Library filed under Noise
This important paper examines the issues surrounding wind turbine noise emissions, the impact of the noise on residences nearby, and how public health professionals have failed to closely examine legitimate complaints. The abstract of the paper can be found below. The full paper can be accessed by clicking the links on this page.
Editor’s note: This commentary is Mark Whitworth, who is president of Energize Vermont, a statewide organization that supports sustainable energy development that protects our environment and respects our communities.
The board has proposed limits of 35 decibels at night and 42 decibels during the day, as measured outside neighboring homes. Most turbines today are subject to a 45-decibel sound limit outside neighboring homes and a 30-decibel limit measured inside neighbors’ homes.
City council chief executive Paddy Clifford said in his notice of review that noise from Te Rere Hau needed to be better managed and monitored. He said there were inaccuracies in evidence given about the acoustic effects of the wind turbines at the original consent hearing, with the effects turning out to be far greater than had been predicted.
The board released its draft version of the new rules in March, and the board members held four meetings this week to hear from the public and from wind and sound experts as they get ready to finalize the sound standards.
Prospective neighbors of wind turbines heard all the promises: “Quiet as a library.” “Like a baby’s breath.” “The same decibel level as a refrigerator.” The more brazen wind developers claimed “you will not hear them.” Then the four hundred and fifty foot wind towers with their bus-size nacelles and three-bladed fans were built. Sixteen in Sheffield, four on Georgia Mountain, twenty-one in Lowell. And neighbors learned the truth. Yes, you can hear them. They sound like “a jet plane that never lands,” or “sneakers in a drier,” or there is a “thump thump thump” or a “whoosh whoosh whoosh” as the blade passes the tower, causing something called amplitude modulation.
'We've become a dumping ground for wind turbines'
A request by wind farm developer Avangrid Renewables to expand the wind overlay zone was not agreed upon by the board, according to Jody Wentzel, vice chairman of the Hopkinton Wind Advisory Board. The board is also considering setting 24-hour decibel limits for the wind towers, different than what the Town of Parishville is considering. Parishville has opted for two 12-hour periods ranging from .25 to .45 decibels.
The findings of this study demonstrate that infrasound near the hearing threshold may induce changes of neural activity across several brain regions, some of which are known to be involved in auditory processing, while others are regarded as keyplayers in emotional and autonomic control. In other words, sound that is not audible can still trigger a response in the human brain.
Councilwoman Karen Carlson, who said she receives at least two complaints about the turbines per day, visited West Log Bridge Road to see for herself what her constituents had been talking about....she could hear the noise emanating from the structures. “I can understand how it makes people crazy,” she said. “Honestly it was like this drone of a jet that just kept going.”
If the new rule is adopted as proposed, sound could not exceed 42 decibels during the day and 35 decibels at night. ...The new rules also require turbines to be at least 10 times their height from the nearest home. A 500-foot turbine, for example, would have to be 5,000 feet from the nearest home.
An El Paso County commissioner said Thursday that safety and health concerns regarding the Nextera wind farm in Calhan may never be resolved to everyone's satisfaction. ..."I had to move away because I was sick," said Jeff Wolfe.
Jeff Wolfe, who lives close to NextEra Energy's Golden West wind farm, said he's experienced nausea, dizziness and migraines since it began operating in fall 2015. He attributes the symptoms to the low-frequency sound waves, known as infrasound, emitted by the 145 windmills. "This is poisoning people. It's poisoning animals," said Wolfe.
NextEra's Golden West Wind Energy Center sited in El Paso County, Colorado was required under the County permit to conduct a noise impact study after the project was placed in service in October 2015. Acoustician Robert Rand was asked by residents living near the turbines to review the noise impact study as prepared by NextEra consultant, Epsilon Associates. Mr. Rand's report, included here, identified several material errors with Epsilon's report and also found that the project appears to be operating outside the noise limits permitted by the County and the State. The Golden West Wind Energy Center consists 145 1.72-megawatt GE turbines for a total installed capacity of 249.4-megawatts Mr. Rand's executive summary is provided below. The full report can be accessed by clicking the document icon on this page.
“Our dream of sitting outside behind our house enjoying some peace and quiet no longer exists,” said a resident of Flat River Road. “We sit on the deck at night and all we can hear are the windmills. We open our bedroom window and all we can hear are the windmills. There is not one day that goes by that we don’t hear it.
State regulators have proposed new sound limits for wind turbines that some renewable energy proponents say would effectively ban new utility-scale turbines from Vermont.
These papers document an important debate between wind-friendly academics who argue that those living near wind turbines benefit from the experience and those who insist such conclusions are backed by inappropriate study methodologies and broad assertions that cloud actual findings. In this circumstance, Dr Daniel Shepherd a PhD in psychoacoustics and head of research at AUT University in Auckland, New Zealand, challenges the methods and conclusions of Mroczek et al.’s “Evaluation of Quality of Life of Those Living near a Wind Farm“ published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 2015, 12, 6066–6083. The academic editors of the Journal, after granting Mroczek the opportunity to respond, agree with Shepherd's main criticisms. In total, there are four papers documenting this debate; three are attached to this page. These include Shepherd's critique, Mroczek's response and the position of the Journal's academic editors. Portions of the response by the Journal's editors are also provided below.
Councillors were quick to voice their support for the families living close to the Raheenleagh Wind Farm and asked that the matter be put back on the agenda for April’s meeting so that it doesn’t get forgotten about. Speaking after the presentation at last Monday’s county council meeting, Cllr Shay Cullen said that the families were living a ‘ horrendous nightmare’.
South Wicklow residents living in the shadow of the Raheenleagh Wind Farm had a simple message for the elected members of Wicklow County Council this week: help us.
“Vermont Wind has deflected its non-compliance since 2011 and Mr. Brouha’s proposal to adhere to Vermont Wind’s original methodology ends the pretense,” argues Anderson. As the independent sound monitoring firm hired by the DPS, Acentech confirmed, Anderson argues, “…if Vermont Wind had tested with windows open, Mr. Brouha and the State of Vermont would not be here today. The proof of compliance is in the proper execution of the method and using the methodology that Vermont Wind used to get us here should be the one that ends this inquiry.”