Resource Documents: Noise (592 items)
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: Hales, Roy
Ocotillo, in Imperial County, has been inflicted by massive dust storms ever since 112 turbines were built around it. The desert surface was scraped clean of vegetation as a preparation for the project. Now there is nothing to hold the dust down.
That’s not the only complaint. Since the project went online, less than two years ago:
- 3 turbines have had their gear boxes replaced,
- 9 turbines have had blade replacements
- a 173-foot-long-blade flew off one turbine
- Ocotillo residents have also documented oil leaks in 40% of the turbines. The Department of Toxic substance control subsequently gave the project a summary of violations.
Two Ocotillo residents, Jim Pelley and Parke Ewing, have documented this project on the web. There are hundreds of videos on Pelley’s Youtube site “Save Ocotillo” and Ewing’s Facebook page Ocotillo Wind Turbine Destruction is a visual chronicle of this project and related materials.
(October 23, 2014)
The Ocotillo wind farm went online almost five years ago. Were they not documented in such meticulous detail, some of the reports coming from the tiny desert community this project surrounds would be difficult to believe. I once received a constant stream of YouTube videos and reports from this project. It was one of the sites that shaped my perception of the energy sector. To some extent, I’ve moved on from this story since then, but I always knew I would be revisiting Ocotillo.
Parke Ewing has not been able to move on.
Last May, I asked him for an update.
Ewing replied, “It’s about 9:30 – 10:00 o’clock in the morning. Not one wind turbine is spinning. There is no wind. Their capacity factor, since they became operational, is only about 21.3%. Pattern Energy stated the wind farm would be 34% and they also said it would produce 891 gigawatts (GW) per year. So far, the most they’ve ever generated is 536 GW. So it is substantially less than what they proposed to get approval on this project …”
Update On Mechanical Failures
This is the beginning of a four minute clip, which you can listen to on the podcast. Some of the details include:
- “About 70% of the turbines leaked oil. They had a crew out here cleaning all the turbines. They did a lot of them and I am sure they fixed some of the leaks.”
- On November 21, 2016, turbine #126 crumpled and fell over. “They’re in the process of replacing the entire turbine right now. The nacelle came in today and the tower sections and they are unloading those as we speak,”
These are just the latest in a litany of problems.
Six months after the project officially went online, a 173 foot-long-blade flew off one of the turbines.
There was a turbine fire in 2015.
Since this project went online:
- 10 turbines underwent blade replacements
- 9 turbines had their gear boxes replaced
- 2 turbines were replaced
Contacting The Developers
Attempts to contact the turbine manufacturer, developer and local utility have been futile.
Ewing says, “We’ve tried to talk to Pattern Energy [the developer], of course we always get a generic reply that they’re working on this or checking on that, but we never get an answer on the noise, or the lights, or anything. They really just write us off. They don’t talk to us. We get an email reply sometimes, that’s about it.”
I phoned Jeff Grappone, of Siemens USA after the turbine caught fire in 2015. He suggested I send an email. I did this, asking:
- Do they know what caused this fire?
- How often turbine fires occur? Are they, for example, as common as traffic accidents are for automobile drivers?
- What about the oil leaks? the blade replacements? the three replaced yaw gears? Is this normal for a two year old wind farm?
- There are also some extreme conditions at Ocotillo. I have seen videos of those incredible dust storms. There are good winds at times, but they are more often 0-4 mph and there are occasionally incredible blow ups. Is this a an exceptionally difficult location?
Grappone never replied.
Maybe I asked too many questions.
I recently tried a different tactic, when asking Pattern Energy about the dust storms that have plagued Ocotillo since the site was built. I sent them the video you see below and asked for an explanation.
Matt Dallas emailed back, “Ocotillo Wind operates its equipment in accordance with our permits. The dust in the video was created by the wind, not by the turbines. You’ll see many of the turbines are not operating in the video because the wind speeds that day were so high they exceeded our maximum operating capacity.”
