In a case before the Irish High Court, German wind turbine manufacturer, Enercon has just conceded liability in noise nuisance in a claim pursued by 7 families whose lives and livelihoods have been thoroughly and mercilessly destroyed by incessant turbine generated low-frequency noise and infrasound.
A report on the case follows below, but first we’ll start where it all started back in 2013.
Families bid to sue wind farm operator
19 March 2013
By Michael Clifford
A group of families in a north Cork village are suing a wind farm operator in a landmark case, claiming the huge turbines are adversely affecting their health.
The seven families from Banteer claim they have been severely impacted, particularly through noise pollution, since the turbines began operating in Nov 2011.
If the action is successful, it is expected to lead to a number of others on similar grounds. Already, cases are being prepared by householders in Wexford and Roscommon.
The Banteer action is being taken by the “Shivnen family and others”, and includes households where there are families with children, couples, and, in one case, a single occupant.
The case is listed for the High Court and has already come before Judge Kevin Feeney. It is currently at the discovery phase, with a likely hearing date in the autumn.
The turbines were manufactured and are operated by a German company, Enercon Services, which has a base in Tralee, Co Kerry. The company has been installing turbines in this country since 1998.
The key factors in the legal action are expected to be planning regulations under which wind farms are installed and evidence of any alleged ill health effects.
So far, no legislation has been passed in relation to wind turbines. Planning is governed largely by guidelines that date from 2006, but which are based on technological capabilities dating from 1998.
The guidelines are being reviewed by the Department of the Environment, which is expected to report in the coming months.
The Banteer action is the first of its kind in this country, and comes at a time when the exploitation of wind energy is coming to the fore in public policy.
One such case has been recorded in the UK, concerning homeowner Jane Davis, who sued on the basis of the adverse impact from a nearby farm on her home and her health. That case was settled out of court and included a confidentiality clause.
The setting of EU targets for renewable energy rather than fossil fuels is driving moves towards wind energy, and most new developments are onshore rather than offshore due to cost.
A major development in the Midlands is under way in which 2,000 turbines are due to be installed to generate electricity which will be exported to Britain. The plan, undertaken by two energy companies, has caused uproar in some quarters, but dozens of farmers are believed to have signed up to allow their land to be rented out to house the turbines.
A number of public meetings have been called across the Midlands by residents and concerned interests about the proposal.
At a recent meeting in Bloomfield House, it emerged that a couple living near Roscommon town were forced to leave their home because of the effect a nearby turbine was having on their health.
Tim Cowhig, CEO of one of the developers, Element Power, said there is no scientific evidence to link wind turbines to ill health. “My view is that people need proper information and a proper national debate. We haven’t had that to date,” he said.
Last year, the Noise and Health journal published results from a US survey which compared sleeping patterns between a group living within a mile of a wind farm, and another beyond that distance.
The study suggested that the former group’s sleeping was directly impacted by the operation of the turbines. It is believed to be the first study to show a relationship between the wind farms and what the journal calls the “important clinical indicators of health, including sleep quality, daytime sleepiness, and mental health”.
In what STT understands has been a long and grueling battle for the families involved, for three-and-a-half years Enercon fought them all the way, until the latest hearing when it informed the Court that it would not contest the question of liability. Undeterred by Enercon’s recalcitrance, the plaintiffs pressed on and, after the concession on liability, emerged from Court victorious.
The plaintiffs will return to Court in April for an assessment of their damages; reasonably expecting to recover millions in general and punitive damages for five years of pain and suffering, maliciously inflicted on them and their young families by Enercon. (STT is in touch with the plaintiffs’ legal team and hopes to post details of the case in the New Year.)
Here’s the Irish Examiner on the case that has left the wind industry rattled, not only in the Emerald Isle (the Irish Wind Energy Association forced the Irish Examiner to pull the story below from its website) but around the world.
Families forced from homes due to wind farm noise win court case
11 December 2016
The case was taken against wind turbine manufacturer Enercon who has accepted full liability for causing nuisance to seven families who live up to 1 km from the wind farm.
A number of families in Co Cork who were forced to leave their homes because of noise from a nearby wind farm have won a significant case in the High Court this week.
The families claim they have been severely impacted by noise since the wind farm began operating in 2011.
This is the first action of its kind in Ireland and may now open many wind farm developers to the prospect of legal challenges from families in similar situations.
The case was taken against wind turbine manufacturer Enercon who have accepted full liability for causing nuisance to seven families who live up to 1 km from the wind farm.
The case will return to the High Court in 2017 to discuss punitive damages.
Promises in Government over the last four years to introduce planning regulations regarding wind turbines have failed to materialise.
According to out-dated guidelines, turbines may be built 500m from homes. In many cases, including this, wind turbines have been built closer than 500m.
A spokesperson for Wind Aware Ireland said: “There now is a possibility for multiple legal actions against wind farms right around the country.
“The legal implications for the wind industry are significant. The use of inadequate and out-dated planning guidelines may come back to haunt the industry, planning authorities and the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment (DCCAE).”
On election, Minister Naughten promised that new planning guidelines would be in place within 3 to 6 months of the formation of the new government.
UPDATED 8 January 2017
Wind company admits nuisance damage to neighbours
Irish Farmers Journal
5 January 2017
High Court to determine compensation for seven families in April hearing.
A County Cork based wind energy company has accepted in the High Court that its wind farm has caused nuisance damage to seven neighbouring families. The High Court has now set aside ten days in April 2017 to determine what if any damages should be paid by the company to the families.
The Farmers Journal understands that the cases taken by the families claim that the wind farm caused them nuisance as a result of excessive noise. The wind company is Enercon Wind Farm Services Ireland Ltd and it formally admitted liability to the Court.
The damages hearing for the seven cases have been consolidated by the High Court on the basis that the cases are related. It will start on Tuesday 25 April.
Pressure group Wind Aware Ireland claimed this week that the outcome of the case could be a watershed for existing and planned wind farms and investor confidence. “It is expected that more cases will now follow,” spokesperson Paula Byrne said in a statement.
It is alleged that a number of families had to abandon their homes because of the severity of the noise from the wind farm.
Irish Farmers Journal