Senate hears pros and cons of wind

AUSTRALIA: The majority of the 900-plus submissions to a parliamentary inquiry into the social and economic impacts of rural wind farms in Australia have been positive, according to the wind industry.

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However, testifying before the senate review committee, Clean Energy Council CEO Matthew Warren expressed his frustration that the debate is "about health and the health effect of wind farms, when I think the real debate in this is about the social impacts and the social and community relationships in those communities".

Hearings conducted in late March focused on determining any adverse human health effects of wind farms, the issue of infrasound, and permitting processes. Warren and other wind industry players who testified acknowledged the stress that new infrastructure development can cause, but maintained there is no scientific evidence that wind turbines have adverse health impacts. This, they added, is confirmed by independent and peer-reviewed studies. They also accused many anti-wind farm protestors of scaremongering and disseminating misinformation.

"Rogue doctors" stirring community anxieties without any scientific evidence have made it difficult for developers to "consult and engage" with communities, according to Lane Crockett, general manager Australia/Pacific at Pacific Hydro. He says that, due to widespread anxiety about possible health effects, "you never get to the point of engaging on the impacts that we believe they should be engaging on, whether it's audible noise, shadow flicker or just the look of the wind farm".

Indeed, American paediatrician and author of Wind Turbine Syndrome Nina Pierpont, and Sue Laurie, an unregistered Australian doctor and medical director for anti-wind group The Waubra Foundation, testified before the inquiry that turbines have a negative impact on health.

The wind industry says that studies by both doctors were not peer reviewed, while a literature review by Australia's National Health and Medical Research Council confirms the industry's claims. The medical council's review noted that any potential effect on humans can be minimised by following existing planning guidelines.

The senate committee is due to present its final inquiry report by June 1.

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