Study: living near wind turbines is annoying

From the AMERICAN INSTITUTE OF PHYSICS and the “don’t mind the subaudible swooshing, you’ll get used to it” department comes this study that confirms what we already know; living near wind turbines is annoying.

Does living near wind turbines negatively impact human health?

Some people report sleep disturbances from wind turbines’ audible and subaudible noise; researchers in Canada reassessed an earlier study’s findings on the relationship between noise and health

WASHINGTON, D.C., June 5, 2018 — Wind turbines are a source of clean renewable energy, but some people who live nearby describe the shadow flicker, the audible sounds and the subaudible sound pressure levels as “annoying.” They claim this nuisance negatively impacts their quality of life.

A team of researchers from the University of Toronto and Ramboll, an engineering company funding the work, set out to investigate how residential distance from the wind turbines — within a range of 600 meters (1,968.5 feet) to 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) — affects people’s health.

They reanalyzed data collected for the “Community Noise and Health Study” from May to September 2013 by Statistics Canada, the national statistical office. The team reports their new analysis in the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America.

“The Community Noise and Health Study generated data useful for studying the relationship between wind turbine exposures and human health — including annoyance and sleep disturbances,” said Rebecca Barry, an author on the paper. “Their original results examined modeled wind turbine noise based on a variety of factors — source sound power, distance, topography and meteorology, among others.”

The team’s new assessment confirmed Statistics Canada’s initial findings. “Respondents who live in areas with higher levels of modeled sound values (40 to 46 decibels) reported more annoyance than respondents in areas with lower levels of modeled sound values (<25 dB),” Barry said. Unsurprisingly, the survey’s respondents who live closer to the turbines “were more likely to report being annoyed than respondents who live further away.”

The earlier Statistics Canada study found no direct link between residents’ distance from wind turbines and sleep disturbances (as measured by sleep assessments and the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index), blood pressure, or stress (either self-reported or measured via hair cortisol). However, the more recent study showed that survey respondents closer to wind turbines reported lower ratings for their environmental quality of life. Barry and her co-authors note that their cross-sectional study cannot distinguish whether these respondents were dissatisfied before the wind turbines were installed.

“Wind turbines might have been placed in locations where residents were already concerned about their environmental quality of life,” said Sandra Sulsky, a researcher from Ramboll. “Also, as is the case with all surveys, the respondents who chose to participate may have viewpoints or experiences that differ from those who chose not to participate. Survey respondents may have participated precisely to express their dissatisfaction, while those who did not participate might not have concerns about the turbines.”

The team’s more recent study didn’t explicitly find evidence that exposure to wind turbines actually impacts human health, but in the future, “measuring the population’s perceptions and concerns before and after turbine installation may help to clarify what effects — if any — exposure to wind turbines may have on quality of life,” Sulsky said.

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The article, “Using residential proximity to wind turbines as an alternative exposure method to investigate the association between wind turbines and human health,” is authored by Rebecca Barry, Sandra I. Sulsky and Nancy Kreiger. The article will appear in the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America in June 5, 2018, (10.1121/1.5039840) and can be accessed at https://aip.scitation.org/doi/full/10.1121/1.5039840.

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67 thoughts on “Study: living near wind turbines is annoying

    • Got there before me.
      If migrating birds can detect these noises (like we can) then they will change course to avoid them.
      Any extra distance is a loss of precious energy. That means fewer birds make the migration. And those that do have fewer offspring.

      Windfarms are devastating to birds.

      And they really muck up the sonar of bats.

      • Bats sonar is ULTRASONIC, I doubt that is upset by subsonic vibrations. If there is an affect on bats, it’s probably not from their sonar.

        • Our family farm is now covered by windmills. With dozens of dead bats underneath these windmills, there seems to some effect on bats! However, the coyotes and fox apparently enjoy eating the carnage of bats and birds.
          Possible impact on humans, with fewer bats in the air, we seem to have more mosquitoes than we use to.

    • In the UK, bats and birds get better protection from wind turbines than do humans.

