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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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FAIL

Oops

" He's an eccentric with an agenda.... But his alternative of chatting to a few hypochondriacs "

No bias there Christopher. Or agenda. LOL.

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There really isn't a problem here

all he has to do is go away, take his massive amount of evidence, and actually prove it. If he's telling the truth, he'll prove it, if he isn't, then he won't. Until then it's probably not really worth writing about his theories.

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Flame

Quiet countryside

Suspect that the people complaining about this are the sort of people who move out of cities into the country for the "quite life" and then start complaining about the cows and sheep in the fields being too loud and why should the farmers be allowed to drive tractors past their house etc etc.

My wife and I both grew up in the country but now live in the city and we're not going back! Its always hilarious to see this sort of person on programs like Location^3 demanding absolute tranquility in their country idyl (sound from a road a mile away is normally enough to eliminate a property) ... and then also demand a villagae shop/pub/school within walking distance!

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Facepalm

Don't forget...

...horses on the lanes, the lack of gritting, mud on the lanes that gets the 4x4 dirty, potholes, houses being flooded (because they are built on flood plains), lack of facilites (then go to Tescos 10 miles away to buy the food), leaves on the pavements, church bells ringing and the list goes on, road closures for festivals / fetes.

Yup all these tend to appear in out local magazine from time to time.

However the responses are usually pretty good.

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Anonymous Coward

Not to mention

Not to mention the smell - the worst smell I have to deal with living in a city is the local brewery, which I can live with... it's not like the sceptic tank or cow sheds near where I work in rural Shropshire.

Funny how the terms "noisy", "dirty" and "smelly" are usually applied to cities whereas I generally find the opposite to be true.

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The sceptic tank?

I had no idea that Shropshire was such a hotbed of militant disbelief. What are they so sceptical about that they need mobile weaponry to force the point?

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@ AC - Quiet Countryside

It is one thing being in the countryside and complaining about country noises like tractors.

That is not the same as complaining about industrial noises (or eyesores) brought into the countryside. Electrical generation is not a countryside activity. WInd turbines are industrial installations that have little or no relation to the land around them. If they are put in the countyside it is only because the planners have followed a line of least resistance.

At least conventional power stations offer a lot more output per unit of disturbance and ugliness.

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FAIL

What a load of bollocks

I think they should investigate the sound of rustling trees for "substantial health risks from the existing exposure".

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Does the Reg even know what evidence is?

"There is a huge amount of evidence, and it's incredibly convincing,"

Empirical studies are rare

Well which is it? This sounds exactly like the people complaining of "electrosmog" with zero evidence to back it up. Andrew Orlowski clearly has an axe to grind, but he really needs to be more balanced.

"Our current knowledge indicates that there are substantial health risks from the existing exposure" - evidence please!

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theres no evidence to support this

but it's a scientific fact

you gotta love brasseye!

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FAIL

Dr Michael M Nissenbaum, a radiologist

Hmmm. Am I wrong to think he's stepping somewhat outside his bounds of expertise on this, or has he been mislabelled?

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This post has been deleted by a moderator

Meh

compare global warming debate...

... where research published by climate scientists is routinely dismissed by, um, economists and the like...

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There must be well over a million physicians in the US.

I reckon if you look hard enough you could find one to make a statement supporting pretty much any old bollocks you care to dream up. Almost every crank diet book or dubious health potion in the US is supported by a Rubens O'Dubious M.D.

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Stop

Health Risks from Heathrow

It's hard to show any evidence that noise even from major airports like Heathrow cause any health risks. So I've no idea how you can show that wind farms cause problems.

I agree that it's a good idea of have independent scientific reviews of such things, but I'm not sure if this guy has done anything independent or anything scientific.

If you live near a constant noise source you quickly filter it out: this is also true for those living near Heathrow. And wind turbines are much quieter and their sound is less offensive than jet engines.

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Heathrow and noise

If you live within a certain distance of Heathrow, the airport operator has to subsidise sound reduction measures for your house e.g. on my house, secondary double glazing. At least, that was the situation when I lived there about 10 years ago.

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FAIL

Never forget...

"There is a huge amount of evidence, and it's incredibly convincing,"

The plural of anecdote is not data.

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Holmes

Emperor's new clothes

"The attempts to deny the evidence cannot be seen as honest scientific disagreement, and represent either gross incompetence or intentional bias,"

I've seen this before somewhere... oh yes.

If you can't see the emperor's new clothes, you are "unfit for your position, stupid, or incompetent."

I put it to you, sir, that you are not wearing a stitch. However I will fight for your right to walk around nekkid if you wish. Watson, my pipe.

