Resource Documents — latest additions
Documents presented here are not the product of nor are they necessarily endorsed by National Wind Watch. These resource documents are provided to assist anyone wishing to research the issue of industrial wind power and the impacts of its development. The information should be evaluated by each reader to come to their own conclusions about the many areas of debate.
Author: Cooper, Steven; and Chan, Chris
The conduct of stereo measurements for both playback in high-quality headphones and in a hemi-anechoic room has been undertaken for a number of wind farms and other low-frequency noise sources as an expansion of the material previously presented at the Boston ASA meeting. The results of the additional monitoring, evaluation, and subjective analysis of this procedure are discussed and identifies the benefits of monitoring noise complaints and assessments of wind farm noise in stereo. The laboratory mono subjective system was used to reproduce the audio wave file obtained in a dwelling. The test signal, being inaudible, was presented as a pilot double blind provocation case control study to 9 test subjects who have been identified as being sensitized to wind turbine noise and low frequency pulsating industrial noise. All test subject could detect the operation of the inaudible test signal. The use of a stereo manikin to investigate detected inaudible ”hotspots” is discussed.
Steven Edwin Cooper, Chris Chan
The Acoustic Group, Lilyfield, New South Wale, Australia
174th Meeting of the Acoustical Society of America
New Orleans, Louisian, 4–8 December 2017
Download original document: “Subjective perception of wind turbine noise – The stereo approach”
Author: Plummer, James; Frank, Charles; and Michaels, Robert
We compare three technologies that produce electricity in the United States: wind, solar, and combined-cycle gas turbines (CCGT). We use the 2016 electric utility database compiled by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). That database has the advantage of being based on a census of U.S. power plants rather than sampling, as well as excluding any subsidies received by the power plants.
We show the cost savings achieved when there is a shift between coal-fired generation and generation by wind, solar, or CCGTs, where costs include both capital and operating costs. The net cost reduction per tonne of CO₂ reduction is $4,340 for a shift from coal to wind, −$98,826 (a cost increase rather than a cost decrease) for a shift from coal to solar, and a $251,920 decrease for a shift from coal to CCGT.
When the net emissions from switching away from coal are considered, the net cost savings for each tonne of emissions avoided is $1.27 for a switch from coal to wind, −$44.11 (a net cost increase) for a switch from coal to solar, and a savings of $50.72 for a switch from coal to CCGT. The differentials between the savings from a switch to wind or solar and a switch to CCGT is a measure of the “dead weight economic loss involved in switching from coal to either form of “renewables” instead of switching from coal to CCGT.
This research concludes that CCGT is the only “economic” choice from the perspective of benefit-cost analysis.
- Following Joskow, we do separate analyses for peak and off-peak generation.
- This study borrows heavily from a 2014 Brookings Working Paper by Charles R. Frank, “The Net Benefits of Low and No-Carbon Electricity Technologies.” However, we use updated 2016 data.
- The basic data for this study is the annual census of electricity generation conducted by the EIA of the U.S. Department of Energy.
- One advantage of using the EIA data is that it measures the costs of electricity production on a “real resource cost basis.” That is, the data do not incorporate the large U.S. government subsidies paid to the owner/operators of U.S. wind and solar electricity plants.
- The federal subsidy to solar energy is 30% of capital cost. The federal “production tax credit” (PTC) for wind was $.023 per kWh in 2016, but has complex annual yearly inflation adjustments.
OTHER BASIC ASSUMPTIONS
- A new low-carbon (wind, solar, or CCGT) plant replaces a coal plant off-peak and a simple cycle gas turbine on-peak.
- The price of natural gas is the average price paid by electric utilities.
- The cost of capital is 7.5%.
- The emissions from a new CCGT plant are grossed up to account for fugitive from the production and transport of natural gas.
- We include “balancing and cycling costs.” These are the extra cost that electric utilities incur to accommodate the intermittent nature of wind and solar.
THE CONCEPT OF “DECARBONIZATION EFFICIENCY”
Decarbonization cost is the differential cost of producing a MW year of electricity via coal plants and three other technologies – wind, solar, and CCGTs – divided by the differential CO₂ emissions (measured in tonnes per year).
