot be anything but appalled at what actually living near a wind farm is really like. If the Viking wind farm goes ahead this is exactly what it will be like here.

    Dr Taylor’s report has confirmed there are health risks with living too near wind farms. The SCT has an opportunity now to prevent anyone suffering from the known health problems. I sincerely hope they will make a concerted effort to ensure this does not happen here.

  • John Tulloch

    • August 3rd, 2013 18:58

    “The health impact study was proposed by trust vice-chairman Jonathan Wills along with his own motion to approve the £6.3 million.

    Mr Robinson said it would be “worthless” unless the findings were acted upon. But trust chairman Drew Ratter said if there were findings which required action then the trust would be “forced to move heaven and earth to act upon them”. The windfarm had been developed on the basis that, according to the Scottish government, there was no health impact from turbines so if the study finds there to be a detrimental impact he expects the government to pick up on that.”

  • David Spence

    • August 3rd, 2013 19:30

    I’m intrigued, before any monstrosity of the Wind Turbines blotting the beautiful landscape, to know the situation with the Scottish Office and The Crown in regards to an Inter-connector cable being financed?

    Surely before considering any thought of erecting 1 of monstrosity of a wind turbine, you would have to have 100% guarantee the finances are in place before any Inter-connector Cable is laid down?

    I would like to be enlightened/informed in regards to the cost and whether or not it is a guarantee as part of this whole farcical of a project called Viking Energy? I suspect such circumstances have not yet been put in place, even although over £1 million of Shetland’s money has been wasted already paying wages, admin etc etc.

    If the Scottish Office are not prepared to finance an Inter-connector cable from the North West Scotland to the Hebrides, at a cost of over £700 million, why on earth does VE think it will finance an Inter-connector Cable that is 4 times the distance (and probably 5 or 6 times the cost)????

    I would appreciate any further information from anybody who can inform me, and I thank you in advance.

  • Jonathan Wills

    • August 3rd, 2013 20:04

    Drew Ratter can answer for himself. I remain confused, however, as to why some campaigners against wind farms appear to be ignoring the huge carbon emissions from Shetland’s new oil and gas developments, to say nothing of the health effects of pollution from various gases and particles when this oil and gas is burnt. There seems to be an inconsistency here. Maybe it is just because not many people’s houses overlook Sullom Voe and hardly anyone can see what’s now happening just beyond the western horizon.
    Whether I am opposed to oil and gas developments is irrelevant. I use fossil fuels like everyone else. At present the alternatives are limited. But I would have thought an organisation devoted to the environment would have been a bit more active in the local and national debate about how we can eventually reduce our dependence on oil and gas, by building more wind farms, for example.
    There is another Australian report, by the way, which suggests that most of the perceived health effects of wind farms are psychosomatic. I don’t necessarily agree with that, either.

  • John Tulloch

    • August 4th, 2013 17:37


    You say whether you are opposed to oil and gas developments is irrelevant. I beg to differ. You are a very senior councillor who holds considerable influence over council policy so your and other councillors’ positions on oil developments is of interest to the electorate. You are attacking SuS for not opposing oil developments so, in the absence of your clarification, it’s reasonable to infer that you oppose them, is it not?

    Back to the thread in question, there is a rather good article which will be of interest to those concerned about the health risks associated with wind farms at:

  • Johan Adamson

    • August 5th, 2013 9:14

    Jonathan, two wrongs dont make a right

  • James Mackenzie

    • August 5th, 2013 11:35

    “If it didn’t, no doubt Mr Halcrow will be alerting his learned and expensive friends,” writes Dr. Wills. A statement that I believe ill befits someone commenting as an office-bearer of Shetland Charitable Trust, and is nonsense anyway, as the judicial review is over as far as “learned and expensive friends” are concerned.

    As for the 2 kilometre separation he refers to, he had no need to remind folk that it is not a legal requirement as the fact is well known by now.