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How windfarms make you sick ... go on then, how?

What are the convincing facts?

I have a pretty good grasp of the science related to acoustics and health factors. I was hoping to be able to comment on any findings. So where are they?

We live and work amongst roads, railways, airports, music venues, factories, offices and wind farms. We have plenty of specialists in acoustics in the UK and a ton of data.

So where is the substance?

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I know how

Windfarms make you sick when you realise how much extra you pay for your electricity to subsidise the pointless shite and visual blight that they are. They are a direct wealth transfer from the tax-payer to rich lobby-ist Eco-scum - people that couldn't give a toss about the environment but will ride the gravy train until the end of the line.

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Good to see

the Reg getting slaughtered for posting raving nonsense of this sort.

The rest of us use science. You should try it some time.

Oh, and Richard 12 - you have no idea what you're talking about.

Firstly, no one is suggesting replacing every last TW of current capacity with wind. There will - eventually, once people stop being stupid about it - be a long term goal of replacing last TW of current capacity with renewables. But there's more to renewables than just wind. And it includes huge potential savings with improved national and international distribution improvements.

Secondly, you and all the other Luddites really should learn the difference between capacity factor and intermittency. The two are *not* synonymous, and wind's 25-30% capacity factor does *not* mean that wind only generates useful power 25-30% of the time.

Finally, as prices of non-renewables continue to rise because of outright depletion - also known as "running out of stuff you can't afford to run out of" - the economic performance of all renewables gets more and more competitive.

There are reasons big investors are putting a lot of money into renewables, and ignorant stupidity isn't one of them.

Meanwhile in the UK, blackouts are going to be less significant than simple inability to pay. But that's because of our enlightened competitive (read - oligopolistic and exploitative) deregulated energy market, and not because of lack of capacity.

Still - leaving pensioners sitting in the dark is what it all seems to be about at the moment. Which is a shame when we could be doing something that actually solves problems, instead of creating more of them.

Incidentally, some renewables people support short-term nuke building. I'm not one of them, because I don't think nukes are *politically and managerially* viable without extra-strong management and regulation, neither of which we have.

Without those, you tend to get people taking shortcuts they really shouldn't. And perhaps even a nasty accident or two.

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there is one thing i just don't get

You really presented most of the points i would have liked to make myself.

But two things i would like to add:

Is it possible, that noone has noticed in the UK, that all of what you call the "Greeny" and "treehugger" ideas have over the past two decades become a multi-billion Euro business in Germany, that feeds hundreds of thousands of people? And by that i don't mean, by cheating people out of their money, but by doing real and valuable work. Since we export lots of that technology, i really don't mind if you keep your critical point-of-view for a while longer.

Second:

Why on earth do i never ever hear anything, not even the slightest thought about the problems and costs of long-term storage of nuclear waste from any of you? It is hard to get solid data about the safety of those storage facilities and whenever you get them they are bad news. This is a cost factor, that will remain for much longer than any civilisation has ever existed and the dangers are practically completely unexplored. I am personally not concerned about accidents at nuclear power plants. the reason why i am opposed to nuclear power is simply because the risk and costs of the handling of nuclear waste are far too high and mostly can not be calculated at all.

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Joke

meh

----

Why on earth do i never ever hear anything, not even the slightest thought about the problems and costs of long-term storage of nuclear waste from any of you?

----

And this is why god gave us Cornwall - it's radioactive anyway, a little more won't hurt ;)

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25-30%

you are right,

if only wind could generate as much as that.

I have no objection to renewables, but wind and solar are too unreliable to use as a generation 'staple'

you need equivalent spinning reserve or pumped hydro for evey kw of wind, cos the wind sometimes stops (or changes speed by more than a few percent which renders wind turbines unuseable - same thing really) either that or a _radical_ reform of the operator licensing conditions for dno's

Big business is in wind for the subsidy. end of!

just look at the 100's and 100's of solar farm plans that suddenly got pulled when the subsidy went away a couple of months back.

blackouts - not because of lack of capacity - that is incorrect. just look at the sudden upswing of interest being shown in black start strategies by the DNO's just now, why do you think that is happening? thats a lot of money to invest in something you dont think is going to happen.

if the regulation is broke - fix it. sure it's hard, if it was easy then everyone would be doing it.

we clearly have to do something, having the lights go off would be a massive desaster, i just dont believe wind is the answer, it's politically more acceptable than nuclear, and as far as the politicians are concerned (remember what blair was like) when the strategy bites us all on the ass, they will be out of office and therefore, not their problem.

them solving their problems != them solving our problems

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FAIL

Unlike you, I actually read the National Grid's report.

