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Wind Turbine Noise Complaint Data 

Author:  | Noise, Regulations, U.K.


In 2007 the then Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) – later renamed the Department of Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR) – commissioned the University of Salford and the Hayes McKenzie Partnership (HMP) to investigate the issue of Aerodynamic Modulation (AM) noise from wind turbines. (AM noise is a blade swish noise at blade passing frequency, and is a characteristic of wind turbines.)

This was in response to an earlier report for the DTI by the HMP, “The Measurement of Low Frequency Noise at Three UK Wind Farms” (2006), which measured AM noise at three wind farms (understood to be Askam, Bears Down, Blaen Bowi) and found it in excess of that predicted by ETSU-R-97.

ETSU-R-97 is the conventional reference given to a document produced by the Energy Technology Support Unit, entitled “The Assessment & Rating of Noise from Wind Farms” (ETSU for the DTI: September 1996). This document, which is widely criticised as dated and inadequate to protect local amenity, is currently the standard guidance for the evaluation of wind farm noise in the UK.

In “The Measurement of Low Frequency Noise at Three UK Wind Farms” (2006), HMP recommended that a means be developed to assess and mitigate against AM noise problems.

The University of Salford study, which may be regarded as in part a response to this recommendation, surveyed 133 wind farms and reported that 27 of these had resulted in noise complaints being lodged with the appropriate local authority. AM noise was considered to be a factor for four of the 27 and a possible factor for another eight wind farms.

– University of Salford, “Research into aerodynamic modulation of wind turbine noise” URN 07/1235 (July 2007)

BERR subsequently issued a statement offering interpretations of the significance of the findings, with the implication that AM was a minor problem.

– BERR, “Government statement regarding the findings of the Salford University report into aerodynamic modulation of wind turbine noise” (July 2007)

However, the University of Salford’s report
a. Did not reveal the names of any of the wind farms with noise problems.
b. Did not reveal the specifics of the noise complaints.
c. Did not publish the survey responses from local authorities.

Consquently, the Government’s interpretation of the study could not be validated.

Furthermore, those responsible for the peer review of the University of Salford’s work, the Government-convened Noise Working Group (NWG) of acousticians expert in wind farm noise, were neither permitted to know the names of the relevant wind farms nor to see the survey responses.

Consequently, the depth of the peer-review must be regarded as limited. …

REF Freedom of Information Request

Renewable Energy Foundation continued to regard the non-disclosure of the survey data collected by the University of Salford as unsatisfactory, and not in the public interest or that of the broader sustainability agenda.

Consequently, REF submitted a Freedom of Information request for the list of these wind farms. This request was refused by the University of Salford on the 13th of September 2007.

REF referred the matter to the Information Commissioner, and the appeal was upheld on the 8 December 2008.

In his decision the Commissioner ruled that the University could not withhold the requested information because it was information on environmental emissions, and that the University was thefore obliged under the Act to release the requested information, with the condition that certain redactions were made to the data to protect the identity of complaining individuals.

REF received the requested information, with the redactions referred to above, from the University of Salford on the 12 January 2009. We are now releasing this material into the public domain.

European and UK environmental legislation supports the right of the public to environmental data related to projects that will affect their local environs. REF endorses this position and observes that the principles of deep sustainability can only be honoured by full transparency with regard to environmental data.

Information Released

The following files constitute the information released to REF by the University of Salford. The information was provided as hard copy, and the pdfs provided below were generated by REF for public distribution.

Survey Cover Letter and Summary Table:
– University of Salford Cover Letter for Survey Response Form
– University of Salford Scoping Survey Responses Summary Table

Completed Survey Response Forms:

Salford Report
Wind Farm Local Authority
A Glens of Foudland Aberdeenshire UC
B Cruach Mhor Argyll & Bute UC
C Royd Moor Barnsley BC
D Askam* Barrow in Furness BC
E Blaen Bowi Carmarthernshire UC
F Carland Cross Carrick DC
G Four Burrows Carrick DC
H Moel Maelogen Conwy UC
I Hafoty Ucha Conwy UC
J Tir Mostyn & Foel Goch Denbighshire UC
K Michelin Tyre Factory Dundee UC
L Causeymire, Caithness Highland UC
M Llyn Alaw* Isle of Anglesey CC
N Rhyd-y-Groes Isle of Anglesey CC
O Trysglwyn Isle of Anglesey CC
P Cold Northcott North Cornwall DC
Q Bears Down* North Cornwall DC
R Delabole North Cornwall DC
S St Breock North Cornwall DC
T Llandinam P&L Powys CC
U Mynydd Clogau Powys CC
V Crystal Rig Scottish Borders UC
W Hadyard Hill South Ayrshire
X Deeping St Nicholas* South Holland DC
Y Harlock Hill South Lakeland DC
Z Lynch Knoll Stroud DC
AA Forest Moor, Bradworthy Torridge DC

*The four sites with noise complaints identified as arising from AM noise are Bears Down (designated ‘First Site’ in Sections 4.1 to 4.4 of the University of Salford report), Askam (‘Second site’), Deeping St Nicholas (‘Third site’) and Llyn Alaw (‘Fourth site’).

REF Comment

This newly-released information reveals some of the difficulties encountered by complainants and Councils in resolving wind farm noise complaints.

There appear to be puzzling omissions in both the set of sites provoking noise complaints, and in the sub-set of sites with AM noise issues which warrant further investigation.

REF believes that this material provides further evidence that the current noise assessment guidance (ETSU-R-97) is not fit for the purpose, is failing to protect the amenity of neighbours and is urgently in need of revision.

Download original document: “Wind Turbine Noise Complaint Data

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

The copyright of this material resides with the author(s). As part of its noncommercial educational 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. Queries e-mail.

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