A couple who farm within sight of two Caithness windfarms say their health is being compromised by the constant noise of turbines.
Hamish and Lesley Ritchie keep around 170 sheep on rough grazing at Achaguie Farm, Scotscalder.
They are within earshot of 42 wind turbines – 21 at Causeymire and 21 at Baillie, near Reay.
A further 21 turbines have been approved in the same area, for a site at Limekiln.
The couple say that the “whooshing” sound of the turbines, along with a high pitched ringing or buzzing noise, has become intolerable.
Both take tablets every day for headaches and Mr Ritchie, 68, who has other health concerns, says he finds it difficult to sleep.
There is little conclusive evidence surrounding the impact of turbines and many experts believe they should have little or no impact.
But Mrs Ritchie, 65, herself recovering from lymphoid cancer, said: “The only way I can describe it is like when a fridge clicks in to bring it to temperature and it’s constant.
“The other thing we are getting – me in particular – is this very high pitched buzzing.
“Everybody says it must be tinnitus, but if it was tinnitus it would be with you permanently, but it’s not.
“I can go into Thurso and I don’t get it, or I can visit my son with no wind turbines around him, and I’m perfectly fine.
“In the evenings it’s really bad. You can’t read in peace because it’s there continually.
“If I put music on, it does distract it a bit, but not a lot, and you can only listen to so much music.
“My husband is worse than I am, he’s not sleeping with it very well.
“We both wake up in the morning with sore heads, feeling as if we have bad hangovers.”
The Ritchies used to farm near Bamff, but moved to Caithness seven years ago.
Mrs Ritchie said: “We weren’t bothered by the noise at first, but then they expanded the Causeymire wind farm and now it’s intolerable.
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“We don’t particularly want to move again as we’re pensioners.”
Noise consultant Dick Bowdler specialises in windfarms and industrial deafness.
He said most research shows there is no direct cause for illness from wind turbines.
Mr Bowdler added: “There may be an indirect cause which is that people are annoyed by wind turbines and that causes stress, and that can bring on illness.
“That is generally accepted.
“I know there are quite a lot of people who believe there is a direct effect, but there is nothing to suggest that’s the case.”
Nick Sharpe of Scottish Renewables said: “We are not aware of any peer-reviewed, robust scientific evidence linking wind turbines with ill health.
“Onshore wind farms must adhere to a strict set of criteria and developments will only get through the planning system if they meet strict international standards on noise.
“Once projects are up and running they are monitored regularly to ensure that they are complying with their planning permission.”
In a series of stories last month, the P&J spoke to a number of members of the Caithness community who said they feared it was becoming a wind farm landscape.
Despite more than 400 local objections and Highland Council’s refusal to grant planning permission, the 21 turbine scheme for the Limekiln estate found favour with Scottish ministers.
They will join the 30 or so towers already present. Further applications are in the pipeline.