State of Oregon announces Wind Turbine Syndrome study

Oct 22, 2010


Oregon Public Health office decides it’s time to study health effects of wind turbines

—Scott Learn, The Oregonian (10/22/10)

Oregon has boosted wind energy projects with a vengeance in recent years, adopting a renewable power standard and tax breaks that have helped spread wind farms across the state’s northern reaches and into eastern Oregon.

Now comes the Oregon Public Health office, which announced Thursday that it’s embarking on a public health assessment of wind farms, kicking off with three “listening sessions” next month in LaGrande, Pendleton and Arlington to hear residents’ health concerns tied to the spinning blades.

The health issues are part of a broader backlash in Oregon and nationwide from critics who complain of negative impacts on scenery, property values, wildlife and tourism.

The growing number of wind farms has led to more complaints about their health effects, said Sujata Joshi, an epidemiologist in the environmental public health office. Health concerns raised to date focus on noise and vibration generated by the huge turbines.

The assessment will start with the listening sessions, but also include a review of health studies and talks with a steering committee that will include wind farm developers, community members, the state Department of Energy and Oregon’s energy facility siting council, which oversees new wind farm locations.

“With any development, you start learning more about potential concerns as more people start experiencing it,” Joshi said. “Our goal now is to hear what people have to say, and see if we can find solutions that work for communities and for the state’s goals.”

Wind farm critics cite work done by New York physician Nina Pierpont who coined the term “wind turbine syndrome” to describe effects—such as headaches, dizziness and memory loss—of living near the machines. Industry representatives say they haven’t seen solid research linking wind turbines and negative health effects.

In May, Morrow County’s planning commission voted to give owners of the 72-megawatt Willow Creek farm six months to comply with state noise regulations. In November, Union County voters will vote thumbs up or down on the proposed Antelope Ridge Wind farm, though the vote is only advisory to the county commission. Supporters say the projects bring jobs, healthy lease payments to land owners who host the turbines and carbon-free electricity.

Oregon’s renewable power standard requires Portland General Electric and PacifiCorp to obtain 25 percent of their energy from new renewable sources by 2025. A more aggressive standard in California has also driven fast-paced wind farm development in Oregon.

Joshi said she’s not sure yet when the health office will complete its work. Updates will be posted at “Health Impacts of Wind Energy Facilities,” which also includes details of the sessions on Nov.3 and 4.

Editor’s note:  Download the Health Dept’s flyer, here.

  1. Comment by Ian K. on 10/22/2010 at 11:26 am

    “Industry representatives say they haven’t seen solid research linking wind turbines and negative health effects.”

    Isn’t it disingenuous to say there is no “solid research” when the guys putting up the turbines are refusing to perform/fund any research and discouraging/denigrating any research that does come out?

    I think that’s what some people would call “the fox guarding the hen house”.

  2. Comment by Melodie Burkett on 10/22/2010 at 3:44 pm

    One down 50 to go!

  3. Comment by Tom Whitesell on 10/22/2010 at 7:30 pm

    “Industry representatives say they haven’t seen solid research”? Most people would probably agree that it is a lot easier to see something if they look.

  4. Comment by Mark Cool on 10/27/2010 at 7:26 pm

    “Industry representatives say they haven’t seen solid research linking wind turbines and negative health effects.”

    Have these same Industry reps seen solid research not linking wind turbines and negative health effects? (I didn’t think so)

  5. Comment by Steve Thurston on 01/04/2012 at 4:54 pm

    The Oregon draft report was released yesterday and is open for public comment until March 30. Its essential conclusion is that turbine noise should not exceed long term levels of 35-40 dBA or 10 dBA above background, which means 36 dBA in most rural settings (and is the current limit in Oregon). It also cautions that allowing easements to be granted by landowner/residents could subject them to levels as high as 26 dBA above background, which is known to cause widespread community impacts. See the draft report and conclusions on page 57. Click here.

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