"Operating the Electricity Transmission Networks in 2020 - Update June 2011"

I suggest you read it. It is most enlightening (pun intended)

I would say that it's quite likely that they know far more about generation and how the Grid works than you do.

They think that having the 2020 target of 30GW of installed capacity of wind will result in several events each year where 15GW is lost in two hours. When that happens, if we don't have the warm spares, then we get a very large blackout.

15GW is a hell of a lot of power to lose in two hours. That's half our current coal plants, or all our current nukes and wind dying simultaneously.

They also think that they'll have to pay the wind plants to stay off a lot of the time - they are actually already doing this to avoid breaking the distribution.

Now, in their estimation, they reckon it'll cost around £286 million just to manage wind variability, and somewhere between £565 and 945 million for the operating reserve requirement.

That's on top of the cost of the wind plants themselves.

Finally, they know that this will require "demand management", using smart meters and other similar devices.

Translated into English, that means they are already planning on rolling blackouts. "Gone Green" appears to mean "Sometimes, Gone Dark"

As to your anti-nuke stance - hate to tell you this, but since the dawn of civilian nuclear power there have been exactly four nasty accidents in the world, only one of which actually killed anybody *at all*.

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WTF?

Unless you live in a sealed mineshaft. It's very likely you are subject to lots of background noise from one source or another. Cars, the rumble of lorries, wind & weather, cows, the sea & rivers, trees & leaves rustling, central heating systems, the washing machine, next door neighbours, pipes, birds like crows pecking on the the roof, binmen, aircraft, overhead pylons, tractors, drunk people in the street etc. etc.

It seems a little peculiar to identify one source of noise and proclaim psychological harm especially in the absence of research which you demand in the same breath. It sounds a teensy weensy bit like someone putting the cart before the horse. If this professor has been in the pay of tobacco firms as someone suggests it certainly does make one wonder about his motives this time around.

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Boffin

Sealed Mineshaft?

If you lived in a sealed mineshaft, you may well find yourself prone to more low level low frequency noise than you'd get from wind turbines, due to the resonant properties of tunnels.

I have to say I am getting more than a little worried about what appears to be very selective reporting by El Reg on certain environmental issues. Any time a crank puts out a paper that 'disproves' AGW, suggests that renewable energy is all bunk, or claims that fly ash from coal fired power stations solves global economic recession, we get a massive upselling of this, but the balanced viewpoint from the serious hard-working and credible scientists is sadly missing. For shame!

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Another issue.

The denser a medium, the easier it is for sound to travel. That's why sound travels better in water...and even better still through solid rock. Even more so with low-frequency sound (infrasound, for lack of a better term). Elephants and whales have actually been recorded using infrasound for communication through earth/water precisely because it carries so far. Funny thing about wind turbines: they're fixed to the ground, so any infrasound they make will likely travel through the shaft and into the ground very easily. Perhaps that's what all the row's about: not sound from the air but sound from the ground.

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Meh

Couple of issues

Windfarm developers are relying on ancient/flimsey shallow data and no one is prepared to fund a proper study. The wind farm developers won't fund a study as they're happy with the weak research they already have, which means I guess that govenment environmental agencies need to do this.

I can think of lots of reasons why this isn't happening, which include lack of cash / government lobbying (Elliot Morley anyone?) and the fact that a study may only serve to reenforce existing rules - which basically makes it a waste of money.

Chances of anything being done about this ... zero.

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Mushroom

Can we have the "Reg Headstone" icon back, please?

It comes in real handy for fact-lite articles like this one.

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Meh

Some facts for the pro-windies

To equal the output of a single 1GW gas fired power station requires:

1000MW / ( 2MW per turbine x 25% average output due to wind variation ) = 2000 wind turbines.

Each turbine requires a spacing of 8 x 100m rotor diameters in all directions for turbulence = 0.64Km2 per turbine = 1280 km2 land area rendered uninhabitable to humans due to noise and flicker.

Each turbine requires about 200 tonnes of steal for the tower, 1 tonne of Chinese rare earth metals for the magnets, 100T of concrete for the foundations, plus 10s of miles of pylons to carry the leccy from windy areas to the cities.

That's half a million tonnes of steal, 200,000 tonnes of concrete + pylons.

The capital cost of the turbines is about £1.5m each = £3 billion total. Neglecting the costs of connecting them to the grid and providing backup power generation.

By comparison a 1GW gas power station costs about £400M to build and takes <1km2 of land.

But it's not really a case of either or since you need the gas power station anyway to provide backup for when the wind is blowing too slow or too fast (ie. most of the time).

Still - at least it saves some CO2 right? Well, not really since the backup power station is forced to run in an inefficient mode where it is continually ramping up and down to match the wind speed.

