The Sliabh Luachra Windfarm Awareness Group have been very busy researching, sourcing and preparing expert evidence to furnish to An Bord Pleanala before their deadline of Monday, July 24.
Kerry County Council turned down an application by Silver Birch Renewables Ltd to erect 14 wind turbines across 15 individual holdings in Gneeveguilla and Ballydesmond.
However, the company lodged an appeal with An Bord Pleanala. Shaun O’Rourke of the Sliabh Luachra Windfarm Awareness Group told The Corkman that a recent seminar presented in Offaly by Portuguese scientist Dr Mariana Alves-Pereira was “a huge eye opener” for them. She discussed the effects of turbines on animal and human health and is an expert on infra-sound - the energy created by sound which humans cannot hear, and low frequency noise, the sound generated by wind turbines.
She told the seminar of about 150 people from all over the country of the evidence of health damage to horses, sheep, pigs, mink and geese, which she said had been “adversely affected” by proximity to windfarms in her native Portugal.
She also said humans suffered a variety of effects including a thickening of the sac around the heart which can lead to heart attacks.
Mr O’Rourke said: “Noise damage cannot ever be underestimated. This was recently shown in a High Court case concerning Banteer residents who moved out of their homes because of the noise from turbines.”
He also said that her health findings were alarming. “At the moment, we are busy gathering up our own information for our observation which will be given to An Bord Pleanala. They will then review this along with Silver Birch Renewables submission and a decision is to be reached on October 31,” he said.
“What we want as a group is not to have any wind farm development and certainly not of this size. Kerry at present has 14% of wind energy but that will shoot up to 25%. For one county, we feel that is more than enough,” he said.
“The mood from everyone is that they are not wanted. We sincerely want An Bord Pleanala to look at the strong findings of Kerry County Council who were against this planning application,” he said.
Mr O’Rourke also said: “There are 28 turbines in Cordal and 13 in Scartaglin, and and these can be seen just above Barna Bog and are only two miles from my own house. Really, enough is enough. We are already saturated with them.”
He said: “When driving from Kiskeam to Ballydesmond, the turbines can be seen as plain as day and everyone has had enough of them. We don’t want anymore and we certainly don’t want turbines measuring 150 metres in height outside our homes.”
Research needed on set-back distance of turbines
More research will be required to determine safe set-back distances from wind turbines, a leading scientist said in Tullamore last week.
Dr Mariana Alves-Pereira gave an interview to Gearoid Keegan, Deputy Editor of The Tullamore Tribune.
The Portuguese scientist is an expert on infrasound, the energy created by sound which humans cannot hear, and low frequency noise, the sound generated by wind turbines.
Dr Alves-Pereira presented research findings which indicated significant risks from turbines and other mechanisms.
She cited studies in her home country dating back to 1980 which claims that long-term exposure to infrasound had damaged the health of aeronautics workers.
The seminar in the Bridge House Hotel, which attracted an attendance of about 150 people from all over the country, was also told the health of horses, sheep, pigs, mink and geese had been adversely affected by proximity to wind farms.
She said humans suffered a variety of effects, including a thickening of the sac around the heart which can lead to heart attacks.
She mentioned many studies, including research at a military aircraft facility and a wind farm in Portugal.
The researchers were surprised to find the same effects on the aeronautics workers and people living near a wind farm.
"People who live in infrasound and low frequency noise see an accelerated onset of the symptoms," she said.
"In our wind turbine case in Portugal and other cases of infrasound and low frequency noise in the home, we have given them the same medical diagnostic tests that we've given the aircraft technicians.
"We didn't believe in the beginning that we'd get anything, and there it was."
Experiments have also been carried out on the impact of infrasound and low frequency noise on rats.
Dr Alves-Pereira also pointed to a study which showed how the lower limbs of foals living close to a wind farm were deformed.
She said she could not say "with certainty" that low frequency noise caused the limb deformities but added: "What we did find with the horses, in terms of cellular structures, [they] were damaged and it was of the same nature as the damage we found in the rats and in the humans."
"We didn't find the limb deformities in the rats and the humans but in terms of the cells, what we found in the horses was what we found in the rats and what we found in the humans," she explained.
Asked if there could be a safe set back distances from residences, Dr Alves-Pereira remarked: "I imagine that physically there is. We don't know what it is yet. We haven't had the studies to show either way what is safe."
"We know from people's complaints that two and three kilometres may not be sufficient. But that's just from people's complaints, they have not been verified with medical diagnostic tests."
Whether or not a person suffers from what Dr Alves-Pereira calls "vibroacoustic disease" depends on prior exposure.
"A retired pilot and a person who has always lived on a rural farm will react differently to noise," she said. "The guy who is a retired pilot is going to feel it quicker and more immediately than the other person who is not."
She added: "Prior noise exposure is absolutely fundamental to determine the prognostic of what you're going to feel when you're in your home."
The cumulative effect of infrasound and low frequency noise can begin in the womb, she explained, so a person born after their mother was working in a factory when she was pregnant will feel the effects first.There is no evidence that people build up resistance from prolonged exposure, she said. Earlier, Dr Alves-Pereira told the seminar that the use of dBA for measuring wind turbine sound was inappropriate.
She has developed a machine for quantifying infrasound and low frequency noise and urged people with concerns to get measurements taken. "If you are having wind turbines planned nearby you, you should get measurements before they go up," she said. Unless measurements are taken beforehand, it is likely wind farm operators will claim the sound could have been present before the turbines were installed, she said.
The Portuguese scientist will spend a month travelling around Ireland visiting sites of installed and proposed wind farms.