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Letters / Sorry to disappoint

In response to the furious demands for an apology, I’m sorry to disappoint your correspondents.

I can understand how annoying it must be for some members of Sustainable Shetland to learn that the study into the alleged health effects of windfarms has not in fact been “ditched”, but is going ahead under the auspices of a major shareholder in Viking Energy, the Shetland Charitable Trust.

It would obviously have been much more satisfying for them to find that the wicked windfarmers had done what SS alleges, and thus to demonstrate our demonic wickedness.

Back on Planet Earth, the reason it’s taking a while to get the study under way is that there doesn’t appear to be a great deal of reputable research to go on.

For example, an American study, recently acclaimed as proving adverse health effects, in fact does nothing of the kind.

What it proves is that if you ask people living closer than 1.5km to a windfarm to fill in a questionnaire (whose purpose is openly declared as being to find health effects) then some of them will indeed tell you it’s disturbed their sleep and made them feel poorly.

The authors of this paper take no account of the prevailing incidence of sleep disorders in the study population before the windfarm existed. This is hardly impeccable scientific method.

The American studies, like some of the European ones, mainly refer to populations living much closer to wind turbines than in the proposed Viking Energy windfarm.

It would not be surprising if some patients living only a few hundred metres from a turbine found it disturbed their sleep.

It also seems likely that the low frequency “whoosh” of some turbines could cause problems at close range.

These are the sort of things a health study should look at, once the initial search of the scientific literature is completed.

It’s always tempting to seize upon tentative conclusions from flawed research that supports one’s own instincts and received opinions, but I suggest it would be more useful to wait for the results of a reputable, peer-reviewed study demonstrating the probable effects, if any, of a windfarm with 103 turbines of a particular type and noise characteristics, set in a landscape of parallel hills and valleys, and nowhere nearer than 1.2km from an inhabited house.

Once we have that, we should be able to say with some certainty whether or not some of the proposed turbines are too close to houses.

In the meantime, it may be worth noting that the minimum distance between wind turbines and inhabited houses in other parts of Europe is commonly 600m or even less.

Jonathan Wills
Vice chairman
Shetland Charitable Trust