  1. Sorry; a v/w slip there (I hate touchpads, but on vacation, what can you do…?)

  2. Noise from living near a wind turbine is somewhat similar to living near an airport, a train track, a harbor, or a factory with all its noises.

    Isn’t it odd, that humans manage to live quite well near all those locations with far more noise.

    And more odd, is the millions more people who live near the airports, train tracks, harbors, and factories compared to the rural locations for wind turbines.

      • Beyond that, the type of noise generated by the things in your list are much higher in frequency and don’t carry for miles.

        • Speaking from experience (and living about equidistant from both), freeway noise carries a LOT further than does wind turbine noise. Freeway can be clearly audible at a range of 10 miles. And if you don’t think it’s nonstop, try living near I-5 in SoCal.

          • Totally agree: I’m in the “Orange Crush” area where the 5, 22, 55, 57, and 91 all converge and even in the middle of the night, you hear it.

      • A wind turbine isn’t running 24/7 either. They are more often in ‘off’ position than producing electricity. That’s why their nameplate/factual output is *issed *oor.
        What annoys me, and I live in an area where you’ll find many ‘insulas’ of up to 10 turbines together, is the fact that they are an ugly rotating blot in the landscape, slay birds and bats, and have an output not worth mentioning. They also consume energy when not rotating to keep the internal grease system flowing. Else, the turbine shafts woud get stuck.

    • not true….they raise all holy hell when they try to build a new airport, train track, harbor, or factory next door

      • Drive I70 from KC to Colorado, ridden with many have to clothes their eyes because the things are so disturbing

      • Worse than that—they will purchase close to such facilities, presumably because of a financial benefit, then campaign against the noise from the facility.

    • All of the other areas you mentioned do not create the rhythmic disturbances of windmills. Not sure whether you have ever been near one of these things but the deep whoosh sound that they generate seems bearable at first, it is only after extended exposure that issues begin to arise.

      • I fully second that. You really get whooshy yourself, and when you start rotating your arms you’re done.

    • Noise from living near a wind turbine is somewhat similar to living near an airport, a train track, a harbor, or a factory with all its noises.

      No it isn’t Roger. The nature of the noise (intensity, frequency, time of day, duration of the noise, spectral content, etc.) that people identify as annoying is quite complex. A 80 dB whistle blown once a day would annoy few while the same whistle at 70 dB every 15 minutes would not be as tolerable.

    • Any downside for an unreliable, undispatchable power source matter more than than with problems with conventional power sources. One should judge on the totality of benefits to risks,

      • Any downside for an unreliable, undispatchable power source matter more than than with problems with conventional power sources.

        It’s apples and oranges. Renewables are fundamentally flawed.

      • I think most are struggling to see any benefit all they see is they have paid a lot for some self guilted eco warriors to feel better about themselves.

    • 1) How much noise does a dripping faucet make?
      2) Would you want to listen to it all night, every night?

    • If that were true, then wind turbines would be subject to the same noise limits as other industrial facilities. But they aren’t, because wind turbines make more noise and cannot meet industrial noise limits.

      • Very interesting statement, Mr. Bratby, especially in light of the following:

        “… Project(1) operations would not exceed the noise limits set forth by Holt County to protect occupied structures.” — EIS p.16; DOE/EIS-0485, Final Environmental Impact Statement, Interconnection of the Grande Prairie Wind Farm, Holt County, Nebraska (USA)

        (1) The Grande Prairie Wind Farm Project has 200 wind turbines of 2 MW each that produce 400 MW in Holt County, Nebraska. It came online in late 2016.

        Source: https://www.energy.gov/sites/prod/files/2015/01/f19/EIS-0485-FEIS-2014.pdf

        The fact is, more than 80,000 MW of wind turbines are operating in the onshore areas of the US; all were subjected to environmental impact studies such as the Grande Prairie Wind Farm cited above, and all were approved as to noise issues.

