November 19, 2014
By Tyler Jans – Lead, Regulatory
Earlier this month, the long-awaited study on wind turbine noise and health impacts was released by Health Canada. The landmark $2.1 million study was described by Health Canada as the most comprehensive of its kind, concluding what researchers and previous studies have been saying for some time, that noise emitted from wind farms has no health risks. Specifically, the
Health Canada study found:
- No evidence to support a link between exposure to wind turbine noise and any of the self-reported illnesses and chronic conditions
- No association between multiple measures of stress and exposure to wind turbine noise
- No association between wind turbine noise and self-reported or measured sleep quality
- No association between wind turbine noise and any significant changes in reported quality of life, or with overall quality of life, and satisfaction with health.
As with any scientific research, it is important to consider these results and outcomes within the greater context of research completed to date. The results of the Health Canada research align with the seventeen reviews of the academic and scientific literature on wind turbines and health to date. The Canadian Wind Energy Association president Robert Hornung commented in a November 6th press release, “The balance of scientific evidence to date continues to show that properly sited wind turbines are not harmful to human health and that wind energy remains one of the safest and environmentally friendly forms of electricity generation.”
The study did, however, find a correlation between increasing levels wind turbine noise and annoyance. Interestingly enough it also found that people who benefit from the wind farms, were much less likely to be annoyed by them, so if you’re getting a payment for hosting a turbine you are less likely to have perceived health impacts.
This raises an interesting question; is there a way to reduce annoyance when siting wind facilities?
Indirectly, communities benefit from increasing the tax base, jobs as well as a stable income for host landowners, who are typically farmers. In fact, CanWEA states: “Every 1,000 MW of new wind energy drives $2.5 billion in investments, creates 10,500 person-years of employment, and provides enough clean power for over 300,000 Canadian homes.” In addition, to employment and community benefit, direct financial benefits for neighbouring landowners are also being implemented in several projects.
As always the greater the knowledge base, the better. As a responsible renewable energy developer, we will continue to monitor developments with this study and others. One thing is clear; human health impacts from wind power are not the issue they were purported to be. It’s time to move past this discussion and start to focus on the real issues around health and climate.