When it comes to wind energy whoppers, the Australian Environment Foundation’s Max Rheese has an impeccable record. In last week’s Stock & Land, Rheese claimed wind energy has no economic benefit and alleged  wind turbines have adverse impacts on human health. Such claims are not supported by the evidence.

The Yes 2 Renewables campaign set the record straight in a letter to the editor published in this week’s edition of Stock & Land. It is reproduced below:

Max Rheese of the Australian Environment Foundation and climate change sceptic group, the Australian Climate Science Coalition, has a long track record of making claims about wind farms that are not supported by evidence. Mr Rheese’s comments recently featured in Stock & Land (‘Push to back wind power,’ Nov 1) are no exception.

Mr Rheese’s claim that wind energy has no economic benefit is simply incorrect. And the notion of ‘growing evidence’ of wind turbines adversely affecting human health is misleading.

Wind farms have proven economic benefits for communities.

Wind workers employed in regional towns such as Portland and the revenue generated from hosting turbines provides crucial input to a growing number of local economies. A Clean Energy Council report from July 2012 shows 5200 people are employed in the Australian wind energy sector—over 1200 of whom live in Victoria.

According to the Baillieu government’s own figures, in 2009 alone the wind energy sector pumped $1.2 billion into the Victorian economy. Landowners and councils stand to gain yearly payments in order of $16 million and $4.6 million respectively if the state’s approved wind farm projects are built.

Wind energy benefits the economy in another way. One only has to look across the border to South Australia where the ambitious rollout of wind farms has dropped the wholesale cost of electricity and resulted in cheaper electricity bills. The Essential Services Commission of South Australia has lowered standing contract electricity prices by 8.1% from January. The typical standing contract bill payer will save around $160 per year.

In regards to the alleged health impacts of wind farms, more than 17 peer-reviewed studies have shown turbines do not affect health—that of humans, animals or even earthworms (as suggested by some anti-wind energy campaigners). Australia’s authority on public health research, the National Health and Medical Research Council, says (2010)  ‘There is currently no published scientific evidence to positively link wind turbines with adverse health effects.’

Despite the absence of credible, scientific studies linking wind farms to health impacts, this idea has taken root in regional communities. The notion is being spread by persuasive propaganda presentations in town hall meetings that follow proposals for new wind farms—Cherry Tree Hill being just one example.

Professor of Public Health Simon Chapman argues that wind turbine syndrome is a communicated disease that spreads via the nocebo effect. It is the adverse public health impact of fear mongering anti-wind farm campaigns that needs to be investigated urgently, as it may be the real culprit behind health impacts experienced by some individuals.

Leigh Ewbank, Friends of the Earth’s Yes 2 Renewables community coordinator