Report Finds Little Support for Wind Power Health Effect Claims

A Massachusetts study of existing evidence suggests wind noise, shadow, don't cause significant harm.

2 min read
Report Finds Little Support for Wind Power Health Effect Claims

Opponents of wind power often cite potentially negative effects on human health caused by huge turbines— from noise and related sleep problems, to the "shadow flicker" of the blades passing across windows. But a study commissioned by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection and released last week found little existing evidence of harm from wind energy.

The study acknowledged the possibility of wind power-related sleep disturbances and other issues. But overall, it found the evidence on severe health effects to be unremarkable. For example:

"None of the limited epidemiological evidence reviewed suggests an association between noise from wind turbines and pain and stiffness, diabetes, high blood pressure, tinnitus, hearing impairment, cardiovascular disease, and headache/migraine."

The study, which was conducted by a panel of independent experts, also noted the lack of evidence supporting the existence of a nebulous health problem characterized as "wind turbine syndrome." 

The study might make renewable energy development a bit easier—at least for Massachusetts; the state aims to increase its 40 megawatts of wind power 50-fold (to 2,000 MW) by 2020.  Still, conflicts such as health-based NIMBY claims are inevitable.

More generally, this study adds to a limited collection of work downplaying the health effects of living near wind turbines. But because battles over energy siting are fought in courts and town halls rather than doctors' offices, it remains to be seen how big a role health concerns will play as renewable energy projects proliferate. A recent Energywise blog described a case in the United Kingdom involving supposed sleep disturbances and health problems near a wind farm; the case was settled and sealed, so few lessons can be gleaned from it.

And even a supposedly independent study like the aforementioned one in Massachusetts is not guaranteed to change all that many opinions. Attendees at a town hall debate about a wind farm in Western Massachusetts were apparently split on the study's worthiness, according to the Berkshire Eagle. Convincing everyone of wind power's importance and safety, clearly, is still a few independent studies away.

(Image via Ian Mynard)

The Conversation (0)
This photograph shows a car with the words “We Drive Solar” on the door, connected to a charging station. A windmill can be seen in the background.

The Dutch city of Utrecht is embracing vehicle-to-grid technology, an example of which is shown here—an EV connected to a bidirectional charger. The historic Rijn en Zon windmill provides a fitting background for this scene.

We Drive Solar

Hundreds of charging stations for electric vehicles dot Utrecht’s urban landscape in the Netherlands like little electric mushrooms. Unlike those you may have grown accustomed to seeing, many of these stations don’t just charge electric cars—they can also send power from vehicle batteries to the local utility grid for use by homes and businesses.

Debates over the feasibility and value of such vehicle-to-grid technology go back decades. Those arguments are not yet settled. But big automakers like Volkswagen, Nissan, and Hyundai have moved to produce the kinds of cars that can use such bidirectional chargers—alongside similar vehicle-to-home technology, whereby your car can power your house, say, during a blackout, as promoted by Ford with its new F-150 Lightning. Given the rapid uptake of electric vehicles, many people are thinking hard about how to make the best use of all that rolling battery power.

Keep Reading ↓Show less