French court recognises 'turbine syndrome' after couple claim illness caused by wind farm

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Onshore wind turbines on the French coast village, sustainable wind energy for domestic use in Brittany, France
Onshore wind turbines on the French coastline. (Getty)

A French court has awarded compensation to a Belgian couple who claimed they suffered health issues caused by a wind farm.

The court awarded Luc and Christel Fockaert more than €100,000 over what was described as "turbine syndrome", The Guardian reported.

The Fockaerts said they had symptoms including headaches, insomnia, depression and nausea, which began after six wind turbines were set up near their home.

The couple claimed the symptoms stopped when they moved away from the area, and that they believed the problems came from noise and flashing lights on the turbines.

Christel Fockaert told The Guardian: "We didn't understand straight away, but little by little we realised the problem came from the turbines.

"The turbines flash every two seconds... we had to have outside lights to counter the effect of the flashes."

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The couple’s lawyer, Alice Terrasse, said: "It's an unusual case and as far as I know there has been no precedent.

"This case cannot be reproduced. This (wind) park caused an unusual nuisance because of its configuration, but each case is different and should be examined differently."

The concept of 'turbine syndrome' is controversial, with many scientists suggesting it is a sociological problem.

Simon Chapman, a professor of public health at the University of Sydney, told UK website Carbon Brief: "Complaints about the health effects of wind turbines appear only to have occurred in large numbers within the past five years, even though the technology has been deployed for over 20 years.

"Complaints only occur in certain areas, while not at all in others. For example, you can see that in Western Australia, where there is a significant number of turbines, there haven't been any complaints.

"Instead, the complaints occur in New South Wales and Victoria, where anti-wind farm campaigners have been more active."

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A study in 2018 found that wind turbines function like "top predators" and are changing ecosystems by deposing birds of prey at the top of the food chain. 

Researchers in India found that mountain areas with turbines had four times fewer buzzards and hawks as areas without.

The change had a knock-on effect on other animals normally eaten by the birds of prey – with an overabundance of lizards in those areas.

In Britain, the RSPB has previously warned that turbines can kill sea eagles, and turbines are also known to have killed bats, owls and hawks.

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Professor Maria Thaker, lead author of the 2018 study, said that wind turbines were "akin" to a new "top predator".

She told The Telegraph: "Every time a top predator is removed or added, unexpected effects trickle through the ecosystem.

"We find wind farms reduce the abundance and activity of predatory birds – for example buzzards, hawks and kites – which consequently increases the density of lizards.

"We find wind farms have emerging impacts that are greatly underestimated.

"There is a strong need for an ecosystem-wide view when aligning green-energy goals with environment protection."

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