Resource Documents: Wildlife (273 items)
Unless indicated otherwise, documents presented here are not the product of nor are they necessarily endorsed by National Wind Watch. These resource documents are shared here 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. • The copyrights reside with the sources indicated. As part of its noncommercial effort to present the environmental, social, scientific, and economic issues of large-scale wind power development to a global audience seeking such information, National Wind Watch endeavors to observe “fair use” as provided for in section 107 of U.S. Copyright Law and similar “fair dealing” provisions of the copyright laws of other nations.
Author: Rehbein, Jose; et al.
Transitioning from fossil fuels to renewable energy is fundamental for halting anthropogenic climate change. However, renewable energy facilities can be land‐use intensive and impact conservation areas, and little attention has been given to whether the aggregated effect of energy transitions poses a substantial threat to global biodiversity. Here, we assess the extent of current and likely future renewable energy infrastructure associated with onshore wind, hydropower and solar photovoltaic generation, within three important conservation areas: protected areas (PAs), Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs) and Earth’s remaining wilderness. We identified 2,206 fully operational renewable energy facilities within the boundaries of these conservation areas, with another 922 facilities under development. Combined, these facilities span and are degrading 886 PAs, 749 KBAs and 40 distinct wilderness areas. Two trends are particularly concerning. First, while the majority of historical overlap occurs in Western Europe, the renewable electricity facilities under development increasingly overlap with conservation areas in Southeast Asia, a globally important region for biodiversity. Second, this next wave of renewable energy infrastructure represents a ~30% increase in the number of PAs and KBAs impacted and could increase the number of compromised wilderness areas by ~60%. If the world continues to rapidly transition towards renewable energy these areas will face increasing pressure to allow infrastructure expansion. Coordinated planning of renewable energy expansion and biodiversity conservation is essential to avoid conflicts that compromise their respective objectives.
Jose A. Rehbein, James E.M. Watson, Joe L. Lane, Laura J. Sonter, Oscar Venter, Scott C. Atkinson, James R. Allan
School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Centre for Biodiversity and Conservation Science, School of Chemical Engineering Dow Centre for Sustainable Engineering Innovation, and School of Biological Sciences, University of Queensland, St. Lucia, Australia
Wildlife Conservation Society, Global Conservation Program, Bronx, New York
Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment, Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey
Natural Resource and Environmental Studies Institute, University of Northern British Columbia, Prince George, Canada
United Nations Development Programme, New York
Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics, University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Global Change Biology. Published online ahead of print March 4, 2020. doi: 10.1111/gcb.15067
Download original document: “Renewable energy development threatens many globally important biodiversity areas”
Author: Ward, Lyndsey
Dixie was a happy creature. She played and swam with her friends in the shimmering silvery blue sea. She loved jumping into the air, flicking her tail in pure joy and diving back down to the watery depths.
Life was good, so very good. The seabirds swooped above her and the seals played chase me under the waves. The sea sparkled with life and happiness. Little boats would come out with tourists waving and taking pictures of Dixie and her family.
Dixie would race the boats, disappearing underneath them and then leaping out of the water to shrieks of delight from the people watching her. She felt so strong and powerful. The sea was her home, and nothing could spoil it. Or could it?
One day a big ship came. A huge ship. It wasn’t a fishing boat and it didn’t have any passengers looking out to point and marvel at Dixie and her antics. It was very strange. It wasn’t passing through like most of the ships Dixie had seen. It had a huge arm on it and seemed to be carrying giant tubes. Dixie was puzzled. It was called The Piledriver.
Suddenly a seagull screeched an alarm above Dixie’s family. “Swim, swim as fast as you can. Get as far away from here as you can. I have seen these ships before. The sea is going to explode – you need to get away NOW!”
So they swam in a panic. They weren’t sure what was about to happen, but the seagull had never made such a warning before, so they believed him.
Dixie tried to stick as close as she could to her mother as her father led their pod through the sea at what seemed an impossible speed. No jumping and playing now. Everywhere she looked Dixie could see fish swimming away too.
