The author of this page has no link to the wind power industry other than a belief that we must replace fossil fuel energy with renewable energy if we are to avoid great damage to our shared planet.
Is the study justified?
Quoting the SMH article: '“If these vaccine trials had gone ahead – and they looked good – we would have felt in much better shape now,” said Professor Peter Doherty, an immunologist and Nobel laureate.'
Aus$5 million is being spent in an attempt to find a tenuous link between wind turbines and sleep problems in a very few people while a fraction of that money could have helped get a vaccine up months earlier for
COVID-19 and quite possibly save hundreds of thousands of lives.
A run-down on vaccines in development in Australia is given in an RMIT 'Vaccine progress report'.
There have been a number of claims that wind farms adversely and directly impact people's health, but none of these have been substantiated. Wind turbines make sound, noise if you like, and sound can impact people's sleep.
Whether or not a particular sound will impact a particular person's sleep depends greatly on how that person is disposed to the source of the sound.
People who are opposed to wind power and wind farms are more likely to find the sounds from wind turbines annoying and therefor more likely to adversely affect their sleep quality and quantity.
As of 2020 I have visited, or at least got close to, every wind farm in South Australia, many of those in Victoria and a few in NSW and WA.
In what would be well over a hundred visits to various wind farms over a 16 year period I have not heard sounds anything like a particular sound that featured heavily in a part of the wind farm study (the nightly so-called 'listening tests' and its variant 'reading test').
I have written at some length about wind turbine noise on another page on this site.
My wife and I took part, as subjects in the university laboratories, in the Flinders University Wind Farm Sleep Study from 2020/03/10 to 2020/03/18.
The study involved we subjects listening to many 'recordings' of sounds from wind farms, from road traffic and elsewhere. Some of the recording were included in 'listening tests' and some were played at low levels while participants slept. The 'listening tests' involved us listening to a number of recorded sounds over a period of about 45 minutes and adjusting the volume of the sound to a level low enough to not disturb our sleep.
Many readings were taken of neurological and bodily functions during the many tests and through the whole of the night.
I need to say that the staff and students involved in 'wiring us up' and going about the regular testing evening, night and morning were very kind and helpful.
Some sounds were played at times through all but the first night. While I was at times aware of some of these sounds, I don't recall being actually fully awoken by any of these (it is possible that I was partly awoken, but not enough for me to be fully aware that a sound had disturbed my sleep). Nor do I recall finding it difficult to get back to sleep due to sounds on any of the occasions I awoke through the night.
The above is my recollection of my perceptions at the time. The record from my brain activity in relation to the sounds being played may well show a somewhat different picture.
My wife tells me that she doesn't recall being woken by a sound, but she thinks that sometimes there were sounds that made it somewhat difficult to get back to sleep.
I should add that I don't recall, with the possible exception of once in the second night of the test, hearing during sleep the 'drumming' sound that featured so strongly during the 'listening tests' and discussed below.
Other comparison sounds, such as traffic sounds, were played during the 'listening tests'. It was the frequent association of the unpleasant 'drumming' sound with wind farm sounds that, it seems to me, is likely to bias subjects' impressions, and the results, against wind farms.
The best description I can think of for the 'drumming' sound in the sleep study is what you would expect from a base drum that is made to vibrate by something hitting it somewhere around 30 times per second. Other similar sounds would be the 'thumping' sound from a helicopter or the engine brakes of a truck, although, of course, the pitch of the sound from engine brakes decreases as the truck slows and it goes on for only a few seconds. The 'drumming' sound in the 'recordings' had a pitch that didn't vary.
Our heads were wired-up with transducers for electroencephalographic recordings and our chests for cardiovascular recordings during the 'listening tests'. It would be very interesting to know the results of these recordings at the time of the playback of the highly unrealistic 'wind farm sounds'.
I seem to recall that, at least sometimes, the intensity of the 'drumming' sound rose and fell with the volume of the characteristic wind turbine 'swishing' sound.