    He may be interested to hear what the Scottish Economy, Energy & Tourism Committee report to Parliament of 23/11/2012 had to say, however:

    “Beyond the question of differing views on the aesthetics of wind
    turbines, the Committee recognises that small numbers of people can be
    inconvenienced by noise and shadow flicker caused by wind farms and we
    recommend that planning authorities and the Scottish Government continue
    to apprise themselves of research in these areas and take reasonable steps
    to mitigate the impacts that can be caused. The Scottish Government must
    also monitor whether the guideline of placing larger developments at least
    2km from settlements is being interpreted appropriately. The Committee
    recognises that many developers show willingness to negotiate and
    compromise with local authorities and believes that this is the spirit in which
    these issues are best resolved.”

    As for the other issue of gas and oil developments, I well remember Dr.Wills’ report to councillors after Sustainable Shetland’s inaugural public meeting in Bixter Hall, when he noted so observantly how many 4-by-4 vehicles were parked outside. He has even pointed out to me that my wife has a Mercedes Benz. Well well.

  • Robert Sim

    • August 5th, 2013 13:45

    I have just had a quick look at the link John Tulloch shares in his comment above (to the Telegraph article) and it appears to me that the alarm bells should now be ringing incredibly loudly (at whatever frequency) over the windfarm. No amount of future income, no matter how high, can ever justify putting the health of individual members of our community at risk.

  • James Mackenzie

    • August 5th, 2013 22:49


    I’ll tell you how it is:

    Three 145m high wind turbines are planned to be placed within 1.1 km (and five or six within 2 km) of the Halfway House at Sandwater, an occupied dwelling. A quarry is also planned nearby, and a new two-lane road from there to Setter at Kergord, to accommodate transport of turbines and the converter station equipment.

    I can’t imagine what the “annoyance” to the occupant of this house would be, in both construction and operational phases of the windfarm, but as far as Viking Energy is concerned, my conclusion is they don’t give a damn.

  • Allen Fraser

    • August 8th, 2013 7:41

    Suffering caused by windfarm developments is real, no matter how hard Viking Energy employees, Shetland Charitable Trustees and SIC Councillors try to ignore it.

  • Robert Lowes

    • August 8th, 2013 11:21

    Suffering caused by Windfarms: Because Nimby’s don’t like windfarms, the rest of Shetland suffers? o_O

    (with tongue partially lodged in cheek)

  • Johan Adamson

    • August 8th, 2013 13:05

    If they were going to put them in Walls, right next to you, would you be happy Robert Lowes? Stress, no sleep, not to mention construction first. To gain very little either for you or the planet, without government subsidies. With the constant threat that in a wind bits might fly off. And then you get to old age, with nothing left in the CT pot for you cos its been spent. Its not the NImbys who are doing wrong here.

  • Robert Sim

    • August 8th, 2013 20:17

    Robert Lowes comments (and I acknowledge the position of his tongue) that opposing wind turbines means “the rest of Shetland suffers”. This must be a new definition of the word “suffers”, Robert. Presumably not “To feel pain or distress; sustain loss, injury, harm, or punishment”, as one online dictionary has it.

  • Bruce Stewart

    • August 8th, 2013 20:21

    Interesting to read the various views expressed about wind farms, I live near a wind farm in Bungendore NSW Australia, it has 67 x 2.1 Mega watt turbines, before construction there was some community concern and after construction the issue of having a wind farm in the district is by and large ignored by the local community. Here in Australia the issue of infrasound has been closely looked at by the generators, government and various anti wind farm organisations. It would appear the initial development consents for turbine placement distances from urban and rural residential premises were too close after numerous studies derived high levels of infrasound. There is much debate about what constitutes a safe habitation distance and no one thus far in government has made a clear cut minimum distance. The general rule is the more distance the better, my understanding of the situation at present is 2 kilometres or more. In the end the real ripoff for the local community is there is virtually no money spent locally, the profits have well and truly gone off shore, not one wind farm worker lives in the local area and this may well be as result the “owners” do not want any community engagement with employees…there have been token grants for community amenity to be fair, the land owners who’s land the turbines sit on are handsomely remunerated for each turbine per annum. Environmentally wind farms in the right location are without doubt a good idea, the impacts can be managed however in my mind the real down side is the economic one, virtually no one in this community except 5 land owners benefitted…no one…so now and for the next 20 years or so we have turbines pumping huge amounts of money into foreign pockets, our own electricity prices have risen dramatically ( i.e. 40%) what ever happens in Shetland the real risk here is the economic one. Bruce Stewart

