CWW has received the following important report. It has been submitted by Douglas Cross, Environmental Adviser to SDLC in connection with the application for new turbines on Kirkby Moor. It details the effects of vibration and low frequency sound from wind farms and how these are ignored by British planning rules thereby contravening European Directives. It also points out the environmental effects and the fact that wind farms cause climate change themselves, in particular detailing the potential effect on the micro-climate of the Kirkby Moor SSI.
(the full text of the report has been published on Researchgate DOI: 10.13140/RG.2.1.4393.3609)
On-shore wind farms are controversial, especially when they are located close to people’s homes. Some people admire them as examples of modernist elegance, others hate them for their powerful intrusion into valued landscapes. Contradictory and often quite arbitrary decisions by Local Planning Authorities add to growing public concern that the situation is getting out of control, in the political determination to develop ‘alternative’ energy. But are we in fact ignoring something really important in this precipitous race to prove that we can be world-leaders in this new technology?
Planning rules dictate that Local Authorities should ignore objections to applications to build new wind farms because local private property values will fall if they are allowed to be built near to private homes. The author of this analysis, Douglas Cross, now shows that this policy is wrong, and unenforceable. He notes that a recent by the European Court makes it quite clear that if a wind farm development causes physical effects that lead to the loss of value of property, then this is an issue that must be included in the project Environmental Statements.
And that, of course, means that Planners must then consider this factor when assessing Applications. Suddenly the door has been flung wide open for claims for this new form of ‘planning blight’ that are enforceable through the Courts, since European Court decisions must be immediately respected in the national legislation of Member States.
So, do wind farms cause any such a physical effect? A common objection is that large wind turbines are noisy, and strict regulations have been adopted that limit the amount of audible noise that is permitted to reach nearby buildings. But what if this misses a crucial effect that may cause actual harm to health of at least some people living near to these machines? What if the ‘noise’ regulations are entirely inadequate and irrelevant when dealing with inaudible forms of air vibration?
The official method of measuring ‘noise’ completely fails to consider the extraordinary very low frequency pressure pulses emitted by these huge machines. The vibrations are not heard by the human ear – they are not ‘noise’ in the conventional understanding. Instead, they affect our sense of balance and orientation, and cause an effect similar to motion sickness in susceptible people. And the standard method of estimating the entire ‘noise’ problem from these machines has been strongly and repeatedly dismissed as incompetent by many of the world’s leading specialists in low-frequency acoustics. So what is the real problem, the one that our official regulations completely fails to recognise?
Low frequency pressure pulses from large wind turbines are complex and difficult to measure precisely. They penetrate buildings, even when they have good sound insulation, and at far greater distances than audible sound travels. They are actually worse inside buildings than outside them. Their peculiar and unpredictable effects of these vibrations include setting up resonance ‘hot-spots’ inside rooms, where the signals from several turbines interact.
They are indeed a real, physical effect of the turbines on property, and they really do cause harm to health. Public awareness of this effect is spreading, and homes close to new wind farms are becoming unsaleable. And this is the problem that Planners have so far failed to deal with.
This analysis, by one of the country’s most experienced Environmental Advisers, reveals how recent research has established both the existence of this problem and its medical effects on susceptible people. It shows that it is now a requirement of European environmental law that the full medical and socio-economic effects of these machines must now be considered when any new application is submitted to a Local Authority for Planning Consent.
The government’s policy of on-shore wind farm development is now wide open to challenge, on the grounds that the minimum separation distances between large wind turbines and private homes may have to be much greater than has been the case so far, and that these projects must also take care not to cause planning blight that leads to property devaluation.
But this analysis also raises a disturbing second problem, one that has so far been almost entirely ignored. The air turbulence that these large wind turbines cause down-wind of them produce very significant changes in the climate at ground level. In extreme cases, this may be locally equivalent to a century of climate change on the larger, regional or global change. This micro-climate effect may be large enough to alter the ecology at and near the ground level, both within and downwind of large wind farms. The Kirkby Moor Wind Farm project in Cumbria, dealt with in this study, is a registered and protected Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and the proposal’s effects on this very sensitive area are entirely unpredictable. The analysis identifies the need for much more rigorous assessment of the local effects of such developments, to ensure that the environmental changes they cause are not contrary to the established use and value of the land on which they are sited.