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back to article Acoustic trauma: How wind farms make you sick

Industrial wind installations are creating a serious health issue, and comprehensive research is urgently needed, says a former Professor of Public Health. "There has been no policy analysis that justifies imposing these effects on local residents. The attempts to deny the evidence cannot be seen as honest scientific …

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Very dubious

It's all too easy for the nimbys to hijack a mild issue and twist it tina reason to stop a local installation.

At the moment I see this as in the same league as the mobile phone mast tin foilers - subject to lots of independent research being done on the issue.

For instance is it really worse than a mildly busy road or even the persistent squabbling of birds in my local wood that regulalrly wakes me up.

Colour me unconvinced.

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Paris Hilton

Quick, register sonosmog.com

This seems a teeny bit more justifiable than electrosmog, but I doubt it is quite as clear cut as the report's author likes to make out. Holding windfarm builders accountable for their actions seems like a splendid thing to do, however.

In the meantime though, I'm sure there's good money to be made selling magnetic earrings to ward off the deleterious effects of Sonosmog (tm pending) exposure.

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Boffin

It is worse

I'm pro wind farm but have to admit that at most sites I've visited the noise generated can be much like tinnitus, a constant annoying noise (there but difficult to describe or pinpoint) which just gets on your nerves and cannot be shaken off. Once you notice it you become acutely aware of it.

I'm sure for some it is mainly psychological but that doesn't mean there's not a problem. It doesn't matter how many experts say it doesn't exist when you can 'hear it'.

Some people have an uncanny knack of knowing when its going to rain or get cold well before others can tell. I've heard CRT coils humming at many kHz which others can't hear, a knock on the side stops it so I'm sure it's not imagined. Just because one doesn't notice something oneself it doesn't mean it doesn't exist or isn't real. Who would have though pet dogs can sniff out cancer?

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@Gordon 10

+1 vote on this as I generally agree this is likely to be a very mild and mitigatable issue. Low frequency noise does carry further than higher frequencies. I'd agree with more independent research being needed to help host communities improve planning of these sites, but I suspect few applications should be rejected on noise grounds. Sound also carries very differently depending upon atmospheric conditions, neighbouring trees which will tend to muffle sound and the local topology which may dissipate or concentrate sounds of different frequencies. For example, a wind farm on the top if a rounded hill is likely to radiate energy away from the ground, while one facing a rounded valley is likely to use the latter as a parabolic echo concentrator. Fortunately the hilltop site is much more likely to have the high wind averages making siting the windfarm there more productive than somewhere facing a rounded valley with dwellings at or near a parabolic echo focus.

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Boffin

Interstingly, though

The human brain is very good at filtering out constant sensory noise, to the extent that if you stare at an object without moving your eyes at all (actually quite difficult), you will cease to see it, and you often won't notice that high-pitched CRT squeal until it is pointed out to you. Tinnitus is what you get when this filter stops working. This is also why you are not acutely aware of things like the pressure of the clothes you are wearing on your skin (assuming you are wearing any), or your own body odour.

Sat in the office at the moment, if I listen, I can hear the fans in my PC, the air conditioner across the room and various other buzzes and hums from the machines around me. I am only aware of this if I make a conscious effort to be.

The issue at stake here is whether the noise from wind farms is loud enough, or varies enough, to be noticeable without having to listen for it. I remain to be convinced one way or the other.

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@pyLETS

"but I suspect few applications should be rejected on noise grounds"

I'll get working on the application for the industrial wind farm right where you live then. Or is it ok only if it's someone else's issue? If they built the house near the site that's tough shit but not if they built the site near the house.

Windfarms are climate theatre given their all-round uselessness, but that's a heated discussion for another time.

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Trollface

Put them all near motorways

Motorways already generate lots of noise pollution so just stick yer turbines near those.

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CRT noise, ask any tv engineer

most people who grew up with crt tv's have a hearing dead spot at 15khz which is the frequency that the HT supply of tv's used to run at, they simply dont hear the constant whistle from the screens.

most tv engineers that I know can hear the whistle (probably because we have trained ourselves to hear it) often to the point of being able to hear from the front door of a house whether there is a set running anywhere in the house

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Go

What Noise

I'd happily have a Modern Wind Turbine Farm next to me. I've stood underneath one and to be honest I really can't see what the fuss is about. There is no noise! Especially once you move away from them.