So in summary, about 10x the capital cost, 1000x the land area, 1000x the materials, all to unreliably and intermittently generate the same power as one gas-fired power station - which you need to have anyway to provide backup. Oh, and they're an ugly eye-sore and blight on the landscape too.

But apart from all the above - they're really great!!

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Indeed

I recently spoke to an acquaintance who runs a large part of the power generation infrastructure for a large electricity generator as his opinion of wind power was "it's total shit and the money is better spent elsewhere"

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Meh

Spelling

Freudian slip with the spelling of "steel" - I just paid my windfarm-subsidy-inflated electricity bill.

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Boffin

Some balance...

"To equal the output of a single 1GW gas fired power station requires:"

- I don't think anyone is seriously suggesting all new power generation capacity should come from wind. Personally, I'm pro-nuclear, but some other renweable power sources are geothermal, tidal, solar, etc.

"Each turbine requires a spacing of 8 x 100m rotor diameters in all directions for turbulence = 0.64Km2 per turbine = 1280 km2 land area rendered uninhabitable to humans due to noise and flicker."

- Which is why they are normally placed in lines, so 800m in one direction per turbine. Also, fields in the middle of nowhere generally aren't considered habitable for any but the least developed humans. They're good for sheep though.

"Each turbine requires about 200 tonnes of steal for the tower, 1 tonne of Chinese rare earth metals for the magnets, 100T of concrete for the foundations, plus 10s of miles of pylons to carry the leccy from windy areas to the cities."

- steal [sic] is cheap. As for the magnets, where did you get 1 tonne of neodymium per magnet from? That sounds unlikely to say the least. Pylons are also required to move electrons from other power sources, unless you're an afficionado of the theories of Nikolai Tesla...

Some of your other points are fair, particularly those about providing backup. However, fossil fuelled power stations are only going to get more expensive over time as the fuel runs out, whereas renewables will get cheaper as they scale up and the technology matures.

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FAIL

wow, lets compare this to some other numbers i just made up

A 2MW wind power station is named that way because of its typical output, not because of the theoretical maximum. Go to website of Vestas (worlds largest manufacturer) and just check the measured numbers. Since i have access to the Service data of 14 stations, i can assure you, that a well planned station will even exeed that value. Their most advanced stations produce 3 MW btw (typically in offshore parks)

1 to of rare earth metals, that have to be from China? Source? Unless you can provide one, i will continue to beleive, that you just made that up.

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Meh

Rated Power vs Average OutputsSource for Rare Earth Requirement Per Turbine

The quoted capacity of a wind turbine is the power output in optimum wind speed conditions.

Due to wind-speed variation the average power output of onshore wind turbines is only 25% of rated power, maybe 35+% for offshore.

This is known as the "capacity factor" - try googling it if you don't believe me.

Power varies as the square of wind speed - so power rapidly drops off as the wind slows - and rapidly cuts to prevent damage in a gale. Hence the 25% onshore capacity factor.

As for a source on the 1 tonne per turbine rare-earth requirement. Try here:

http://seekingalpha.com/author/eamon-keane/instablog

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Boffin

So, your source says:

"Jack Lifton suggests 1 ton NdFeB/MW however I have not seen a source for that. This source suggests 567kg/MW."

Note that this is the weight of the magnet, not the rare earths in it, the type of magnet in question has a chemical structure of Nd2Fe14B, Neodymium has an atomic mass of 144.242, Iron 55.845 and Boron 10.811, a little maths tells me that the portion of the mass of the magnet that comes from 'Chinese rare earths' is 26.68%, so the mass of neodymiujm required is actually 151Kg per MW.

Okay, this is still a biggish number, but it is an order of magnitude less than the one you plucked from the air.

Also, the thing about rare earth metals isn't that they are rare, but that they aren't commonly mined. The name is a bit of a misnomer really. If the demand goes up, so does the supply, as it becomes economical to find and extract them. China by no means controls the world's supply, if fear of the Chinese is what is driving your dislike of wind turbines.

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Wow, downvote on a technical post

Someone really must not like facts today.

Just to provide a little evidence for my assertion that rare earths aren't actually rare (and Neodymium in particular); the natural abundance of Nd in the Earth's crust is 38 ppm (parts per million), a little less than copper (50ppm), twice that of lithium (20ppm) which is what pretty much all modern rechargable batteries are made from, and 17 times as abundant as tin, one of the main constituents of bronze, for which we named a period in human history.

So my point is this; China produces most of the world's neodymium at present for a number of reasons:

Firstly, they have decent sized deposits of Neodymium bearing minerals, but so do several other countries.