The seagull flew above, encouraging them to swim faster to safety − and then it happened …
BOOM! The ocean shook and Dixie was frightened. Then again … BOOM! And again, and again …
Dixie lost her mother in the chaos. Where was she? She couldn’t find her. The sea turned black as the violent waves thundered through the water. She kept swimming. She didn’t know where she was or where she was going. She felt so alone in the darkness and very scared. She called out for her father to help her. There was no answer.
The booming noises continued. They were in the distance now, but the shock waves still rattled through the water all around her. She was so frightened. And then suddenly it went quiet and the seas calmed again. She looked around, bewildered and exhausted. She could see the seagull who had warned them floating on the surface. He beckoned her with his wing to follow him.
“Don’t swim that way because it gets too shallow. You will get into trouble and may end up stranded on the beach. I am from the Sea Safe campaign. Call me Gully, all my friends do. We look out for sea folk in distress and alert them if we see danger. We’ve been very busy lately. You are lost. I’ll help you find your family.”
“Are they safe?” Dixie asked, still trying to catch her breath.
“I think so. We’ve had scouts out looking along the shoreline to see if any sea folk are stuck on the beach, but they haven’t reported back with news of any this time,” Gully replied.
“What happened? What were those loud bangs? I have never heard such a thing before. It sort of hurt and I couldn’t hear or think properly. I didn’t know where I was,” said Dixie.
“Wind turbines. Massive wind turbines that are supposed to generate electricity for those on land when the wind blows. The government pays huge sums of money to rich companies to litter our once quiet oceans with them. The booming was the big arm on the ship bashing their bases into the seabed. What we heard was only for one. There will be many more. It isn’t safe to go back. Once the turbines have their whirling blades on there will be vibrations through the water whenever they turn. My mates and I have to avoid the places they put them in case we get hit. We call them the Whirly Wing Choppers.”
Dixie’s eyes were wide with fright. “Don’t the people from the land like us? I thought they wanted to see us jump and play and film us?”
Gully shook his head sadly. “They don’t understand what happens out here. They can’t see what’s going on. They don’t want the turbines near them because of the harm they can do so some say put them out at sea where they can’t hurt anyone.
“The people are told it is important to save our planet but all I see is distress and destruction wherever they are. The government says it knows best, but it listens to the businessmen who just want to make the money. It seems to me they should be the last people to listen to. What I see when I am flying above the oceans is that they are destroying more than they could ever save. Come with me, let us find your family.”
Gully flew in front and Dixie followed him. All around were sea creatures looking lost and confused. Some joined in behind Gully hoping he would know where to go. After a while Dixie could hear calling. It was her father trying to find her and she swam faster and faster until she found him and her relieved mother sheltering in a deep cove a long way from their home.
Gully quickly explained to them what was happening and about the wind turbines and how they could never go back to where they used to live.
“Oh no!” came a chorus of tiny voices. The Pearlstones, a family of oysters with twelve children, looked distressed. “We have just moved here from a place that had turbines. We couldn’t stay there. The terrible vibrations were making us so sick that we had to leave. What are we to do now? Where can we go that is safe and we can live in peace?” they wailed in unison.
Alarmed, the sea folk gathered round Gully and asked what they could do to stop the turbines being put up.
“Nothing. The ship is too big for us. No-one will listen to reason. It’s all about making lots of money and we don’t matter. A developer called Mr McWeasel is in charge of installing the turbines. He has put thousands up all over the land but now he makes much more money putting them out at sea. I have seen him on The Piledriver before. He doesn’t let anybody, or anything, get in the way of him putting these monsters up.”
“What about when they are up and the big ship has gone, can we get rid of them then?” spoke up a gruff deep voice from a rock behind them. All eyes turned and looked at a huge crab with massive pincers. “I mean how are these things fixed to their bases? Can we break them?”
“Bolts. They secure them with big bolts. Who are you?” asked Gully
“Captain Strongclaw from the Crab Core Commandos reporting for duty, sir. There are lots of us and lobsters too. It may take a bit of time, but we could do it. We would need to work on all the turbines at once before this McWeasel character realises what’s going on and comes out to stop us.”