I wish people moaned as much about electric lawnmower noise, or car tyre noise or some of those other things that actually make a lot of noise that is irritating in every day life....

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@Interstingly, though -slightly OT

Tinnitus - no it's not when a 'filter stops working', which implies it's not blocking an external sound. It's sounds that are generated in your head that aren't 'filtered'. No one really knows what causes these sounds to be generated let alone how to stop them, although there has been some success with feeding the sound (at very low levels) into the ear from an external device, in order for the brain to learn how to ignore it.

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i was wondering about that

motorways much worse, noise, flashing lights and air polution. of course only poor people live there, and didnt pay a premium for living in absolute monastic silence.

nimby's!

fuck em

that said windfarms are a joke, and we'll be pulling them all down in a few years anyways

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oh no you didnt!

The coils dont make the noise, its the line output transformer.

an thats at about 17kHz, so easily audible to the young and or asthmatic (really!) or anyone with good hearing.

'Uncanny knacks' of all flavours tend to have more to do with the knackees failure to understand probability more than anything else :-)

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TV sense

Wow, now I know why I can sense if there's a TV on in the house. I thought it was a special esp like ability I had!

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hmmm

i seem to have said something contesious

just got a downvote on every post i ever made

how purile

(go on downvote me again)

lol

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Wildlife

The noise will affect wildlife too. Birds already have changed their song to suit noisy conditions and birds who migrate will then have a different sound to those in a non-noisy environment. The end result is birds not being attracted to either other.

These turbines are best situated off shore.

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Unhappy

Also, it comes down to if it is more/less of an issue than the alternative.

I am prety sure if you replaced 'wind farm' with 'coal plant' throughout that report the only difference would be the socioeconomic bracket of those directly effected. Which isn't to say it isn't a problem, but how much air-show the problem gets is definitely related to who it is a problem for, as well as the problem's current novelty value.

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Anonymous Coward

good stuff

Notice how Solomon uses research and links to back up his point.

Notice how the detractor can't formulate a cogent reply and just down marks the post instead.

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Boffin

@SG

The other thing I noticed was the mention of "optical flicker" early in the article, with no further discussion in the body...

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Anonymous Coward

Hmm

I commented in rather mild tones earlier today on how Solomons rather critical, but not in anyway offensive post was surprisingly deleted by a moderator. I suggested that perhaps an explanation might be in order. I even got a few thumbs up from other readers.

For some reason even that post of mine has been deleted by a moderator!

Really, what on earth could be going on?

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Anonymous Coward

This makes sense

I previously doubted the concerns I'd heard about because I like the soft sound of the turbines. Even last week, I said I'd like to have one near my house. The distance between the regulations and the WHO recommendations now gives me concern.

Now, I'm a NIMBY.

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LF Thumping

You get a lovely low frequency thump as the blade passed the mast for these things, which carries for quite away. The sort that resonates in your innards it seems, no wonder some people feel well. They were thinking of using such as sonic weapons for crowd control at some time.

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Maybe im just completely deaf.

I lived about 3 fields away from a wind farm for years. And personally I don’t think they ever disturbed my sleep or cause me any kind of psychological trouble, forgot the things were there most of the time.

Whether they generate enough energy to warrant their existence is an entirely separate matter.

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common misconcenption

Wind farms are not about generating energy.

they generate something altogether more valuable

subsidy

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Unhappy

Deaf?

What? Who said that?...

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Headmaster

@Naughtyhorse

Pah! I thought you were going to say "they *convert* energy"

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Mushroom

But, but, but...

How will we save the planet now? (see icon for hint)

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IT Angle

AM?

ante meridiem?

Amplitude Modulation?

Asset Management?

Agile Modeling?

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Anonymous Coward

so

how do these windfarm related health issues compare to other technology-related heath issues - such as living next to a busy road, for example?