I have visited dozens of wind farms on hundreds of occasions and I have never heard a sound remotely like the 'drumming' in the Flinders University study.
I kept a record of the types of sounds I heard during the later of the 'listening tests'; during the first (and second?) 'listening test' I was simply shocked at hearing such sounds supposedly associated with wind turbine sounds. As an indication of how commonly the 'drumming' sound was included in the sounds heard during the sleep study I've given here a summary of my notes taken on the evening of 2020/03/13. Of a total of ten sounds, each of which lasted three minutes:
Between the 'drumming' and the squeaking bearings one cannot help getting the impression that the person or people in charge of this investigation went to great lengths to find unpleasant noises from wind turbines, when I would have thought they should be looking for typical wind turbines sounds.
I have summarised other 'listening tests' in the appendix.
When, while a participant in the study, I voiced my grave concerns about the validity of many of the sound bites in the 'listening tests' I was asked to not make public statements of my concerns because it might produce preconceptions in future participants that would then impact the results of the trial.
Surely the sound 'recordings' that participants are hearing, of sounds that are never heard in the field, are already corrupting the trial.
On the other hand many people buy motorbikes that are much more noisy than they need to be, others get their motorbikes and cars modified to increase the amount of noise they make.
Many people damage their hearing by going to rock concerts and playing very loud 'music' in their cars, homes and through their earphones.
Other man-made noises in the modern environment that are far louder than wind turbines but get less attention are from airports, railway lines and road traffic. Even the sound in a car travelling on a highway is hundreds of times louder than the sounds from a wind turbine at the distance of the closest houses.
Wind turbine noise is usually barely audible at the distance of the nearest houses, often inaudible. It is true that wind turbine sounds might annoy a few people; traffic sounds annoy a great many people. Wind turbine sounds are minimised, traffic sounds are quite intentionally more noisy than they need to be and rock concerts are damaging the hearing of many of our younger people.
Yet our (fossil fuel obsessed) federal government is providing many millions of dollars to fund studies like this one. Surely the money and the researcher's time would be better spent if it was on studies of the harm that is quite definitely being done to people's hearing and the annoyance from vehicles that have been intentionally modified to increase the environmental noise that we all have to put up with.
We need renewable energy if we are to limit the disaster of climate change, we don't need noisy vehicles or levels of 'music' that damage people's hearing.
To the people who participated as subjects in the Flinders University study, those who might be considering taking part, and to the honest and kind people who helped in the day-to-day running of the study
Don't make up you mind about the sounds made by wind turbines by listening to the 'recorded' wind farm sounds of the Flinders University study.
I have described the sounds that one hears when visiting or
sleeping at a wind farm
above, but please don't take my word for it, as I have written
elsewhere on these pages, visit a wind farm and listen for yourself.
The following are a few samples of wind farm noise recorded on the Internet. I cannot attest to the accuracy or otherwise of the samples, but unlike many of the sounds I heard during the sleep study they sound realistic to me. The links below were from the first three listings (other than advertisements) that came up on an Internet search from Google Chrome for "what does a wind turbine sound like?".
Interestingly, at the time of writing (2020/03/19), the second of these was used by the anti-wind-power organisation, Wind-Watch in an attempt to show 'how bad' wind turbine noise is.
None of these showed the very unpleasant 'drumming' sound that was so prominent in the Flinders University study. I'm sure Wind-Watch would love to pretend that any of the many unpleasant sound samples that my wife and I heard at Flinders University was a normal wind turbine sound.
Speculation on motivesWhy would the researchers bias a study toward finding an adverse result for wind farm health impacts? I can only speculate.
The researchers may have allowed themselves to become persuaded that there is some sort of health impact from wind turbines by listening to many anecdotal accounts from people who have deceived themselves into believing that they have been adversely impacted by turbines. (Perhaps some people have genuinely had some sleep disturbance from wind turbines, but much of the belief in illness caused by wind turbines seems to be a form of epidemic hysteria.) Having been convinced that it is real the researchers are determined to discover evidence in support of their conviction.
