Resource Documents: Noise (543 items)
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.
Author: Australia Senate Select Committee on Wind Turbines
1.1 The Senate Select Committee on Wind Turbines was established in December 2014. To date, it has received 464 submissions from a wide range of stakeholders. It has conducted public hearings in Portland in south-west Victoria on 30 March, in Cairns on 18 May, in Canberra on 19 May, in Melbourne on 9 June and in Adelaide on 10 June 2015. Further public hearings are planned in Canberra on 19 June and 23 June and in Sydney on 29 June 2015.
1.2 This represents a considerable volume of evidence relating directly to the committee’s terms of reference. The committee has received written and verbal evidence from State Governments, local councils, various federal government agencies, wind farm operators and manufacturers, country fire authorities, acousticians, medical experts and representatives from various associations and institutes. In addition, many private citizens have had the opportunity to voice their concerns with the planning, consultation, approval, development and operation of wind farms in Australia.
1.3 Access to all public submissions and public hearing transcripts can be found on the committee’s website.
1.4 This report presents seven headline recommendations. …
Wind farms and human health
1.12 Why are there so many people who live in close proximity to wind turbines complaining of similar physiological and psychological symptoms? As with previous Senate inquiries, this committee has gathered evidence from many submitters attributing symptoms of dizziness, nausea, migraines, high blood pressure, tinnitus, chronic sleep deprivation and depression to the operation of nearby wind turbines. The committee invites the public to read and consider the evidence of people who have experienced these symptoms and who attribute their anxiety and ill health to the operation of turbines.
1.13 These health affects should not be trivialised or ignored. The committee was particularly distressed by renewable energy advocates, wind farm developers and operators, public officials and academics who publicly derided and sometimes lampooned local residents who were genuinely attempting to make known the adverse health effects they were suffering.
1.14 The committee is aware of people complaining of these impacts who have since left their family home. Some now live a nomadic and uncertain existence. In one case, the now deserted home had been in the family for five generations—since the 1840s. These are not decisions taken lightly. Having left the turbine vicinity, several witnesses noted that the symptoms had faded if not disappeared.
1.15 Some submitters attribute these illnesses to a ‘nocebo effect’—a result of expectations of harm rather than exposure to turbine activity. This claim has been made by Professor Simon Chapman, a sociologist by training and a professor of Public Health at Sydney University. He has labelled wind turbine syndrome ‘a communicated disease’, claiming that it ‘spreads by … being talked about and is therefore a strong candidate for being defined as a psychogenic condition’.
1.16 However, most people recognise that noise including low frequency noise could cause these impacts and emphasise that noise standards, properly enforced, are crucial to ensuring public safety. This view acknowledges that the noise from wind turbines creates annoyances which can manifest in sleep disruption. The clear remedy is to set noise standards (such as the New Zealand Standard) and enforce these standards. This is essentially the public position of the relevant authorities in Australia.
The need to investigate infrasound and low frequency noise from turbines and its effect on human health
1.17 The committee highlights the need for more research into the impact of low frequency noise and infrasound (0–20 hertz) from wind turbines on human health. A 2014 pilot study conducted by acoustician Mr Steven Cooper found a correlation between infrasound emitting from turbines at Cape Bridgewater in Victoria and ‘sensations’ felt, and diarised, by six residents of three nearby homes. By identifying a unique infrasound ‘wind turbine signature’, recording it as present in the homes, and linking it to ‘sensations’ felt by the residents, Mr Cooper’s research has received international attention.
1.18 It is clear that the extent and nature of wind turbines’ impact on human health is a contested issue. The nocebo effect, the existing standards for measuring audible noise and the NHMRC’s 2011 literature review have all been criticised by submitters and witnesses to this inquiry. The criticisms relate both to flaws in methodology and to inaccurate and incomplete findings.
1.19 Fundamentally, the lack of detailed, reliable data does not allow for a proper scientific conclusion to be drawn. The committee is struck by the considerable gaps in understanding about the impact of wind turbines on human health. These gaps have widely acknowledged key issues, both explicitly and implicitly:
- the NHMRC found in February 2014 that ‘there is currently no consistent evidence that wind farms cause adverse health effects in humans’. While maintaining this stance, in February 2015, the NHMRC recognised that the body of direct evidence on wind farms and human health is ‘small and of poor quality’. It concluded that ‘high quality research into possible health effects of windfarms, particularly within 1,500 metres, is warranted';
- In June 2015, the German Medical Assembly forwarded a motion to the board of the German Medical Association for further research into the possible side effects of wind turbines. The committee has received advice from the German Medical Association that this motion proposes that the German Government provide the necessary funding to research potential adverse effects to health. The motion also argues that wind turbines should not be erected in the vicinity of residential areas until this research has yielded results. The Board of the German Medical Association has advised the committee that it will revisit the motion in July 2015;
- the position of several well-informed submitters that more research is needed, including;
- criticism of the composition of the NHMRC Reference Group, and in particular the lack of acoustical expertise. One witness, who was a formal observer of the Reference Group process, noted that only one member of the panel was an acoustician, adding: ‘No-one else on the panel had any idea of acoustics. They could not tell when they were being misled or information was being withheld';
- criticism of the 2010 and 2015 NHMRC reviews which ignored studies in situ of people reporting serious adverse effects and the nature of the exposures to which they are subject. A submitter noted: ‘The NHMRC did examine some of these types of study but it was done as a secondary activity rather than the main focus and allowed it to base its conclusions predominantly on research settings that inevitably have weak power to detect material effects';
- the importance of research that has a rigorous methodology, a level of independence and the outcomes of which are peer reviewed;
- the claim of one eminent acoustician that wind farm entities have stifled some genuine research into the possible effects of wind farms. A prominent international organisation well equipped to evaluate infrasound data and analysis declined his invitation to examine his own research into wind farm infrasound; and
- a submitter’s proposal for a thorough noise audit of all existing wind farms, using the methodology of Mr Steven Cooper, and incorporating the objective measurement of health effects (sleep quality, blood pressure, heart rate, stress hormones, etc) on neighbours, out to 10 kilometres from turbines.