He was not aware that I had previously interviewed a site developer about dust storms on utility scale wind and solar sites.
According to Harvey Stephens, Vice President of Operations at World Wind & Solar, fugitive dust problems are caused by scraping large areas of the desert crust clean of vegetation. This leaves the underlaying soil exposed to the wind. There are remedies, such as planting grasses, windflowers and other materials as a protective blanket to stabilize areas disturbed by grading operations. When developers follow these procedures, the dust storms normally cease after a year or so.
Ocotillo has been inflicted by dust storms since construction began. In the video below, you can see one from August 2012.
I pointed this out to Matt Dallas, who did not reply.
Ewing and his wife suspect, but can not prove, that infrasound noise from the turbines might be the reason that are “tired all the time.”
He describes the sound made by the turbines, when they are turning, as “… the most irritating sound I have ever heard.”
(There is a recording on the podcast.)
“One of Pattern’s project managers came by and listened to the sound once and said he would take it back to whoever is in charge. We never heard another word about it,” says Ewing.
“We like to be outside. That’s why we are here in the desert. We have a fairly nice place here, with a lot of trees and stuff that we need to keep watered. It is difficult to do when they are making noise. It is kind of like a noise trespassing, that really shouldn’t be happening on your property.”
What’s The Problem?
Parke Ewing believes the problem is wind technology.
I agreed with him, until I saw some German sites in 2014. [NWW still agrees with Ewing.]
The problem at Ocotillo does not appear to be so much with the technology, as how it was used. This is not a good location for wind turbines. The site was politically expedient and there were massive tax credits in 2012, but should never have been built. Now the manufacturer and developer have made their money, and people like Parke Ewing are left with the mess.
September 3, 2017, Roy L Hales, theecoreport.com
Author: New Zealand Environmental Court
 In an Interim Decision dated 1 December 2016 the court granted consent to Windflow Technology Limited for a wind turbine at Gebbies Pass, Banks Peninsula, subject to conditions which would be confirmed in a final decision.
 This decision finalises the conditions of consent and, subject to any issues as to costs, resolves this appeal.
 By way of background this is an appeal against a decision to re-consent an existing wind turbine at Gebbies Pass, Banks Peninsula. The turbine was made operational in 2004 and, as we recorded in the Interim Decision, the residents in the neighbouring McQueen’s Valley have experienced noise from the turbine which has intruded upon their general enjoyment of their properties and for some, disturbed and disrupted their sleep.
 During the tenure of the original consent, Windflow did not undertake compliance monitoring within McQueen’s Valley to confirm whether the turbine was operating within the conditions imposed on its consent. Instead it relied on predicted noise levels in the valley based on measurements undertaken at the turbine site. We were greatly troubled by this and by the reliance on the turbine’s attainment of the noise limits in the New Zealand Standard 6808:201 O as this proved inimical to an enquiry into the experience of noise within McQueen’s Valley which, in contrast to the turbine site, has a very low sound environment.
 Disengaged with the persons living within the receiving environment, Windflow has been met with strong opposition to this application. To its credit, at the conclusion of the hearing Windflow proposed restrictions on the hours of operation of the turbine in response to the parties’ concerns, although it maintained these measures were not mandated by the evidence.
 The court reached a different view on the evidence. Noise from the turbine, including amplitude modulation, was a particular feature of this case because of its adverse effect on the amenity of the residents in the low background sound environment of McQueen’s Valley. Overall, we concluded the restrictions on the hours of operation and ceasing operation of the turbine if verification measurements identified penalisable levels of amplitude modulation or tonality were an appropriate response given Windflow’s duty under s 16 of the Resources Management Act 1991 to avoid unreasonable noise. …
3. Hours of Operation:
i. The turbine shall not be operated on any day of the week between the hours of 1900 and 2200 except when the wind speed measured at the hub height of the turbine exceeds 10 metres per second [22 mph] …
6. Verification measurements
In terms of the verification measurements required by this condition: …
v. If the verification measurements indicate the sound power level at the reference position at hub height wind speed of 8 m/s is 65 dB or greater, or contains tonality or amplitude modulation which would be penalisable under NZS 6808:2010, the requirements of Condition 7 shall apply …
7. Restricted operations
i. Should the criterion of Condition 6(v) apply, operation of the wind turbine between 1700 and 0500 hours shall immediately cease …
8. Compliance monitoring
In conjunction with the verification measurements required under condition 6:
i. The consent holder shall undertake compliance monitoring and confirm that the wind turbine is operating within the noise limits [LA90(10min)] set out in the following table when assessed at the measuring points defined in condition 8(ii) below.
