French Court Verdict On Health Damage From Wind Turbines

Highlights :

  • The NIMBY phenomenon, or Not In My Backyard, that applies to almost all energy generation options, has been an ever present risk for renewable energy too.
  • In most cases, these have been overcome usually at great cost, but have also led to technology improvements, be it lower noise, pollution or local community support.

A French court has awarded damages to a Belgian couple claiming a wind turbine near their house negatively impacted their health. Christel and Luc Fockaert were awarded €110,000 after complaining of health problems that they claim were caused by a windfarm. The decision is likely to cause disquite among operators across Europe, as both North America and Europe have seen strong pushback against wind farms, especially onshore wind farms in recent years. Even offshore wind farms, seen as a way out, have been blamed for issues such as ‘spoiling the view’. Now, the issue has moved to recycling too.

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The decision by the Toulouse Court of Appeal by accepting the existence of a condition being called “wind syndrome”, not only overturned a previous ruling in 2020, but could also open up a whole new can of litigations.

Plaintiffs Christel and Luc Fockaert claimed that turbines near their house in southern France caused headaches, insomnia, depression, and nausea. These symptons went away when the couple shifted away from their home to a place without wind turbines nearby, they claimed. The wind turbines were 700 metres from their original home, although trouble seems to have started only by 2013, 5 years after the 6 turbines came up.

The case has been on since 2017. This led to three years of medical observations, which concluded in 2020. In January of that year, the court dismissed the case. Even as the court seems to have been convinced for now, actual medical evidence in support of wind syndrome is scant, with no definite proof existing. Some experts have even contended that the effects might be psychosomatic, caused by the alarms raised by activists against wind farms. Activists have blamed wind farms for all sorts of ills, starting with the proven issue of impacting bird populations, and moving to the unproved allegations of actual health damage for nearby residents.

In this case, the key issues were the noise from the turbines, and the ‘flashing lights’ they uses.

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Prasanna Singh

Prasanna has been a media professional for over 20 years. He is the Group Editor of Saur Energy International

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