1.20 Independent scientific research is needed into acoustic matters—such as whether each wind turbine has unique ‘signature’ and the effect of that signature on neighbouring turbines—and into health matters. …
Author: Gare, Clive; and Gare, Petrina
Wednesday, 10 June 2015, Adelaide
Mr Gare: I am a host of a wind farm.
Mrs Gare: I am also a host of a wind farm. …
Mr Gare: Thank you for inviting me to present my submission today. My submission deals with the impact on my health and lifestyle living in close proximity to a wind farm. Let me say from the outset that we were excited about the prospect of being part of the renewable electricity industry. I am a host to wind towers on my property, the nearest being about 800 metres away with three towers within approximately one to 1.5 kilometres away.
We were not made aware of the impacts of noise on our health or lifestyle. Fortunately, we had heard from others that they were quite noisy. Luckily, in our contracts we inserted clauses about the need for noise mitigation. I do wonder why though the wind tower operators inserted the following clause in all the hosts’ contracts section 77C, which is on the memorandum of lease which I will table: ‘The landlord acknowledges and agrees that it is adequately compensated for any noise or inconvenience caused as a result of the permitted use of the site or the land and that it will not seek any further compensation from the tenant in relation to such matters.’ If the wind tower operators were confident of their impact studies, that clause would not be necessary.
After a short period of living with an operating wind farm, we had these products installed. I find that, because I work and reside in close proximity to the wind farm, I suffer sleep interruption, mild headaches, agitation and a general feeling of unease; however, this occurs only when the towers are turning, depending on the wind direction and wind strength. My occupation requires that I work amongst the wind towers during the day which means I suffer the full impacts of noise for days at a time without relief. The impacts are that we are not able to open our windows because of the noise at night and we are not able to entertain outside because of the noise.
In conclusion, if we did not have soundproof batts in VLam Hush windows, our house would not be habitable. In my opinion, towers should not be within five kilometres of residences, and I would personally not buy a house within 20 kilometres of a wind farm. Thank you.
Mrs Gare: Good afternoon Senators, and ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for letting me speak to the committee today. I would like to open my statement with the following: developers and construction. In the beginning, I was excited about the wind farm and of course the financial security for our property and family. The process began with high-pressure consultations, negotiations for weeks on end, numerous phone calls and face-to-face meetings with the developers. We seemed to be under constant pressure to agree to their wishes and, if we wanted any changes, it took a lot of negotiation.
We had to try and foresee any problems that may impact on our lifestyle for the next 25 years plus. With little or no previous information to go on, this was a very taxing time. Having gone through this, I would like to see that a person or persons—probably with a legal background and well-schooled in wind turbine information—be contactable for future wind farm hosts for advice and even to help with negotiations with the development companies.
Construction was also a very stressful and challenging time. The landowners are up against not only the power company but also all the big contractors and civil works companies. Any meetings with the above parties had to be attended by both of us with me taking notes so that we had some kind of record of what was said and what matters needed to be addressed at the time.
We had a lot of erosion problems from the pads and roadways, which we had to chase up with the power company to get them to address. During construction there were lots of problems with gates left open, boxing up mobs of cattle which then took a full day of redrafting and settling back into their paddocks. We also had gates opening onto public roadways. We have a main bitumen road that goes past our property. This caused great angst as far as public liability is concerned, if our stock got out into the roads. We also had lots of rubbish scattered around the property. We witnessed one of our cattle eating a one metre by one metre piece of plastic sheeting.
Living with wind turbines. Our house is solid sandstone, built for the late Charles Hawker in the 1920s, with concrete internal walls and a steel roof. The house is surrounded by a lot of vegetation and trees. I have brought some photos to show the Senate. In the months after the towers started in October 2010, the noise was unbearable, especially when two towers became in sync. A loud thumping would radiate throughout the house. Even watching TV in the furthermost room from the towers, you could hear them. Sleeping was most difficult. I use, and still do, an earpiece radio every night, which helps block out the noise to a certain degree. If they are really going I have to up the volume.
