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Wind Turbine Infra and Low-Frequency Sound: Warning Signs That Were Not Heard  

Author:  | Health, Noise, Regulations, Technology

Abstract. Industrial wind turbines are frequently thought of as benign. However, the literature is reporting adverse health effects associated with the implementation of industrial-scale wind developments. This article explores the historical evidence about what was known regarding infra and low-frequency sound from wind turbines and other noise sources during the period from the 1970s through the end of the 1990s. This exploration has been accomplished through references, personal interviews and communications, and other available documentation. The application of past knowledge could improve the current siting of industrial wind turbines and avoid potential risks to health.

Contents
Introduction
How We Got to Here
Weather, Turbulence, Wakes, and Wind Turbine Sounds
Overview of What Was Learned About Infra and Low-Frequency Noise During the 1970s to the 1990s
Noise-Induced Sick Building Syndrome
Other Large Rotating Machines
NASA/Department of Energy Studies
How Wind Turbine Sound Is Displayed
Blade and Tower Interactions
Sound Propagation Computer Models
Alternative Methods for Modeling
Wind Turbines Are More of an Indoor Problem Than an Outdoor Problem
Final Observations on NASA Research
Annoyance
A More Detailed View of Wind Turbine Infra and Low-Frequency Sound
What Was the Wind Industry’s Position on Noise and Health in 2004?
What Is the Current Position of the American Wind Energy Association?

Conclusion

A review of the work of acoustical experts such as Swinbanks, Ebbing, Blazier, Hubbard, and Shepherd and others mentioned in this article shows that these problems were reported at professional conferences and in research papers.

There is sufficient research and history to link the sensitivity of some people to inaudible amplitude-modulated infra and low-frequency noise to the type of symptoms described by those living near industrial wind turbines.

This information should have served as a warning sign.

Experts, some well known in the field of acoustics, have defended the wind industry position through white papers, reports, and testimony in hearings, and through committees that are establishing guidelines for siting industrial-scale wind turbines.

The acoustics profession and individual acousticians should have recognized the early reports of symptoms by people living near wind turbines as a new example of an old problem. Instead of advocating caution in locating wind turbines near people, the rush for renewable energy took precedence. The position or belief that there was little or no possibility inaudible infrasound and very low–frequency noise could be causing the reported problems has delayed further research and the safe implementation of industrial wind turbines.

It is the author’s opinion that had past experience and information, which was available prior to the widespread implementation of the modern upwind industrial-scale wind turbine, been incorporated into the government and industry guidelines and regulations used to siting wind turbine utilities, many of the complaints and adverse health effects currently reported would have been avoided.

Bulletin of Science,Technology & Society 32(2) 108–127

Download original document: “Wind Turbine Infra and Low-Frequency Sound: Warning Signs That Were Not Heard

This article is the work of the author(s) indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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