Written in 2016 by Peter Mitchell; ‘Human rights and wind energy projects’ will be posted on DeFrock in five parts.
This document is a review of the possible breaches by wind energy projects of various of the human rights of people living in the vicinity of a wind project. It identifies and considers a number of potential breaches of varying impact and of differing ease or difficulty of establishing. In this context the rights to health, safe working conditions and property may be the simplest to establish whether breaches have or have not occurred.
Readers of this document need to understand that it is not in any way a legal argument and that whilst all reasonable steps have been taken in its construction the author makes no representation that the information is complete nor that the analysis and conclusions are correct.
Those interested in the subject should obtain their own advice before proceeding with a formal complaint.
Peter R Mitchell AM, BChe
C. The Relevant Facts
An understanding of the nature of the sound pressure waves(v) emitted by turbines and the impacts of that energy upon neighbours is essential to any assessment of the possible breaching of human rights. Facts vital to this evaluation follow.
- Wind turbines produce sound (airborne pressure waves) across the infrasound, low frequency and audible ranges.
- Sound in the very low frequency spectrum (0.1 hertz to 20 hertz) characterised as infrasound, as well as excessive low frequency noise (20 to 200 Hz) causes serious physiological and psychological impacts on some or all of the residents in a significant number of houses up to at least 10 km from the nearest turbine.
- Residents do not become accustomed to these pressure waves, but become sensitised, so that the impact becomes increasingly damaging with ongoing exposure. (See Endnote ii)
- A major impact of these sound waves is chronic sleep deprivation(vi) often associated with waking suddenly and regularly in a panicked state; but other primary or secondary health problems such as tinnitus, vertigo and balance problems, tachycardia, nausea, migraine, exacerbation of chronic medical conditions such as heart disease, and concentration problems, as well as physiological and psychological stress are also common.(See Endnote ii) Chronic sleep deprivation is classified by the World Health Organisation as a contributor to disease(vii).
- Many residents find their formerly peaceful homes are rendered sonically toxic and ultimately uninhabitable and, on full disclosure to possibly interested buyers, unsaleable.
- Young children are unable to understand or express their discomfort, which is often extreme, old people are unable to move for various reasons including financial; and all ages suffer declining health and cognitive power and are increasingly at risk in operating farm machinery, fixed machines and even cars and trucks.
D. Has the Wind Industry Proven Its Machines Are Safe?
The information to support the above facts is readily available and mounting. Whilst the wind industry and its variously motivated supporters deny any evidence exists, and discredit the motives and background of the whistleblowers, the industry has never been inclined or required to prove that their ever larger turbines are safe, or to prove another source that has any scientific credibility for the health impacts that arise around wind turbine installations.
E. Level of Disturbance
The number of currently adversely impacted households or individuals in Australia from wind power sound and vibration is unknown. However three population impact surveys conducted by community researchers confirm suspicions that those who have contacted the Waubra Foundation directly are the “tip of the iceberg” of those who actually suffer sleep disturbance. The community surveys comprise: NSW (Schneider, Cullerin Range, 2012 and repeated 2013(viii); Victoria (Schafer, Macarthur in 2013(ix) after only eight months operation) and South Australia (Morris, Waterloo 2012(x), – the only Australian data included in the NHMRC Commissioned Adelaide University Literature Review in 2014).
University of Adelaide Masters student Frank Wang(xi) documented in 2011 that 50% of those households who responded at Waterloo reported moderate to severe impacts in his population survey of all households out to 5km, with 38% reporting sleep disturbance and headaches. Those surveys are all available on the Waubra Foundation website(xii).
It is clear from all the first hand reports provided to the Waubra Foundation by impacted individuals, in Senate inquiry submissions and as court evidence in witness statements and affidavits, that with cumulative exposure, more people are adversely impacted over time with ongoing exposure, although there are no formal longitudinal studies which have captured this fact, because none have ever been conducted. This is entirely consistent with what is known to occur when people are chronically exposed to excessive noise and suffer chronic and repeated sleep disturbance, and chronic physiological and psychological stress.
There are many houses at numerous wind power developments that have been abandoned either permanently or repeatedly by the owners or bought by the developers with the terms of purchase generally including “gag” clauses that stop residents from speaking publicly and openly about the adverse impacts. The Foundation has confidentially documented knowledge of approximately 40 such homes in multiple locations to a 2012 Senate Inquiry chaired by Senator Doug Cameron, and knows of others who have left their homes since that time. The information remains confidential at the request of the residents.
All the victims are country residents often in households that include children and often the elderly. Developers do not place their machines in metropolitan environments or in near city or town settlements. This is clearly discriminatory in that depending where one lives, a particular group is vulnerable and has not the organising, financial, or political power of an urban group to turn developers away.
The intensity of the impact on an individual of a neighbouring residence depends upon the:
• power output of the turbines (in turn being functions of size and wind speed) and, to a second degree, the make of the turbines;
• distance from the nearest turbine or groups thereof;
• turbine spacing;
• quantity of turbulent air flowing from one turbine to adjacent turbines;
• topography and atmospheric conditions;
• location elevation of the home with respect to the nacelle;
• house construction;
• location of bedroom with respect to the sound source;
• duration of time at home; and
• susceptibility and sensitivity of the person(s) receiving the energy pulses.