DIE ZEIT: Ms. Kirchhof, Ms. Verlinden, so that the energy transition succeeds, the federal government plans to double the generation of electricity from wind power by 2030. How do you find that?
Susanne Kirchhof: Based on my experience, I see this very, very critically. We are working here in Germany with a wind power absolutism that leads to social upheavals, but also damages nature and landscapes.
Julia Verlinden: To achieve the climate protection goals, wind power is the most important pillar alongside sun, water and bioenergy. To do this, we need to triple wind power. We also have to see where clean electricity comes from, for example for electromobility.
ZEIT: You, Ms. Kirchhof, are involved in citizens' initiatives against wind power. Why?
Kirchhof: The trigger was personal dismay. We had just bought our house when 800 meters further wind turbines were built, 180 meters high. When they went online it was a shock. I remember the first time I went for a walk with the dog and said to my husband: I can't just hear them, I feel them too. He said: Oh, you women always feel strange things! When I asked neighbors whether they also find the rotors so loud and oppressive, I realized: I am not the only one. Someone said: Yeah, that's infrasound. Sound below the hearing limit.
Verlinden: I'm surprised. Studies have shown that the share of wind turbines in sound pressure from a distance of 700 meters can no longer be distinguished from normal background noise. We have many sources of infrasound, such as thunderstorms or traffic. There are completely different sources of noise that cause problems.
Kirchhof: There is only one investigation that comes to this conclusion. It always has to serve. But this is contrasted by the symptoms of many people. On the Internet you can find countless reports of sufferers complaining of insomnia, feeling of pressure and dizziness. National and international studies show that the perceptible infrasound from rotors extends further than 700 meters.
ZEIT: In 2015, the German Medical Day called for the phenomenon to be examined in more detail.
Verlinden: The question of whether noise and sound harm health is of course important. Around half of the people in Germany have a level of traffic noise at night that sometimes prevents them from sleeping properly. The level of infrasound from wind turbines is so low that it has no health consequences. This has been proven, so we don't really need any further studies.
Kirchhof: Wrong! Numerous publications state that there is a need for research. Politicians are obliged to take precautions here, especially since the problem is growing: According to the federal government's plan, the plants are getting bigger and bigger. Larger rotors also emit lower sound frequencies, and that is exactly what has not been measured in Germany so far. The acceptance of wind power suffers when you say to those affected: Your feelings are wrong, you imagine something.
Verlinden: The symptoms of local residents can of course not be discussed, that is clear. At the same time, the question is where the causes lie. There are studies showing that people who have been against a wind turbine from the start have more symptoms.
Kirchhof: I mean exactly the reasoning. People are suggested to be psychos. At the beginning, I myself had no reservations. The symptoms in me and my family are not a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Verlinden: The whole debate only leads to discrediting a technology that we absolutely need for climate protection. We rather have to talk about the fact that the federal government is currently driving the energy transition against the wall. The government has to get in the pots and swiftly implement the coal phase-out.