By Rory Mulholland, Paris
A French dairy farmer is suing a wind energy company whose turbines have allegedly made his cows sick and led to a dramatic fall in their milk output.
An expert brought in to provide evidence to a Paris court confirmed that the 120 animals had been drinking much less water since the turbines were installed in early 2011.
This had led to a large drop in milk production, as cows need to drink at least three litres of water for every litre of milk they produce, and has damaged the cows’ general health, the expert said.
“The farmer is ruined,” Philippe Bodereau, his lawyer, told The Telegraph. His client, Yann Joly, is suing CSO Energy, which operates wind farms in France and Germany, for €356,900 (£260,000). Mr Joly wants the firm to remove its turbines.
He says he is being forced to sell his cows and will grow crops on his land instead.
"I am now in the process of selling the cows because it is not profitable to keep them," he told The Telegraph. "I had an employee on the farm and am having to let him go. I will have to get a job outside the farm in order to try and keep it. I will also use my fields to grow crops instead: beetroot, wheat and colza."
Mr Bodereau said: “This is the first time in the world that there is a document from an expert concluding that there is no other reason but wind turbines that could be to blame for animals being sick.”
Christiane Nansot, an agricultural expert, who wrote the report, said the drop in milk production began when the 24 turbines were installed next to the family farm, in Le Boisle district, near the Abbeville, northern France.
“The geologist said that a geographical fault in the underlying rock could be leading to an amplification in the waves emanating from the turbines,” she said.
But she cautioned that other farms where turbines are installed near faults would have to be studied before it could be definitively concluded that the turbines were making the Le Boisle animals sick.
The report says that the cows are also prone to mastitis – udder inflammation.
It does not decisively lay the blame on the turbines for the milk yield drop or the symptoms, but says all other possible causes have been ruled out.
A ruling is expected next spring.
CSO Energy did not respond to requests for comment.
Wind turbines have been blamed for killing large numbers of wild birds and bats but there have been few other claims of them damaging animals’ health.
Critics insist they are damaging to human health because they create infrasound - sound at such low frequency that it cannot be picked up by the human ear, but can carry through the atmosphere for great distances.
However a Sydney University review earlier this year of 25 studies into the possible health effects of wind turbines found none had produced evidence they were detrimental to human health.