Wind Energy

Published on July 27th, 2011 | by Glenn Meyers


The Wind Turbine Noise Debate

July 27th, 2011 by  

Noise comparison Source: Pembina Institute

Renewable energy from a wind turbine sounds like a great and green idea to most folks – that is, unless you happen to be living next to the turning blades.

Questions continue on whether these devices make a noise that is not only disturbing; it might even be a possible health hazard. It all depends on which side of the noise fence you happen to be sitting on – whether you happen to be a wind energy supporter or a windbagger, as the naysayers are being called. Then there are those who live nearby that count the most, regardless of their environmental position.

The Ontario Sustainable Energy Association (OSEA) in Canada has provided the report about wind energy concerns:  “Blowing Smoke: Correcting Anti Wind Myths in Ontario.” The report pens that wind energy naysayers are making negative claims about wind energy without any scientific basis, claiming noise as one of the issues, depending on where you happen to be located, it seems.

The Ontario study addresses the issue of noise: “Even at a distance, some people still find the sound ‘annoying,’ and those perceptions deserve respect. Studies show, however, that perceptions vary from person to person, depending on their other feelings about windmills.”

The report continues, bringing up the issue of low-frequency sound and infrasound – sounds which are everywhere in the environment, coming from rivers, the wind itself and also from human sources like cars. But Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health has found “no scientific evidence…to indicate that low frequency sound generated from wind turbines causes adverse health effects.”

Wind turbine parts

To compare, the organization posts this video comparing wind turbine noise to other noises.

Unfortunately, there are numerous complaints worldwide about such noises, from residents as far away as Australia to the residents of Libertyville, Illinois.

In Australia, University of Adelaide acoustics researchers are investigating the causes of wind turbine noise, also known as “wind turbine syndrome.”

The residents of Libertyville have created a website about wind turbine noises, with the title, “Citizens for Protection of Libertyville.”

As far as the noise issue goes, this is a big one. “Sure, we hear things every day that are louder than Wind Turbines: planes, trains & automobiles. Please understand that living and sleeping with continuous 24/7 Wind Turbine Noise is different.  Unlike the leaf blower that eventually goes away, Wind Turbine Noise never goes away. It’s always there and even when it’s not, you think it is, you anticipate it. It’s weird. And it’s quite disturbing. Imagine listening 24/7 to this.”

As real estate agents always say, it’s all about location, location, location.

Photo: Pembina Institute & US Department of Energy

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About the Author

is a writer, producer, and director. Meyers was editor and site director of Green Building Elements, a contributing writer for CleanTechnica, and is founder of Green Streets MediaTrain, a communications connection and eLearning hub. As an independent producer, he's been involved in the development, production and distribution of television and distance learning programs for both the education industry and corporate sector. He also is an avid gardener and loves sustainable innovation.

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  • Euroflycars

    The problem with infrasound is related to some atavic instincts: thousands of years ago, regular short-interval infrasound sequences told human tribes the imminent approach of huge animals. This could be exciting for the hunters, but was probably mostly perceived as a frightening perspective. Today, we still feel deep unrest and fear when this kind of sounds — as produced for instance the distant bass beat of rock music — reaches our ears.

    So much the more than In the past years the rock beat frequency has been steadily risen from 2 per second (normal hart beat double pattern) to 3 per seconds (corresponding to a puls frequency of 90, as it happens when we are angry of anxious). Beverage manufacturers like Red Bull have tuned-in to this adrenaline generating trend in order to allow youngsters to sustain the faster heart beat resulting from long-lasting exposure in disco-dancing places. Adrenaline being toxic in the longer run, death casualties among young people through arythmic heart troubles have recently been reported.

  • Taisto Leinonen

    Dear green people, editors inclusive!

    Please ban the term “wind turbine” for the time being.

    While there are some experimental “real” wind turbine designs, it should be borne in mind that a “turbine” always has a casing. All the current discussion deals with WINDMILLS alone.

    Taisto Leinonen, M.Sc.,
    ex Editor-in-Chief of Finnish Electronics News
    Helsinki, Finland

  • douglas prince

    It’s also about design, design, design. Other studies conclusively show that VAWTs produce a heck of a lot less noise than standard blade design. Plus, they require a lot less land to generate the same amount of electricity, thus reducing the footprint space needed.

    • Anonymous

      Do VAWTs actually use less land or do they just pack closer together?

      Horizontal axis windmills need to be placed some distance apart in order to avoid wake disturbance problems, but they have a very small footprint. Less than 2% of wind farms is used for ‘footprints’.

      I suspect people are misusing the term ‘footprint’ in the case of vertical axis mills. It may well be that since they generally sit closer to the ground rather than high into the better wind they might require more square feet of land for footings than taller horizontal mills.

  • greenman3610

    the tea party crowd has moved on from Kenyan birth certificates to noises from windmills.

    • Anonymous

      lol, yeah, seems like it 😀

      Thanks for popping in! 😀

      nice to see that greenman face over here 😀

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