  • john irvine

    • August 8th, 2013 21:34


    the oil and gas developments will not destroy Shetland but Viking Energy will!
    I can not understand this arrogant attitude by Viking Energy and all its cronies when it is quite obvious that the majority of sensible people in Shetland are quite rightly opposed to this totally insane project.

    Not only will this destroy our beautiful island and wildlife but it has the potential to bankrupt us as well.

  • Robert Lowes

    • August 9th, 2013 0:18

    @ Johan

    I would address your points, but the level of hyperbole and scaremongering in your comments makes it difficult to imagine a rational argument would be worth the effort.

  • David Spence

    • August 9th, 2013 1:44

    When comes to making money, by hook or crook (quite apt for the banking system) Capitalist’s really do not give a damn.

    Remember, Capitalism, by it’s very nature, is exceedingly selfish, arrogant, ignorant, greedy, exploitative, highly destructive, short term thinking and to hell with the long term consequences and above all, brings out the very worst in human nature and behaviour.

    Why should we, the people of Shetland, worry, as long as those people invested in the project become rich at our expense, eh Viking Energy?

    There is a country which uses 31% of all global resources, nearly 40% of all fossil fuels, produces 26% of all pollution and yet it is less than 5% of the worlds population…………and we, in Britain under this vile Tory Government, want to model ourselves from this? I don’t think so……….the pie is not big enough by a very long way.

  • Alan Denman

    • August 9th, 2013 2:08

    There is always one thing that intrigues me about this sometimes noticeable noise.

    How come we ever got to have any roads?

  • ian tinkler

    • August 9th, 2013 7:38

    How very typical of Robert, devoid of rational comment, just throw an insult. I may be the pot calling the kettle black here! “ (with tongue partially lodged in cheek)!.” to quote , Robert Lowes, a bit more like “head up ar?e!!! Now that would be funny, unless you live within one K of a turbine.

  • Johan Adamson

    • August 9th, 2013 9:19

    Im not surprised you decline to argue with me Robert Lowes. No good can come of it. You should not make others live next to windfarms if you would not be prepared to do this yourself. And by the way, I live next to Burradale. But there are only 5 windmills, and they are not as big as the proposed VE ones. I think they get flicker at the other side of the valley, but we dont seem to for now. Maybe there should be some relationship between their height and power and how far you need to be away. Two KM for Burradale (which is more a small holding than a farm), more for bigger, noisier ones.

  • John Tulloch

    • August 9th, 2013 11:09

    “Flyting”, strictly, is an ancient art form in which abuse is hurled in rhyme at opponents.

    Robert Lowes, who is keen on the arts, has only managed the abuse; no poetry, alas!

  • James Mackenzie

    • August 9th, 2013 12:19

    I thought we had moved on from NIMBYism, but sadly it appears to be the last refuge of people who partake in irrational debate, if that’s not a contradiction in terms!

    I think many Viking windfarm supporters still fail to understand the nature of opposition to it. Perhaps the VE Community Liaison Officer will have a notion by now.

  • Barbara Gray

    • August 9th, 2013 12:31

    I notice no one has answered David Spences question about the inter connector cable.
    Without knowing if and when it will be in place and more importantly who will be paying for it, how can VE keep spending money [including the Charitable Trusts funds] on the windfarm, isn’t this rather putting the cart before the horse.

  • Johan Adamson

    • August 9th, 2013 13:50

    There are a lot of men who, when arguing with women, will say that women are not capable of logic or rationality (because they cant think of anything else to say to fight common sense). It doesnt make them seem big like they think. We can take it (and we are also much better at the flytin).