|Background Sound Level||424 Gebbies Pass Road||McQueen’s Valley|
|>35 dB||Background + 5 dB||Background + 5 dB|
|30-35 dB||40 dB||Background + 5 dB|
|<30 dB||40 dB||35 dB|
Download original document: “Pickering v. CCC: Final Decision of the Environmental Court”
A: Under section 285 of the Resource Management Act 1991, the Environment Court orders:
(i) the Christchurch City Council is to pay the sum of $3,605.00 to Luke Pickering; and
(ii) Windflow Technology Limited is to pay the sum of $10,815.00 to Luke Pickering.
B: Under section 286 of the Resource Management Act 1991, the District Court at Christchurch is named as the court this order may be filed in for enforcement purposes (if necessary).
Grounds for the application
 Mr Pickering submits it was necessary for him to pursue an appeal because the Council’s decision to grant consent did not offer reasonable protection to the surrounding neighbourhood.
 He has found the entire process stressful, and needless to say very costly. From Mr Pickering’s point of view, he approached mediation in a conciliatory manner and his desire was to reach early, meaningful resolution. During that time, despite requests not to, Windflow continued to operate the turbine without consent.
 The need to carry on with the appeal has resulted in considerable financial costs for Mr Pickering and he seeks to obtain fair recognition of these costs.
Discussion and findings …
 Pursuant to s 16 of the Act, every occupier of land and every person carrying out an activity on it is to adopt the best practicable option to ensure that the emission of noise from that land does not exceed a reasonable level. The experts advising the City Council and Windflow have assumed the adverse effect of noise is acceptable provided that the wind turbine complies with the guideline noise limits in the New Zealand Standard 6808. We disagreed. Whether the effect of noise below the guideline limits is adverse is sensitive to the receiving environment in which that the noise is experienced.
 Background sound levels in this deeply incised Valley are very low relative to the sound levels on the windy ridgeline where the turbine is located. Turbine noise is the dominant noise in the Valley. The turbine noise is clearly audible above background sound, even though the level of turbine noise does not exceed the guideline limits in the New Zealand Standard. The particular character of this noise and its unpredictability has had an adverse effect on general enjoyment of the properties and for some disturbed their sleep.
 Windflow’s and the City Council’s assumption that the effect of noise below the guideline limits is acceptable was inimical to an enquiry into the actual experience of noise within McQueen’s Valley. This assumption was challenged by Mr Lewthwaite, the expert called on behalf of Mr Pickering.
 Because Windflow (and the Council) relied on expert advice, we do not go as far as to say Windflow neglected its duty. That said, the offer to amend the proposed conditions by providing residents respite from the noise of the adverse effects came very late, on the last day of the hearing. This is a significant improvement on an offer evidently made to Mr Pickering prior to the commencement of the hearing recorded in a letter from Windflow’s counsel to lawyers acting for a second appellant who later withdrew.
 Knowing of the residents’ concerns, I find that Windflow failed to adequately explore the possibility of settlement where compromise could have been reasonably expected. Given the above, I am satisfied that there are grounds to exercise my discretion and order costs against Windflow.
