Wind energy and the reconstructed smoking milk bottle

Jonathon-Upson-150x150It’s the transcript of an information session held in Melbourne last year grandly titled “The Future of Wind Energy in Australia”.

It was organized by The Grattan Institute.

Jonathan Upson (pictured) is senior development manager at Infigen Energy.

Now, when one of our group relayed his comments, we thought it was a joke.

It had to be.

Or maybe we’d entered some strange time continuum and were all once again sitting cross-legged in our student houses in Carlton and Redfern, passing around the reconstructed smoking milk bottle.

But no, we checked it out.

The document is on The Grattan Institute website.

So, if you have a minute, come with us into the fantastic mind of the Australia wind industry.

Mr Upson is introduced as the holder of an MBA. That’s reassuring. He begins with media coverage of the wind industry.

Jonathon-Upson-150x150Upson: In my personal opinion, I would have to say the media’s inclination to run negative, sensationalistic and sometimes biased stories, with little regard to the facts, is probably our largest impediment. And I’m not suggesting of course that the media should not cover objectives and opinions about wind farm developments. If an objector says wind turbines are large, ugly structures, they’re entitled to having their opinion covered by the media. There’s no problem with that. However, when anti-wind farm activists make statements of fact such as every wind turbine has a gas turbine inside of it to keep the blades turning when there’s no wind, to stop the blades from sagging and breaking, that is not an opinion. That is a statement that is either true or it’s false. And you might have noticed in Graham’s slides, there were no gas turbine engines inside the nacelle.

Hang on. Gas connected to wind farms?

We’ve never heard this – and we’ve been looking at the wind industry for more than three years now.

Wind turbines like giant gas-fired Weber barbecues? “Quick, we’re out of gas. Let’s take a run to 7-Eleven for a bottle swap.”

We’ve heard people complain about noise, health effects, how wind turbines don’t work, are expensive, don’t contribute to abating greenhouse emissions, split communities and are operated by companies with no scruples. But never gas.

What we do know is that wind turbines are heavy consumers of electricity. They consume power to get their blades turning, power to change their direction, power to run their hydraulics and cooling systems.

Turbines turn from wind only about 30 per cent of the time. That’s a fact. The rest of the time, they still consume electricity.

The only question of gas here is from Mr Upson. But excuse us. Already we’re fascinated.

Jonathon-Upson-150x150Upson: So one might think me a little bit naïve or old-fashioned, but I believe the media has an obligation to make some attempt to ascertain whether statements of fact are true before propagating them, particularly when they’re as preposterous as that example. Instead, I spend time meeting with numerous neighbours explaining to them … about trying to counter this instead of real issues. And so I actually explain to them things like wind farm sites rarely have gas reticulation, they rarely have gas pipelines. So you’d have to have a fleet of trucks shifting gas bottles in order to make this happen. You can see wind turbines not turning any day of the week somewhere in Australia. The noise from an aircraft engine could not possibly go unnoticed, and would be insufficient to turn a 24 ton rotor in any case. And of course, stationary wind turbine blades do not sag and break.

So there’s less time spent discussing and explaining actual amenity impacts of wind farm. I mean there are real amenity impacts, we all know that. Instead I’m forced to defend the latest furphy theory on one of the anti-wind farm sites which has then been sold to the local media.

Okay. Still on about gas.  But it’s the media’s fault for spreading this untruth.

We just googled “wind farms and gas” and couldn’t find one news story promoting this concept. Go on, Jonathan.

Jonathon-Upson-150x150Upson: And how about positive stories about wind farms? What about stories about the contracts who are hired, the apprentices who are trained, the regional development and construction. For example, there was a study by SKM that showed that during the Hallett wind farms that are built in the mid-north in South Australia, $88 million has been spent, not buying turbines from overseas, $88 million in that local region has been spent building those wind farms. Infigen Energy’s Lake Bonney Three wind farm and our Walk Away Two wind farm proposal, when we put our planning applications in we got not one single objection. Were the media interested in running stories about a wind farm which everyone likes? Of course not, that’s not a story.

Us again.

The media does nothing (well, almost nothing) but report positive stories about the wind industry. Have a look at this. Or this. Or this. Or this. Or even this gratuitous piece of media sucking up.

You get the idea. We have a compliant and gullible media on the wind farm issue (apart from a handful of  journalists).

At the risk of sounding smug, that’s why we launched this site. But it gets better.

