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The perfect political crime

The first country in the world to do so, Denmark has introduced a legally binding indoor noise limit for low-frequency noise from wind turbines, the Danish Minister for the Environment, Ida Auken, announced when the new regulations on noise from wind turbines became effective on 1 January 2012, apparently ignoring protests from the wind industry.

Ditlev Engel, Vestas CEO, in a letter to Karen Ellemann, the former Minister for the Environment, had warned against plans to introduce a low-frequency noise limit for wind turbines. It would create problems for the company’s most economical model in the 3 MW class for open landscapes, since it would be impossible to further reduce the noise within the existing technology.

With an absolute noise limit of 20 decibels indoors, neighbours would be protected from low-frequency noise from wind turbines. This was the statement of official Denmark. But the noise limit is sheer bluff. When you study the Danish rules carefully, it appears that the limit is not at all absolute.

“Knowledge On Wind” (videnomvind.dk), the propaganda agency for the Danish Wind Industry, has described the noise limits for wind turbines as drastic and indispensable. This is far from being the truth. In a comment to the new regulations, Aalborg University and the Danish Society for Occupational and Environmental Medicine drew attention to the problem, but their points of view were dismissed.

Danish authorities admit that low-frequency noise will exceed 20 decibels in 33 percent of the houses if the turbines are placed as close to neighbours as the regulations allow. But the actual percentage is rather 75 percent, or three-quarters of Danish houses near wind turbines. This is a qualified guess and the percentage may very well be higher, considering that the limit is only calculated based on exterior A-weighted measurements.

Out of consideration to the wind industry, it was in fact a political requirement that the limit for low-frequency noise would never limit the building of wind turbines. Thus, the design of the regulations is so artful that they are in fact without any effect, no matter how it looks on paper.

From the beginning, the wind industry was strongly represented in the work on the revision of the regulations, and they had great impact on the final result. An initial meeting was held on 9 March 2011. Nine people attended, among them five from the wind industry. Three other attendants represented Delta and Grontmij, acoustic consultants with close connections to the wind industry. The Danish Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had one representative, Jørgen Jakobsen, who also kept the minutes of the meeting.

According to the minutes, Jørgen Jakobsen found that a maximum value of 20 decibels would be fine. But “it depends on the main goal: namely that the new limit does not set new obstacles for wind turbines” [exact quotes]. And further, that “what is possible today must also be possible after the summer”, i.e. with the new regulations. In the meeting it was agreed that noise should not be measured indoors in neighbouring houses.

According to the new Danish regulations, the new noise limit may deliberately be exceeded in the 33 percent of houses with the poorest insulation. This means that one-third of the houses from the start are unprotected from annoying rumbling sounds from wind turbines.

The sound insulation of a house determines how much noise enters the rooms. But, as agreed with the industry, the low-frequency noise will not be measured in the actual houses. It will only be calculated. The calculations are to be made with an uncertain model and using sound insulation data from measurements that did not even use the EPA’s own recommendations.

The EPA used measurements at arbitrary positions in a room and not at the positions where people find the noise to be loudest, which is where the EPA generally prescribes low-frequency measurements to be made. [SeeAssessment of low-frequency noise from wind turbines in Maastricht”]

The insulation figures used to calculate the percentage are therefore incorrect and too optimistic. If the rules are fully utilized to the point, where the calculated level is 20 decibels, the real level will exceed the noise limit in 75 percent of the houses, and thus it is no longer a matter of genuine protection of the citizens. In addition, complaints cannot be made.

In this way, it is prevented that the low-frequency noise limit would restrain the building of wind turbines. It does not limit the noise nuisance for neighbours. Instead, a floodgate has been opened for buzzing noise nuisance from wind turbines, which is already completely out of control. And neighbours are helpless. They are powerless victims of the perfect political crime. Main responsible politician: Ida Auken, Minister for the Environment. Main responsible civil servant: Jørgen Jakobsen, special consultant in the Environmental Protection Agency. Behind them: the entire wind industry. In the famous words of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet: “Something is rotten in the State of Denmark”.