“My mates and I from the Toolbox Team could help,” said Sid the Swordfish. “We’ve got Hammerhead Hugo and Hannah and the electric eels so we can work in the dark.” Slappy the Octopus laughed and waved her eight tentacles. “Don’t forget me; I’ve got four pairs of hands,” she giggled. Soon there were offers of help from every part of the cove.
“Ok, everyone. We need to make a plan,” said Gully “We will lie low until they have finished and then we will show them what happens when they come where they are not wanted. Sea Safers will fly sorties over the site and report back with progress. We will have to do it before the blades turn, otherwise we are not safe to fly near them and the vibrations through the water will badly affect you all and you won’t be
able to do it.”
Over the following weeks the sea folk worked out exactly what they were going to do. Gully and the Sea Safers came back each night with a report of how much progress McWeasel had made and tales of swooping down and pinching his lunch out of his hands. “He was so angry he jumped up and down. He was redder than Roxy the Red Snapper,” Gully said, and they all laughed and were excited that soon they would be home.
And then it was time. Under cover of darkness they left the cove and made their way to the turbines. The Sea Safers flew low and led the way and those that didn’t swim were given a lift on the backs of those that did. They were astonished at what they saw. What seemed like hundreds of ghostly monuments reared out of the water – so high they could see the tops of them only because of their blinking red lights. The enormous blades were still and the seas around them were calm and lapping gently at the towers. It was eerily quiet.
Dixie swam around the towers wondering why anyone would want to put such ugly things into their beautiful ocean. She dived to the seabed and saw how empty and deserted it was. It used to be colourful and teeming with life and now it was just barren and that made her very sad. She desperately hoped the sea folk could do what they planned to do and that eventually their home could recover.
“We’ll have to make good time,” said Gully. “They are coming to switch them on tomorrow.”
The sea folk split into groups. A Sea Safer perched on every turbine keeping watch and they signalled to one another on the progress made by the crabs, lobsters, the Toolbox Team, Slappy and all the other sea creatures willing to help work on the turbines.
The electric eels lit up the dark water as they all set to work. One by one the bolts around the turbines were loosened. It was hard work and they were getting tired. Dawn started to break, and the sun was rising. Gully was on the turbine nearest the shore and he could see the big ship coming with McWeasel standing on the bow as it surged through the water.
“Quick – you must work faster. McWeasel is on his way,” he squawked.
Mr McWeasel admired his work as he got closer. He rubbed his hands with greedy glee. Today was pay day and the money would start to roll in from the government, which had taken it from the people to pay him for his vibrating monsters. He would get paid when they made electricity and even more when they had to be switched off to protect the grid network when there was too much power on it. He just couldn’t lose!
Gully swooped down and flapped his wings around McWeasel’s head, trying to distract and delay him. McWeasel shouted and waved his fist in the air and hoped that the thieving seagull would soon have a close encounter with one of his rotating beauties.
The big ship was getting closer and closer. Suddenly every Sea Safer on each turbine signalled that they were ready. The final bolt on every turbine was loose and the towers were beginning to tremble on their unsteady bases. All the sea folk retreated to a safe distance except just one crab commando who undid the last holding bolt on each tower. It was a sight to see as the giant turbines swayed and rocked from side to side, back and forth, back and forth. Then, one by one, as if in slow motion, they crashed into the sea and started floating away.
McWeasel watched in horror. He couldn’t believe what he was seeing. His money-making turbines had been cut loose and were disappearing over the horizon.
Dixie and her family jumped and leapt out of the water with joy. The Sea Safers did aerobatics in the air and the seabed creatures danced with delight. When McWeasel saw them, he realised what had happened. The sea folk had fought back to protect their homes from those who didn’t care about them, only the money that could be made.
His face went red and he shouted in rage at them all. Every single turbine was drifting away and taking with them any chance of raking in all that public money. McWeasel screamed at the ship’s captain: “Quickly follow those turbines – we must get them back before they sink.”
The captain opened up the engines and with a roar and big puffs of black smoke from the exhaust the ship took off after the bobbing towers. Engulfed in a sooty haze it raced as fast as it could but … too late … one at a time the turbines disappeared beneath the waves and into the sea forever.
