Posting in Energy
In the feud between wind energy and noise pollution, Caithness Energy pays Oregon residents to keep quiet about excessive noise from their proposed wind farm.
Invenergy's 48 wind turbines whirring in north-central Oregon have been creating quite a stir. Since the 72-megawatt wind farm Willow Creek began operating last year, some residents have been complaining of sleepless nights, anxiety, headaches and nausea. They've been blaming their condition, sometimes referred to as "wind turbine syndrome," on the pulsing noise emanating from spinning turbines near their homes. Others don't seem to mind.
Some noise solutions discussed have been to shut certain turbines down at night. In May, the Morrow County Planning Commission gave Invenergy, the company that runs Willow Creek, six months to comply with Oregon's noise pollution laws.
William Yardley reports in Saturday's New York Times:
Oregon is one of a growing number of places that have drafted specific regulations restricting noise from. The Oregon law allows for noise to exceed what is considered an area’s ambient noise level by only a certain amount. But what those ambient levels are is sometimes disputed, as is how and where they should be measured.
And while state law limits turbine noise, the state office that once enforced industrial noise laws, housed within the Department of Environmental Quality, was disbanded in 1991, long before wind power became a state priority.
Caithness Energy is constructing a bigger, 900-megawatt wind farm next to Willow Creek. According to the New York Times, the company is taking preemptive action to avoid conflict over the decibel levels of their 32,000-acre Shepherd's Flat wind farm. Caithness Energy is paying residents to sign noise easements. The contracts would basically waive their right to officially complain about noise from the 338 Shepherd's Flat turbines that will start whirring in 2013.
The amount to keep quiet? $5,000.
In April, I discussed efforts by the Air Force to shut down the Shepherd's Flat wind farm due to its possible interference with a radar station 50 miles from the site.
While reports of wind farms psychologically affecting their neighbors have occurred in countries across the world, more research on whether a direct connection exists between the noise and vibrations of windmills and ill health is needed. Whether $5,000 will help people sleep at night also remains to be seen.
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Aug 1, 2010
I get the impression that in the US you haven't seen the latest research that shows that wind farms slow down the wind and cause lower rainfall and climate change downwind. Every kilowatt extracted from the wind slows it down and this cannot be tolerated any longer. Man has an unbroken record of harming his environment and we always seem to think that now, this year, we finally know everything. And yet in 2020 we will see all the mistakes we made in 2010 and will spend billions pulling down all the turbines we spent billions erecting. Look at the research papers, or, even simpler, carefully watch a windfarm when the wind is blowing along the line of windmills. You will clearly see that each windmill is turning a little slower than the one upwind. This fact is known to the companies involved but supressed for the obviousl profit motive. Wolves in green clothing is the best way to describe them.
Professor Michael Figgen, Paris
There is a wind turbine on a mountain side 6 miles from my home. There have been a few nights when I "thought" I could hear it. Since it's at a Ski area, when I ski or hike the mountain in that area, the sound is very noticable. It reminds me of the sound of an uneven Jet engine. The best thin g about this technology is that it can be disassembled and hauled away.
I don't have current wind production stats for the US at my fingertips, but there are basic mitigations and realities for wind and bat deaths.
1. Song birds migrate at 2000-4000 ft, well above the biggest proposed never mind built wind turbine. Not a concern.
2. Waterfowl fly around wind turbines, just as they fly around other outcrops in the sea, per North Sea studies.
3. Raptors such as eagles migrate along thermal lines. Unfortunately, these tend to align with good wind ridge lines, so careful siting is required. The Altamonte Pass in California is poorly sited from that perspective and is causing many more raptor deaths than is justifiable. For the same reason, however, raptors don't migrate across water but go around if possible, or climb to several thousand feet and glide across. Offshore sites don't have any problems.
4. Bats are a concern. They avoid the blades just fine, but there's a low pressure spot behind the blade they fly into, then their relatively delicate cardiovascular system effectively gets the bends and they die that way. Not many, but migratory bats are threatened by white nose syndrome right now, so some species are of concern. As bats don't fly in the wind speeds necessary to generate power, and wind turbines blades can be held static until above the wind speed bats typically fly in, there's a simple mitigation.
For a reality check, Wolfe Island in Ontario just announced it's figure and a bunch of people got their knickers in a twist. However, conservatively 0.07% of the birds migrating through Wolfe Island in the study period were killed and no endangered species were killed.
For a further reality check, man-caused bird kills are dominantly from lighted windows, then cats, then power-wires, then pesticides, then cars. The number of birds killed by wind turbines annually represents less than 0.01% of anthropogenic bird deaths.
Could someone on this current topic, put forward some idea of how many kilowatt-hours per year we in America are harvesting from windmills, and how many kW per year are being produced by coal and nuclear power plants? From what I understand, 44% of our nation's annual production of electricity is from coal. Another 17% or so, is from nuclear power plants.
My worry is, if we try to produce as many kW per year from windmills as we're now producing from nuclear power plants (let alone coal, and more emphatically let alone coal and nuclear combined), we may REALLY run into problems with deaths of eagles and other endangered bird species, and furthermore who knows what other tricks mother nature might start playing on us to burst our bubble?
It would seem that the use of anti-noise cancellation technology and ceramic
speakers could solve this problem by
cancelling the noise out at the periphery
of the site.
