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Excellent Read — What Vestas Wind Turbine Manufacturer Knew and When

Max Rheese — February 16, 2014

On-line Opinion — Australia’s Journal of Social and Political Debate

This is a story about the wind industry and turbine manufacturer, Vestas and the global campaign to counter dissent about the adverse impacts caused by their product to an often ignored minority of people living in rural communities worldwide.

It is also about the useful idiots co-opted to help sell its message.  A term used for those who are seen to unwittingly support an objectionable cause which they naïvely believe to be a force for good.

For a decade individuals and community groups have been calling for studies into the adverse health impacts of wind turbine noise both in Australia and overseas.

This relatively recent phenomenon coincides remarkably with the growth in size of wind turbines from 50m in height to over 150m, taller than the Sydney Harbour Bridge.  Noise from these massively larger turbines has increased correspondingly with low-frequency noise broadcast over a much larger area according to Danish experts Professors Moeller and Pedersenwho said “It must be anticipated that problems with low-frequency noise will increase with even larger turbines.”

The common refrain from wind energy companies and their supporters is that there is no evidence of adverse health impactsto nearby residents.  To be factually correct they should have been saying there was no published evidence, which is why those affected want an independent properly constituted health study acceptable to all parties.  Despite these claims by the wind industry as of late 2012 there were over a dozen peer-reviewed published papers linking wind turbine noise with health impacts.

Supporters point to 20 reviews, mainly of existing literature, held in various countries that have found no conclusive evidence linking turbine operations with poor health.

Literature reviews of previous studies serve a purpose as do the plethora of separate studies by acousticians, sleep experts and physicians, many of which draw the conclusion there is a strong prima facie case that low-frequency noise generated by wind turbines causes chronic sleep deprivation in some people which then degenerates to adverse health impacts.

Global wind turbine supplier, the Danish company Vestas, launched their Act on Facts campaign in Melbourne during 2013 to counter the “success” of community groups, the Waubra Foundation and the Australian Environment Foundation in convincing parliamentarians of the need for a study.

The Act on Facts campaign, as the name implies, is to quash ‘myths’ and counter ‘misinformation’ by those who have concerns about the uncritical acceptance of wind energy.

Therefore the recent discovery of a 2004 PowerPoint presentation by Vestas employee Erik Sloth to the former Australian Wind Energy Association (now the Clean Energy Council) demonstrating Vestas knew a decade ago that safer buffers are required to protect neighbours from noise, their pre-construction noise models are not accurate and that “we know that noise from wind turbines sometimes annoys people even if the noise is below noise limits” is a disturbing contradiction to their rhetoric and the ideals of their campaign.  It is also confirmation the global wind industry have in fact been peddling misinformation rather than facts.

Issues referred to in the Vestas presentation were commented on in the previously mentioned peer-reviewed paper by Professors Moeller and Pedersen published six years after the Vestas presentation, where they stated “that minimum distances to dwellings are often calculated from noise data that lack an appropriate safety margin.  Using data without a safety margin, such as mean values for a given turbine model, measurements from a single turbine, or ‘best guess’ for future turbines gives in principle a probability of 50 per cent that the actual erected turbines will emit more noise than assumed and that noise limits will be exceeded.”

This statement no doubt accounts for some of the known instances of wind farms exceeding noise guidelines as detailed in a Supreme Court case in South Australia.  The level of angst in rural communities from disruption to their lives through intrusive noise and wind industry resistance to long-held community concerns has driven more than one expensive court proceedings.

The numerous instances of wind farm operators refusing to release noise data, not keeping accurate records of complaints and buying out some neighbours to silence them with gag clauses is well known and also indicative of an industry desperate to suppress damning information.

The Act on Facts campaign is acknowledgement by the wind industry that they have not been able to successfully control the dissemination of information that is detrimental to their very existence.  Community support is vital for the wind industry as they cannot profitably survive in any country in which they operate without continued generous public subsidies.

This is what makes the Vestas Act on Facts campaign nothing more than corporate spin as outlined in The Guardian: ‘Ken McAlpine, public affairs director for Vestas in Australia, said the highly-unconventional corporate campaign was being launched here because anti-wind groups in Australia had been more successful than in any other country. He accused some of spreading misinformation and using “astroturfing” (fake grassroots) campaigns to persuade politicians to pass legislation making wind farm operations more difficult.’

Or maybe the more than 2000 community groups in 33 countries have been successful because they are the only ones telling the truth.

Does Vestas inside knowledge, since 2004, that their turbines will have an effect on some people and their subsequent denials of such constitute misinformation or something much worse?  Certainly the culture at Vestas is called into question by Professor of Political Science, Peter Nedergaard from Copenhagen University who said “There’s no doubt that Vestas here smears its opponents.”

If one accepts at face value the claims of the wind industry, vociferously articulated over the last decade that there are no health impacts from wind turbine noise, it begs the question of why they are so secretive with regards to noise data.  More importantly if they are so confident of their product, why not take the fight to their critics by vigorously encouraging government to undertake health studies to prove there are no adverse effects as they claim?

Surely it would be in the interests of the wind industry to fund independent studies to vindicate their claims and silence critics, especially since they say their turbines pose no threat to human health.

The hypocrisy of claiming moral purity while not taking available action that would exonerate them, while concealing information that damns their operations, exposes the duplicitous nature of the wind industry and some supporters.

These supporters, many of whom are on the fringes of the medical fraternity, have either knowingly or unknowingly endorsed the denials of the wind industry.

Despite the wind industry being well aware for years that their product has the potential to cause serious harm to human health they invited Professor Simon Chapman, the Climate and Health Alliance, and others to help Vestas launch their ‘fact-based’ campaign last year.

Professor of Public Health, sociologist Simon Chapman who lacks any medical or acoustic qualifications, has been vocal in the media denigrating those who call for medical research into the effects of wind turbines and spoke at the launch of the Act on Facts campaign.   Continue reading this excellent article, here….. (Scroll down page to second last paragraph to continue)

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