Secondly, they can produce the metal cheaply because labour costs in China are low (but rising).

Thirdly, they aren't too bothered about the environmental consequences of mining, whereas other coutries may not be so gung-ho any more.

Finally, there historically hasn't been a large demand for Neodymium so it didn't make sense for lots of people to be mining it. As the market for high-power ceramic magnets grows (as it has been for several years due to the demand for these things in hard disks), so will the supply as it becomes economical for more people to dig it out of the ground. The stuff won't run out any time soon, and if anything, the price will fall as economies of scale take off.

The arguments about the cost, mass and availability of neodymium for the permanent magnets in wind turbines are fallacious. Yes, I agree that the things are expensive but expect the price to fall as, perhaps by a significant amount. My doubts remain as to whether wind power will ever supply a significant amount of our electricity, but in fifty years time, I'm willing to bet they'll still be around (assuming we are), and coal won't.

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Meh

I'll take that bet

- although I won't be around in 50 years to collect:

At the moment coal provides 25% of world energy, and wind <0.3%

In fifty years I guarantee that coal-fired energy use will still be at least 10 x wind-energy

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@ChilliKwok

I'll be glad to take your money.

From Wikipedia*:

"Collective projections generally predict that global peak coal production may occur sometime around 2025 at 30 percent above current production in the best case scenario, depending on future coal production rates."

This is around fifteen years from now. At this point, the price of coal will increase due to scarcity, and people will stop using it as a result if they have a reliable alternative.

*Yes I know, it's Wikipedia, but it is from a cited source within the Wiki article.

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Mushroom

Given the choice...

...I'd rather be living near a wind farm than Fukushima.

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Mushroom

Given the choice...

... I'd rather be living *inside* one of the plants at Fukushima than near a wind farm, and that has absolutely nothing to do with noise levels.

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Mushroom

Strange choice

You'd really like to be sloshing around in a bunch of leaked coolant?

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Balls

OK, we'll put a nice coal-fired station or waste incinerator half a mile up the road from you instead. All means of power generation have their downsides - wind has fewer than most. There is no perfect power source, and they have to go somewhere.

Speaks volumes that this guy is a former professor, and is now a self-appointed expert.

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Anonymous Coward

Not just noise

See if you would like this kind of thing in your house:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MbIe0iUtelQ

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4MD_xGWBRvA

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TLFzFtXHWAg

Of course I will expect the apologists on here claiming it doesnt matter/not a problem/close your blinds (!). The issue as highlighted is that the big energy cos and govs want these everywhere, of course the gov published a report saying it wasnt a significant health risk, of course noone is going to die from strobing but it will reduce quality of life, which doesnt matter.

Again the companies claim they will shut turbines down if they become unbearable, but of course despite numerous complaints in the UK this rarely happens. When they do the timings are set back to normal after a period of everything being fine.

Of course these people could just move.... oh thats right there properties are worthless now.

Awaiting the down votes.

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Ice throwing

I would be more worried about ice throwing. There was a house in Germany or the Netherlands trashed by a large chunk of ice that fell through the roof, after being hurled from the local wind turbine.

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WTF?

Busy roads

So what about people who live near motorways and other busy roads. They get constant noise during the night too. Do they get much sleep? It seems like they do because there doesn't seem to be many complaints from them.

Constant noise is something you get used to very quickly. I live right next to a railway line. I sleep through goods trains passing by. The first few months of moving in I got woken up, but after that I totally ignored them. And it's not because it's that constant as there are only 2-3 trains an hour on the line.

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Busy roads, etc.

When a new road is proposed somewhere quiet, it is not uncommon for locals to object to the anticipated noise and pollution - which seems fair enough if it will negatively impact their lives and the value of their properties. If you choose go to live somewhere where there is already some noise, pollution or similar annoyance, that's a different matter.

The assumption of many seems to be that, as wind turbines are "green", there cannot be any problems with them.

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Stop

"Constant noise"

I know it's a classic; but it really is about "wrong type of noise".

The thwup-thwup-thwup of turbine blades are IMO no worse than the shoom-shoom-shoom of cars on a road, the gentle crashing of waves. Those are repeatable sounds with variation of sound within them rather than continuous and constant, often high or very low frequency. It's such continuous, ever present, sound that is not quite there but is, the "I know it's there" even if someone else doesn't hear it which makes for the psychological stress which impacts health and well being (and sanity).

Unfortunately, if someone has never experienced it they really don't know what it's like nor understand how truly annoying it is and likely won't even believe it exists. Like tooth abscesses; people won't understand ever wanting to pull their own teeth out until they get one.

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