The Cullerin wind project is located in NSW, Australia, about 60 km NE of Canberra and 200 km SW of Sydney. At first glance it isn’t particularly remarkable. There’s 15 2.0 mw turbines, fairly tightly packed on a rise of about 130 m above the surrounding terrain. The area is sparsely populated, with maybe 50 people living within 5 km (the red line below) of any of its turbines.
The only reason I’m even mentioning Cullerin is that it has produced a remarkable number of complaints, directly contributing to an audit announced by the NSW government, a slowdown in wind project approvals , some of the strictest noise limits in existence and a bill introduced in the Australian Senate.
One Patina Schneider took it upon herself to run a survey of everyone within (more or less) 10 km of the project. Her results, published in August of 2012, are telling. To sum them up:
“73% of all residences out to 5km returned the survey with 85.7% of households indicating
that noise is present at their residence and property during the day and/or night, with 78.5%
of households reporting sleep disturbance from the noise generated by the wind energy
Here’s a timeline:
- July 2009 – project becomes operational
- Complaints started immediately
- February 2012 – audit announced
- August 2012 – Schneider’s first survey
- September 2012 – Senate bill introduced
- November 2012 – audit results released to the developers, NOT to the public
- August 2013 – Schneider’s follow-up survey published
Schneider’s follow-up survey added questions about whether or not the neighbors had complained to anyone. It turns out they had, an estimated 322 times, to just about everyone: the developer, their doctors, the local MP’s, the planning department etc. Certainly the authorities were aware of the problems at Cullerin. Problems which sadly continue to this day.
OK, so Cullerin’s a mess. How does Chapman come into this? In March 2013 he published a study purporting to conclusively demonstrate that the complaints about noise are due to Nocebo effects, and not to the actual noise. The centerpiece of that study was his Table 1, which showed the almost-complete agreement between noise complaints and anti-wind-activist activity in the area for all 49 wind projects then in Australia. That table includes Cullerin (thankfully clickable):The columns are: Name/Location/Developer, Size, Date, People Within 5 km, Complaints?, # of Complaints, Local Anti-Wind Activity. Note the obvious – he has Cullerin listed as having had NO COMPLAINTS! Maybe he asked the wrong people. Maybe the people he asked lied to him. Maybe there was no anti-wind activity there and having complaints would destroy his hypothesis.
This isn’t the first rending of this study. I critiqued it shortly after it came out, and additionally it has been thoroughly trashed by others with far more letters after their names than me: Hartman, McMurtry, Punch, Swinbanks, Rosenbloom among others. A common critique among these is that he made no serious attempt to go out into the field and find out what is actually going on. The mismatch between the reality of Cullerin and Chapman’s presentation of that reality is the result.
At best an error of this magnitude renders his entire study worthless, at least if you are actually interested in finding truth. At worst, it shows that Chapman is willing to change the data to fit his agenda. I’ll let my readers decide.