Remember in May last year when Joe Hockey said: “I find those wind turbines [on the drive from Sydney to Canberra] to be utterly offensive”? 
It pains us to tell you that we’re back here again. 
This morning Tony Abbott spoke to 2GB radio host and noted wind farm critic Alan Jones who brought up the potential health impacts of this renewable energy source, to which Prime Minister Abbott replied:

“I do take your point about the potential health impact of these things. When I’ve been up close to these wind farms not only are they visually awful but they make a lot of noise.”

“What we did recently in the Senate was to reduce, Alan, capital R-E-D-U-C-E, the number of these things that we are going to get in the future. I frankly would have liked to have reduced the number a lot more” – and here Jones interrupted with an encouraging “Good, well, you’re the boss!” – “but we got the best deal we could out of the Senate and if we hadn’t had a deal, Alan, we would have been stuck with even more of these things…”

“What we are managing to do through this admittedly imperfect deal with the Senate is to reduce the growth rate of this particular sector as much as the current Senate would allow us to do.”

Stuck with even more of these things.


The negative health impacts they were referring to is the suggestion floating around Canberra that wind turbines create a decibel rate high enough to have negative physical and mental health impacts on people living nearby.
Only yesterday, Liberal Democrats Senator for NSW David Leyonhjelm wrote in The Australian that “it is absolutely certain that tens of thousands of people who live within a few kilometres of these new turbines will become sick.”

“It is beyond dispute wind turbines emit infrasound and low frequency noise, much of which is inaudible to most people. It is also well established that inappropriate levels of infrasound, regardless of the source, cause adverse health impacts.”

Now, these two sentences are facts. Wind turbines DO emit infrasound and low frequency noise, and inappropriate levels of infrasound DO have adverse health impacts. However, slugging these two facts in the same paragraph does not establish a relationship between them.

And the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), Australia’s peak medical agency, found that “there is no direct evidence that exposure to wind farm noise affects physical or mental health.” They filed a report in February that ruled out the suggested negative health impacts.

“Wind farms would be unlikely to cause health effects at distances of more than 500 meters, where noise levels are generally less that 45 decibels.”

And the funny thing is, Australian regulations do not allow wind farms to be built within 500 meters of a household, according to Ketan Joshi, a spokesman for renewable energy company Infigen. 

The report also found that beyond the 1500 meter mark, wind farms would have a 30-35 decibel range, less than the decibel ranges of household devices (35-70) and traffic (70-85).

The NHMRC, however, have “encouraged Australia’s best researchers to undertake independent high-quality research” to look into the health impacts further; particularly within the 1500 meter range. (Because science is all about testing and retesting and researching and hypothesising and questioning until they have all the answers.)

Just to loop this right back around to the Alan Jones interview this morning, let us leave you with this comment from Mr. Jones about the people living near wind farms:

“Prime Minister, these people are refugees in their own homes, you’ve done a deal on renewable energy which includes wind power when there’s a Senate inquiry highlighting the deleterious effects these things are having on public health. When will someone in government listen to these poor people and the problems they face?”


Image: Paul Kane via Getty Images.
via Fairfax / The Guardian / The Australian