No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Wind Turbine Syndrome Sparks Dozens Of Lawsuits

October 23, 2013 | Charles Bowen

While most people agree that wind energy is very clean and efficient, litigation involving wind turbines is far from unusual. Many people have complained that wind turbines are unsightly annoyances, they ruin scenic vistas and they have been held responsible for killing thousands of unsuspecting birds. A case arising out of Massachusetts, however, is unusual in that it involves a woman claiming that nearby turbines are responsible for a variety of mysterious physical maladies connected with her “wind turbine syndrome.”

The woman afflicted by the bizarre condition, Sue Hobart, works as a florist in a small town in Cape Cod. Hobart said that she began feeling strange several years ago, seemingly out of the blue. Headaches, ringing in her ears, trouble sleeping and severe dizziness began to impact her daily life. Doctors were as confused as she was and had trouble pinpointing any health condition that could be responsible for her sudden symptoms.

Hobart’s condition continued to worsen, with her headaches becoming more severe. A light bulb went off, however, when she left Massachusetts to visit friends in San Diego and her conditions allegedly appeared to vanish. The same thing happened a few months later when she went on an overnight trip to nearby New Hampshire. She claimed that when she was away from her home, her troubles immediately disappeared. It was then that she identified an unusual source of her problems: a trio of newly installed wind turbines that had been erected in her town, one of which operates 24 hours a day and is located only 1,600 feet from her front door.

Hobart approached an attorney about her trouble and he initially dismissed her as a hypochondriac. However, he was swayed by a short visit to her house where he began to feel and hear the constant “thump, thump, thump” of the turbine’s blades after only ten minutes. Several months later, a doctor at Harvard Medical School diagnosed Hobart with “wind turbine syndrome,” a condition that is not officially recognized by the CDC.

The doctor from Johns Hopkins that coined the term, Nina Pierpont, says the condition is the green energy industry’s dirty little secret. Pierpont published her own study on the issue, finding a number of sick individuals who lived within a mile of turbines. Though Pierpont claims to have substantial scientific support, others criticize her methodology. Hobart is now one of dozens who have filed suit claiming that the three 400 foot tall turbines are responsible for an array of unpleasant symptoms. Two of the turbines are owned by the town itself, while a third is owned by Notus Clean Energy. Hobart filed a nuisance claim against Notus, asking for between $150,000 and $300,000 in damages for the loss of value of her home as well as medical bills.

Other neighbors who live near the turbines are professing similar negative symptoms. One family says that pressure in their ears led to trouble with balance, tinnitus and now jaw problems from constantly clenching their teeth. Others have reported headaches, shortness of breath and heart palpitations. While they swear the effects are real, another study on the wind turbine effect published in 2013 in the journal Health Psychology concluded that such symptoms could be psychogenic. The study found that some people are simply more suggestible than others and that such symptoms can be “contagious” and spread to others who begin to look for similar problems in their own life.

While the outcome of the lawsuits remains unknown, Hobart has had to put her home up for sale and move to a nearby town without turbines. Whether it’s real or not, the wind turbine syndrome has cost Hobart a pretty penny as she and her husband have had to cut the price of their home nearly in half due to coverage of her lawsuit.