IoS letters, emails & online postings (9 August 2009)

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There are other concerns over wind power, additional to health, among them the crucial need to provide conventional back-up for the ups and downs of wind power, often synchronously over the UK and northern Europe ("Are wind farms a health risk?", 2 August).

In its submission to the House of Lords Select Committee on Economic Affairs' investigation of Renewable Energy (2008), E.ON UK estimated that a back-up provision of over 90 per cent of the installed wind capacity would be needed. Paradoxically, we shall have to build thermal power stations to allow the deployment of already very expensive wind turbines. These back-up power stations by definition will run below maximum output for much of the time and so cannot pay for themselves, nor can they pay off their energy and carbon dioxide capital as quickly as an ordinary station.

Until a proper independent cost-benefit study is made, mass destruction of countryside by wind power is being concealed under the parliamentary carpet.

Dr John Etherington

Llanhowell, Pembrokeshire

Our research is being cited to support the case that "wind turbine syndrome" is related to a disturbance of vestibular apparatus produced by low-frequency components of the acoustic radiations from wind turbines. Our work does not provide the direct evidence suggested. We described a sensitivity of the vestibular system to low-frequency vibration of the head, at about 100Hz, and not air-conducted sound.

At present I do not believe that there is any direct evidence to show that any of the above acoustico-physiological mechanisms are activated by the radiations from wind turbines. Even if the vestibular system were activated in a controlled acoustic environment, it is not necessarily the case that it would produce pathological effects. Until such evidence is available I have an open mind on "wind turbine syndrome".

Dr Neil Todd

Faculty of Life Science

University of Manchester

Dr Pierpont compares her research, published in a book rather than in a peer-reviewed journal, to that into smoking and cancer. But her methodology appears to be more like the discredited research that linked MMR with autism. Starting with an illness (lung cancer) and looking for the cause (smoking) is very different from starting with a possible cause (wind turbines) and looking for illnesses it may cause. Dr Pierpont is right to expect criticism for not having enough cases. Far larger numbers are needed for this latter methodology to work.

Dr David P Stansfield

London E14

My wife had four solar panels installed on our roof in 1994. Ever since, we have shut off our heating in April and been provided with hot water until October. This year, our old immersion heater has been needed only once.

The major obstacle to domestic solar water heating must be the cost – we have just about covered the initial expenditure – but surely most innovations are massively expensive at first? Would someone please explain why encouragement on a grand scale for individual houses wouldn't lead to a significant reduction in the need for fossil fuels, while avoiding the potential hazards and disadvantages of other resources. Is the only disincentive the effect it would have on the profits of our current energy suppliers?

George Drury

Ripley, Derbyshire

Far from "free range", game birds such as young pheasants are often reared intensively, the eggs being produced abroad under factory-farm conditions illegal in the UK ("Tebbit's game for anything", 2 August). The birds are then dumped as live targets in the countryside – while other creatures are strangled by snares set to protect the estate owners' investment. Birds that are not shot are abandoned as living rubbish, because their cost has already been recovered from the shooters. It's no surprise that this industry chose the dinosaur Lord Tebbit as its pin-up.

Christopher Clayton

Waverton, Cheshire

The Tories say the new "open primary" system will give people more power to "make the right choice for themselves and their neighbour" ("Totnes is just the start", 2 August). Let's not delude ourselves: nobody ever voted Conservative on behalf of their neighbour.

Chris Moorhouse

Southampton

I read with some concern that you listed my name alongside that of Silvio Berlusconi, whom I consider a prince among men given that he has provided employment for many of Italy's most impoverished young women (Silly old goats, 2 August). Similarly you ask: "Can there be anyone who doesn't feel repulsed by the pictures of Jack Nicholson holidaying with his paunch?" What do you expect the poor man to do? Abandon his stomach in a box? Bury it in the garden? You can make up for this insult if you address issues of interest to me and my kind: thermal socks, sheds, and Harris Tweed.

Richard Madeley

via email

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Letters to the Editor, Independent on Sunday, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5HF; email (give postal address): sundayletters@independent.co.uk (no attachments, please); fax: 020 7005 2627; online: independent.co.uk/dayinapage/2009/August/9

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