Over the last few years, the wind energy sector has been experiencing tremendous growth as governments and utilities around the world seek sources of energy that generate reduced greenhouse gas emissions. In Ontario, the province has plans to increase the wind component of its electricity generation from the current 1 percent to 15 percent by 2025.
For the most part the wind energy industry has coasted along with favorable press and public opinion. The industry has had to weather some resistance, particularly pertaining to wildlife impacts (primarily birds and bats) and the consistency and reliability of wind power. Yet these criticisms have not gained enough traction to have a noticeable effect on the growth of the industry, which is being hailed as a source of tens of thousands of potential new jobs in the evolving green economy.
But over time another resistance to the wind industry has emerged focusing on the negative impacts of wind turbines on human health. This movement has been steadily growing in both its organizational power and the press coverage that it has been receiving.
Wind turbines emit inaudible sound waves in the low end of the sound spectrum and rhythmic vibrations caused by the spinning blades. These are suspected to cause a host of adverse health effects in some people that live in close proximity to the turbines, including:
- acute hypertensive episodes,
- cardiac arrhythmia,
- heart palpitations,
- high blood pressure,
- the sensation of bugs crawling on the skin,
- humming in the head,
- continuous ringing in the ears,
The condition has been given a name: “Wind Turbine Syndrome”, coined by Dr. Nina Pierpont, the subject of her recently published 150-page book. Wind Concerns Ontario is a coalition of 32 individual anti-wind citizens’ groups that have joined together from across the province of Ontario; they have named Wind Turbine Syndrome as one of their key focus areas. Both Dr. Pierpont and Wind Concerns Ontario recommend a minimum 2 kilometer setback for wind turbines from residential homes, along the lines with what is recommended by the World Health Organization (1.5 kilometers).
The assignment of setback distances in Ontario is currently governed by municpalities (the province will be taking control under its new Green Energy Act) with most setbacks being under 500 meters. Given the mounting evidence indicating adverse effects that wind turbines can have on human health, it is critical that more research be conducted into adequate setback distances. With the empahsis that the world is placing on wind energy as a critical piece of our future energy puzzle, setback distance research would be time and money well spent to ensure that wind power grows in harmony with the environment and its citizens.
Image: Be…n at flickr under a CC License
Stephen Boles is co-founder of Kuzuka, a marketplace website that brings a new level of convenience and confidence to carbon offset customers and provide consulting services to organizations that want to assess and reduce their carbon footprint.