15th October 2018
Established 1872. Online since 1996.

Alarmist approach (Alan Lindsay)

Reassurance that there is little to concern us, or validation of fears that a worrying affliction will be imposed on us. Different views, yet both derive from review of the same NHS windfarm report. Alas the report is of little value in ending any debate, because it offers no research specific to the Viking Energy proposal, nor does it claim to do so. It summarises other reports, some of which are discredited, and some of which are not applicable because they relate to older or different types of turbines.

If we were to try to quantify the effect of engine emissions from a 2013 Mercedes, we would not make reference to data relating to less advanced cars from decades ago. So we should concern ourselves exclusively with the noise produced by the type of turbine proposed for Shetland; the effects of older and noisier machines are not relevant, and referring to them is misleading.

Google has a bewildering range of polarised opinions that will support either side of the debate. So before buying a house site overlooking Catfirth, I visited Whitelee windfarm, south of Glasgow. It is one of Europe’s biggest windfarms, with 215 large Siemens turbines, many similar to those likely to be chosen for Shetland. They are of modern design and produce less noise than older models on which some still-quoted research is based. On a briskly breezy day, I stood a mile downwind of the edge of the development. I could hear a car approaching from the same distance. I could not hear the turbines.

Whitelee’s many miles of service tracks are a popular attraction, used by thousands of visitors each year. They take their families and dogs to walk or cycle around the site – apparently without suffering any ill effects. The large windows of the café at the site – adjacent to 215 turbines ranging from a hundred yards away to miles distant – do not shake with infrasound. Spoons do not rattle in saucers. In fact, it is perfectly peaceful inside. If you don’t believe me, go for a look.

What an irony it would be if, many years before a single turbine has turned, well-intended cautions about health effects were themselves unwittingly the cause of unnecessary anxiety, distress and ill-health amongst those living near the proposed Shetland development.

I am not pro-windfarm. I only suggest that those lobbying a cause – on whichever side – should take great care with how information is used. To imply that the Viking Energy project presents health risks by selecting only negative data relating in many cases to machines of a different type is alarmist and risks undermining the other valid points that wind farm critics cite. If we set aside the noise/health issue, we are still left with the question of the financial wisdom of the project, the unjustifiable decision to ignore the 2km guidance and the view that the proposed development’s visual and ecological impact is disproportionate to the island for which it is intended. If Sustainable Shetland represents a large number of Islanders who think that these are valid concerns, then they have a voice that deserves to be heard; and Shetland’s elected representatives are at fault if they ignore it.

Alan Lindsay
Stronachie
Skellister
 

7 comments

  1. John Tulloch

    A well-considered letter Alan, I would only tate issue with a couple of points:

    1. I’ve passed Whitelee wind farm a couple of times in my car and recognising beauty is in the eye of the beholder, to me, it a monster, a real dog’s dinner of a development and I can see why, even if the machines were completely silent, that anyone LIVING amongst it could readily, as Ali Inkster has coined, “go turbine.”

    Living among/near isn’t the same as visiting on a sunny day with your dog.

    2. I’ve done the same test as you with similar results however:

    “Infrasound” is too low to be heard and the stress of being subjected to noise builds up over time so again living in it isn’t the same as visiting.

    I haven’t seen the film “Earthquake” however I understand low requency sound was used to generate fear in the audience during the quake scenes.

    Normal noise surveys are done using a technique which greatly reduces the apparent levels of infrasound, a special tecnique is required to adequately assess it.

    Did Scottish Power have a noise surveyof any kind available for scrutiny at Whitelee?

    Reply
  2. James Mackenzie

    I am broadly in agreement with John Tulloch on this letter, but there are a few points in it I would question.

    1.”It [Sarah Taylor’s report] summarises other reports, some of which are discredited, and some of which are not applicable because they relate to older or different types of turbines.”
    Who discredited these reports?
    Some reports are fairly recent – do they all refer to an earlier generation of wind turbines?

    2. “The large windows of the café at the [Whitelee] site – adjacent to 215 turbines ranging from a hundred yards away to miles distant – do not shake with infrasound. Spoons do not rattle in saucers. In fact, it is perfectly peaceful inside. If you don’t believe me, go for a look.”
    I am not sure if infrasound causes windows to shake or spoons to rattle. It appears to me that the effects on body and mind are more pernicious than that.

    3. As John has pointed out, visiting a windfarm may be an entirely different kettle of fish to living adjacent, or indeed within, one.

    4. Viking Energy commissioned their own health impact assessment specifically for their windfarm, but then abandoned it. If they hadn’t, then perhaps some “unnecessary anxiety, distress and ill-health amongst those” who might be “living near the proposed Shetland development” would have been avoided.

    5. Viking Energy’s website states in ‘Myth Busters’ that:
    “Advances in design, both in terms of turbines and in terms of our understanding of suitable locations, mean turbines should cause very little disturbance to nearby residents. Any noise they make is likely to be drowned out by the natural noise of the wind itself.”
    Is this still a tenable claim, in the light of Sarah Taylor’s report?

    Reply
  3. Evelyn Morrison

    Don’t think Alan has quite got the hang of this. Just because you can’t see or feel anything doesn’t mean it’s not there. We’re speaking about infrasound which causes resonance within the human body.
    Bats are being killed in large numbers, not because they are colliding with the rotating blades but because their lungs explode due to the high pressure pulses.
    Adverse health effects have to be taken extremely seriously here.

    Reply
  4. Johan Adamson

    I have also visited Whitelee. Yes, an appropriate size for outside a city, but shocking if it were sited here. I am sure citizens of Glasgow like to visit the hills occasionally, but since when did we need a tarred road to go to the peat hill?

    Reply
  5. ian tinkler

    Alan Lindsay, you appear to make intelligent comment, no doubt you have researched in detail. Just out of interest would you please inform us, just how many residential homes are within 2 kilometres of the Whitelee turbines? If as I suspect none the comparison between The Viking Windfarm and Whitlee regarding health issues is rather stupid. I note you claim, “I am not pro-windfarm”, I find it, indeed, very strange, just how many non pro windfarm writers make irrational and scientifically inept statements in what appear to be, an attempt to deride accurate wholly relevant research. Research, that is Alarmist to the wind farm lobby.

    Reply
  6. Ali Inkster

    Further to my comment last week about having a disturbed sleep while staying in a hotel near some turbines. The effect lasted as long as I stayed in the hotel no more than a few minutes sleep at a time. It was not experienced by everyone but roughly a third of the guys with me had similar poor nights sleep. I have now been on the rig for one night and slept like a log, engine noise and motion having less effect than the proximity to the turbines.
    So you can keep your studies and your reports and your learned opinion paid for by the backers of the wind farm. For I have something better personal experience.
    It has to be the first time in my life that I was wanting to get offshore rather than sit in a nice hotel on full pay.

    Reply
  7. ian tinkler

    Alan Lindsay, you appear to make intelligent comment, no doubt you have researched in detail. Just out of interest would you please inform us, just how many residential homes are within 2 kilometres of the Whitelee turbines? Why no answer. Alan your silence speaks volumes

    Reply

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