Obviously all problems are bad, and it's not good to introduce new problems without sufficient reason - but in order to judge the windfarm issues it would be good to have a benchmark (even if imperfect) for comparison.

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Or other power sources...

Conventional power plants aren't quiet either. I used to live about a kilometer from one coal plant that seemed to get especially activated for peak loads, and howled like a banshee on cold winter nights...

Hard to see what the fuss is about windmills. Anyone living in a city gets more noise, and often of unpredictable kind. Worse than a low-frequency hum.

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Meh

You're neglecting the area and impact

A regular power station occupies < 1km2 and is typically located in industrial areas which may already have some noise. The equivalent windfarm(s) occupy > 1000km2 and are typically located in previously tranquil areas.

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Anyone living in a city gets more noise

Though it's got to be a bit of a bugger if you move off to the country for the quite life and someone builds a wind farm in the next field.

Or a bypass for that matter.

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errr...

few issues.

a) 1km^2 bloody small power station

b) typically located in industrial areas - do me a favour! apart from the power station they are typically in the middle of nowhere.

c) mahoosive windfarm, so that means offshore then! :-)

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Meh

Land area

a) Seabank 1.1GW gas-fired power station near Bristol measures about 600x600m = 0.4km2

Even a giant like Drax 4GW power station occupies only 1.7km2.

b) Seabank is located in an industrial area close to Bristol. Drax is close to tut pit near Selby.

c) We're discussing onshore windfarms here. Offshore are twice the price and even more economically suicidal.

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Siting

Indeed, the solution is to site windfarms along motorways. The noise had got to be quieter than a few hundred thousand Diesel horsepower roaring past per hour.

(Frankly, I find the faint noise and elegant motion of wind turbines soothing and encouraging. Once the property around them has been sufficiently devalued, I'll happily move there.)

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Meh

Numbers Don't Add Up

If you placed wind turbines all round the M25 and all up the M1 - using the optimum spacing of 8 x 100m rotor diameters - you would only have room for 500km / 800m = 625 turbines.

Assuming each turbine is 3.6MW rated capacity and 25% average power output due to wind variability = 625 turbines x 3.6MW x 25% = 562MW total average power output.

This is less than half the output of a single 1GW gas-fired power station such as Seabank near Bristol, which only occupies 0.6km2 and reliably generates electricity 24/7 - not just when the wind blows.

3.6MW turbines cost £3M each so that's £1.8Bn total. By comparison a plant like Seabank costs £0.5Bn to build.

The trouble with wind is that any way you slice it, the numbers just don't add up. That's why our forefathers had the good sense to abandon wind for fossil fuels 230 years ago.

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FAIL

@ Naughty Horse

Naughty Horse said :- 1km^2 [is a ] bloody small power station

FYI, Wylfa, nuclear PS in Anglesey, is on a 20 hectare site (= 0.2 km^2) and produces 980 MW. Say medium sized.

Just one I am familiar with.

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Re: Numbers Don't Add Up

You're right I think. Although I understood the mode output of turbines to be less than 3.6MW. But comparison to gas-fired power stations isn't ideal because although it is a *much* cheaper way of producing the electricity, it is something based on a diminishing resource which we need to get away from. A better point of comparison would be a modern nuclear reactor. Because the safety costs are so much, I don't think it comes in as cheap as the gas power station, but it's long-term and it's powerful and it still kicks wind turbines all over the place for cost, maintenance, life-span and power-output.

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Meh

250 year's supply not enough for you?

According to the IEA the world has 250yrs supply of shale gas in deposits distributed all over the world. At a stroke, shale gas has wiped out two of the eco-doom-mongers favourite arguments: Namely 'peak oil' and 'dependency on undesirable regimes'. What arguments are left? Climate change? None since 1998. And with the sun entering a quiet phase - and Svensmark's theory of solar/cloud interaction gaining support - well, it's not looking good for Vestas in the medium-to-long term.

Re: Nuclear. The good thing about natural gas plants is if there's an accident you may get a fire, an explosion, a few broken windows - maybe even some casualties on site - but you don't get a Chenobyl/Fukushima incident and the costs associated with of contamination of huge areas of land.

