Potential of wind turbines to elicit seizures under various meteorological conditions

Epilepsia. 2010 Jul;51(7):1146-51. doi: 10.1111/j.1528-1167.2009.02402.x. Epub 2009 Nov 16.


Purpose: To determine the potential risk of epileptic seizures from wind turbine shadow flicker under various meteorologic conditions.

Methods: We extend a previous model to include attenuation of sunlight by the atmosphere using the libradtran radiative transfer code.

Results: Under conditions in which observers look toward the horizon with their eyes open we find that there is risk when the observer is closer than 1.2 times the total turbine height when on land, and 2.8 times the total turbine height in marine environments, the risk limited by the size of the image of the sun's disc on the retina. When looking at the ground, where the shadow of the blade is cast, observers are at risk only when at a distance <36 times the blade width, the risk limited by image contrast. If the observer views the horizon and closes their eyes, however, the stimulus size and contrast ratio are epileptogenic for solar elevation angles down to approximately 5 degrees.

Discussion: Large turbines rotate at a rate below that at which the flicker is likely to present a risk, although there is a risk from smaller turbines that interrupt sunlight more than three times per second. For the scenarios considered, we find the risk is negligible at a distance more than about nine times the maximum height reached by the turbine blade, a distance similar to that in guidance from the United Kingdom planning authorities.

MeSH terms

  • Energy-Generating Resources*
  • Epilepsy, Reflex / etiology*
  • Humans
  • Photic Stimulation / adverse effects*
  • Risk Factors
  • Seizures / etiology*
  • Solar Energy
  • Sunlight / adverse effects*
  • Weather*
  • Wind*