Windmills And Health: Helene Jacobsen and Jens Hjorth thought their neighbors were hysterical because they wanted to prevent the construction of Hageholm Windmills park at Holbæk. Now – a year after the blades began to spin – the couple only wants to move away with their daughter.
AF — Berit Holbek Jensen – December 2012
Half of Danish power consumption must be met by wind power by 2020, and requires the placement of up to 1000 large wind turbines around the country. 300 have already been raised, but the neighbors complain now about noise and broken health, and resistance to wind turbines is spreading.
There was once a house that was absolutely perfect — it seemed to Helene Jacobsen and Jens Hjorth at least. “We wanted to live in a place where you could make bonfires and twistbread and have horses and for that matter, beat the drum without annoying the neighbors,” says Helene Jacobsen.
They chose a small place 12 km outside Holbæk near the village of Gislinge. North of the property stood six 90 meter high wind turbines, but it was no problem.
“We thought green energy was good. And the wind blows pretty often from the north, so we didn’t notice them really,” says Jens Hjorth.
“We thought the resistance to the new wind turbines was a bit hysterical,” says Helene, while they walked around in the November mud with the family’s Great Dane at their heels. “You see them, but then you discover that you hear them.” — the 10 Siemens 2.3 MW turbines of almost 130 meters owned by the Swedish power company Vattenfall.
Five facing east and five west of Helene Jacobsen and Jens Hjorth’s property. The nearest is less than 600 meters away, and although it is a quiet day, the deep hum is constant.
“And listen to the blades,” says Helene. “Swush, swush, swush. It is there all the time, here outside. Sometimes when I come in from a walk, I am very tired in the head.”
When it emerged in 2009 that Holbæk Municipality would allow the setup of what is now called Hageholm Wind Farm, Helene Jacobsen and her husband were not particularly worried about the noise. They were more concerned that their house would be difficult to sell because of a tainted view and annoying shadows from the blades, so they sought damages like the other neighbors and were awarded 225,000 dollars. Then Vattenfall built the turbines. It was in November 2011.
“In the beginning we felt nothing. Of course we could hear them, but we agreed to give it time,” says Helene Jacobsen. After a few weeks, their daughter Maja, 11, who otherwise was a good sleeper, began to have poor sleep and lay awake at night, but they ignored it and thought that it was probably just temporary.
“Then she began to complain that it did ‘strange’ things in her body. She could not control it. She even felt tingling in the hands and chest tightness. So we called the doctor,” says Helene.
A few months later it was suddenly Helene Jacobsen’s turn. She was hospitalized in acute care at Holbæk Hospital with symptoms of a blood clot. The doctors did nothing other than for high blood pressure.
“From then on, we began to notice how bad our sleep was actually,” says Jens Hjorth. “None of us could sleep any longer, and we got shorter fuses.”
“The family as a whole became more irritable,” says Helene Jacobsen.
Doctors: Move away!
Recently answers were received from children’s doctors at Holbæk Hospital, who have studied Maja thoroughly. They can not find a medical reason for her to feel bad. Helene Jacobsen and Jens Hjorth are afraid that the noise from the turbines are creating the problems. The turbines cause them stress in the daytime and are destroying their sleep at night, so the body never gets recharged.
“Our own doctors — also Maja’s — say that we need to move away from the farm. But it can be hard to sell a property where you get sick. Who will buy it?” asks Jens Hjorth.
Several of the neighbors have already left their houses. This included Boye Jensen, owner of the local nursery with its farmhouse, who with his wife have rented a house in Gislinge, to get quiet and to sleep. Boye Jensen, in his time, was the resistance to Hageholm Wind Farm and is the founder of the National Association Neighbors for Giant Windmills.
” It was him,” Helene Jacobsen and Jens Hjorth walked and laughed.
“Now we know that Boye was not hysterical. What are these costs — at all costs — to impose on the people of Denmark in the name of the environment?” asks Hjorth.
“Who is it that sets the noise limits and says that people can not get sick of turbines? Is it the wind turbine manufacturers? Or the owners? And who’s responsible? It is as if everyone washes their hands. When we complain about the noise, we are told that we must call Vattenfall! Is it just my imagination?”
Helene Jacobsen and Jens Hjorth are well aware that there can be negative consequences to coming forward with their story. They may be labelled as not reliable as with Jens Hjorth, who is 48 and a plumber, and who is sick with depression in its fourth year. Who says that’s not why he’s failing to thrive?
“Yes, but he was actually starting to get better before the turbines went up,” says Helene Jacobsen.
“Now I’m at a complete standstill. Especially the nights can be bad. I catch the sound,” says Jens Hjorth.
Helene Jacobsen, who is 45, is a listing agent and the person who brings home the money. But she just had to close her company, when she lost a major customer. Maybe that is what stressed her?
“I do not think that is the cause of my symptoms. I usually find work again fairly quickly,” she says.
Girls of 11 may also be difficult, for many reasons other than wind noise? “Yes, but our impression is that Maia has always been very good otherwise. We’ve heard nothing else from the school,” says Helene Jacobsen, who has now been referred for further studies in the occupational medicine department in Køge. That will also be likely for Maia.
Regardless of the outcome, Jens Hjorth, however, feels they must move away. He has had enough – dream or not. “We can not sell, but we can not sit and wait. We are even worse off.”
“So it ends, only do we give the keys to the Credit Association, and then let them decide what they should do? At least I get something back.”
Not when you can get something like this pulled down over your head.