Two cases concerning turbines and health before the courts in Australia

Rumbling from turbines puts wind up sleep-deprived locals

by Rebecca Puddy, The Australian

Dreaming of building a house and farming the land, Julie Quaft and her husband, Mark, bought a quiet 16ha property 100km north of Adelaide six years ago. Since then, a wind farm has been built next to her house, which she said had not only robbed her of her dreams, but affected her health.

“It’s made things very hard for me because I can’t sleep,” Mrs Quaft said. “It sounds like a huge jet engine rumbling on the hill.”

The wind farm in Waterloo, near Clare, 100km north of Adelaide, began operating in October, but will be opened today by Mike Rann, amid criticism from the divided country community.

While many farmers have supported the project — particularly those earning an income from turbines built on their land — others have claimed to have suffered significant health effects.

Waubra Foundation medical director Sarah Laurie has studied the health effects of wind turbines and is concerned about the symptoms reported worldwide.

“The main symptoms are chronic sleep deprivation, night terrors, people waking up in the night in a panic for no reason and bed-wetting,” Dr Laurie said.

“We think that what is happening is that people’s sympathetic nervous systems are being stimulated so they get a massive rush of adrenalin in the middle of the night.”

The state’s push to develop wind farms is being driven by a target of having 33 per cent of energy generated by renewable sources by 2020.

More wind power is generated in South Australia than in any other state or territory, with 13 farms operating. As in Victoria, wind farms have attracted strong opposition from locals.

In October, Family First senator Steve Fielding asked federal parliament to examine their social and economic impact.

The parliamentary committee received hundreds of submissions, many expressing community concern over the turbines’ health effects. Owned by Roaring 40s, the farm near the Quaft family has 37 turbines. Bill, a Waterloo resident who did not want to be identified, has all but moved to a nearby town to escape the constant roaring and pounding effect from the soundwaves.

He said the wind farm developers had put a wedge into the previously close-knit community.

“We’ve been deceived and conned all along,” Bill said. Roaring 40s managing director Steve Symons said the wind farm had strong support from the community and the organisation had tried to work with those who had objections.

“With the health issues, as an industry, that hasn’t been medically proven, but to the extent we have complaints from residents in relation to noise, we go to their houses and test the noise levels with microphones,” Mr Symons said. “We are in compliance with the noise requirements of the EPA (Environment Protection Authority) and they are the most stringent noise requirements in Australia.”

Two cases are before the state’s courts, with residents questioning the health and environmental impact of planned wind farms.