The impact of windfarms (Allen Fraser)

An open letter to all councillors

Every week more and more evidence emerges from UK and world-wide sources on the adverse health effects to those living close to industrial windfarms such as the planned Viking Energy windfarm.

This windfarm project is part-owned and part-funded by Shetland Charitable Trust and supported by Shetland Islands Council.

In 2009 The World Health Organisation’s report Night Noise Guidelines for Europe identified environmental noise as a major public health issue. Since then a whole body of evidence has grown to support this and other reports’ findings.

In 2013 a study into the likely health impact on residents living within the planned Viking Energy windfarm was carried out by NHS Shetland’s director of public health Sarah Taylor. She concluded: “Wind turbines are known to cause a number of effects that have an impact on health”. Although commissioned by them, Shetland Charitable Trust noted, then binned her report, citing their failure to publish a Health Impact Assessment before planning consent as the reason for not being able to act on this report.

In April this year Professor Emeritus Alun Evans (Visiting Senior Research Fellow, Centre for Public Health, The Queen’s University of Belfast) has published a short paper entitled Wind Farms and Health. In this he concludes “there are serious adverse health effects associated with noise pollution generated by wind turbines. It is essential that separation distances between human habitation and wind turbines are increased. There is an international consensus emerging for a separation distance of 2 km, indeed some countries are opting for 3 km. The current guideline on separation distance is based on ETSU-R-97 and is manifestly out of date. It is only relevant to the small turbines of that era. The vastly increased scale of today’s turbines means that the current recommendation on turbine separation is grossly inadequate.”

Over 70 of the 103 Viking Energy industrial sized turbines will be within the 2km separation distance of dwellings where people living in them will have their health adversely affected. The government guidelines on minimum distance from dwellings at the time of submission of the Viking planning application was 2 km and these guidelines were ignored by councillors. Much of the Viking windfarm will be built on land owned by Shetland Islands Council. Shetland Charitable Trust has ignored Dr Taylor’s Health Impact Assessment and Shetland Islands Council have also failed to take any action to protect the health of residents within the 2km zone.

It is not just on health issues that evidence against building of windfarms close to dwellings is stacking up. A recent independent report by the London School of Economics is Gone with the Wind: Valuing the Visual Impacts of Wind Turbines through House Prices. This report concludes, “All the results point in the same direction. Windfarms reduce house prices in postcodes where the turbines are visible, and reduce prices relative to postcodes close to wind farms where the wind farms are not visible.”

I’m one of the lucky ones in that my house is not within the Viking Windfarm 2km zone but may well be within 2km of another industrial-sized windfarm which will need to be built to make any interconnector cable viable. It would not surprise me if, like Shetland Charitable Trust, most councillors continue to ignore the growing evidence on health and house prices. Perhaps they should take note of the many past construction practices that were formerly considered safe, such as using blue asbestos in buildings, that have come back to bite developers.

Perhaps councillors should be aware of advice recently published by the housing and homelessness charity Shelter Scotland on how to serve a “blight notice” against a council or other public authority.

A blight notice can be served if a planned public development, including windfarms by utility companies, affects the value of a home and is known as “planning blight”. If I lived within the Viking Windfarm that stretches across Central Mainland I would be getting my house valued now to obtain a benchmark house price to underpin my claim.

Allen Fraser





Add Your Comment
  • James Mackenzie

    • April 11th, 2014 12:21

    As a footnote to the above, here’s an interesting article that appeared in ‘The Guardian’ recently:

  • David Spence

    • April 13th, 2014 19:53

    What I would say is the biggest danger in the health of human beings, damage to the environment and reprehensible damage to existing eco-systems is a political system totally driven by selfish needs of the few at the greater cost to anybody living close to Wind Turbines, the environment and the driving force of the planet, the living eco-systems dependent on environmental balances which are easily directed or changed into a more destructive force, breaking down the very fabric of life itself.

