Wind turbines and noise
Ah, finally the NC blog is back to looking at NOISE issues!
And yet, this topic is also about technology and sound/noise. Just that this time, rather than technology creating ‘music’, it is generating unadulterated noise.
(The reason I am posting on this topic now is its local pertinence. There has been a recent struggle in my part of Ontario between a company that wants to build five 500 ft. wind turbines up on a hill, and a number of nearby residents who are resisting the plan. Just recently, one of the farmers who was going to rent his land to the turbine company decided to cancel his agreement. Apparently there are two other landowners who have agreed to rent their land. We will see if they too change their minds.)
Wind turbines are presented by various groups as ‘green energy’ options. No polluting fossil fuels, just the use of natural forces. Which we all like the idea of, yes? Without getting into the economic and energy discussions that surrounds this idea, today we will look at one of the side effects of these turbines – the noise they generate.
These turbines generate several types of noise. One type is the noise from the mechanical functioning of the motors that turn the blades. Then there is the noise created by the turning of the blades themselves (aka trailing-edge noise). There is also low frequency sound (LFS). You can read more aobut LSF here. And then there is what is called infrasound, pulses which are not heard but are felt. It is these noises that have sparked the anti-turbine/wind farm movement.
There are many people around the planet, who are up in arms about wind turbine noise. There are court cases, demonstrations, articles, studies – all geared towards limiting (in some cases eliminating) the building of wind turbines, which are often presented by governments and businesses as necessary supplements to/replacement of, fossil fuel based energy.
If you want a detailed analysis of the acoustic noise from turbines, you can read this study: http://docs.wind-watch.org/rogers-windturbinenoise_rev2006.pdf
Here you can read about Canadian federal government’s plan to study the noise issues arising from wind turbines: http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/wind-farm-opponents-cheer-federal-study-of-health-effects-1.1161838
Here you can read Robert Bryce’s overview of US and international responses to wind turbines and the noise issue: http://nypost.com/2012/10/17/against-the-wind/
And here is a UK study on the effect of turbine noise on those living in close proximity: http://protectamherst.yolasite.com/resources/Frey_Hadden_WT_noise_health_01Jan2012%20copy.pdf
And this link gives you a wide ranging overview of noise, noise policies, and more on the science behind the noise of turbines: http://theenergycollective.com/willem-post/84293/wind-turbine-noise-and-air-pressure-pulses
Here is a story of a community getting the state of Massachusetts to shut down wind turbines due to noise problems: http://oilprice.com/Latest-Energy-News/World-News/State-Department-Shuts-Down-Wind-Turbines-due-to-Noise-Pollution.html
Here is an interesting link to the England-based Noise Abatement Society’s information on wind turbines and noise: http://noiseabatementsociety.com/campaigns/wind-turbines/
If you want to know where the wind farms are in Ontario, check here.
At the national level, here is a recent Canadian documentary film about wind farms, turbines, noise concerns and the impact of the noise of the turbines on peoples’ health: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JiCQabGuKFk
For those of you who have not been near a wind turbine, how noisy is a turbine? Hear for yourself: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KoVKP0G_f8M
If you want to know more about the groups who are working against wind farms, check here.
By the way – there are people, even from outside the industry, who argue that the noise from the turbines is not very loud, that it is no louder than nearby highway noise. (See here for video making this point: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uBaMox3dC6U) Often those who support wind energy accuse those who are against it of having NIMBY syndrome. However, there does seem to be a lot of evidence about the problems created by turbine noise. (Having never been near one that was running, I have no experience on which to base an opinion either way. I guess I better get out there and get near some!)
Like most debates about energy, and sustainability, this is a complicated issue. On one hand we have a clear and immediate need to find alternative energy sources. On the other hand, we want those sources to have no negative impact on us.
What to do? I am not sure, but I am pretty sure that I too would go crazy if there was a wind farm close to me. Forget negative impact on property value – I am thinking of NOISE and what it does to me. And yet I also know that we need to find alternate energy sources.
Weigh in, folks! What do you think?