$500,000 wind farm experts provided no advice in two years

The scientific committee was established to advise the government on the health effects of wind turbines. Photo: Chris Ratcliffe
The scientific committee was established to advise the government on the health effects of wind turbines. Photo: Chris Ratcliffe

A $500,000 scientific committee created by the Coalition government to monitor the health effects of wind turbines held one face-to-face meeting in two years, failed to provide any official advice and had its work repeatedly rejected by research journals.

Documents also show that while the federal environment department’s budget has declined steadily under the Coalition, bureaucrats have splashed out on travel, treadmills and office refurbishments.

The Independent Scientific Committee on Wind Turbines was established in October 2015, fulfilling a commitment by the previous Abbott administration.

The four-person taxpayer-funded committee was tasked with advising the government on the potential health and environment impacts of wind turbine sound. It is chaired by RMIT adjunct professor John Davy, a leading acoustics researcher.

The committee’s 2017 annual report shows it held seven video conference meetings that year, however “it proved impossible to have a face to face meeting”. The group met once in person the previous year as well as by video conference.

The committee is required to provide advice on developing wind farm standards, including sound measuring methods.

The report, dated April this year, said it “is yet to provide this advice” because “it must first determine exactly what needs to be measured”, including whether it is necessary to measure low frequency sound and infrasound - sound waves so low they are inaudible to humans.

In February last year the committee resolved to publish parts of their research as papers in learned journals, so they would be peer-reviewed.

The first paper, covering wind turbine sound limits, was submitted to the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America. The journal asked for the paper to be modified after “extensive” peer review comments. The paper was resubmitted but again rejected.

It was also rejected by the Journal of Sound and Vibration because it was “outside the scope of the journal”. In December last year the paper was sent to the Applied Acoustics journal.

The report, dated April this year, said it “is yet to provide this advice” because “it must first determine exactly what needs to be measured”, including whether it is necessary to measure low frequency sound and infrasound - sound waves so low they are inaudible to humans.

In February last year the committee resolved to publish parts of their research as papers in learned journals, so they would be peer-reviewed.

The first paper, covering wind turbine sound limits, was submitted to the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America. The journal asked for the paper to be modified after “extensive” peer review comments. The paper was resubmitted but again rejected.

It was also rejected by the Journal of Sound and Vibration because it was “outside the scope of the journal”. In December last year the paper was sent to the Applied Acoustics journal.

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