The sea folk were relieved that their nightmare was finally over. Their watery home wouldn’t vibrate, the noise wouldn’t scare them and there would be no blades to endanger those who flew in the sky including the Sea Safers, who had warned them against the dangerous turbines and the money grabbing McWeasel.
Dixie jumped high in the air and flicked her tail in defiance in the direction of the big ship.
Against all the odds and by working together they had won a huge battle. They had protected their community and their marine home.
Those of us who love the natural environment owe a big thank you to Dixie and all the sea folk who were so bravely determined to rescue it from those who were intent on plundering and destroying its beauty for their own greedy gain.
As for Mr McWeasel he knew he was beaten. He was ruined. He had lost all his turbines and all his money on this failed windy venture. He returned to the harbour and was never heard of again. His wind developing days were finally over and communities on land and in the sea would never fear his name again.
Following the release of Subsidy Sam and Tiny the Turbine the global shift has been to giant off-shore wind turbines speared into our oceans with no real understanding of the potentially horrific impacts on the marine life and sea birds. Not only are there the vibrating monstrosities themselves with their huge and lethal sweeping blades that may well affect the creatures on the seabed, swimming in the oceans and flying in the skies but there are also the many miles of high voltage cables placed on the sea floor to service them.
Out of sight of the general public we can only imagine what is happening out at sea.
In Dixie the Dolphin the sea creatures and their feathered friends find themselves up against the greedy McWeasel, the ruthless wind developer.
Previously he was content to target rural communities onshore but the pesky folk on land had increased their opposition to his windy antics and made getting planning approval a long and expensive business.
He turned his attentions to the subsidy rich off-shore wind industry in the hope that government permission would be easily granted and that no locals would have the resources to fight his intentions.
He didn’t expect the marine community to fight back against his plans quite like they did.
Published by SpinFree Publishing Text copyright © 2020 Lyndsey Ward. All Rights Reserved Pictures copyright © 2019 Cartoons by Josh. All Rights Reserved ISBN 978-0-9956367-4-3
For any commercial resale or reuse please contact: Lyndsey Ward email@example.com
Aesthetics, Economics, Environment, General, Property values, Siting, Technology, U.S., Wildlife •
Author: Gross, Samantha; and Brookings Institution
Decreasing greenhouse gas emissions in the electricity sector is crucial to avoiding the worst impacts of climate change. The American public overwhelmingly favors renewable power, and the costs of wind and solar power have declined rapidly in recent years. However, inherent attributes of wind and solar generation make conflicts over land use and project siting more likely. Power plants and transmission lines will be located in areas not accustomed to industrial development, potentially creating opposition.
Wind and solar generation require at least 10 times as much land per unit of power produced than coal- or natural gas-fired power plants, including land disturbed to produce and transport the fossil fuels. Additionally, wind and solar generation are located where the resource availability is best instead of where is most convenient for people and infrastructure, since their “fuel” can’t be transported like fossil fuels. Siting of wind facilities is especially challenging. Modern wind turbines are huge; most new turbines being installed in the United States today are the height of a 35-story building. Wind resources are best in open plains and on ridgetops, locations where the turbines can be seen for long distances.
Even though people like wind and solar power in the abstract, some object to large projects near their homes, especially if they don’t financially benefit from the project. Transmission for renewable power can also be unpopular, and even more difficult to site when the power is just passing through an area, rather than directly benefiting local residents. This is an issue today building transmission to move wind power from the Great Plains and Upper Midwest states to cities in the east.
Technological and policy solutions can lessen the land use impact of renewable power and the resulting public opposition. Offshore wind eliminates land use, but it raises opposition among those concerned with the impact on the environment and scenic views. Building on previously disturbed land and combining renewable power with other land uses, like agriculture or building solar on rooftops, can minimize land use conflicts. Community involvement in project planning and regulations for land use and zoning can help to alleviate concerns. Nevertheless, there is no perfect way to produce electricity on an industrial scale. Policymakers must recognize these challenges and face them head-on as the nation transitions to a lower-carbon energy system.