Jonathon-Upson-150x150Upson: As Ken mentioned, the largest public relations issue for the industry as the moment is the theory of an ex-doctor that infrasound or low frequency noise from wind turbines is likely to make anyone within 10km of a wind turbine sick. This story has been going for well over a year. It has legs as they say in the business. Imagine how quick this story would fade if the media included the following facts every time Sarah Laurie was interviewed. She is not a registered doctor, therefore she cannot legally diagnose any medical condition. There is no published scientific or medical evidence anywhere in the world substantiating her theory. And that’s not my opinion, that’s the view of the CSIRO as they testified at the recent Senate Committee hearing.

Us again.

So, the largest public relations issue for the wind industry is Sarah Laurie?

One woman against the deep pockets of the pro-wind lobby.

One woman speaking with local communities.

One woman gathering data about the other side of  your story, the one not covered in your press releases, presentations, websites, newsletters, advertisements, promoted by your highly paid PR consultants, and not covered by the Clean Energy Council with its army of lobbyists and government access.

One woman speaking out, working for two and a half years as a volunteer.

What a compliment!

We’ll pass that on to Sarah. She’ll be delighted that single-handedly she’s rattling not only your chain but every chain of every employee of every wind company in Australia.

All we can say is bloody good job.

And for the record, Laurie let her medical registration drop in 2004 when she had to deal with repercussions from an earlier cancer scare and increasing extended family caring responsibilities.

She was unsure when she would be in a position to  return to clinical practice. She rightly decided to concentrate on her own health for a period, rather than the health of others, and to look after her young children and frail elderly parents in law.

But it’s the smear the windies always use – unregistered doctor to infer she is de-registered and therefore neither credible or trustworthy. 

Here’s what she told Nick Xenophon at the Senate inquiry.

Additionally, Sarah has never claimed to be a medical researcher, nor has she ever claimed to have a research degree. She asks questions, then reports her findings. End of story.

Now Jonathan, please…

Jonathon-Upson-150x150Upson: On the other hand, there are Australian and overseas peer-reviewed studies published in scientific journals proving that infrasound levels from wind turbines are far below the levels that human beings can even detect, let alone the levels that could cause any detrimental health impacts. However, the media is uninterested in mentioning any of these facts. It’s too complicated, too boring, or dare I say too factual. Instead media personalities fawn all over Sarah Laurie, as Alan Jones did during a recent interview where he repeated and he agreed with everything she said. The media sees fit to run without question or challenge the theory of one ex-doctor, rather than take the time to ask any of the other 70,000 registered Australian doctors who don’t share her view.

Ah, that old chestnut. No peer-reviewed studies.

We’re glad you raised that.

Our answer? Wrong, wrong and wrong.

Here’s just a small sample of stuff from our files.

Have a look here. And here.

And here. And here.

We’ve cabinets full of these things. Here’s a now out-of-date summary of peer reviewed studies.

And Dr Nina Pierpont’s study was peer reviewed, despite frequent wind industry denials.

The most recent peer reviewed acoustic study from Winconsin, which included acousticians who have worked extensively for the wind industry, as well as the highly respected and independent guru of acoustics Dr Paul Schomer, concluded:

“The four investigating firms are of the opinion that enough evidence and hypotheses have been given herein to classify LFN and infrasound as a serious issue, possibly affecting the future of the industry. It should be addressed beyond the present practice of showing that wind turbine levels are magnitudes below the threshold of hearing at low frequencies.”

Additionally, in a future post we will feature the growing number of doctors in Australia who have spoken out publicly on their concern about the health impacts of wind turbines.

They include Dr David Iser, Dr Wayne Spring, Dr Andja Mitric-Andjic, Dr Scott Taylor and Dr Alan Watts OAM.

There are dozens of other medicos who are raising the issue of wind farms and health with their colleagues behind the scenes, away from the harsh and nasty spotlight of wind industry attention.

And overseas? There’s more. We’ll look at those too.

Please continue.

Jonathon-Upson-150x150Upson: Many of you by now may have noticed some similarities to my discussion to the current media debate around action on climate change. In essence, I’m suggesting that the media should stop publishing and airing crap. Every TV station showed Tony Abbott last week at a fish market smiling and mugging for the camera, holding a big fish. Did any journalist ask Tony Abbott how an increase of 12c a kilogram for salmon or less than one half a percent, according to Treasury modelling, was going to cripple this industry and close down the fish market? Did anyone ask … did any of the journalists ask a customer if they would mind paying a half a percent more for their fish, which they would be fully compensated for if they were a lower or middle income person? No.

We’re not really sure what salmon has to do with wind energy. And the carbon tax is a whole other issue, we think.

Isn’t the real problem that with the current price of Renewable Energy Certificates at $36, the subsidy per turbine is $400,000 – $600,000 per year, every year, for the next 20 years.

