Publication Details

Chapman, S., St George, A., Waller, K. & Cakic, V. (2013). The pattern of complaints about Australian wind farms does not match the establishment and distribution of turbines: Support for the psychogenic, 'communicated disease' hypothesis. PLoS One, 8 (10), 1-11.


Background and Objectives With often florid allegations about health problems arising from wind turbine exposure now widespread, nocebo effects potentially confound any future investigation of turbine health impact. Historical audits of health complaints are therefore important. We test 4 hypotheses relevant to psychogenic explanations of the variable timing and distribution of health and noise complaints about wind farms in Australia. Setting All Australian wind farms (51 with 1634 turbines) operating 1993-2012. Methods Records of complaints about noise or health from residents living near 51 Australian wind farms were obtained from all wind farm companies, and corroborated with complaints in submissions to 3 government public enquiries and news media records and court affidavits. These are expressed as proportions of estimated populations residing within 5 km of wind farms. Results There are large historical and geographical variations in wind farm complaints. 33/51 (64.7%) of Australian wind farms including 18/34 (52.9%) with turbine size >1 MW have never been subject to noise or health complaints. These 33 farms have an estimated 21,633 residents within 5 km and have operated complaint-free for a cumulative 267 years. Western Australia and Tasmania have seen no complaints. 129 individuals across Australia (1 in 254 residents) appear to have ever complained, with 94 (73%) being residents near 6 wind farms targeted by anti wind farm groups. The large majority 116/129(90%) of complainants made their first complaint after 2009 when anti wind farm groups began to add health concerns to their wider opposition. In the preceding years, health or noise complaints were rare despite large and small-turbine wind farms having operated for many years. Conclusions The reported historical and geographical variations in complaints are consistent with psychogenic hypotheses that expressed health problems are "communicated diseases" with nocebo effects likely to play an important role in the aetiology of complaints.



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