  • Robert Lowes

    • August 9th, 2013 17:58

    @ Johan. I didn’t (and would not) suggest that you were incapable of rational argument based upon your gender. That’s a particularly facetious argument – and one I strongly refute.

  • John Tulloch

    • August 9th, 2013 20:03


    Normally, I might point out that “facetious” means the same as “tongue in cheek”.

    However, as I wouldn’t like to see the serious point of this thread disrupted by a petty argument over propagandistic ad hominem insults and and semantics of language, I won’t mention it, I’ll stick to the thread.

    The above reports from people suffering ill effects from living in/near wind farms are disturbing and warrant serious investigation and consideration to discover the true extent of the problem which, had you followed up the comments and references above, you would realise is likely to have been covered up, er….”played down” by the vested interests and politicians involved.

  • ian tinkler

    • August 9th, 2013 21:44

    “That’s a particularly facetious argument – and one I strongly refute.” Wow, Robert. Now how about ditching your ego and addressing the question about health issues and wind farms. Have you read the Times letters today? ,or is your head still where the sun will never shine? NIMBYs!!!. O dear me.!!!

  • David Spence

    • August 10th, 2013 1:43

    Thank you Barbara, it would be nice my question could be answered, but I suspect certain people are concentrating on the Wind Turbines rather than the main reason why these Wind Turbines are being erected and ruining the beautiful Shetland Landscape.

    I may be wrong in this comparison Barbara, but it is my belief that Her Majesty’s Treasury were wanting around £50,000 a year for a Fibre Optic Cable laying on the sea bed between Shetland and mainland Scotland. Quite rightly, as I have been led to believe, the Businesses in Shetland said ‘ They were not prepared to pay such a ridiculous charge per year to Her Majesty’s Treasury for a cable laying on the Sea Bed.’

    However though, one would expect that an Inter-Connector Cable would be equal, if not more, than a fibre optic cable, and who exactly would pay Her Majesty’s Treasury for this ‘ unjust rent ‘ for this cable laying on the Sea Bed between Shetland and mainland Scotland?

    If £50,000 is for a fibre optic cable, I would expect this to double or more for an Inter-Connector Cable?

    Could someone please, if you know, inform Barbara and myself as to the costs being levied onto Viking Energy (I presume) for the ‘ unjust rent ‘ per year for Her Majesty’s Treasury, and whether or not this cost has been taken into consideration in regards to the maintenance and running costs of the project after it has been constructed?

    I would presume this cost would be as part of the fee’s being charged by VE for any electricity they may sell to the highest bidder? (Please take note, despite the CT’s investment in this project, the Return’s are, if it wasn’t true, are absolutely laughable, and puts into question how on Earth can the CT justify such a ridiculous investment?)

    So, if anybody can give Barbara and myself some figures as to the charge Her Majesty’s Treasury will levy onto VE, I would very much appreciate it. Thank you.

  • John Tulloch

    • August 10th, 2013 10:23

    If they were to sell their energy to the highest bidder they would be out of business very quickly. The market is rigged to force energy companies to buy it at twice the price of electricity from gas and coal and pass the charge directly on to their customers.

    That’s why gas power stations are being mothballed and our electricity bills are soaring.

  • Johan Adamson

    • August 12th, 2013 12:16

    I take it back Robert, apologies, but you have to admit that you would not like these things next to you either

  • Ali Inkster

    • August 12th, 2013 14:08

    For the last few nights I have been staying in a hotel in Donegal with 8 turbines close by, the bed is fine as is the rest of the hotel except I have not had a proper nights sleep since arriving. It’s not because it is a strange bed because the previous two nights in Stavanger and Aberdeen I slept fine. Now I work on the rigs and am used to sleeping with constant engine noise but for whatever reason I can’t sleep. Seems more than coincidence that these turbines are little more than a mile away. So if someone was going to be putting one near my house I would downright annoyed to say the least.
    In the USA they have a figure of speech “going postal” how long before we have one with a similar meaning “going turbine”.


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