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The windmills in our minds

By Max Rheese - posted Friday, 25 November 2011

I received an email recently from a lady I had never met that almost brought me to tears. It was a cry for help from someone crushed.

She told a story of her family's recent years of bewilderment, frustration, anger and despair.

Samantha Stepnell used to live with her husband and young son in the family home on their farm at Waubra in western Victoria, 900 metres from the Waubra wind farm.


The family abandoned their home to live in Ballarat 30 kilometres away because of chronic sleep disorders experienced since the wind farm started operating. Sleep disorders over an extended period of time, which then degenerated into a range of deleterious health issues.

They have not sold their home, they have abandoned it. What does it take to force a young family to abandon their home in a close-knit rural community to settle elsewhere?

They are not the only ones. Noel Dean and his wife; Brian Kermond and family and many others. Over 20 homes have been abandoned in western Victoria because of Wind Turbine Syndrome. Other families do not even have this option and are trapped by circumstances imposed upon them. This pattern has manifested around the world in recent years since wind turbines have grown from the original 50 metre structures to giant 150 metre towers taller than Sydney Harbour Bridge. Rural communities across the globe are increasingly indignant at the multiple negative impacts of poorly sited wind farms and what they see as fairy tales promulgated by the wind industry and governments keen to be seen 'taking action on climate change'.

A peer-reviewed study in December 2010 by Danish researchers Moller and Pedersen linked larger modern turbines with increased noise impact. These larger turbines have been the preferred choice in Australian wind farms in recent years.

Some who refuse to believe wind turbines can cause adverse health effects accuse landholders who are opposed of envy that they have missed out on hosting turbines. The Stepnells were asked to host eight turbines for a benefit of $56,000 per year, but declined. The other documented issue that believers cannot explain is when people suffering adverse health effects move away from their home their health improves, but when they return in the hope of resuming their life in their former home, their health again deteriorates.

No-one is claiming that all people will get sick from wind turbines. Dr Daniel Shepherd and others have concluded [p18] from separate studies that between 10-15 per cent of the population are more susceptible to noise than the general population. It is completely unremarkable that two families can be living the same distance from turbines with one family, or even members within a family unaffected.


Multi-national wind energy companies operating in Australia have known since 2004 that health issues have been associated with wind farms from their experience in Europe, while asserting there are no peer-reviewed studies linking adverse health effects and wind farms. This was echoed in July 2010 by the National Health and Medical Research Council who stated "there is no published scientific evidence to positively link wind turbines with adverse health effects" to which they added, "While there is currently no evidence linking these phenomena with adverse health effects, the evidence is limited. Therefore it is recommended that relevant authorities take a precautionary approach".

Implicit in these statements is the acknowledgement that if there were peer-reviewed studies they would take the health issue seriously.

Nine peer-reviewed studies have been published or approved for publication in science journals since July linking wind turbines with adverse health effects.

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About the Author

Max Rheese is the Executive Director of the Australian Environment Foundation.

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All articles by Max Rheese

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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