The Council …
 [T]he decision of Commissioner appointed by the Council to hear and determine the resource consent application records the Commissioner’s unease with the noise and its characteristics. He thought it possible that localised topographical features may make turbine noise more intrusive than what modelling might otherwise indicate. He was also critical of the failure of the Council to independently review Windflow’s assessment of noise and its effects. The Commissioner’s intuition as to the cause of the adverse effect was sound.
 At this hearing the Council engaged an independent expert on the topic of noise. The public’s interest is at the forefront of the Council’s role but it did not make enquiry into the actual experience of turbine noise within McQueen’s Valley. The Council did not appreciate that the New Zealand Standard is a guideline and instead relied on its expert’s advice that the effect of noise below the guideline levels in the Standard is always acceptable. For these reasons I am satisfied that there are grounds to exercise my discretion and that it is fair in the circumstances that the Council recompense Mr Pickering for a share of the costs that he has incurred. …
 Given the modest sum claimed I am satisfied that a contribution of 75% costs ($14,420.19) is appropriate here.
 I will order Windflow to pay 75% of those costs and the Council to pay 25%.
Download original document: “Pickering v. CCC: Decision of the Environment Court on Application for Costs”
Author: Coffey, Jacinta
My name is Jacinta Coffey, and I live, with my family, on a multigenerational farm that has been in my husband’s family for over 160 years. Our home, which is also our workplace, is 4 km from the proposed wind farm.
I am very concerned about the implications the proposed amendments to the planning permit being considered by this hearing will have on our health if any of our family or workers are affected by wind turbine noise. We choose to live here because of the peace and tranquillity our area provides, visitors to our home always comment on how quiet and peaceful it is.
On the basis of the well documented individual experiences of other Australian farming families living out to 10km from existing wind farms with smaller less powerful wind turbines, I have good reason to believe this amenity, specifically our ability to obtain a good night’s sleep will be more likely to be taken away from us if these amendments for larger more powerful wind turbines are approved.
Recent first hand reports from Finnish residents exposed to much larger wind turbines support my concerns. There are currently no wind turbines 180 metres tall in Australia. No studies, let alone long term studies have yet been done with turbines this size, so the distance of acoustic impact is currently unknown, but likely on the basis of current limited population noise impact evidence to be greater than 10km.
I am also concerned as to the detrimental effect the proposed turbines of 180m will have on our “worlds most liveable town” Port Fairy. Our beautiful town is commonly known as the “Jewel in the Crown of the South West” and attracts large numbers of visitors year round who come here to enjoy the natural beauty and tranquillity of the area, and to escape the industrialisation and cacophony of the cities. We own and operate accommodation in Port Fairy, so I have direct first hand knowledge of the reasons why people visit our town.
My own observation when visiting the UK and Europe some years ago is that when driving in the countryside and spotting Wind Turbines in the distance we always headed in a different direction as we wanted to experience the quiet scenic beauty of the countryside, not the industrialisation of it. I have no doubt that in time, some visitors will take the same approach when seeing these monstrosities in the distance, which will be further damaged if noise pollution from larger wind turbines also affects Port Fairy ie the visitors will turn away and in turn destroy our town’s main industry, and a significant local employer – being tourism.
For some years I have been following the growing scientific evidence about the adverse health effects from wind turbines, as well as the increasing number of people speaking out about the serious health problems they have endured, living near Australian Wind Farms. In particular the regular and worsening sleep disturbance, and the repeated physiological stress symptoms including repeated examples of the fight flight response, or startle reflex – eg the common description of “repeatedly waking up at night in an anxious frightened panicked state” are a concern. These sleep and stress problems are in addition to the symptoms of a seasickness like illness affecting balance in people who are prone to motion sickness, and worsening migraines in people who suffer that affliction. These problems and others were described by Dr Nina Pierpont in her study, published in 2009.