Notoriety in the science world from being early in publishing the 'link' would also be attractive.
Obtaining research funding is a continuing and very competitive battle for universities. The Abbott Government made these funds available for a university willing to try to find fault with wind turbines, Flinders grabbed the opportunity.
By 2020 there was very little of this nonsense remaining. One remnant was this Flinders University study financed by the Abbott government (using poor long-suffering taxpayers' money of course) in a last desperate attempt to find some problems with wind turbines.
The Flinders University study was not trying to find any medical ailment in man, animal or plant, but was using five million dollars provided by the strongly pro-fossil-fuel Abbott government in an effort to find some loss of sleep quality in a few people who lived near wind farms, due to the sounds coming from the turbines.
There seems no limit to the lengths that wind power opponents will go to in an effort to slow the introduction of wind turbines and other forms of sustainable energy generation.
As I recall, the drumming sound was associated with the 'swish, swish' sound typical of wind turbines at close range, with the 'thumps' of the drumming sound coming at the rate of perhaps 30 times per second within each of the 'swishes'.
During the 'listening tests' participants wore headphones and were requested to adjust the volume of the sounds to a level that they thought they would be able to sleep with and then, as I recall, rate how annoying they found each of the sounds.
(I was unable to record the sounds from the headphones in my mobile phone.)
Listening test of the evening of 14th MarchThere were a total of 16, 3 minute sound bites. (In my detailing of the listening tests I have included the first, trial, sound with the others.)
Listening test of the evening of 15th March48 short sounds at the computer. I could hear nothing at all in over half of them. Of the remainder, all were quiet or very quiet; a few traffic, a few the typical 'shwoosh' of a number of turbines together, a very few of the typical swish-swish turbine sound, one or two with possible minor drumming.
Listening test of the evening of 16th MarchThe notes I took on hearing the sound bites are given below:
I have significant hearing loss in the low frequencies especially in my left ear. However, as attenuation removes most high frequency sounds at distances of more than a few hundred metres this seems to have little relevance to the wind farm noise of this study.
It also seems, from one of the tests during the study, that I am relatively insensitive to amplitude modulation and infrasound. Again, this is of little relevance to the subject of this page because the 'recorded' sounds that I am writing about were clearly audible to me and I would expect would be clearly audible to anyone.
H G Leventhall, in a paper 'Low frequency noise and annoyance' published 2004 stated that about 2.5% of people are much more sensitive to low frequency noise than most of the population.
External sites...I can recommend the book Wind Turbine Syndrome, A Communicated Disease by Professor Simon Chapman and Doctor Fiona Crichton to anyone wanting to learn the facts. It is available in full at no charge from the Internet.
National Wind Farm Commissioner 2018 report to the Parliament of Australia (the most recent available as of March 2020). There were more complaints about proposed wind farms (95) than operating wind farms (65) in 2018.
ABC article on the Flinders University sleep study, written by Sara Garcia and dated 2018/01/25.
Prevalence of wind farm amplitude modulation at long-range residential locations; Kirsty Hansen, Phuc Nguyen, Branko Zajamšek, Peter Catcheside, Colin H.Hansen (abstract, full text available online for Aus$91)
On this site...Wind turbine noise
My experience from a number of nights sleeping under wind turbines
Wind power in Australia and wind power generally
Wind power opposition; very often ill-informed or simply dishonest
On this page...Appendix
Differences between individuals
How things have changed!
Disturbance to sleep during the night
A far better use for the money
First Dog in the Moon cartoon
The flaws in the sleep study
Origin of the 'drumming' sound?
The sleep study
Sound samples from the Internet
Vaccine research neglect
Wind farm sounds
Wind turbine noise in perspective