Tag Archives: Australia

The Rapley Letter

Dr Bruce Rapley has been researching the effects of acoustical energy on humans for 15 years and has made first-hand observations of those effects.  He’s been following the Australian/New Zealand wind turbine noise controversy for some time.  In 2011 he was a co-author of a paper on the problems of measuring wind turbine noise, submitted to the Australian Acoustical Society.

On March 18, 2014, the Australian Medical Association (AMA) released a position paper on wind turbines, noise and health effects.  In essence, it said that there is no evidence that the noise from wind turbines causes any health impacts, and that whatever health effects exist do so only because of  “misinformation” from people like me.

It took Rapley just 10 days to respond in an open letter that went through the AMA’s position paper on a sentence-by-sentence basis and eviscerated all but one of those sentences.  Rapley’s letter is 9 pages long and very readable.  If you want a concise series of replies to the wind industry’s talking points (which have seemingly been adopted whole hog by the AMA) then this is an excellent reference.


Rapley, Letter to the Australian Medical Association.

AMA, Position Paper (backup link).

Rapley et al, Environmental Noise: Better Measures and Reporting Needed, 2011 Paper for the Australian Acoustical Society


Cullerin and Chapman


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. cullerin

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):chapman-cullerinThe 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.


Too Close?

When people are talking about “too close” and wind turbines, normally they mean the neighbors have the misfortune to live too close to the turbines.   Recently I came across a survey from the Cullerin Wind Project in Australia, and I was struck by how far out people’s lives were being affected by the noise/infrasound.  Large majorities of all the residents at distances even in excess of 5 km were complaining.

After generating an overhead picture of the project on Google Earth it struck me that I’ve now seen 4 Australian projects that have have significant complaints lodged against them by large numbers of neighbors.  All of these projects have two things in common.  First, they are built on ridges above the neighbors, in order to get the best winds.  Second, and perhaps more importantly, the turbines in all four of these projects are either massed or lined up less than 300 m from each other.  Distances vary, of course, but all four have typical turbine separations of somewhere around 250 m. Typical industry standards are 4x rotor diameter spacing across the prevailing wind, and 10x (recent research recommends 15x) along the prevailing wind.    Obviously 250 m isn’t far enough in any direction.  The four projects are:  Wonthaggi, Waterloo, Waubra and Cullerin.

Inter-turbine turbulence can be problematical.  First, it reduces the efficiency of the downwind turbines by a considerable amount – 30% for the second in the line and more for subsequent ones.  Second, it increases stress on the blades as the forces upon them are constantly changing.  Third, and most importantly for this discussion, it increases the noise generated.

I have no real conclusion for this posting – I’m just pointing out something I noticed and maybe someone out there will follow it up.  It would be interesting to go through more projects and see if this pattern holds.  Below are my pictures for these four projects.













Croakey on Crikey

I’m now busily doing research for my part 2 on the Evidence Review portion of the Australian NHMRC’s recent health report, following my part 1.  An early step is to find all the references they listed – there’s 29 of them, of which 2 are duplicates, leaving 28.  Two of the 28 are from one Simon Chapman.  The first of these was an entry on a blog, at crikey.com.au, by one croakey.  Those ever-so-stodgy professionals at SWV mentioned croakey by name along with words like “ridiculous” and “astounding”.  Intrigued, I went off to see what croakey was about.  The reference itself was of little value one way or the other, but the search led me into some more interesting areas. Continue reading Croakey on Crikey

NHMRC Health Statement – Part 1

The National Health and Medical Research Council is part of the Australian Government.  As the name implies, they conduct medical research on a wide variety of public health issues.  Recently they waded into the wind turbine controversy, issuing a Public Statement [backup link] and and Evidence Review [backup link].  This pair of papers follows the long and sad tradition of similar papers recently published in Canada and the U.S.   Continue reading NHMRC Health Statement – Part 1