Total net cost savings in 2016 of switching from coal to …
- Wind: $4,340 per MW-year
- Solar: $98,826 per MW-year
- CCGT: $237,684 per MW-year
Tonnes of CO₂ emissions per MW-year avoided by switching from coal to …
- Wind: 3,418
- Solar: 2,241
- CCGT: 4,686
Net cost savings per tonne of emissions avoided
- Wind: $1.27
- Solar: −$44.11
- CCGT: $50.72
DEAD WEIGHT ECONOMIC LOSS …
Of a decision to switch from coal to wind instead of to CCGT:
- $49.45 per tonne of emissions avoided
Of a decision to switch from coal to solar instead of to CCGT:
- $94.83 per tonne of emissions avoided
Conclusion: Switching to either wind or solar instead of to CCGT involves a dead weight economic loss. However, the dead weight economic loss is twice as great for a switch to solar instead of a switch to wind.
A SCENARIO OF DECARBONIZATION
In recent years, U.S. CO₂ emissions have been about 5.8 billion tonnes per year.
Suppose a goal of reducing those emissions by 10% or about 580 million tonnes.
As shown before, substitution of wind for coal results in a cost savings of $1.27 per tonne of CO₂ reduction, or $0.74 billion in this decarbonization scenario.
As shown before, substitution of solar for coal results in extra costs of $44.11 per tonne of CO₂ reduction, or $25.58 billion if all the investment was in solar.
However, if all the investment were done in CCGT, then the total cost savings would be $29.42 billion. So, the cost savings are larger when all the investment is in CCGT. The differences in cost savings are the amount of “dead weight economic loss” from investing in wind or solar instead of CCGTs.
These equations could be turned around to calculate, for a given fixed outlay of costs, what would be the “foregone CO₂ emissions opportunity” from investing in wind or solar instead of CCGT.
OTHER ALLEGED “SIDE BENEFITS OR COSTS” OF RENEWABLES
Job creation. Many of the jobs created by renewables are at the installation or capital goods production stages. The inherent capital intensivity of renewables limit their job creation potential.
Infant industry learning. This was a label invented by Argentine economist Raul Prebisch to argue for tariff protection of industry in less developed countries. However, those tariffs often led to “soft industries” that became dependent on the tariffs and did not focus on increased efficiency. A higher gain results from investing in specialized R&D activity.
Siting issues. Renewables progress over time from more favorable wind and solar sites to sites that involve higher cost per kWh produced, a classic example of “diminishing economic returns.” CCGTs are smaller physical plants, which can be sited close to natural gas supply or end-use electricity customers.
BROADER ISSUES OF RENEWABLES VS. CCGTs
Should CCGT be eligible to receive federal tax credits analogous to the current federal tax subsidies to wind and solar? No. This would be doubling down on a bad federal policy. CCGT does not need subsidies. They can out compete wind and solar on their own.
The states mainly follow a policy of “renewables mandates” placed on regulated utilities. The utilities don’t resist these mandates very hard because the system of a fixed return on “utility rate base” largely eliminates the incentives to lower costs via investment in CCGTs. This pattern is a classic example of political “confusion of ends and means.” If the goal of electricity policy at the state level is reducing CO₂ emissions, then the state should not intervene to put CCGTs at a disadvantage.
James L. Plummer, President, Climate Economics Foundation
Charles R. Frank, Senior Non-resident Fellow, Brookings Institution
Robert R. Michaels, California State University Fullerton
[presented at the 35th United States Association for Energy Economics/International Association for Energy Economics Conference, November 12–15, 2017, Houston]
Author: Hutchins, Michael
Wind energy is known to many as a “green” solution to climate change. But wind energy is really just another form of industrial development, and we can’t ignore its costs and consequences to wildlife and their habitats. As Director of ABC’s Bird-Smart Wind Energy Campaign, I often encounter several common misconceptions about wind development. Read on to learn more about the real impact of unchecked wind energy development on birds and other wildlife.
Myth 1: Wind turbines are “green” energy with little or no impact on the environment.