I note that in 2008, staff from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences writing an editorial for the journal Perspectives in Environmental Health stated the following:
“Even seemingly clean sources of energy can have implications on human health. Wind energy will undoubtedly create noise, which increases stress, which in turn increases the risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer”
I also note that Victorian GP, Dr David Iser, conducted his study at Toora in 2004, after the turbines had only been operating for a year, which illustrated that sleep disturbance and stress were the main problems for those people who reported adverse effects. He tried to warn Victorian government authorities back in 2004, but was ignored.
More recently Dr Wayne Spring, who was a sleep physician for over thirty years based in Ballarat, gave an interview to the Hamilton Spectator and was quoted on 29 April, 2017 as saying that “as a sleep specialist he only saw patients who were referred to him by their GPs and therefore the actual number of patients who were suffering from wind turbine health impacts was probably far greater”. Dr Spring noted that “some affected people go to other locations to sleep in an effort to cope and some people have just sold up and moved away”.
I have also talked directly to residents who have been seriously adversely affected by the noise and vibrations – including people forced to leave their homes regularly, and sometimes permanently, because of that damage to their health. These people are now reporting that they become unwell when exposed to other noise sources – in other words they have now become noise sensitised. They are people just like me, and my family. I do not want this to happen to me, or to any member of my family, or indeed, any member of my community.
Sometimes animals, including working dogs, have also been affected, and in some instances, including in Victoria, this has been confirmed by their veterinarians.
This observational evidence from animals, backed up by scientific research in animals (badgers and geese) that shows objective biological evidence of increased physiological stress in animals exposed to wind turbine noise puts a lie to the excuse used by the wind industry and its lawyers and medical experts that the symptoms in humans are all due to a nocebo effect.
The other excuse used is that the reported problems are all due to pre existing conditions, and “never” the noise. This atrocious lie is exposed when people describe what happens when the wind turbines are not operating – they sleep well, and do not have the distressing symptoms they experience when the turbines are operating. Community based researcher Mary Morris has formally documented this cross over comparision between “operating”, and “not operating” states in individuals at Waterloo, in South Australia.
Recent field research conducted in Australia by Dr Bruce Rapley, Dr Huub Bakker, Ms Rachel Summers, reported by Steven Cooper in June 2017 at the International Conference into the Biological Effects of Noise in Zurich, and then in Boston at the American Acoustical Society meeting, has provided scientific evidence suggesting that dynamically pulsed amplitude modulation with a high peak to trough ratio (known as “strong AM) is triggering what is known to science as the “startle reflex”. This is an example of the direct causal relationship between an acoustic trigger, and the consequent physiological stress response.
The scientific data confirming the “startle reflex” event at the Taralga Wind Farm is consistent with the observed devastating and rapid effects of wind turbine noise on children with autism, and adults with post traumatic stress disorder. There is already scientific research showing that children with autism, and adults with PTSD have an enhanced startle reflex reaction to some sounds. I, and so should you, be concerned for the more vulnerable members of our communities who have autism or PTSD and will no doubt have their quality of life affected by these massive wind turbines, because of their increased vulnerability via the startle reflex response to the physiological stress effects of the noise the wind turbines emit.
Previous Swedish research, reported in Buenos Aires last year, showed that “strong AM” caused sleep disturbance, even in young fit healthy people. This is yet more evidence of a direct causal relationship between an acoustic trigger from a wind turbine, and physiological effects, which if repeated and prolonged, will cause damage to health from sleep deprivation alone. Sufficient good quality sleep is well accepted by health authorities and the medical profession to be a biological necessity for everyone – that is why noise pollution regulations and standards exist. Rural residents living near wind turbines or any other industrial noise source should not have their sleep quality and health sacrificed.
Steven Cooper also demonstrated in Boston, using the actual acoustic recordings from his Pacific Hydro funded Cape Bridgewater study, that the precise times that were independently reported by the residents to be so bad that they had to leave their homes (called “sensation level 5”) showed this “strong” dynamically pulsed amplitude modulation. As the immediate past Director of Acoustic Standards of America Dr Paul Schomer told the June Boston meeting in his presentation, Cooper has demonstrated evidence of a direct causal relationship between symptoms and turbine operation.