After some time, due to a very slow installer, the house was finally insulated: sonobatts in the ceiling cavity; all our outside air vents blocked; a special American glass called Vlam Hush, which is two sheets of glass with a special gel between, were installed in every door and window of the house. This has improved the situation for me considerably, but at times the noise still penetrates into the house.
Ongoing issues. Due to the house being sealed we have refrigerated air conditioning, because we cannot open windows because of the noise. A separate meter was installed on the wind farm operator’s advice, so that they could pay the cost of the air conditioning usage. That went in over 12 months ago and we are still chasing payment. Another issue is the increase in our emergency services levy. The value of our property has increased by double, which has had a major increase in the levy. The power company pay council rates on the land that they lease, and we pay rates on the rest. We brought up the issue of the increased ESL with the power company, but they have not addressed it. We feel they should be responsible due to the increase in our land value. I have the value difference here: I think it is about $1.6 million increase. I quote from the contract, 6.1, rates and taxes, section B:
However, during each year of this lease the tenant must pay any increase in rates and taxes above the rates and taxes that were payable immediately before the start of the agreement to lease, if the increase is directly attributable to the works or the use of the site for the permitted use.
We also have ongoing problems with the cables which run across our property and connect into the individual towers to transport the power to a substation. There seem to be constant cable breakages, which have to be dug up and fixed. This, of course, happens all over the property. Having 19 towers, it has quite a big impact. Quite a large area is disturbed and then has to be recovered with sand or soil. We have asked for compensation concerning this, as we have numerous cable breaks on the property with disturbance to our pastures, which interferes with our stock grazing. This was discussed at a meeting back in August 2014. We are still waiting for compensation, which is agreed by the wind operators. As you can see, they are not fast movers.
The land owners need to know their rights in regard to their property and how it is treated during and after construction of towers. Land owners with residences close to towers need to be made aware of the noise impact and there should be discussion of how close towers should be permitted to their premises. In my opinion, towers should not be any closer than five kilometres to a dwelling. If we had to buy another property, it would not be within a 20-kilometre distance to a wind farm. I think that says it all.
We have a son who will come home in a couple of years, and I have concerns for him and a family that he might have in the future, with regard to any health problems that may arise. Having lived with towers now for five years, in my opinion future hosts should glean as much information as they can and find out their rights so they can fully understand what they are taking on.
Author: Palmer, William
This paper gives examples of the sound from wind turbines in the outdoor environment, and in the indoor environment. These are compared to other sounds occurring in the environment, such as road traffic or overhead aircraft, and to the sounds produced in a typical municipal library and by a typical refrigerator. In summary, the paper shows that wind turbines do alter the acoustic environment, both outside homes and inside homes presenting a greater difference at low frequencies than other sound sources normally met.
Presented at the 6th International Meeting on Wind Turbine Noise, Glasgow, 20-23 April 2015
Sound exposure in harbour seals during the installation of an offshore wind farm: predictions of auditory damage
Author: Hastie, Gordon; Russell, Deborah; McConnell, Bernie; et al.
1. With ambitious renewable energy targets, pile driving associated with offshore wind farm construction will become widespread in the marine environment. Many proposed wind farms overlap with the distribution of seals, and sound from pile driving has the potential to cause auditory damage.
2. We report on a behavioural study during the construction of a wind farm using data from GPS/GSM tags on 24 harbour seals Phoca vitulina L. Pile driving data and acoustic propagation models, together with seal movement and dive data, allowed the prediction of auditory damage in each seal.
3. Growth and recovery functions for auditory damage were combined to predict temporary auditory threshold shifts in each seal. Further, M-weighted cumulative sound exposure levels [cSELs(Mpw)] were calculated and compared to permanent auditory threshold shift exposure criteria for pinnipeds in water exposed to pulsed sounds.
4. The closest distance of each seal to pile driving varied from 4.7 to 40.5 km, and predicted maximum cSELs(Mpw) ranged from 170.7 to 195.3 dB re 1μPa²-s for individual seals. Comparison to exposure criteria suggests that half of the seals exceeded estimated permanent auditory damage thresholds.
5. Prediction of auditory damage in marine mammals is a rapidly evolving field and has a number of key uncertainties associated with it. These include how sound propagates in shallow water environments and the effects of pulsed sounds on seal hearing; as such, our predictions should be viewed in this context.
6. Policy implications. We predicted that half of the tagged seals received sound levels from pile driving that exceeded auditory damage thresholds for pinnipeds. These results have implications for offshore industry and will be important for policymakers developing guidance for pile driving. Developing engineering solutions to reduce sound levels at source or methods to deter animals from damage risk zones, or changing temporal patterns of piling could potentially reduce auditory damage risk. Future work should focus on validating these predictions by collecting auditory threshold information pre- and post-exposure to pile driving. Ultimately, information on population-level impacts of exposure to pile driving is required to ensure that offshore industry is developed in an environmentally sustainable manner.
Gordon D. Hastie, Deborah J. F. Russell, Bernie McConnell, Simon Moss, Dave Thompson, and Vincent M. Janik
Sea Mammal Research Unit, Scottish Oceans Institute, University of St Andrews, Fife, Scotland
Journal of Applied Ecology 2015, 52, 631–640