Any form of energy production, including renewable energy, has environmental impacts. The construction of large-scale, commercial wind energy facilities takes up entire landscapes, which reduces wildlife habitat. And the maintenance roads and other support infrastructure necessary also alter habitats and affect wildlife, often in very deleterious, subtle ways. If not properly sited, operated, and regulated, renewable energy can be very harmful to wildlife and natural habitats.
Myth 2: We shouldn’t be concerned about wind energy because it doesn’t take nearly the same toll on birds as feral cats, building collisions, pesticides, and other threats.
There are two things to remember here. First, wind turbines’ impacts are far from trivial. And the impacts of all human-caused mortality are cumulative, making comparisons irrelevant and misleading.
Wind turbines and their associated infrastructure – primarily power lines and towers – are one of the fastest-growing threats to birds in the United States and Canada. At the end of 2016, there were more than 52,000 commercial-scale wind turbines operating in the United States, and tens of thousands more are currently planned or under construction. Research shows that hundreds of thousands of birds and bats die every year when they accidentally collide with the fast-spinning turbine blades. That number grows with each turbine built.
Myth 3: Power lines and towers are a separate issue.
Power lines and towers are clearly part of the equation, because they’re necessary to carry power to the grid. As a result of large-scale, commercial wind and solar development, hundreds of miles of new power lines and towers are being built to transport energy across the United States, putting birds at risk of collisions and electrocutions. The generation of energy and its transportation go hand in hand – and both present risks to wildlife. Tens of millions of birds are killed every year when they collide with towers with or are electrocuted by electrical lines.
Myth 4: The wind industry is mitigating for bird and bat deaths.
As far as birds are concerned, only two mitigation methods have been proven to be successful: building wind energy facilities away from large concentrations of birds, and slowing or stopping the movement of turbine blades (known in the industry as “curtailment”). Unfortunately, neither of these approaches is working. Turbines are going up virtually everywhere, and curtailment is unpopular with wind companies because it cuts into their profit margins.
Some companies say they use radar to detect birds and bats and then temporarily shut down a turbine’s blades. But these technologies are expensive and appear to be seldom used – and their efficacy in preventing bird and bat deaths has not been thoroughly tested.
Northern Long-eared Bat/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
One way to make wind turbines safe for birds and bats, such as this Northern Long-eared Bat, is to build them far from large concentrations of these animals. Photo by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Myth 5: The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) and state wildlife agencies are regulating the wind industry to minimize its impacts on wildlife.
We have at least three federal laws designed to protect our native birds and bats from purposeful or accidental harm: the Endangered Species Act, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act. Enforcement of these laws has been sporadic at best, especially with regard to the wind industry. To make matters worse, federal guidelines governing wind energy development are voluntary, not mandatory, and few developers at present are obtaining the “take” permits necessary to kill protected species.
Meanwhile, state and local regulation of the wind industry varies widely. Some states, such as Oklahoma, have virtually no regulations at all. Others, like Hawai‘i, have more-stringent policies. Wind energy has developed so rapidly that it has gotten way out ahead of the regulatory framework.
Myth 6: Wind companies conduct scientifically rigorous studies before and after new facilities are built to assess the risks wind turbines pose to birds – and are transparent in what they find.
Federal guidelines currently allow wind companies to hire consultants to prepare reports assessing a proposed facility’s risk for wildlife. It’s important to note that these are not independent, third-party scientists; they are individuals who are being paid by wind companies to do this work. Unsurprisingly, I have yet to encounter any pre-construction study that recommends moving a proposed project because of elevated risks to wildlife.
There is also the problem of hidden data. The wind industry treats information on bird and bat mortality as a proprietary trade secret. Some wind energy developers have even sued to hide these data from the public. Hawai‘i is currently the only state that requires the collection of mortality data by independent, third-party experts, and makes the information available to the public on request.
Myth 7: Offshore wind development is less destructive than onshore wind development.
There’s no indication that turbines placed in the open ocean or in the Great Lakes are any safer for birds than land-based turbines. A whole suite of different organisms could be impacted by offshore wind development and underwater cables, including migrating marine birds, waterfowl, cetaceans, fish, and other ocean-dwelling wildlife. And it’s going to be more difficult to gauge the impact: risk assessments are often based on visual observations, which can be difficult, if not impossible, during rough weather, when birds may be at highest risk. What’s more, birds that collide with the turbine blades will fall into open water and be lost.
