The oft contentious issue of wind turbine construction along Michigan’s coastline could be resolved at least in part by stricter noise guidelines and other considerations.
That’s according to group of Michigan State University researchers, who released a report earlier this week in an effort to better what they deem imperfect local and state energy policies.
West Michigan is no stranger to proposals to construct wind turbines, and certainly is not foreign to defeating such projects.
Mason and Oceana counties last year turned down a plan by a Norwegian company to construct turbines off the coasts of Grand Haven and Pentwater.
MSU’s researchers, rather than exploring the plausibility or health risks of a particular project, crafted their study to call on local and state policymakers to rethink wind turbine guidelines.
The report outlined ways for policymakers to consider noise annoyance, abate conflicts that might arise from wind turbine proposals, physical safety and aesthetics.
“We strongly recommend the state of Michigan consider our recommendations in revising its 2008 guideline on the placement of onshore wind turbines,” said Kenneth Rosenman, head of MSU’s Division of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, in a news release.
The 2008 guidelines, for example, recommend an allowance of 55 decibels of sound from turbines as sound waves hit property lines.
The team argues sounds of no more than 40 decibels should be allowed until more concrete evidence is generated as to the noise’s impact.
The researchers added levels of 40 decibels and above create demonstrable adverse health impacts. They cited studies that included a World Health Organization report on noise disturbances at night.
The health impacts include cardiovascular disease after prolonged exposure and sleep disturbance after short-term exposure.
The team, which favors wind turbine use, conceded such studies examined the impacts of noise from airports and freeways, not turbines.
That fact does not necessarily mean one cannot translate the results to the possible impact of loud wind turbines, Rosenman said.
“There is no reason to suspect wind turbine noise will have less of a harmful effect than noise from road traffic or airplanes,” he said in the release.
Other areas in the report call on policymakers to consider implementing conflict resolution standards and considering ways to reduce “shadow flicker,” or repetitive shadow movement cast by the sun being behind a turbine.
Those studies examined the impacts of noise and shadow flicker, among other things, with wind turbines placed at varying distances from shore and civilization.
A copy of MSU’s report can be found here.
[the researchers’ report is also here at Wind Watch]