So for Infigen, with more than 200 turbines in the planning or development stage, do the math. Money for old rope, or should we say, money for bad wind.

Why doesn’t the wind industry ever talk about this?

Here’s why.

It’s the old bait and switch routine used by sideshow tricksters.

Blame Sarah Laurie, blame opposition to the carbon tax, blame a biased media, blame global warming deniers and worst of all, blame sick people.

In the meantime, keep pocketing the money. And the longer you do this, the more money you pocket.

Nice business model, don’t you think?

Now, Mr Upson …

Jonathon-Upson-150x150Upson: I would suggest that the current media frenzy about the carbon tax and to a lesser extend wind energy, are related. It’s fair to say that the construction of wind farms are perhaps the most visible form of action on climate change. In fact you could say maybe it’s the poster child of action on climate change. And this is not lost on the Prime Minister, who opened a wind farm today in NSW as an example of her clean energy future plan. However, if you’re a climate change denier, the last thing you’d want to see from your front porch would be a wind farm. And maybe that explains why some of the anti-wind farm people are so committed.

Obviously the dummy-down and the sensationalistic tendencies of the Australian media, are of course a much larger issue than just their coverage of wind energy. Media companies are private enterprises that are managed aggressively to maximise profits, and that means increasing market shares, selling papers, increasing viewership, while at the same time reducing costs, primarily by laying off journalists who then have less time to do a proper job, even though … even if they were inclined. And I don’t want to bag journalists, there are some journalists who do want to do the right things, but they’re under so much pressure of deadlines to be able … they’re having difficulty doing a proper job.

One could view the disgusting phone hacking scandal in the UK as the ultimate in newspaper efficiency. Sensational, riveting, subscription increasing stories, but without even having to leave one’s desk. No investigative journalism, no running around London interviewing people and chasing leads. Just sit at your PC and let the day’s phone hacking results write the story for you. You didn’t think I was going to let that slide, I mean I’m talking about the media on a day like today, I had to get … I had to mention that one.

The question I was asked wanted me to identify the leading impediment. There are certainly others, and I would not want to leave you with the impression that the wind energy industry is perfect. In my experience, community consultation has improved significantly from when I started work in the industry eight or so years ago. However there still is room for improvement.

However, the media coverage of myths and inaccuracies is making useful and effective community consultation very difficult. It serves to polarise the community such that there’s little common ground for rational or thoughtful conversation and discussion, and therefore this does represent a significant barrier for the industry. Thank you.

What does the Leveson inquiry have to do with wind farms?

Veiled hit at News Ltd, maybe? Not sure. Hard to tell. Don’t care anyway. It’s spurious thinking. And irrelevant.

Upson says communities are polarized because of media coverage about wind farms. Has he been to Waubra, for instance, and talked to the locals there?

The bitterness that has raged in that community over the wind farm started long before the media coverage.

It’s anchored deep in the cement of how one individual, David Shapero of Wind Power, misrepresented his plans to the residents.

Don’t take our word for it. Former Waubra resident Trish Godfrey said this in court, under oath.

When you look at any wind farm development you will hear similar stories.

So there you have it. We weren’t tugging on the reconstructed smoking milk bottle after all.

We’re not sure, however, if we can say the same for Mr Upson.

27 thoughts on “Wind energy and the reconstructed smoking milk bottle

  1. Upson of Infigen Enegy, if you had another brain it would be lonely. There is tones of edvience from science that wind farms cause health problems for people that live near them ( that is not rocket science either ). As for Chapman he is only as bright as Upson anyway.

  2. Mr ‘Uphim’, is only doing his job, that is trying to stop anyone saying anything other than what he and his industry want people to know.

    When I read about things these people say at their ‘inspirational’ meetings I wonder if they are actually literate. They couldn’t be because they obviously don’t read what is readily available to them in the media, books, research papers and/or on the internet. They have to be relying on someone with a fraction more ability, to feed and coach them in what to say and think.

    At meetings locally when the company had ‘information’ days and meetings it was apparent those present didn’t know the answers to the difficult questions, questions that weren’t in the swanky publicity brochures and posters. When they did attempt to answer any it was easy enough to get another opposing answer from another one of the ‘team’ present.

    I asked what contaminants they would be checking for when they decommissioned the installation, and was told there were no contaminants. I said I had read they would be checking for them in their application to the EPBC, and they refused to believe it was there, saying because Wind Energy was clean and environmentally friendly there couldn’t be any contamination.