Myth 8: We can build wind turbines in and around the Great Lakes with little or no impact on wildlife.
The best way to reduce the impacts of wind energy on birds and bats is to keep turbines away from large concentrations of these animals. Major migratory routes, stopover habitat, and key breeding or foraging areas should all be off-limits for wind development. Yet all of these are found in and around the Great Lakes, which is home to one of the world’s densest concentrations of migratory birds and bats.
Here at ABC, we oppose wind turbine construction in the Great Lakes and within at least five miles of its shorelines. We base our position on recent advanced radar studies conducted by the FWS on all five of the Great Lakes. All of the studies clearly show vast numbers of birds and bats flying over the lakes or along their shorelines, many within the rotor-swept areas of wind turbines. The FWS currently recommends that no turbines be built within three miles of the Great Lakes shorelines, while the Nature Conservancy recommends five miles. However, these are just recommendations, and some wind developers are disregarding them.
Myth 9: When it comes to combating climate change, there are no workable alternatives to industrial-scale wind energy.
There are many other ways we can address climate change besides building these huge structures in ecologically sensitive areas. We can preserve wetlands and forests to sequester carbon dioxide; we can be more energy-efficient; and we can reduce our use of fossil fuels and rely less on domestic animals (a major source of greenhouse gases) as a protein source, for starters. One of the best options is distributed solar in our already built environment – parking lots, buildings, and roads.
Myth 10: Climate change is the top threat to wildlife today; we can ignore all other threats because they pale in comparison.
Birds and other wildlife confront many threats, and they add up. One recent analysis of 8,000 species on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species found that climate change is not the most immediate threat to wildlife today; that distinction went to the traditional threats of over-exploitation (overfishing, hunting, and so on) and habitat loss from agriculture. The authors concluded that “efforts to address climate change do not overshadow more immediate priorities for the survival of the world’s flora and fauna.”
We support wind energy development that’s done in ways that do not threaten our irreplaceable and ecologically important wildlife. To make that happen, wind energy development must be regulated more effectively. We must address climate change, to be sure – but the point is that we could be doing it so much better.
Michael Hutchins, Director of American Bird Conservancy’s Bird-Smart Wind Energy Campaign, earned his Ph.D. in animal behavior at the University of Washington. Prior to ABC, Michael was Director/William Conway Endowed Chair, Department of Conservation and Science, at the Association of Zoos and Aquariums for 15 years, and Executive Director/CEO at The Wildlife Society for seven years. He has authored over 220 articles and books on various topics in wildlife science, management, and conservation, and has traveled to over 30 countries to pursue his passion for conservation.
Originally published December 06, 2017, at abcbirds.org.
Author: White, Richard; and Bean, Katherine
On our analysis, a number of propositions emerge from the medical and scientific evidence. Some of those propositions had unanimous support by the relevant experts, and others had the support of most.
The propositions which we understand have unanimous support from the relevant experts or are not contested include the following:
- Wind turbines emit sound, some of which is audible, and some of which is inaudible (infrasound);
- There are numerous recorded instances of WTN exceeding 40 dB(A) (which is a recognised threshold for annoyance/sleep disturbance);
- There are also recorded instances of substantial increases in sound at particular frequencies when particular wind farms are operating compared with those at times when they are shut down; (Measurements undertaken at the Waterloo wind farm showed that “noise in the 50 Hz third-octave band was found to increase by as much as 30 dB when the wind farm was operational compared to when it was shut down” – Exhibit A51, p 2.)
- If it is present at high enough levels, low frequency sound and even infrasound may be audible;
- WTN is complex, highly variable and has unique characteristics;
- The amount and type of sound emitted by a wind farm at a given time and in a given location is influenced by many variables including topography, temperature, wind speed, the type of wind turbines, the extent to which they are maintained, the number of turbines, and their mode of operation;
- Wind farms potentially operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week;
- There are numerous examples of WTN giving rise to complaints of annoyance from nearby residents, both in Australia and overseas.
