Nonsense on stilts

The expressions “Environmental Sustainability” and “Resource Management” may seem to be synonymous. In the original concept this could have been the intent, but now that we have in operation a number of alternative energy sources to offset the use of fossil fuels, unforeseen emissions may be affecting local communities in the vicinity with the possibility of public health being compromised. Wind farms are an alternative energy source and the effects of noise emissions on the health of people living within several kilometres of the wind farms is becoming a concern. The noise level from a wind farm may be quite low, but its characteristics compared to that of the normal background sound make it stand out as something quite different, and its ability to excite room resonances makes it an irritant causing severe loss of sleep and extreme annoyance. Often the sounds are heard more clearly indoors than outside. New Zealand Standard 6808 on the noise from wind turbines has been reviewed and a new draft standard produced for public comment. The draft differs little from the existing standard and closely follows that used in Britain and parts of Europe, even though there are clear indications that the criteria to be met do not fully conform with World Health Organization recommendations, and the methodology used is likely mathematically, scientifically and ethically wrong. The draft and similar standards across the world are clearly biased towards wind farm development for as little cost as possible, and it appears public health concerns are not being given enough attention.

Editor's note: The conclusion of Philip Dickinson's paper is provided below. His full paper can be accessed by clicking on the link at the bottom of this page.


The whole concept on which the New Zealand draft standard on wind farm sound is based, and that of most other similar standards across the world, would appear to be scientific nonsense. One can only come to the conclusion that the concept is mainly a business promotion and public relations ex-ercise, which has been devised to appear to be taking into consideration the health and welfare of local residents but is designed to get the most out of the investment for the cheapest outlay without causing the community to take serious legal action against the developer and territorial authority.

In New Zealand, and many other parts of the world where population density is very low and large areas of land uninhabited, one must question the need for any wind turbine noise to intrude on local communities. Clearly wind farms are one answer to the energy crisis, although it is believed their working life is only about 20 years, 90% of which may be taken up in recouping the installation costs, and their efficiency leaves much to be desired.

One easy solution for solving the noise problem is a ruling that no wind farm sound emission shall exceed 30 dB (LAeq,10mins) at any residence, nor exceed 20 dB (LAeq,10mins) in total in the frequency bands 31.5 to 125 Hz. A very simple way of achieving this, and of eliminating the need for any further involvement by the territorial authority, would be to make a ruling that no wind farm shall be situated less than say 10 kilometres away from any residence unless the occupant agrees in writing for this condition to be waived.

Nonsense On Stilts

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NOV 23 2009
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