So, in summary, the reported adverse health effects from operating wind turbines, including sleep disturbance and progressive noise sensitisation, are real and have been known to Victorian authorities for 13 years.
Independent scientific evidence is now confirming the longstanding reports of harm from residents and Victorian Medical Practitioners, and is identifying the acoustic triggers.
The physiological mechanism of the startle reflex is already well known to science, as is the fact that repeated activation of the startle reflex in mammals leads to sensitisation.
These adverse health effects are being increasingly recognised in courts internationally – with noise nuisance cases being run, and then settled with gag agreements, in jurisdictions such the High Courts in the United Kingdom, and Ireland, and in the United States of America. In the most recent Irish High Court case, the developer admitted liability for noise nuisance prior to the cases brought by seven Irish families being settled, with gag agreements.
I should add that these gag agreements, also known as “nondisclosure” clauses have also been used in Victoria since 2004 – to silence sick people forced out of their homes because of the effects of wind turbine noise – for example at Toora, (publicly confirmed by their law firm, Slater & Gordon) and at Waubra. Increasingly these non disclosure clauses are also being used pre emptively by wind power operators in so called “community benefit agreements” or “good neighbour agreements” to silence people for the lifetime of the project, before they have any idea what the adverse impacts will be for themselves and their families.
So, what happens when wind turbine planning panels agree to change planning permits to increase the size and power generating capacity? Industry independent medical and acoustical experts at previous Victorian panel hearings have advised previous panels that the known and admitted adverse health effects from wind turbine noise including sleep deprivation will worsen if these changes are made. This opinion is partly based on research by Danish expert Acousticians Professors Moller and Pedersen, published in 2011, that found that the low frequency noise will predictably increase as a proportion of the total sound emitted, and so too the already known adverse effects for neighbours – which acousticians call “annoyance”. This expert opinion is also based on the observed, reported, and partially documented effects on residents’ sleep of larger wind turbines at Waterloo, and Macarthur.
So far, the decisions by other Victorian planning panels about upsizing existing permits have not protected the health and amenity of residents, ever. Unfortunately, I have no reason to think that this panel will behave any differently.
So, let me tell you all what I am going to do to protect my family from noise nuisance. I am going to do what other Australian residents are starting to do – which is to learn how to conduct environmental noise monitoring via registered training courses now available, as well as to install good quality acoustic recording systems and sound level meters which will accurately collect full spectrum acoustic data inside and outside my home, and my family’s workplace. This will give us hard objective, legally admissible evidence of acoustic exposures, pre and post construction, and will also demonstrate just how quiet our existing background noise environment is. As we will collect WAV file recordings, they will be able to be played back in court.
When the wind turbines are built, and start operating, our full spectrum acoustic monitoring will continue.
We will also all be getting thorough health checks done, prior to construction, and we will be keeping detailed diaries, and collecting objective physiological data to supplement the diary evidence.
If my family is harmed by your decision, it is our intention to protect our common law legal rights, and that all those involved in causing and enabling that predictable harm from noise nuisance will be held legally liable.
Mrs Jacinta Coffey
Monday, 7th August, 2017
[34 references, with links, are included in the original PDF (download).]
1. Article – Hamilton Spectator April 29, 2017 [link to original press release]
2. Article – National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences – North Carolina June 2008 [link | download]
3. Report – Waterloo Case – Mary Morris September 2013 [link]
4. Letter from Dr Sarah Laurie MBBS CEO Waubra Foundation [download]
Author: Pease, Janice
I want to start off by saying I support green energy and the move towards ending our dependence on fossil fuels as well as nuclear.
Clearly we need clean energy, as quickly as possible.
However, something needs to change in how we think about these goals and the routes we take to achieve them.
In rural areas around the country, industrial wind farms are cropping up, seemingly over night, invading the skyline of our most pristine and beautiful locations. These turbines are now tending toward the heights of 500 to 600 feet from base to the blade tip.