Download original document: “Renewables, land use, and local opposition in the United States”
Author: Deever, Donald Allen
September 1, 2019 – Desert Report: Sierra Club California/Nevada Desert Committee
Infrasound is classified as any noise with frequencies less than 20 Hertz (twenty cycles per second), the typical lower limit of human hearing. The previous article in this series discussed hazards of infrasound exposure over extended periods of time, whether people are aware of the source or not. This follow-up article explores the potential for damage to pets and wildlife, and wraps up the infrasound discussion with a factual look at the U.S. President’s recent controversial comment that the noise from industrial wind turbines can cause cancer.
It is at the cellular level where cancer occurs and where infrasound is believed to cause damage, possibly even down to the DNA level. One of the more curious reports along these lines came out of Denmark in 2014, when a breaking news story from the World Council for Nature went viral, and newspaper headlines around the world reported that 1,600 minks on a Denmark farm were born prematurely, most stillborn. Scientists researching the phenomenon were unable to link the mass deaths to disease or toxins. The only unique factor they found was that the incident occurred after four industrial wind turbines were placed 328 meters from the farm. If the wind turbines were the cause, it is unknown whether the birth defects were the result of infrasound vibrations affecting fetal cells during mitosis or whether the harm was due to electrical effects from the wind turbine cables buried in the moist ground nearby. Such a report raises questions concerning harm caused to wildlife and especially to their developing young. Moreover, a concern that is in need of resolution is the effect that infrasonic vibrations might produce on pregnant humans, as well as the effects on pets and livestock.
According to Hearing Health USA website, scientific studies show that out of the ten animals known to possess the most sensitive hearing, three of those species are dogs, cats, and horses. Considering the tendency to put wind energy developments on rural lands, where such animal partners are prevalent, it is possible that humankind’s domesticated animals may also suffer, especially when one realizes that infrasound is a human designation based on what sound frequencies are audible to our ears. What has been classified as infrasound can be quite audible to animals with a hearing spectrum wider than our own.
In reference to laboratory animals, U.S. Animal Welfare Act regulations fail to address noise, but the Institute for Laboratory Animal Research Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals provides recommendations for considering noise control when designing and operating animal facilities. Back in 1996, a researcher at Merck Research Laboratories provided evidence that rats who were unintentionally exposed to infrasound (due to a malfunctioning ventilation system) suffered from a variety of effects. Dr. Sherri Motzel cited clear-cut effects of sound on response to drug treatment, water intake, blood pressure, reproduction, glucose metabolism, and immune function. One study conducted at Merck Research Laboratories by Dr. Motzel and her colleagues demonstrated that infrasound in the range 1-10 Hertz was responsible for weight loss in rats in the study. This study and other reports in the literature indicate that much more emphasis should be placed on monitoring and controlling noise levels at multiple frequency and intensity ranges outside human hearing ranges in animal facilities because of the potential for adverse effects on study data and outcomes.
Many animals are known to be able to hear infrasound, such as cows, cuttlefish, ferret, goldfish, horses, octopi, pigeons, rock doves, squid, and whales. Likewise, not only are some animals able to hear infrasound frequencies, but certain species such as alligators, elephants, giraffe, hippopotamus, okapi, and rhinoceros use infrasound frequencies in their communications. When a record-breaking twenty-nine sperm whales beached themselves on North Sea shores in 2016, Utrecht University in the Netherlands performed studies into the cause of the deaths. Natural and unnatural (i.e. manmade) factors were explored, but manmade trauma was limited to possibilities of entanglement, ship-strikes, ingestion of plastics, or chemical pollution. Industrial wind turbine infrasound was never considered for the fatal strandings despite the fact that many of the whales died in view of massive offshore wind turbines.
Important honey bee communication takes place between 12-13 Hertz. How the production of infrasound from wind turbines might effect their ability to communicate directions may represent a threat to bee populations and pollination and needs to be investigated. There are no shortage of studies by the World Health Organization that warn of the health consequences of audible noise damage, but if a certain species is unable to hear infrasound noise, they may still be vulnerable to adverse effects: infrasound produces vibrations in the inner ear canal that causes stress to the brain. Moreover, as the mink farm in Denmark may have indicated, vibrations occurring at a cellular level might interfere with the normal reproduction of cells and produce birth defects.
