Noise Complaints On Rise with New
Industrial Wind Power Projects
National Wind Watch calls for minimum 1-mile setbacks
Rowe, Mass., April 2,
2007 -- Noise created by commercial-scale wind turbines has become a
major concern around the world as wind power development continues to
proliferate. Although the industry claims that modern turbines are
quieter -- even as they grow ever larger -- complaints are increasing
from people who live near new projects.
While the wind itself may
mask some of the noise under some atmospheric conditions, the deep
unnatural thumping as the giant blades pass their supporting tower is
particularly intrusive. Testimony from hundreds of turbine neighbors
confirms this, most recently from Maine, Massachusetts, New York,
Pennsylvania, Illinois, Wisconsin, Texas, Canada, the U.K., and New
Zealand. Reports can be found at www.wind-watch.org/news and
The noise is especially
intrusive because wind energy facilities are often built in rural areas
where the ambient sound level may be quite low, especially at night. On
the logarithmic decibel (dB) scale, an increase of 10 dB is perceived
as a doubling of the noise level. An increase of 6 dB is considered to
be a serious community issue. Since a quiet night in the country is
typically around 25 dB, the common claim by wind developers of 45 dB at
the nearest home would be perceived as a noise four times louder than
normal. And because it is intermittent and directional, those affected
assert that one can never get used to it. The disruption of sleep alone
presents serious health and human rights issues.
The problem is worse than
the industry admits. Frits van den Berg, a physicist at the University
of Groningen in The Netherlands, studied noise levels around a German
facility of 17 turbines. In a 2003 paper published in the Journal of Sound and Vibration
, he found that at
night, because the surface air is often more still than the air at the
height of the blades, the noise from the turbines is 15 to 18 dB higher
than during the day and carries farther. He noted that residents 1.9
kilometers (6,200 feet or 1.2 miles) away expressed strong annoyance
with noise from the facility.
The French National Academy of Medicine
has called for
a halt of all large-scale wind development within 1.5 kilometers of any
residence, because the sounds emitted by the blades constitute a
permanent risk for people exposed to them. The U.K. Noise Association
studied the issue and
agreed with the recommendation of a 1-mile setback.
In the U.S., the National
Wind Coordinating Committee could not avoid the conclusion that "those
affected by noise generated by wind turbines live within a few miles of
a large wind power plant or within several thousand feet of a small
plant or individual turbine. Although the noise at these distances is
not great, it nevertheless is sufficient to be heard indoors and may be
especially disturbing in the middle of the night when traffic and
household sounds are diminished."
National Wind Watch calls
on the commercial wind industry to respect the people who reside in
targeted development regions, to honor their right to healthy lives and
peaceful enjoyment of their homes, by adopting meaningful setbacks --
measured in miles, not in feet.
National Wind Watch information and contacts are available at
National Wind Watch comments on National
Academies report on impacts of wind energy
Rowe, Mass., May 9, 2007
-- On May 3, 2007, the National Research Council (NRC) of the National
Academies of Science released its report on the "Environmental Impacts
of Wind-Energy Projects". The report states:
"Because the use of wind
energy has some adverse impacts, the conclusion that a wind-energy
installation has net environmental benefits requires the conclusion
that all of its adverse effects are less than the adverse effects of
the generation that it displaces."
Such official analysis is
exactly what has been missing in the careless push for wind energy,
according to National Wind Watch (NWW), a coalition of individuals and
action groups fighting inappropriate wind energy development in the
U.S. and around the world.
Although commending the
recognition of negative impacts, which neighbors and many observers
have long been attesting to, NWW notes the report includes nine
references from the main American industry trade group, three from the
British, and three from the Danish. These are not cited as examples of
how the industry self-protectively spins information but rather as
reliable information about impacts. That not only calls into question
some of the report's assessment of the extent of adverse impacts, it
also illustrates the hurdles that people who defend wildlife, the
landscape, and their homes still have to overcome.