Locally, in Hopkinton and Parishville we are being threatened with 40 industrial turbines, 500 feet tall potentially within 2,500 feet of home.
There is a lack of ethics in how the companies operate and approach the communities. In 2009 the first lease was signed in Hopkinton, but many of us did not find out about this project until about 2 years ago. There was no notification through our local government, the secrecy was in part achieved through agreements that the company made within the project zone.
Because of this lack of community awareness, our town was not properly prepared as far as zoning including a wind law. Over the past couple of years our towns have been working to build up the wind laws to protect ourselves. However, there has been great pushback by Avangrid/Iberdrola and leaseholders.
Because of the lack of transparency and scientific knowledge, our wind laws may still not protect the towns from what could happen if the turbines come in.
In their relatively short life spans, the turbines damage things that aren’t replaceable, such as water quality. In Scotland at the Whitelee Wind Farm, Scottish Power (a subsidiary of Iberdrola) knew of contamination in private water supplies to homes. This contamination included E. Coli and other coliform bacteria which resulted in illness. Test results obtained by Dr. Rachel Connor showed high levels of trihalomethane, which research has linked to cancers, stillbirths, and miscarriages. Scottish Power Renewables admitted not notifying the appropriate authorities of the water contamination for 7 years, until it came to light following investigation by local residents. During the pile driving, other chemicals from manufacturing contaminate water supplies.
This is just one aspect of the health issues relating to industrial turbine farms.
A more controversial issue is the noise output of industrial-scale turbines, which produce not only audible noise but the more concerning inaudible low frequencies and infrasound.
Over the past year and a half I have read everything I could about wind turbines and their relationship to sound. It is more complex than the industry would have you believe. The sound produced by turbines is defined as the amplitude modulation of broadband aerodynamic noise created by the blades at the blade-passing frequency. This acoustic signal has both a high-frequency broadband character and low-frequency amplitude modulation. This is in part why the sound character overshadows the existing noise profile of these rural areas.
Being that most noise standards are set using the dBA scale (which deals mainly with human conscious threshold of hearing), sounds that are inaudible but otherwise sensed are not being measured or acknowledged.
Many scientists and experts, including Dr. Nina Pierpont, the author of Wind Turbine Syndrome, A Report on a Natural Experiment, has documented case reports of patients suffering from what has now been coined wind turbine syndrome. This syndrome produces several symptoms related to the vestibular system’s organs – such as disturbed sleep, headaches, tinnitus, a sense of quivering or vibration, nervousness, rapid heartbeat, nausea, difficulty with concentration, memory loss, and irritability.
During my research, I have come to a deeper understanding of the complexity of these health affects and the connection between wind turbine syndrome and vibroaccoustic disease. I have been in contact with Dr. Mariana Alves-Pereira in Portugal, who holds degrees in physics, biomedical engineering, and environmental science. She and her team have been researching vibroacoustic disease since 1980.
Quoting from The Clinical Stages of Vibroacoustic Disease, by Nuno Castelo Branco:
This disease is an effect of exposure to low-frequency noise and infrasound.
- Stage I, mild signs (behavioral and mood associated with repeated infections of the respiratory tract, example – bronchitis
- Stage II, moderate signs (depression and aggressiveness, pericardial thickening and other extra-cellular matrix changes, light to moderate hearing impairment, and discrete neurovascular disorders)
- Stage III, severe signs (myocardial infarction, stroke, malignancy, epilepsy, and suicide).
Now, in the Guidelines for Community Noise, the World Health Organization includes advice on noise levels in hospitals and suggests that, because patients are less able to cope with the increased stress levels generated by excess environmental noise, the sound level in hospitals should not exceed 35 dBA for areas where patients are treated or observed, with a corresponding max of 40 dBA . The WHO guidelines for community noise recommend less than 30 A-weighted decibels (dBA) in bedrooms during the night for sleep quality and less than 35 dB(A) in classrooms to allow good teaching and learning conditions.