Many animals, including humans, can be vulnerable to the ravages of cancer, and in this current century, scientists have pinpointed many newly suspected causes of the disease. When President Donald J. Trump suggested in a speech, on April 2, 2019 (at a Republican fund raising event) that infrasound can cause cancer, newspapers nationwide had a field day with that comment, soundly suggesting that no such evidence has ever been gathered or surmised, and that the President’s comment was an unfounded attack on “green” wind energy. But was it?
An unclassified military study conducted in Portugal over a 20-year period was titled, “Low Frequency Noise: A Major Risk Factor in Military Operations.” It is noteworthy that there is no question mark punctuating the end of that title. According to that medical study, 70% of individuals are susceptible to the development of Vibroacoustic Disease due to the cumulative effects of noises below the threshold of human hearing. Such adverse effects have been especially documented among pilots and other members of flight crews, who are continuously exposed to infrasound noise from the spinning of jet turbines or propellers. Moreover, according to that report, low frequency noise can trigger early aging processes and is not uncommonly responsible for forcing flight crew members into early retirement.
Some cases cited in the Portuguese study included data showing that 10% of workers who were regularly exposed to infrasound in an aeronautical plant developed late-onset epilepsy, which is a rate that is fifty times higher than what would be diagnosed in a general population. Using electron microscopy studies, researchers found that among infrasound exposed populations, low frequency noise damage appears to target the respiratory system, causing bronchitis, recurring infections of the oropharynx, and pleural effusion. Furthermore, high resolution CT scans identified atypical instances of lung fibrosis among non-smokers. Likewise, cardiovascular diseases represent a significant threat from infrasound where the thickening of the pericardium is known as a hallmark of Vibroacoustic Disease. That thickening acts like a blanket that covers the walls of major blood vessels, pericardia, aortic and mitral valves, and carotid arteries, diminishing their effectiveness.
But what about the claim of cancer caused by infrasound noise as suggested by POTUS? The Portuguese military study went on to claim, “The genotoxic component of LFN [Low Frequency Noise] has already been demonstrated in both animal and human models.” The medical term “genotoxic” refers to toxins (carcinogens, mutagens, and teratogens) that cause damage to DNA, which in turn may produce cancer, birth defects, and other genetic mutations. Specifically, when it comes to cancers caused by infrasound, low frequency noise-induced tumors have been identified in squamous cell carcinoma in the lungs, and similarly infrasound-induced cancerous tumors have been found in hollow organs such as the bladder, colon, kidney, and larynx, since hollow organs are more affected by vibrations and suffer worse. The report also stated, “Lupus is a common observation among LFN flight attendants and other LFN-exposed populations.” Military studies conducted in the U.S. add credence to the study from Portugal.
Corporations that profit from the wind energy industry claim, with some measure of justification, that there is limited evidence pointing to the adverse health effects of infrasound noise from industrial wind turbines. However, what they fail to mention is that a plethora of evidence exists on the pathogenic effects of infrasound from other sources, and that wind turbines produce infrasound in the same frequency range as these other sources. The key to researching the dangers of wind turbines then is to research what is already known about the health effects of infrasound (low frequency noise) to exposed subjects in fields such as aviation, and to study the symptoms and sources of Vibroacoustic Diseases in general.
On the basis of the evidence presented in these two articles, it is reasonable to be concerned about the adverse effects on human health that are caused by wind turbine infrasound. In matters of land planning where consequences to the environment are anticipated, it is usual that projects are rejected only if negative effects have been demonstrated.
Such a policy is in contrast to the way in which medical devices and pharmaceuticals are approved. When human health is involved, the FDA does not license a product until its safety has been demonstrated. Because infrasound may have serious consequences on human health, it is appropriate that approval of wind turbine facilities be proactive: safety must be assured before permits are awarded.
