Sleeping at home, at some point was out of the question. Hermann Oldewurtel and Insa Bock spend years on a campsite or in holiday apartments, then they buy a new house and flee from the wind farm behind their house. The old living spaces are only used for sound measurements, the garden is overgrown – the rotors continue to turn behind the hedge.
“I didn’t sleep at all, had dizzy spells, tinnitus and a racing heart. Also headaches, I didn’t even know that before, ”says 55-year-old Bock in her old home in the East Frisian community of Holtgast. “There are 42 wind turbines here. The next ones are up to 650 meters from the house, ”says her partner Oldewurtel. “Behind it is the next wind farm, there are around 120. We are circled. ”On this day, the fog only reveals a few plants. The sound of the wing flapping can easily be heard in the garden, and a dull humming can be heard underneath these whispers.
But these noises are not the problem at all, both say. Wind turbines generate infrasound, in the frequency range below 20 Hertz it is not audible to humans, but is perceived as vibration. Local residents blame it for numerous health problems such as depression. However, it is not only created on wind turbines, but also from ocean surfs and storms or traffic and air conditioning systems.
According to the Federal Environment Agency, the currently available scientific findings on infrasound do not preclude the use of wind energy – however, long-term studies were still lacking. There is an urgent need for studies that examine the effect more closely, according to the Ärzteblatt 2019.
For Oldewurtel and Bock, the case is clear: whether on a business trip, rehab or on vacation, they could have slept better anywhere than at home – with sufficient distance, the complaints would have disappeared. Even now, with six kilometers between the new house and the wind turbines.
The distance between wind turbines and housing estates is currently one of the most competitive issues in politics. Some federal states already have fixed rules for this. In the climate package, the Union and the SPD have agreed on a nationwide minimum distance of 1000 meters, from which municipalities and states can deviate if they want. But 1000 meters from what exactly? According to a draft by Energy Minister Peter Altmaier (CDU), six houses should be sufficient. In the Ministry of the Environment, this is much too strict. The concern is that the land for the already heavily stalled expansion of wind power on land will become even scarcer – last year it fell to its lowest level in more than 20 years.
According to the wind turbine manufacturer who announced at the end of 2019 that it would cut around 3,000 jobs, the slump will continue with a blanket distance regulation. The area for potential locations would be reduced by around 50 percent, the areas already built with wind farms by 80 percent, according to a spokesman. Acceptance is not a question of distance, it increases when residents are included in the planning process and benefit financially from the projects on their doorstep.
Behind the dispute over distance and the number of houses is a bigger problem. gets out of nuclear power and coal. In 2030, renewable energies – primarily from wind and sun – are expected to supply 65 percent of electricity, currently it is a good 40 percent. However, the demand increases when more electric cars are sold and when one otherwise relies on electrification instead of fossil fuels for climate protection. So it is clear: if the energy transition is to succeed, the expansion of renewable energies must proceed much faster than before. How, remains open for the time being, the Union and the SPD have been quarreling for months in the federal government.
In Lower Saxony, the number one wind region, only a fraction of the almost 6,500 wind turbines are located at a distance of 1000 meters from residential buildings. Sven Reschke-Luiken lives in the priority area near the East Frisian coast – and is far from being accepted. The 49-year-old and his family can see numerous wind turbines in Großheide. The bedroom facing the systems is now being used as a storage room – even with the window closed, it is not possible to sleep there.
One of the three children got migraines “whenever we have an easterly wind and the sound pressure is on the house.” Reschke-Luiken says: “The next system is 840 meters away, that’s almost a kilometer. 1000 meters distance is far too little ”. The height of the systems must also be taken into account, in his case it is 186 meters. He cites Bavaria as an example, where ten times the height is required – and just six new systems went into operation in 2019.
“Since 1994, I believe, we have always had a wind farm in front of the door with over 50 turbines,” says Hermann Oldewurtel in nearby Holtgast. “They were smaller systems, 60 meters high at the top. They were annoying: you saw them, you heard them – and louder than those today. But they didn’t make you sick. “
The head of a sand mining company is currently fighting for the shutdown in the Aurich district court. “This is my parents’ house, my company is here. I want to live here again, this is my home. ”With legal disputes including expensive measuring devices, he is currently gambling away his pension. “It’s a cold expropriation, what is going on here. You can no longer live here, move away and then stop saying anything. ”This is how a few direct neighbors did it. Others persevere despite their complaints. Others feel nothing.