    • No it is nothing like any other noise source man made or otherwise. The blades interrupt the air flow every time the blade goes between you and the wind. This results in a very high pressure drop and the power of the resulting sound wave is simply the equal to the power extracted to produce the electricity and at a frequency equal to the blade speed. For a single turbine this is no real problem as the frequency is low but not into the dangerous ultra low frequency range around seven HZ. Put more than one in an array and they do produce short bursts of this lethal frequency where the low frequencies mix to produce sum and difference components.
      The wind direction is never truly stable so the bursts are short or they would kill at the power generated. As it is they make susceptible people extremely ill. Under no circumstances be thin if you live near one.

      Why do you think the wind turbine manufacturers make sure the tests are always on a single unit and ignore the power of the signal produced by the actual blade slowing the air to drive it?

    • Here is what a recent editorial from an Iowa newspaper has to say:

      “[#Windpower] is, from any perspective, a winner for our state. In addition to supporting, directly and indirectly, some 8,000 jobs, the thousands of wind turbines dotting Iowa’s landscape help keep electric rates stable for utility customers, put more money in the pockets of farmers and other rural landowners in the form of lease payments, create export potential and increase property tax revenue. Plus, it’s friendly to our environment.”

      http://siouxcityjournal.com/opinion/editorial/our-opinion-power-of-wind-strengthens-in-iowa/article_12f785b1-de9a-5623-8c26-dedbeafaf742.amp.html

  3. So they were funded to reassess a previous study and came to the same logical conclusions. Where do I get a job like that?

  4. I remember reading studies (Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, I think) over forty years ago correlating infrasonics generated by thunderstorms in the Midwest and tunneled through inversion layers hundreds of miles to Chicago (whose weather was fair) being correlated with school absenteeism. Exposure to infrasonics can cause feelings of unease, even distress. This report of the possible effects of wind turbines is therefore not surprising.

  5. Go to the Waubra Foundation website and read the ‘Explicit Cautionary Notice’ regarding harm from industrial scale wind turbines.
    Also read the critique of the Health Canada study.

  6. This article is garbage. Living in a wind farm is wonderful. The gentle giants the surround me only bring me peace and joy. Heck even right now I’m watching a beautiful sunset that has numerous turbines all running at max power output.

  7. “range of 600 meters (1,968.5 feet) to 10 kilometers (6.2 miles)”

    That’s quite a distance.
    Maybe any noise would be irritating if you dislike the turbines being there.
    And not noticeable if you are OK with the turbines.

  8. Next they should do a study of the effects of off-shore windmill sounds and vibrations on the creatures inhabiting the oceans. They might be annoying and ruining the quality of their lives with those noisy windmills.

  9. Give everyone within 1km radius free or cheap power and they will find it a lot less “annoying”.

    This is how the EDF overcame local resistance to nuclear power plants. The whole town gets free electricity.

  10. Care to bet that the people complaining about wind turbine noise…. moved from a city where freeway noise is orders of magnitude worse than anything a wind farm can produce?

    • It’s the “dripping tap” quality of the noise, rather than the loudness that annoys.

  11. Try this: Go out in your car on the freeway doing something around 70 to 100 kph. Open the right rear window about halfway down. Try various sizes of the window opening. Around a certain size of the opening a periodic stream of pressure pulses of frequency around a few pulses per second occurs. By suitably adjustying the speed of the car and the size of the opened window the amplitude/strength of the pulses becomes truly painful. They are not heard as a tone, because the frequency is way below the lower limit of true sound.

    The mechanism of the phenomenon is the same as in a loudspeaker reflex enclosure: the air around the opening (a packet roughly the size of the opening diameter) starts bouncing back and forth against the air in the car. Moving inwards, it compresses the air volume inside the car until it bounces back. Moving back, it increases the air volume, the pressure goes down until the outside pressure forces the air packet back into the car, and so on. The initial energy is taken form Bernoulli’s equation. It tells us that the effective pressure outside the car is lower than inside the car when it starts moving, pulling the air packet outwards until it bounces back in etc. (In the loudspeaker, the energy is supplied as electrical energy to the voice coil)

    The main pojnt here is that the subjective impression of the periodic pressure pulses is one of true physical pain. Their nature is similar to that of the the wind power air pressure pulses, Wind power supporters frequently deny possible health effects of them, usually because it is not heard as a tonelike sound. That is a sad expression of either their ignorance of basic physics or a blatant ignorance of simple facts.

