Does living near wind turbine feel like living near a highway, standing near a helicopter or behind a jet engine?
Absolutely NOT, wind turbines do produce sound - the main sound being the aerodynamic swoosh of the blades passing the tower. However, a normal conversation can be held at the base of a tower or on the wind farm site.
New rotors turn slower (max 15 -20 revs per minute) and are mounted in front of (not behind) their towers. These and other changes have dramatically lowered the noise that wind turbines produce over the past 20 yrs. Wind turbines are one of the quietest forms of energy generation currently available.
Noise dissipates (lessens) the further it moves away from the source. The sound is absorbed by the air as it travels through it. This absorption is also increased due to contact with the ground, trees or other obstacles (including house exteriors), to a point where the sound is no more.
NHMRC report (2013) describes that “It is unlikely that substantial wind farm noise would be heard at distances of more than 500 metres to 1500m away, the report concludes, though noise levels vary with terrain, type of turbines and weather conditions.
But when it can be heard, noise from wind turbines, including its content of low-frequency noise and infrasound, is similar to noise from many other natural and human made sources. There is no evidence that health or health-related effects from wind turbine noise would be any different to those from other noise sources at similar levels.”
All premises, both commercial and domestic, are subject to the Environment Protection (Noise) Policies in the various states in which they operate, which sets limits on noise pollution. This includes the amount of noise that can be made at what times of day. Noise limits also vary on the day of the week, with lower limits generally being set for the weekend. The EPA may place special conditions on licensed premises to control their noise. Specific regulations, codes and standards have been developed by governments to address noise from wind turbines. The planning process ensures that noise from all turbines is determined before the wind farm is built to ensure it is within the acceptable range, and complies after it is built.
In 2007, the Uni of Salford surveyed all local authorities in the UK where wind farms operated. "Of all UK wind farms (133 at the time, some operating for up to 16 years), only one wind farm has ever been found guilty of causing a nuisance to the nearest residents – and the issue has since been resolved through management of the turbine control system. In comparison, the report highlights that in 1 year alone there were 39,508 cases of noise nuisance NOT related to wind farm noise. To summarise, advances in wind turbine technology mean noise levels are difficult to detect or inaudible at distances to housing prescribed by planning guidelines."
Sound output is reasonable, measurable, can be modelled, and is regulated by strict guidelines on wind turbines and noise emissions to ensure the protection of residential amenity; there is no threat to human health, or it does not exceed any legislated sound limits in rural areas.
The existing noise of the area is referred to as "background". The majority of natural background noise is created by the wind and as such increases as the wind gets stronger. Even in generally quiet rural areas, the sound of the blowing wind is often louder than the turbines.
The best advice for anyone concerned may be to go and hear for yourself!
"Noise? Are you for real? We stop at the wind farm for lunch whenever we go to the Tablelands - its so peaceful, in fact, it's like listening to a very distant ocean, you can hear 'wind' - not the turning turbines. I can't work out what's wrong with people. Complain about something that makes sense!" Posted by: Lisa: Cairns Post website, Friday 1st April 2012.