Break like the wind

A Twin Cities Fox News affiliate has launched an investigation into noise from wind turbines and related health effects. And they’ve found that the noise near one man’s home is so bad, you can hear it some 80 miles away.

The story, by reporter Jeff Ballion, says sound and shadow flicker from turbines shows that wind power “is not the feel-good, pollution-free alternative you might think.” It’s titled — I’m not making this up — “Braking Wind.”

The story focuses on Bernie Hagen, a Vietnam veteran with tinnitus who says wind turbines near his home are causing severe ringing in his ears. While the shot switches from various shots of turbines surrounding Hagen’s home, we hear an annoying swooshing noise.

I’m not going to dispute Hagen’s claims or the authenticity of the noise track. But a curious thing happens as the story shifts to a farm 80 miles away near Rochester, Minnesota.

While the farmers are speaking (pointing out that the turbines do make some noise but that they aren’t bothered by it), you don’t hear anything other than their voices. But at the 4:05 mark, when we start panning from the farm to the wind turbines…

… we hear that what sounds an awful lot like that same sound again. In fact, if you listen closely throughout the report, you’ll notice that whenever Ballion is speaking and there is a shot of a wind turbine, that swooshing sound is being played, ever so faintly, in the background.

Now, the story does point out that there is no conclusive research linking wind turbine noise to health problems. There’s plenty of anecdotal evidence that the noise and shadow flicker from a wind farm can be annoying, and the effects depend on the circumstances and the individual. Nothing misleading there.

But I don’t see how exaggerating the noise from the turbines helps Hagen’s cause. It may make for good TV, but it also makes it easy to dismiss what may be legitimate concerns.

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