    Pity they didn’t either read the application to the EPBC or know anything about the machinery they were trying to ‘sell’, there are at oils used in large quantities, so the generators and gearboxes can operate. Oh ignorance must be bliss.

  3. GOOD JOB !
    I love this site !
    The rebuttal of this article FABULISHOUS!
    I am fighting these things in our township at the moment and your site and articles are truely inspiring to keep me going and stop this ridiculous siting of these monstrosities. I have 75 IWT eight miles north of me at the moment, they have totally disturbed my full view of pleasant farm land. (not just me) I will never again see the northern lights as long as I live, we now see a ‘sea’ of red lights, like living next to Reagan National Airport. I already have ringing in my ears. I must be awfully sensitive.
    Keep up the good work to the people that made this site.
    May God help us all.

  4. Mr Upson forgot to mention the apology that was given by the Millicent (SA) “South Eastern Times” newspaper about a letter it published from the Manager of Investor Relations at Infigen Energy, a Mr Richard Farrell, last year.

    The letter claimed the acoustic engineer Mr Steven Cooper had made a report “riddled with errors” about their Capitol Wind Farm.

    Mr Cooper rightly took great exception to that scurrilous, inaccurate and defamatory attack on his professional integrity.

    Such is the methodology of Infigen.

    However, I’m confident Infigen, the offshoot of the infamous and bankrupt Babock and Brown, will shortly be a very unhappy outfit.

    (Incidentally, the efficiency of their Lake Bonney (SA) wind “farms” is in the 20-30% range!)

  5. You can buy degrees in the USA Dr. Chapman seems to spend all his time with wind turbines. I thought his chair at Sydney was health. He seems to have read all about turbines that are for the industry and nothing about infrasound.Oh I forgot he is not into acoustics! I asked him certain questions and all I got was to read some propaganda and his CV. He has not even bothered about fracking. He asked me was I worried about other health issues I am against anything that harms humans. He seems to be only interested in making derogatory comments on Dr. Laurie and those opposed to wind turbines. Cosy little relationship between Upstart and Chapman. Also Upstart and Grant Christofferson (?) The wind industry always comes up with the same spiel and nothing concrete to support their industry. When asked difficult questions you are ignored especially about ‘gag’ clauses and if pushed you are told its to make sure no one is jealous in case host is getting more than another. Jon, Chapman and Grant all need to read Wikipedia’s description of Infrasound.

  6. Our wind turbine awareness group did hold a packed house public meeting in our small country town , we invited Infigen to speak. The company came with backup of Sonus setting up on the footpath. Infigen ridiculed and demeaned wind turbine refugees, looked decidedly uncomfortable at Steven Cooper’s excellent presentation, tried to bully and intimidate the organisers . Importantly the company gave a guarantee that there will be NO health effects from wind turbines and said they would give that in writing. We are still waiting!!!

    Porky No. 1 – Infigen’s own presentation showed that there are no residences within 2klms of a turbine. Two landowners whose residences are in fact within 2klms of turbines told Infigen so and they were dismissed.

    Porky No.2 -They also said that a lease was on a landowner’s property (in the heart of the proposed project area) . The landowner did not know about any turbines or a lease to host turbines on his land.
    What else can they do and say without any consequences?? It is a disgrace that this company is allowed to divide rural communities that will never be returned to how it was.

    Quote: There are some that are paid to peddle the SxxT and those of us who have to put up with the SxxT.
    Oh and if Infigen and their media monitors are thinking I am just another activist scaremongering, We recorded the public meeting in the interest of transparency.

  7. I know Infigen lie because they have lied to my husband and I about the distance of proposed wind turbines to our house. We were told there would be none within 2 kilometres of our house. We have two 1.2klms & 1.3klms from our house. They won’t accept any criticism of turbines and believes no-one but themselves and their followers.

  8. Concerning Mr Upton’s gas turbine straw man. Why would anyone think that wind turbines need an inbuilt gas turbine to spin the blades? Each wind turbine is not only a generator (an induction generator) but also an electric motor, if the wind isn’t adequate to turn the blades, power can easily be extracted from the electricity grid to spin the wind turbine blades up to speed as a giant fan. This enables wind turbines to take advantage of even fluky wind conditions to generate bursts of power hence capturing more of those sought after high priced REC’s ($36/MWhr).

    1. Still on gas, I know at least one wind facility (ultimately rejected) here in the USA was planned with on-site diesel backup generators. Upson’s dismissal of blade sag worry is another straw man, meant to divert attention from the fact that the generator shaft can not be allowed to sit idle too long or it will start to bend. (A few crude jokes about aging wind salesmen suggest themselves here.)