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Mushroom

What's a Chernobyl / Fukushima incident?

As the events that took place in these locations you mention have almost nothing in common.

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FAIL

Who funds El Reg?

Who pays you El Reg? I mean, you are so anti-green it's incredible. I guess it would make you real happy if we just burned every molecule of hydrocarbon we could find on the planet including all the animals.

If you don't ever give a balanced view, how can you be taken seriously?

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Angel

All hail the mighty Clarkson

I suspect these hacks have spent too much of their youth listening to the populist rants of Jeremy and his fellow pricks.

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ABC?

You joined El Reg comments just to post this comment? strange, what is the motivation I wonder?

Not a CWM then?

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like you?

That was not a very balanced view you gave; I wonder if you could recognise a balanced view.

Further, it is not the job of media to give a balanced view all on one report, it is their job to report.

It is your job to get the balanced view for yourself, and not to accept every idea and product that has been painted green with advertising money.

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WTF?

!? El REg is paid for by advertisers.

They're not public service, they are under no obligation to give any kind of balanced view.

That said, this research is probably bogus for the same reason the EMF research reported today is bogus.

However, anti-addick, you are either an idiot or genuinely want to wear a hair shirt.

Wind farms simply *cannot* provide enough reliable electricity for you to continue living your lifestyle. Source: National Grid study of wind farm penetration.

Do you accept that you can't have the heating, lighting, ventilation, computing, transport and food that you currently enjoy on demand because of the rolling blackouts that will become both *necessary* and *commonplace* if wind really does reach the current target penetration?

I don't. I do not want to be spending such ridiculous amounts of my tax money supporting something that can only cause me pain - both financial due to the extremely high cost and personal due to the blackouts. (Note that blackouts can and do kill people.)

Wind farms are simply not fit for being used as a significant generating source, and it doesn't matter how good we get at making them, they still won't be. To avoid rolling blackouts, we have to have at least 5 days of backup power available because the entire country and all our neighbours can be in the doldrums for that long.

National Grid say that the target wind penetration can lose 15GW of generation in a couple of hours. At the moment such a loss is *impossible* - even disconnecting Drax (4GW) wouldn't do that!

They also think that the only way to maintain current service levels with such a lot of wind is to have gas plants running 'hot' 24 hours a day, ready to sync at a few minutes notice.

That's a lot of wasted CO2 - burning loads of hydrocarbon to keep the backup plants hot, just to cover for when the wind gets too strong or too weak.

If you genuinely want to be Green, then you should be *against* wind.

It can't provide our current demand without burning *more* hydrocarbon than at present.

Now, if we want to move to electric vehicles (any kind) instead of burning hydrocarbons in our cars, trains, buses, lorries etc , we're going to need *more* electricity than we currently have.

So, how do you plan on doing that?

Nuclear power is the only currently feasible way of generating enough sustainable low-to-zero carbon power. The French know this, and we actually buy a lot from them.

Sure, in the future we might find more compact and efficient ways to store large amounts of electricity, and other ways to generate large amounts of environmentally-friendly electricity predictably and on demand.

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Anonymous Coward

It's interesting, I suppose,

that ElReg usually gets quite excited about science/tech stories, almost invariably in a positive way. Unless there's some kind of "climate change" or "fossil carbon" angle (here, an anti-windpower one).

I eagerly await the time that someone designs a 500m tall biodegradeable super windmill made of nanofibreceramics that launches laser-firing rocket-powered drones, while providing

a sensible and technology-aware way to sell media-product online. I think the poor dears might suffer a meltdown. :-)

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Linux

Internet journalism and astroturfing

Unfortunately if we have no way of knowing who pays the piper we have to guess. I'm all in favour of content paid for by subscribers who read it, e.g. as lwn.net have succeeded in achieving, though us readers had to persuade the content providers to stay in business on this model, once they realised advertising was never going to pay enough.

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Anonymous Coward

Hmmm

Sounds like wind turbines could be almost as dangerous as the (in)famous Bristol Hum!

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