  12. If city dwellers love them so much how about building a load of them towering over their homes, especially those that say windmills have no effect on health.
    With one right above the nuthouse that is Parliament as they voted for the things.

    James Bull

  13. People living near airports, especially smaller ones, often get the government to pay for sound proofing their homes. Perhaps that is next on the agenda for those living next to windmills.

  14. Amusing, this WUWT article that comes from the “every energy source is less annoying than wind turbines and solar panels” department.

    • Did you have anything intelligent you wanted to add? Or was this the limit of your ability?

  15. New York State officials admitted they knew that the noise and ‘infrasound’ from industrial wind turbines was a problem worldwide at the NYSERDA Environmental Stakeholders meeting specific to wind in 2009. At that meeting, former Noise Control Engineer for the New York State Public Service Commission, Dr. Dan Driscoll, testified that “infrasound” (sounds below 20 Hz) are the sounds you can’t hear, but that the body can feel. He said “infrasound” is NOT blocked by walls of residences, and it can very negatively effect the human body – especially after prolonged, continuous exposure. He said symptoms include headache, nausea, sleeplessness, dizziness, ringing in the ears, etc. Dr. Driscoll suggested that setbacks should be at least 3200 feet from the 1.5 MW turbines being installed at the time to reduce the impacts on nearby residents – which indicates setbacks from the much larger turbines being proposed today should be even greater.

    At the same NYSERDA meeting, New York State Dept of Health official, Dr. Jan Storm, reported that they knew infrasound associated with industrial wind turbines is a problem worldwide, but that they hadn’t done any studies on it in New York State yet (even though they were/are continuing to plaster the state with them), and that there was money available via the Stimulus to do so. Here it is 9 years later, and New York State still has NOT done any studies. It is infuriating that Governor Cuomo thought it was important to do a 6-year health study re: natural gas ‘fracking,’ and says he ‘wouldn’t want his family living next to a fracking site,’ but he doesn’t think enough of his Western, Central & Upstate NY constituents to call for independent health studies, or cost/benefit analyses before allowing the industrialization of rural NY with sprawling industrial wind factories – obviously because Big Wind LLCs are in line with Cuomo’s delusional ‘green’ ideology, and are BIG donors to Cuomo’s campaign war chest.

    The link to the full NYSERDA meeting summary is contained within this summary article:

    NYS’ Multi-Billion Dollar Energy S-WIND-LE:
    http://citizenpowerallianceblog.blogspot.com/2014/12/big-wind-big-swindle.html

    Documentaries on the impacts of industrial wind on U.S. rural residents, taxpayers and ratepayers:

    In the Shadow of Wind Farms:
    http://gatehousenews.com/windfarms

    DOWN WIND:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=55-jBCjtJ88

    A Horror Story: Wind power fraud in rural NY State:

  16. Post-modernist hipster doofus: we can’t actually measure anything, statistics are heternormatist. Its all about Da Feelz.

    Someone living near wind turbine: I have Da Feelz.

    Doofus: your Feelz don’t count, you have to suck it up, snowflake, for the greater good…

  17. I spent several years living in a house about 5 km downwind from the Tehachapi wind farm. The turbines were occasionally bothersome, but the wind itself was far worse. Never mind loose things flapping and banging, just the noise of the wind around the corners of my house was tiresome.

  18. It helps to play the continuous loop chant audio of libs are great, libs are great, libs are……

  19. I see more coyotes and foxes … wonder why? (Ahh, An Inquirer, I didn’t see your comment. I see the same. If you setup a game camera you might see some of the nocturnal types as well.

  20. My brother installed a $15,000 windmill at his rural hone. After tax breaks and rebates it cost him 1,500.00. His neighbor promptly struck a deal to pay him $40 a month to not run it.

  21. Living things will adapt and survive for sure, but I would claim anything that forces adaptation in not good. It is always a matter of degree and that will be analyzed.

  22. Heck, just driving past them’s annoying – especially when they aren’t spinning.

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