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Resource Documents: Impacts (117 items)


Also see NWW "costs/benefits" FAQ

Documents presented here are not the product of nor are they necessarily endorsed by National Wind Watch. These resource documents are provided to assist anyone wishing to research the issue of industrial wind power and the impacts of its development. The information should be evaluated by each reader to come to their own conclusions about the many areas of debate.

Date added:  August 31, 2015
EnvironmentPrint storyE-mail story

Two methods for estimating limits to large-scale wind power generation

Author:  Miller, Lee; Brunsell, Nathaniel; Mechem, David; et al.

Wind turbines remove kinetic energy from the atmospheric flow, which reduces wind speeds and limits generation rates of large wind farms. These interactions can be approximated using a vertical kinetic energy (VKE) flux method, which predicts that the maximum power generation potential is 26% of the instantaneous downward transport of kinetic energy using the preturbine climatology. We compare the energy flux method to the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) regional atmospheric model equipped with a wind turbine parameterization over a 105 km2 region in the central United States. The WRF simulations yield a maximum generation of 1.1 We⋅m−2, whereas the VKE method predicts the time series while underestimating the maximum generation rate by about 50%. Because VKE derives the generation limit from the preturbine climatology, potential changes in the vertical kinetic energy flux from the free atmosphere are not considered. Such changes are important at night when WRF estimates are about twice the VKE value because wind turbines interact with the decoupled nocturnal low-level jet in this region. Daytime estimates agree better to 20% because the wind turbines induce comparatively small changes to the downward kinetic energy flux. This combination of downward transport limits and wind speed reductions explains why large-scale wind power generation in windy regions is limited to about 1 We⋅m−2, with VKE capturing this combination in a comparatively simple way.

Lee M. Miller, Nathaniel A. Brunsell, David B. Mechem, Fabian Gans, Andrew J. Monaghan, Robert Vautard, David W. Keith, and Axel Kleidon
Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry, Jena, Germany (LM, FG, AK).
University of Kansas, Lawrence (NB, DM).
National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado (AM).
Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de l’Environnement, Institut Pierre-Simon Laplace, Laboratoire Commissariat à l’Énergie Atomique, CNRS, Université de Versailles Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines, Versailles, France (RV).
Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts (DK).

Proceedings of the National Academies of Science, August 24, 2015.
Published online before print. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1408251112

Download original document: “Two methods for estimating limits to large-scale wind power generation”

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Date added:  August 17, 2015
Environment, WildlifePrint storyE-mail story

Literature Reviews of the Ecological Impacts of Offshore Wind Farms

Author:  Various

Benthic Communities and Habitats — Karin Meißner & Holmer Sordyl, Institute of Applied Ecology, Neu Broderstorf, Germany.

Fish Fauna — Oliver Keller, Karin Lüdemann & Rudolf Kafemann, Institute of Applied Fish Biology, Hamburg, Germany.

Seabirds — Volker Dierschke & Stefan Garthe, Research and Technology Centre, West Coast, Kiel University, Büsum, Germany.

Marine Mammals — Klaus Lucke, Sandra Storch, Justin Cooke & Ursula Siebert, Research and Technology Centre, West Coast, Kiel University, Büsum, and Centre for Ecosystem Management Studies, Gutach, Germany.


Download original document: “Literature Reviews of the Ecological Impacts of Offshore Wind Farms”

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Date added:  August 6, 2015
Health, NoisePrint storyE-mail story

Infrasound/low-frequency noise and wind turbines

Author:  Stelling, Keith; and Multi-Municipal Wind Turbine Working Group

Typically, regulating authorities have not required the measurement of infrasound (sound below 20 Hz in frequency) and low frequency (LFN) (generally sound from 200 Hz to 20 Hz) inside homes adjacent to wind turbines as a condition of their installation and operational monitoring. The health risk of infrasound from wind turbines has been dismissed by the wind industry as insignificant. It has maintained that since the typical loudness and frequency of wind turbine sound within a home is not audible, it cannot have any effect on human health.

Noise measurements for most studies and environmental assessments have been limited to the measurement of audible sound outside homes– using dBA weighted monitoring which is insensitive to infrasound frequencies. Some studies and environmental assessments have even relied on projected audible sound averages from computer produced models.

Such observations and projections fail to take appropriate account of the distinguishing signature of the sound from a wind turbine. Unlike the more random naturally occurring sounds (such as wind or lake waves which may themselves have an infrasound component), the sound from wind turbines displays characteristics that produce a pattern that the ear and audio processing in the brain recognize. Our hearing is strongly influenced by pattern recognition. (This is why we can pick out the sound of a familiar voice even in a crowded room with many people speaking).

One recognizable wind turbine pattern is a tonal signal of sharply rising and falling pulses in the infrasound range, (typically about 0.75 Hz, 1.5 Hz, 2.25 Hz, 3.0 Hz, and so on). It is produced by the blade passing the tower. At this frequency these pulses may be “felt or sensed” more than “heard” by the ears. Research by Dr. Alec Salt and others has demonstrated that subaudible infrasound does result in a physiological response from various systems within the body.

The second recognizable pattern is the amplitude modulation. This is the typical “swoosh” rising and falling that is audible.

A third recognizable pattern of sound from wind turbines results from the equipment in the nacelle (such as the gearbox if the turbine has one) and ventilating fans. Although in some cases this third sound source may become predominant, it is usually of lesser effect that the first two.

