Planning controls could follow a review promised on the back of a report which claims the wind industry has shaped government policy on noise
The Government could be about to introduce tighter controls on noise from wind turbines on the back of accusations of “two decades of deception” on the issue.
The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) has said new planning controls could be introduced following a report which claims policy on noise has been shaped by the wind industry.
The study claims this situation, likened to the Volkswagen scandal, has caused “serious annoyance and far reaching risks to the health and wellbeing of large numbers of people living in the proximity of wind farms”.
However the findings of the report were condemned as “an appalling slur” by wind industry experts at the Institute of Acoustics (IoA).
The government’s pledge and the report were welcomed in Northumberland, where people living near wind farms have complained about noise.
The report is from the Independent Noise Working Group (INWG) which claims the wind industry and its acousticians have “for many years been denying there are noise related problems associated with industrial wind turbines.”
Its report claims “a small group of wind industry funded acousticians have taken control of the Institute of Acoustics (IoA) and its noise working groups.”
The study, which has been presented to DECC, states: “This façade of respectability afforded by the Institute of Acoustics has enabled the wind industry to dominate government noise assessment policy and planning guidance by providing inaccurate and misleading scientific advice.
“The parallels with the Volkswagen emission scandal are quite remarkable.
“The INWG suggest these two decades of deception are now resulting in serious annoyance and far reaching risks to the health and wellbeing of large numbers of people living in the proximity of wind farms.”
The report calls for an “overhaul of the planning conditions that have led to these wind farms being granted planning permission in the first place, and to ensure future developments are more strictly controlled.”
It requests “robust protection for existing wind farm neighbours against the effects of turbine noise – specifically against Excessive Amplitude Modulation (EAM).
“EAM is a highly intrusive ‘whoosh’ or ‘thumping’ noise characteristic emitted by most wind turbines; a fact which has been continually denied and downplayed by the wind industry.”
Responding to the report, a DECC spokesman said the government recognises that turbine noise can be a concern for residents and said a review has been commissioned which could lead to it being controlled through a new planning condition.
He said: “DECC has recognised that amplitude modulation (AM) noise produced by wind turbines can be a cause of concern for some residents.
“DECC has appointed Parsons Brinckerhoff Ltd to review the available evidence on AM, with a view to recommending how excessive AM might be controlled through a planning condition.
“The INWG’s study will be considered alongside other evidence that is being gathered as part of this review.”
The report and DECC’s statement were welcomed by Tom Pape, whose home at Wingates near Rothbury, is close to Infinis’ six 110m turbine scheme.
Mr Pape said one of the turbines is less than a mile from his home and that when it is turning, it can be sometimes be heard above the noise from a wood yard closer to his property.
The resident claimed the noisy turbine had initially caused sleepless nights for some nearby residents.
“You would lie there in bed hearing this constant ‘woosh’.”
However in recent times it has apparently been turned off at nights while the angle of its blades is said to have been altered to reduce the noise.
Mr Pape said: “They are noisy. Unless something is done about them they can have an impact on people.”
A spokesman for the IoA said it “strongly refuted” the working group’s allegations.
“These accusations are completely without any basis in fact and the attempt by the INWG to compare the actions of the Institute to the Volkswagen emission scandal is an appalling slur on the professionalism and integrity of our members.”
He said the institute had conducted “wide-ranging” consultation before publication of a particular document during which opinions were sought from all quarters.
“Throughout the whole process... our whole approach and that of the members involved has been based on science and best practice, and we would strongly challenge the INWG to substantiate its claims that this has resulted in the advice given to the government being ‘inaccurate’ and ‘misleading’.”