The Public Utilities Commission has approved Prevailing Wind Park LLC’s application to build a 61-turbine, 219.6-megawatt wind farm in Bon Homme, Charles Mix, and a little niche of Hutchinson counties. Meeting Tuesday in Pierre, the PUC expressed some reservation about turbines not being set back sufficiently far from residences but shrugged as it did at far more justified concerns about the Keystone and Keystone XL pipelines running right through unwilling landowners’ property.
Wind opponents solicited testimony from wind farm neighbors from other states who came all the way to South Dakota to talk smack about wind turbines (I would love to see who paid their gas money). Prevailing Wind brought doctors:
Interveners voiced concern over the wind farm’s potential impacts on their health and claimed Prevailing Wind Park did not meet the burden of proof to show otherwise. In previous hearings, interveners brought forward testimonies from residents who live near other wind farms throughout the Midwest who claimed wind farms were detrimental to their health and way of life.
Prevailing Wind brought in doctors to testify, who said there was no reason to believe the proposed energy facility would impair residents’ health. While he said he valued the testimonies from residents, Hanson said the expert witness testimonies from medical professionals had firmer legal standing [Sarah Mearhoff, “PUC Approves 50,000-Acre Wind Farm in Southeast SD,” Aberdeen American News, 2018.11.21].
The doctors are probably right—a new Canadian analysis agrees that some neighbors may find wind turbines annoying but that there’s no evidence of real health impacts:
The earlier Statistics Canada study found no direct link between residents’ distance from wind turbines and sleep disturbances (as measured by sleep assessments and the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index), blood pressure, or stress (either self-reported or measured via hair cortisol). However, the more recent study showed that survey respondents closer to wind turbines reported lower ratings for their environmental quality of life. Barry and her co-authors note that their cross-sectional study cannot distinguish whether these respondents were dissatisfied before the wind turbines were installed.
“Wind turbines might have been placed in locations where residents were already concerned about their environmental quality of life,” said Sandra Sulsky, a researcher from Ramboll. “Also, as is the case with all surveys, the respondents who chose to participate may have viewpoints or experiences that differ from those who chose not to participate. Survey respondents may have participated precisely to express their dissatisfaction, while those who did not participate might not have concerns about the turbines” [American Institute of Physics, “Does Living Near Wind Turbines Negatively Impact Human Health?” Phys.org, 2018.06.05]
I annoy plenty of people, but the PUC can’t kick me out of Aberdeen for that.
There is no reliable or consistent evidence that proximity to wind farms or wind farm noise directly causes health effects. That’s the finding of the National Health and Medical Research Council’s (NHMRC) much-anticipated draft systematic review of the evidence on wind farms and human health, released yesterday.
…Some poor-quality studies, for example, include only people with complaints, failing to consider the many who are not upset by turbines. And anti-wind farm activists’ efforts to spread fear among communities may cause people who anticipate they will be adversely affected to worry themselves sick [Simon Chapman, “Study Finds No Evidence Wind Turbines Make You Sick—Again,” The Conversation, 2014.02.24].
Heck, we might be able to cure wind-turbine syndrome just by telling people good things about wind turbines:
Method: 60 participants were randomized to either positive or negative expectation groups and subsequently exposed to audible wind farm sound and infrasound. Prior to exposure, negative expectation participants watched a DVD incorporating TV footage about health effects said to be caused by infrasound produced by wind turbines. In contrast, positive expectation participants viewed a DVD that outlined the possible therapeutic effects of infrasound exposure. Results: During exposure to audible windfarm sound and infrasound, symptoms and mood were strongly influenced by the type of expectations. Negative expectation participants experienced a significant increase in symptoms and a significant deterioration in mood, while positive expectation participants reported a significant decrease in symptoms and a significant improvement in mood. Conclusion: The study demonstrates that expectations can influence symptom and mood reports in both positive and negative directions. The results suggest that if expectations about infrasound are framed in more neutral or benign ways, then it is likely reports of symptoms or negative effects could be nullified [abstract; Crichton, F., Dodd, G., Schmid, G., Gamble, G., Cundy, T., & Petrie, K. J. (2014). The power of positive and negative expectations to influence reported symptoms and mood during exposure to wind farm sound. Health Psychology, 33(12), 1588-1592].