In 2018, the World Health Organization published new environmental noise guidelines that were a long time in coming. Back in 2010, member states in the European region met in Parma, Italy, for the Fifth Ministerial Conference on Environment and Health. During that meeting, requests were made of WHO to update their noise guidelines to include for the first time such serious concerns as wind turbines. To fulfill that request, WHO grudgingly conducted “systematic reviews of evidence … to assess the relationship between environmental noise and the following health outcomes: cardiovascular and metabolic effects; annoyance; effects on sleep; cognitive impairment; hearing impairment and tinnitus; adverse birth outcomes; and quality of life, mental health and well-being.” The reason for asserting that WHO was reluctant to be completely forthcoming in their reviews is based on their statement, “As the foregoing overview has shown, very little evidence is available about the adverse health effects of continuous exposure to wind turbine noise.” Considering the plethora of current scholarly research that is available on the adverse health effects of wind turbine infrasound, such a statement comes across as disingenuous.
Despite their seeming reluctance, WHO guidelines noted that wind turbine noise above 45 dB was found to be harmful. It is significant that WHO did not temper their assessment with terms such as “may be” but instead boldly stated “is associated with adverse health effects.” In particular, WHO listed the following seven most commonly reported critical health outcomes of exposure to noise, wind turbine or otherwise: 1. Cardiovascular disease; 2. Annoyance; 3. Cognitive impairment; 4. Hearing impairment and tinnitus; 5. Adverse birth outcomes; 6. Quality of life, well-being and mental health; and 7. Metabolic outcomes. Regarding nighttime exposure only, WHO listed “effects on sleep.” Furthermore, the WHO report stated, “Wind turbines are not a recent phenomenon, but their quantity, size and type have increased significantly over recent years. As they are often built in the middle of otherwise quiet and natural areas, they can adversely affect the integrity of a site.” They also admitted that they were “not aware of any existing interventions… to reduce harms from wind turbine noise.” Moreover, the report confirmed, “Wind turbines can generate infrasound or lower frequencies of sound than traffic sources.” The report also went on to confirm that “the repetitive nature of the sound of the rotating blades and atmospheric influence leading to a variability of amplitude modulation … can be a source of above average annoyance.”
Considering that the most harmful noise from wind turbines has been found to be in the infrasound range, which is below the threshold of human hearing, decibel levels are not the most scientifically sound measurements. As the report conceded, “Standard methods of measuring sound, most commonly including A-weighting, may not capture the low-frequency sound and amplitude modulation characteristic of wind turbine noise.” Even more significant was the admission that “it may be concluded that the acoustical description of wind turbine noise by the [usually reported] means … may be a poor characterization of wind turbine noise and may limit the ability to observe associations between wind turbine noise and health outcomes.” In the end, WHO did confirm that quantifiable scientific evidence exists to imply that wind turbine noise causes annoyance.
While that particular WHO report and their associated guidelines were targeted at Europeans, the report was clear in its warning that “In terms of their health implications, the recommended exposure levels can be considered applicable in other regions and suitable for a global audience.” It is noteworthy that the term “wind turbine,” not counting the many instances of that term in the index and reference pages, occurs approximately 150 times in the full WHO report [http://www.euro.who.int/__data/assets/pdf_file/0008/383921/noise-guidelines-eng.pdf].
In regards to providing FDA-type protection to the public by putting the burden of health effects proof on the corporations, twenty years earlier, WHO (1999) provided three major envi-ronmental management principles that they believed should be applied by governments to noise management policies: [https://www.who.int/docstore/peh/noise/Comnoise-5.pdf]
1) The precautionary principle: “In all cases, noise should be reduced to the lowest level achievable in a particular situation. Where there is a reasonable possibility that public health will be damaged, action should be taken to protect public health without awaiting full scientific proof.”
2) The polluter pays principle: “The full costs associated with noise pollution (including monitoring, management, lowering levels and supervision) should be met by those responsible for the source of noise.”
3) The prevention principle: “Action should be taken where possible to reduce noise at the source. Land-use planning should be guided by an environmental health impact assessment that considers noise as well as other pollutants.”
This two-part presentation of research on the adverse health effects from industrial wind turbine infrasound noise clearly points to a need to implement such WHO noise management principles in order to more adequately protect both human lives and wildlife.
Dr. Donald Allen Deever is a former park ranger, science teacher, flight instructor, freelance journalist, and PhD with majors in nursing education, software development, and writing pedagogy. He recently helped defeat the Crescent Peak Wind project in Southern Nevada, one of the most misplaced wind energy developments in history. He and his wife live in Searchlight on their own ten-acre nature preserve.