Energy company’s plan to extend licence provokes fierce opposition from villagers ‘affected by noise’
People living in the shadow of the UK’s only test site for offshore wind turbines are opposing a bid to extend its licence amid claims that the facility is to blame for their ill-health.
The National Offshore Wind Turbine Test Facility at Hunterston, North Ayrshire, is run by SSE, the energy company. Its licence expires in October but SSE wants to extend operations by two years. North Ayrshire planning councillors will consider the request on August 23. SSE has already lodged an appeal with Scottish ministers.
Locals who oppose the plans claim their lives are blighted by headaches, nausea and insomnia caused by low-frequency noise from two turbines. One of these, the Mitsubishi 7MW Sea Angel, is more than 630ft high, making it one of Britain’s tallest turbines.
Rita Holmes, secretary of Fairlie community council, said she and other residents had suffered dizziness, sickness and disturbed sleep. Holmes, who is warned of turbine tests by SSE so she can stay with friends or family, said the effect of turbines on human health should be investigated.
“There are soundwaves generated by the turbines that are inaudible. It’s like gamma radiation, you can’t see it but it can still cause damage. The low- frequency noise coming from these two turbines at Hunterston is horrendous — well, the effects are horrendous, and it’s not everybody that suffers. There must be a group of people who are susceptible, me being one of them.”
The wind industry has pointed to scientific studies debunking the idea that infrasound, or low-frequency noise, from wind farms can harm human health. Last week, SSE said an independent consultant had found that low-frequency noise from the Hunterston turbines was “within accepted criteria for the survey and were at a level not expected to cause disturbance”.
In 2014, however, the Royal Society warned that the physical composition of the inner ear was “drastically” altered following exposure to low-frequency noise, such as that from wind turbines.
Dr Jackie Pearson, a Fairlie resident, is convinced the turbines are to blame for making her “feel rotten”. He said: “It’s like a vague nausea, like a malaise. If you stand in our garden at the wall, you can feel it. It’s like being at a disco with a massive bass driver-type unit, you feel it rather than hear it.”
Dr John Yelland, an Oxford physicist and acoustic specialist at the Independent Noise Working Group, said it is time “for governments, far too long in thrall of the wind energy industry, to make the effort to understand the real science of wind turbine noise and legislate accordingly”.
It emerged last week that US diplomats at the newly reopened embassy in Havana, Cuba, might have been victims of an “acoustic assault” that caused concussion-style injuries and severe deafness. FBI investigators concluded that workers had been exposed to sound emissions from an unknown device operating beyond the acoustic range audible to humans.
In 2012, Buddhist monks were forced to sell a spiritual retreat in the Scottish Borders following claims that infrasound from nearby wind turbines caused “mental sinking” that disrupted the ability to meditate.
SSE said it took complaints “very seriously” and had monitored noise at Hunterston.
It said: “The noise complaints are presented in the planning appeal documentation and it is highlighted that the noise from the site is strictly controlled by planning conditions and nuisance law.”
North Ayrshire council said it had been advised by Health Protection Scotland that there was “no reliable evidence that wind turbines cause adverse health effects in the population”.