  9. This is priceless. I mean your “outing” of this bounder is priceless! Disemboweled. Bones picked clean.

    I gotta tell you, I love reading your site! Whoever the editor is, he (she) is brilliant. You’re a superb investigative journalist. You are restoring my shattered faith in journalists–well, not all of them, but at least I see there are some real thinkers and courageous people still practicing journalism. Graham Lloyd is another.

    All praise to you for pointing out in an earlier post (“God’s Energy,” or was it one on Simon Chapman and his fabulous imbecilities?) that bloggers (like you) are doing the work that the corporate media is too frightened, too corrupt, and too lazy to perform. For this, alone, you are a hero.

    Thank you for this site! Thank you for the tremendous effort you put into it. I see you developing a devoted following. “Stop These Things” is the “Rolling Stone” of exposing the Big Wind confidence game, and you, dear editor, are as good as Matt Taibbi–and that’s really the highest compliment you can ever get!

    Calvin Luther Martin, Editor

  10. Upson: In my personal opinion, I would have to say the media’s inclination to run negative, sensationalistic and sometimes biased stories, with little regard to the facts, is probably our largest impediment.

    Question put to Mr Upson:
    4. Do you believe it was your responsibility to notify the community members not hosting turbines and if not who do you think is responsible for formally notifying the surrounding community that could potentially be affected?

    UPSON: I believe that Infigen Energy is largely responsible for informing the local community of the proposed wind farm project, particularly those that could be materially affected by the proposal. Of course, the media has a role to play in this, and we have worked with the radio, TV, and print media to inform and update the community about the proposed project throughout the development process.

    Well if Mr Upson’s largest impediment is the media, why does he think they have a role to play in community consultation?

    If Mr Upson tells the truth he won’t have to remember all the things he says.

  11. I hate to acknowledge the straw gas issue, but Upson says that wind farm sites ‘rarely have gas pipelines’. Which suggests that in fact some of them do!

  12. Well written and well done. I love your cheek! You describe fully the same situation that is happening all over the world when it comes to “discussing” wind energy. Rather than debate the factual points, the wind industry would rather launch ad hominens and discredit those who say differently. I very much enjoyed this posting and after 6 years of researching and reading tonnes of material on wind/renewabe energy etc. it takes a lot to keep my attention. Thanks for the laugh today. Administor

  13. By the way, I am a fully trained, Board Certified, and practicing physician who chooses to listen carefully to patients, and am loath to disregard their complaints. Nor do I make diagnoses without performing a thorough examination and eliminating all alternative explanations. Neither Messrs. Chapman nor Upson can say the same.
    P.S. Please excuse the typos in my initial posting. I am NOT a professional typist.

  14. In fact, the majority of media reports reflect a remarkable lack of critical thinking skill. So much so, that Steven Colbert of the Comedy Central “Colbert Report” presented Chapman’s complaints as if he were a critic of Industrial Wind Power pronouncing 198 =/- such medical complaints attributed to Industrial Wind Turbines. They, in fact, are a caricature of the reasonable opposition statements. The few impartial presentations by television or written medial journalists are never addressed directly by the likes of Upson. Has he ever proffered an alternative explanation for the clear evidence that chickens in the shadow of IWT’s in Waterloo now lay eggs without yolks? How does Upson explain the abandonment of homes by people whose health no longer can tolerate living near IWT farms?

    Sarah Laurie, MD is still a physician whose license to practice clinical medicine is no longer active for the reasons cited above. She has never pretended to be otherwise. By the way, according to wikipedia, the definition of Doctor is:

    “The word is originally an agentive noun of the Latin verb docēre [dɔˈkeːrɛ] ‘to teach’. It has been used as an honored academic title for over a millennium in Europe, where it dates back to the rise of the first universities. This use spread to the Americas, former European colonies, and is now prevalent in most of the world. Contracted “Dr” or “Dr.”, it is used as a designation for a person who has obtained a doctorate-level degree.”

    In every sense, therefore, Sarah Laurie lives up to the highest standards of what it means to be a Doctor and Healer. According to the New Testament, “John 8:32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Gloria Steinem in more recent times revised the biblical passage by saying, “The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off.” Sorry Mr. Upson. You can’t take the truth.

  15. Upson says: “She is not a registered doctor, therefore she cannot legally diagnose any medical condition.”

    Why then does Upson feel that the opinions of Simon Chapman hold such validity? Chapman is not a medical doctor and has never and will never examine those complaining about ill health around the surrounds of wind turbines. Therefore how can Upson agree with the opinion of Chapman that people are suffering from psychogenic illness?

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