The background rural ambient noise is around 20-25 dBA. An increase of 3 dBA is noticeable and an increase of 10 dBA is perceived as a doubling in loudness.
To put this in context: Currently our town is reviewing the Wind Advisory Board’s recommendations of 35-40 dBA at night.
Some of our town board members have pushed for 45 dBA night and day. With the knowledge that 25 to 45 dBA is a quadrupling of our ambient nightime noise we can conclude that 45 dBA will lead to lack of seep and potentially adverse health affects.
People in other towns have had to abandon their homes to escape these noise effects of turbines.
Earlier this year, I heard testimony from Kevin Segourney, a science teacher from Chateaugay. He lived 1,800 to 2,600 feet from 482-foot turbines in the Jericho Wind Farm. He was living with sound levels above the allowable 50 dBA (which the town of Chateaugay had deemed to be acceptable and legal). However, the low frequencies and infrasound were not taken into account.
In 2014 Steve and Luann Therrien abandoned their home of two decades because of the sound and vibrations from the power plant in Sheffield, Vt. The whole family developed problems sleeping and other health ailments.
After the property went up for tax sale, Energize Vermont payed off the family’s back taxes with an agreement to use the property as the Vermont Center for Turbine Impact Studies. They will be conducting research on the effects that the wind turbines have on the environment, wildlife, and the residents. The research teams will also assess the performance of state regulators in their efforts to monitor and enforce wind turbine standards.
In 2014, the Board of Health in Brown County, Wisconsin declared a local industrial wind plant to be a health hazard in a unanimous vote. This ruling was based on a year-long survey with documented health complaints and demonstrated that low-frequency noise and infrasound were emanating from the turbines and detectable inside homes within a 6.2-mile radius of the industrial wind plant.
Industrial wind turbines are causing complaints worldwide, and the documentation is growing. Part of the reason for the lag in recognition is due to the lax monitoring. Basically the companies monitor themselves. There is no real way to ensure they are in compliance with the wind laws and sound limits. There is no entity to protect us when the company is out of compliance, as they have been in many other wind farms across the country.
The companies would like you to believe this is all debatable, but as someone who has read hundreds of papers, articles, peer-reviewed scientific data, and reports on the effects of wind turbines on human and animal health, I can say that this needs to be acknowledged by government agencies and reported on by the media.
Clearly there is an issue here, yet it is not being discussed openly. There is a NIMBY (not in back yard) stigma attached to anyone who dares reject the idea of a having a power plant in their back yard. When discussing this with people in the communities surrounding the project, there is a disbelief and skepticism that is coupled with judgment.
Our communities need the help of surrounding towns to support them through this project to ensure the right thing happens.
There are children who will live less than a half-mile from these turbines. Parents deserve the right to question the ethics and morality of this project.
These things are being diminished under the guise of the greater good. I argue that it is not for the greater good to implement projects that might harm the very nature and people we are trying to protect. There have been studies on the adverse health affects experienced by badgers, geese, minks, and other animals living within close proximity to turbines – who will protect them?
So is it ethical to keep covering every sacred space with these turbines for power production? Knowing they could actually set us back environmentally while simultaneous accumulating casualties.
I personally believe in the precautionary principle which is defined as:
When human activities may lead to morally unacceptable harm that is scientifically plausible but uncertain, actions shall be taken to avoid or diminish that harm.
I think if we brought this principle into the planning process of every aspect of our economy, our environment would be in better shape. I am hoping to shed light on this local issue so people will demand protection for our towns and help us avoid the problems reported in other towns with industrial turbines.
I am asking North Country Public Radio to investigate this issue and help us prevent the loss of habitat, the loss of quiet spaces, and the slew of potential adverse health effects.
July 28, 2017
[Pease presented a 5-minute version of this appeal in person at an NCPR Executive Session and provided this write-up to their investigative reporter.]