Aussie Review: No Evidence Wind Farms Harm Health

Here it is, the boiled-down-to-its-essence conclusion of a draft report on the effects of wind farms on human health by Australia’s National Health and Medical Research Council, released on Monday: “There is no reliable or consistent evidence that wind farms directly cause adverse health effects in humans.”

The verdict from this review of the best research available on wind power and health is consistent with myriad other studies conducted in recent years. In as much as those studies haven’t at all quieted those who promote the certainty of a medical condition they call “wind turbine syndrome” – and in light of the fact that the NHMRC did allow that “further research of the highest standard is warranted” – it’s hard to believe this one will sway critics. Especially in Australia.

Macarthur Wind Farm

Macarthur Wind Farm, Victoria, Australia (image via AGL)

The country has always been a bit of a funny place when it comes to wind power. There’s not actually that much there – 3,239 megawatts of installed capacity as of the end of 2013, 37 percent less than in the state of Iowa, which has one-seventh Australia’s population. Public opinion polls show solid support for wind power in Australia, too. Yet an opposition that is very loud and determined – some would say devious, others hysterical – has managed to consistently surface claims that wind is causing all manner of dreadful health impacts on the citizenry.

Consider: Wind watcher Michael Barnard recently completed a survey of judicial proceedings of one sort or another involving wind and noise and health and found that Australia had 3.7 cases per gigawatt of installed capacity, more than 21 times the rate in the United States.

The kicker to Barnard’s research? “All Australian cases found that wind farms wouldn’t cause health impacts with the setbacks in place,” he wrote.

More information on the NHMRC Draft Infomation Paper, including links to documents, is available here.

Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.