A recent Viewpoint contribution on the energy transition by human rights lawyer and climate activist Tessa Khan prompted Kergord resident Evelyn Morrison to ask why it was right that her human rights could be ‘violated’ by the Viking Energy wind farm development.
WHEN the Viking Energy wind farm was first mooted, there was a lot of discussion about the detrimental effects it would have on wildlife and the environment – and quite rightly so.
As a close occupant of the wind farm development area what also concerned me was the question of what it could mean for the quality of human health?
Since then, there has been increasing evidence that both acute and chronic exposure to operating turbines can cause serious problems. Not just for people within a 2km area but well beyond too, depending on the size of the turbines, the topography, the prevailing winds, and the duration of exposure.
In 2010, a former councillor and Viking Energy director assured the public on behalf of the Viking Energy project that the turbines would be sited in places far enough away and would not cause flicker effects. He knew this as a health impact assessment had been carried out.
In a 2010 letter to [former Conservative] MSP Mary Scanlon, the SIC heritage manager wrote: “The council has not received a health impact assessment.” However, by February 2011 the developer claimed assessments had been carried out.
There was a small mention of this in the planning application referring only to noise with no mention of any wider health issues.
This verbatim addendum appeared to have been copied from an expert panel review – a wind industry paid panel for the American and Canadian Wind Energy Associations. Whether this information can be regarded as an independent report is questionable.
In 2018 the stance of the World Health Organisation (WHO) is that “there is sufficient evidence from large scale epidemiological studies linking population exposure to environmental noise with adverse health effects”.
Environmental Protection UK, World Health Organisation and many acousticians agree that the present noise levels will lead to increasing numbers of cases where people’s health will be damaged by low frequency sound and strobe from turbines.
Providing this information to wind farm supporters is akin to telling the Flat Earth Society that the world is – like it or not – round because there is actual evidence.
These injuries are considered in the context of human rights where it is contended that the environmental noise pollution destroys a person’s effective enjoyment of right to respect for home and private life. This means the Viking Energy project could, for some people, be a violation of Article 8 of the European Act for Human Rights.
At the Lerwick Town Hall planning meeting in 2010 the few councillors present voted strongly in favour of the wind farm.
The debate for the development to go ahead included the following intellectual gems from some councillors in favour: speaking for generations yet unborn, comparisons to vessels sailing in and out of Sullom Voe, a kitbag from Lime Street Liverpool, the smell of the flare as experienced from the Herra, in Yell, and lastly the wind farm size was compared to that of the masts on Mossy Hill above Bigton.
All laughable, but in the context of human rights which I brought up there was no interest – just a sea of vacant faces looking back at me.
One of the councillors who voted the project through admitted she knew nothing about health problems attributed to turbines even though this information had been in the public domain for a few years!
So does this leave the SIC complicit in the abuse of human rights? The then councillors chose to blatantly disregard available evidence that turbines can affect human health.
Interestingly, there are still people in Shetland who vociferously support the wind farm. There is a photograph taken at the Busta agreement where it is plain to see that the wind farm developers could not believe their luck.
I would question if human rights even entered the heads of any of these men pushing for the development to go ahead. From day one, affected people have had no representation at local government level.
Of course, people are entitled to their own opinion, but do they live in the wind farm area? Why are they so happy to support a project that has and will continue to blight the lives of many people who have had this forced upon them? Do they even realise they are paying for this to happen?
Once upon a time – long, long ago – neighbours helped one another in the face of greedy landowners. Now we have the opposite where people who will not even benefit are actively supporting the developers and landowners yet derisively sneer at any of their fellow islanders who dare to object to this harmful money-making project.
The irony is that people whose right to health, be it physical or psychological, are ignored. Now, by way of increased electricity bills, these same people are having to indirectly support this development in order to have it inflicted upon them.