    In today’s technological advancements in certain industries, the regrettable necessity to progress further is purely based on the minority having to make wealth for themselves irrespective to the overall and long term damage caused as a deliberate act of ignorance being forced upon the people as ‘ for the greater good ‘ but completely failing to address the longer term consequences of destruction due to short-term vision and the driving force of wealth dictating this narrow-minded way of thinking for any good than, as stated, for those minorities who may benefit.

    This rather destructive way of thinking, aka capitalism, is, in the long term, going to produce far greater problems for human being, the environment and life on this planet itself as present day scientific analysis of global warming is already indicating but is conveniently ignored by those short term thinking, tunnel visioned capitalist who only think of themselves and the ‘ quick buck mentality ‘.

    This, again, regrettably pervades into the minds of the population of looking upon the greater problems associated with certain technologies becoming more destructive in their use, ‘ well, as long as it does not directly affect me, why should I care ‘………the very same mentality as your typical capitalist thinks without looking at the bigger picture of their actions or the way they think……..and allowing the problems to have a greater impact due to this ‘ silent ignorance pervading the mindset of the population as a whole ‘.

    I fear that this in itself is going to end up in a situation, despite all the warning signs, where forces totally out of our control will gather together to give humans a lesson in survival and that we are not unique or different to any other species, and remind us, at the greater cause of millions of people suffering or dying, we are only 1 piece of the jigsaw (like a cancerous cell which has multiplied out of control) which makes up what we define as life, and where actions will have to be taken to keep this delicate balance alive, even if it means, potentially, the complete annihilation of human being from this planet………for the greater good of all life and not just 1 species.

  • Brian Smith

    • July 3rd, 2018 13:38

    I still remember the day I saw the relatively small wind turbine that has been placed smack in front of Luggie’s Knowe at Kebister. I wondered if there was any agency responsible for looking after the Shetland landscape. If so, presumably no-one there had the slightest idea about the significance of the site.

    In the latest Shetland Life, Chris McGinlay calls the north west of Yell ‘one of the largest expanses of raw, unspoiled, inhospitable and forbidding peatlands’ in Shetland. That means that it is worth preserving. Almost inevitably, some rich people want to fill it up with giant turbines.

    It’s worth forsaking the World Cup for a moment to go out and look at places like Vigon and Burgi Geos. Luggie’s Knowe is spoiled for good; there is still time to look after Yell.

  • Christopher Lee

    • August 3rd, 2020 8:31

    There is little known about the effects of MicroParticles produced by windfarms. Seems this pollicy is 5 years behind the times. Many places in UK the councils are changing and taking areas off the grid and introducing small scale renewable energy. This is allot more beneficial for the local community. Tidal power is a underfunded technology but less environmentaly damaging than large scale windfarms if placed in the correct location. It is also mainly invisible. Bedsides the global/national companies it is hard to see who this policy benefits financial. Even if it did benifit the local community (is the % profit known that will trickle down to the residence of Shetland) whatever the % it does not seem a price worth paying when gambling with a prestine environment, peoples mental and physical health let alone the damage to industry I. E tourism. Have the council forgot what people come to Shetland for. It’s not to marvel at a wind turbine farm. The council should be aiming to make shetland unique, battling for farmers to obtain maximum grants so they can go part organic, low intensity to enhance wildlife. Shetland is uniquely placed, its environment must be positively protected not harmed


Add Your Comment

Please note, it is the policy of The Shetland Times to publish comments and letters from named individuals only. Both forename and surname are required.

Comments are moderated. Contributors must observe normal standards of decency and tolerance for the opinions of others.

The views expressed are those of contributors and not of The Shetland Times.

The Shetland Times reserves the right to decline or remove any contribution without notice or stating reason.

Comments are limited to 200 words but please email longer articles or letters to for consideration and include a daytime telephone number and your address. If emailing information in confidence please put "Not for publication" in both the subject line and at the top of the main message.

200 words left

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


Get Latest News in Your Inbox

Join the The Shetland Times mailing list to get one daily email update at midday on what's happening in Shetland.