The usual line from wind
promoters is that the problems that wind energy solves are much worse
than any that wind energy itself causes, e.g., more birds would die if
wind turbines were not built (because of climate change caused by
fossil fuels). But the argument is stacked. Neither part of it has been
rigorously examined -- neither the premise that wind energy on the grid
brings significant benefits, nor the assumption that its negative
impacts on the environment, communities, and individual lives are
anything but minimal. Only citizens' groups such as those associated
with National Wind Watch have dared to demand accountability in the
heedless industry and government push to develop wind.
It is welcome that the
NRC report, although it glosses over the many adverse impacts of
industrial wind development, nonetheless recognizes the need for
studying them. NWW hopes that this quasi-official report will start to
turn around the studious dismissal of increasingly obvious and
Examination of wind's
claims of benefit also need a hard look. With more than a decade of
experience in Denmark and Germany, it is absurd to still cite carbon
reductions according to industry theory instead of actual experience.
We need to know the documented effect of wind (a highly variable and
intermittent nondispatchable energy source) on emissions on the grid.
unquestioningly repeats the sales claim that the average annual output
from wind is 30% of its capacity, even though the reality is quite
different. According to figures from the 2007 Annual Energy Outlook of
the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Energy Information Agency (IEA),
the output in 2005 was only 21% of capacity.
As to effects on
wildlife, although it acknowledges that impacts are poorly studied the
report repeats the cant that the slaughter of raptors at Altamont Pass
in California is an aberration and mostly due to older turbines -- an
obviously dubious claim. Deaths are mounting with every new facility.
The first-year study (by a company-picked firm) of the 120-turbine
"Maple Ridge" facility in northern New York estimated that 3,000 to
6,000 birds and bats were killed there last year.
The report also
determines that the toll on bats is only a problem in the mid-Atlantic,
which is the only place where it's been well documented. But just two
days before the NRC report was released, Michael Daulton of the
National Audubon Society testified before the U.S. House Natural
Resources Wildlife Subcommittee that bats in Missouri are attracted to
wind turbines. Merlin Tuttle, president of Bat Conservation
International, has stated, "We're finding kills even [by] the most
remote turbines out in the middle of prairies, where bats don't feed."
Donald Fry, director of
the Pesticides and Birds Program, American Bird Conservancy, testified
also on May 1, 2007, to the U.S. House Fisheries, Wildlife, and Oceans
"The wind energy industry
has been constructing and operating wind projects for almost 25 years
with little state and federal oversight. They have rejected as either
too costly or unproven techniques recommended by [the National Wind
Coordinating Committee] to reduce bird deaths. The wind industry
ignores the expertise of state energy staff and the knowledgeable
advice of Fish and Wildlife Service employees on ways to reduce or
avoid bird and wildlife impacts. ... The mortality at wind farms is
significant, because many of the species most impacted are already in
decline, and all sources of mortality contribute to the continuing
Finally, concerning human
impacts the report is regrettably vague in both its findings and its
recommendations. Wind turbines are giant industrial installations, and
here again, just as with birds and bats, the assumption is backwards.
Of course there are adverse impacts. As Wendy Todd, who lives 2,600
feet from the new wind energy facility on Mars Hill, Maine, testified
to her state legislature on April 30, 2007: "Noise is the largest
problem but shadow flicker and strobe effect are close behind. ... Some
find that it makes them dizzy and disoriented; others find that it can
cause headaches and nausea." Although this report is perhaps the first
quasi-official study to acknowledge that fact, it still puts the burden
of proof on the wrong people.
Before we destroy another
landscape, natural habitat, community, or individual human life,
governments at every level, conservation groups, and environmentalists
need to seriously assess the claims made to promote and defend
industrial wind energy development.
National Wind Watch is a
nonprofit corporation that promotes knowledge and raises awareness of
the negative environmental and social impacts of industrial wind energy
development. Information, analysis, and other materials are available
on its web site, www.wind-watch.org.
National Wind Watch information and contacts are available at