469. The propositions which are supported by the preponderance of relevant expert opinion, and which we accept on that basis, include the following:
- A significant proportion of the sound emitted by wind turbines is in the lower frequency range, i.e. below 20 Hz;
- The dB(A) weighting system is not designed to measure that sound, and is not an appropriate way of measuring it; (It is even acknowledged in the International Standard, ISO 1996-1 that the A-weighting system alone is “not sufficient to assess sounds characterized by tonality, impulsiveness or strong low-frequency content” – Exhibit A29, T43/8; Section 6.1; “Acoustics – Description, measurement and assessment of environmental noise – Part 1: Basic quantities and assessment procedures”, International Standard ISO (1996-1).)
- The most accurate way of determining the level and type of sound present at a particular location is to measure the sound at that location;
- The best way of accurately measuring WTN at a particular location is through ‘raw’ unweighted measurements which are not averaged across time and are then subjected to detailed “narrow-band” analysis;
- When it is present, due to its particular characteristics, low frequency noise and infrasound can be greater indoors than outdoors at the same location, and can cause a building to vibrate, resulting in resonance;
- Humans are more sensitive to low frequency sound, and it can therefore cause greater annoyance than higher frequency sound;
- Even if it is not audible, low frequency noise and infrasound may have other effects on the human body, which are not mediated by hearing but also not fully understood. Those effects may include motion-sickness-like symptoms, vertigo, and tinnitus-like symptoms. However, the material before us does not include any study which has explored a possible connection between such symptoms and wind turbine emissions in a particular population.
We consider that the evidence justifies the following conclusions:
- The proposition that sound emissions from wind farms directly cause any adverse health effects which could be regarded as a “disease” for the purposes of the ACNC Act is not established;
- Nor, on the current evidence, is there any plausible basis for concluding that wind farm emissions may directly cause any disease;
- However, noise annoyance is a plausible pathway to disease; (We note the World Health Organization has stated: “There is sufficient evidence from large-scale epidemiological studies linking the population’s exposure to environmental noise with adverse health effects. Therefore, environmental noise should be considered not only as a cause of nuisance but also a concern for public health and environmental health”– Exhibit A4, T287/5709, citing “WHO. Burden of disease from environmental noise.” World Health Organization; 2011 [viewed April 2013]; Available from: http://www.euro.who.int/en/publications/abstracts/burden-of-disease-from-environmental-noise.-quantification-of-healthy-life-years-lost-in-europe as referenced by Professor G Wittert in Exhibit 56 NHMRC Draft Information Paper: Evidence on Wind Farms and Human Health, “Expert Review: Comments in full”, National Health and Medical Research Council, February 2015, Appendix 8; and Exhibit 4, T299/6308, Reference No. 40, WHO “Burden of disease from environmental noise”. Bonn: World Health Organization European Centre for Environment and Health, 2011. Available from: http://www.euro.who.int/__data/assets/pdf_file/0008/136466/e94888.pdf.)
- There is an established association between WTN annoyance and adverse health effects (eg. this was established by the Health Canada study);
- There is an established association between noise annoyance and some diseases, including hypertension and cardiovascular disease, possibly mediated in part by disturbed sleep and/or psychological stress/distress; (This is also supported by much of the documentary material before us, including a Victorian Department of Health publication entitled “Wind farms, sound and health”, Technical Information, at 7. How can noise affect our health? – Exhibit A4, T297/6232.)
- There are as yet no comprehensive studies which have combined objective health measurements with actual sound measurements in order to determine for a given population the relationships between the sound emissions of wind turbines, annoyance, and adverse health outcomes. Indeed there is as yet no study which has given rise to a soundly based understanding of the degree to which particular types or levels of wind turbine emissions give rise to annoyance, or what levels or types of emissions are associated with what level of annoyance in the population. Because it relied on calculated rather than actual sound measurements, and was limited to the A and C-weighted systems, the Health Canada study did not do this.
Paragraphs 467–470, File Number 2015/4289
Decision and Reasons for Decision
Administrative Appeals Tribunal, Adelaide
Taxation & Commercial Division
Re Waubra Foundation (Applicant) and Commissioner of Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (Respondent)
The Honourable Justice White, Deputy President
Deputy President K Bean
4 December 2017