We now know that subaudible pulsating infrasound can be detected inside homes near operating wind turbines. It can also be identified up to 10 kilometres distant. We know also that very low levels of infrasound and LFN are registered by the nervous system and affect the body even though they cannot be heard. The research cited in this report implicates these infrasonic pulsations as the cause of some of the most commonly reported “sensations” experienced by many people living close to wind turbines including chronic sleep disturbance, dizziness, tinnitus, heart palpitations, vibrations and pressure sensations in the head and chest etc.

Similarly, there is medical research (also cited below) which demonstrates that pulsating infrasound can be a direct cause of sleep disturbance. In clinical medicine, chronic sleep interruption and deprivation is acknowledged as a trigger of serious health problems.

Download original document: “Infrasound/low-frequency noise and wind turbines”

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Date added:  August 5, 2015
Australia, Impacts, RegulationsPrint storyE-mail story

Final Report — Senate Select Committee on Wind Turbines

Author:  Australia Senate Select Committee on Wind Turbines


Recommendation 1

The committee recommends that an Independent Expert Scientific Committee on Industrial Sound (IESC) be established by law, through provisions similar to those which provide for the Independent Expert Scientific Committee on Coal Seam Gas and Large Coal Mining Development.

The provisions establishing the IESC on Industrial Sound should state that the Scientific Committee must conduct ‘independent, multi-disciplinary research into the adverse impacts and risks to individual and community health and wellbeing associated with wind turbine projects and any other industrial projects which emit sound and vibration energy’.

Recommendation 2

The committee recommends that the federal government assign the Independent Expert Scientific Committee on Industrial Sound with the following responsibilities:

Recommendation 3

The committee recommends that the following provision be inserted into a new section 14 of the Renewable Energy (Electricity) Act 2000: If the Regulator receives an application from a wind power station that is properly made under section 13, the Regulator must:

Recommendation 4

The committee recommends that a provision be inserted into Renewable Energy (Electricity) Act 2000 stipulating that wind energy generators operating in states that do not require compliance with the National Environment Protection (Wind Turbine Infrasound and Low Frequency Noise) Measure (NEPM) are ineligible to receive Renewable Energy Certificates.

Recommendation 5

The committee recommends that the Independent Expert Scientific Committee on Industrial Sound (IESC) establish a formal channel to communicate its advice and research priorities and findings to the Environmental Health Standing Committee (enHealth). The IESC should explain to enHealth members on a regular basis and on request:

Recommendation 6

The committee recommends that the proposed Independent Expert Scientific Committee on Industrial Sound develop National Windfarm Guidelines addressing the following matters:

As per recommendation 4 of the committee’s interim report, eligibility to receive Renewable Energy Certificates should be made subject to general compliance with the National Wind Farm Guidelines and specific compliance to the NEPM.

Recommendation 7

The committee recommends that the Australian Government amend the Renewable Energy (Electricity) Act 2000 and the Renewable Energy (Electricity) Act Regulations 2000 to enable partial suspension and point in time suspension of renewable energy certificates for wind farm operators that are found to have:

The committee recommends that the Clean Energy Regulator cannot accredit a power station until it is wholly constructed, fully commissioned and all post construction approval requirements have been met.

Recommendation 8

The committee recommends that all State Governments consider shifting responsibility for monitoring wind farms in their jurisdiction from local councils to the State Environment Protection Authority.

Recommendation 9

The committee recommends that State Governments consider adopting a fee-for-service licencing system payable by wind farm operators to State Environment Protection Authorities, along the lines of the system currently in place in New South Wales.

Recommendation 10

The committee recommends that the federal Department of the Environment prepare a quarterly report collating the wind farm monitoring and compliance activities of the State Environment Protection Authorities. The report should be tabled in the federal Parliament by the Minister for the Environment. The Independent Expert Scientific Committee on Industrial Sound should coordinate the receipt of State data and prepare the quarterly report. The Department of the Environment should provide appropriate secretarial assistance.

Recommendation 11

The committee recommends that the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) continue to monitor and publicise Australian and international research relating to wind farms and health. The NHMRC should fund and commission primary research that the Independent Expert Scientific Committee on Industrial Sound identifies as necessary.

Recommendation 12

The committee recommends that under circumstances where the regulatory framework provided for pursuant to recommendations 8 and 9 cannot be enforced due to a lack of cooperation by one or more states, a national regulatory body be established under commonwealth legislation for the purpose of monitoring and enforcing wind farm operations.

Recommendation 13

The committee recommends that the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) conduct a performance audit of the Clean Energy Regulator’s (CER) compliance with its role under the legislation. In particular, the committee recommends that the CER examine:

Recommendation 14

The committee recommends that the Australian Government direct the Productivity Commission to conduct research into the impact of wind power electricity generation on retail electricity prices.

Recommendation 15

The Renewable Energy Target should be amended so that all new investments in renewable energy between 2015 and 2020 will be eligible to create renewable energy certificates for a period of no more than five years. Existing investments in renewable energy should be grandfathered so that they continue to receive renewable energy certificates under the Act subject to annual audits of compliance.

The Government should develop a methodology for renewable energy projects so that they can qualify for Australian Carbon Credit Units. The Government should develop this methodology over a five year period in consultation with the renewable energy industry and the methodology should consider the net, lifecycle carbon emission impacts of renewable energy.

If the Government does not adopt the above changes, the Government should instead limit eligibility for receipt of Renewable Energy Certificates to five years after the commissioning of turbines.

Download the Final Report.

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