Study after study by credible professionals finds that some people get annoyed by the noise of wind turbines and suffer adverse stress effects, most recently the Medical Officer of Health of Ontario. http://www.health.gov.on.ca/en/public/publications/ministry_reports/wind_turbine/wind_turbine.pdf All noise-related health concerns kick in after prolonged exposure to 85 decibel noise, but the highest recorded noise at any residence was 53 decibels. http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/2004-101/chklists/r1n51n~1.htm Low frequency sound in cities is greater than the greatest recorded low frequency sound in residences near wind turbines, yet oddly city dwellers aren't suffering massive illness as a result of their environment. http://vancouver.ca/engsvcs/projects/soundsmart/pdfs/NCM1.pdf The best research finds that annoyance due to noise is directly related to two factors: whether the wind turbines are visible and whether the annoyed person receives economic benefit from it or not. http://www.windaction.org/documents/22351 What does this all suggest? Some rural people get annoyed at wind turbines, can't deal with the resultant stress and blame wind farms. They need to take a deep breath and learn to manage stress or buy white noise generators. At least in Ontario, the regulated setbacks for large wind farms are just fine. Cheers, Mike
Maybe they are, I don't live near any. But why don't they switch to use Virtical turbines that make no noise. I've seen ones on buildings downtown. Do they make Virtical axsis Turbines that large?
Wind turbines can also take a terrible toll on wildlife. Passive towers are bad enough on migrating birds, but it is estimated that the Altamont Pass wind farm has killed 2300 golden eagles in the past 25 years. See http://www.eastcountymagazine.org/print/3146 for details. Nothing is simple.
The devil is in the details. Sweeping statements about anything.. especially new technologies are generally wrong ( yea , there is irony with the statement). During last 30 years many small/moderate scale, installations (effectively experiments) .. with the expected high levels of learning ... what worked and didn't work.. This includes installations of 5,000 turbines of 200 ft in diam.. these are small installations in today's terms. New installations ... should not be judged by the public with same expectations. Payoffs of $5,000?... are a company/accountant's way of addressing legal issues.. it doesn't accurately reflect the issue of noise... simply cheaper than addressing the issue in the courts. There are lots of people that live in the flight path of major airports... don't see them be forced to leave because of health dangers. Yes, there are many other issues involved, but if it was truly considered a health danger.. they would not be allowed to build or live there. The newest Wind turbines for commercial scale operation have: - VERY slow rotational speeds ( 14-20 rpm.. 3-6 seconds for one rotation - TOP SPEED...typically slower) Birds / bats.. can fly through the rotor's sweep with the nearly the same chance of hitting a stationary object. (rotor tip speed isn't the issue) - Have mandated distances (on new installations) from any structures.. for this scale we are talking 1/3 -1/2 mile. Can it be heard? not much from that distance. Is is possible to effect someone sleeping? doubtful, but as pointed out, there are some very sensitive people out there. Getting in the same realm as heath hazards of Cell phones. Many conflicting studies and the technology continues to change, making it very hard to be objective. Dominate reasons for site location - constant wind. Dominate reasons for building new wind farm: cost of capital and wholesale prices for electricity.. not eco/green reasons, not Government incentives (as in the past). At the moment.. most new projects are on "hold". because of downturn in economy (price of wholesale electricity is poor and loans are no longer cheap). (disclosure) I design controls for these "big" boys.. (500-800 ft tall, 2.5-10 megawatts per turbine).
Vertical axis turbines, or VAWT, are about half as efficient the larger horizontal axis, or HAWT, units. Where appearance and other factors are important, VAWT can be a better option than none at all, especially on a smaller scale. For example, it is more often acceptable to install a VAWT system on the rooftop in urban areas. On any scale, electrical output per unit cost is always in favor of HAWT, and especially at utility scale as described here. Also, wind turbines already produce the highest portion of non- fossil based energy after hydropower in this country. And in other parts of the globe it is an even greater and growing portion. Of solar energy, ocean or wave, and geothermal, wind is the closest to par with coal and gas when installed on land. By on par, I mean equivalent in cost. Eventually off-shore wind has great potential, and one huge driver is to removal of low level sound as an issue. And from a performance standpoint, offshore has the potential to double if not triple the output per area given the wind levels and their persistence (24 hours) when properly located. As someone stated here, everything has a cost, however. And offshore wind is still quite expensive given how few projects there are. With the UK and northern Europe moving fast on it, and with it gaining traction in the U.S. finally, those costs should decrease fast too. However, every U.S. project is facing huge NIMBY (not in my backyard) resistance - see Cape Wind near Nantucket and a project on Lake Michigan.
"Caithness Energy is paying residents to sign noise easements. The contracts would basically waive their right to officially complain about noise from the 338 Shepherd?s Flat turbines that will start whirring in 2013." So, what's going to happen when the resident moves and sells their house to a new resident? Will Caithness pay this *NEW* resident $5k to shut them up? Or will the new resident have to sign a covenant stating that they are aware of the noise and just can't do anything about it? What's going to happen in 10-15 years when new residential developments start cropping up around the wind farm? Will they get paid also?
Bird kill was more of a problem with the older, smaller, faster turning turbines like the ones east of Oakland, CA. Also, they site them now-a-days to avoid known bird flyways. I don't think the bird kill problem from modern wind turbines is any greater than the bird kill problem from large plate glass windows anymore.
@AlexKovnat - You're right that the same folks who want to push this technology tend to be the same folks screaming NIMBY. Whether it's dealing with the noise pollution or the vast acreage required for solar, the greenies seem to bitch about their own solutions once they have to actually be put into action. They're fine to talk about conservation and what other folks should do, but when the rubber has to hit the road, most just start whining that it won't be done right or it'll be bad for some unknown reason. For those who want an example the Martha's Vineyard offshore wind farm is a prime example. The Maatha's Vineyard set are just fine to dictate to people that they have to green-up, but they sure as heck aren't going to allow their view to be ruined by those horrible windmills. I'm all for pragmatic conservation. Let's do what makes sense, practically and economically. Gutting the energy industry as it stands for flaky, unreliable, and often untried technology it just dumb. If these tech are so good let them stand on their own and the market decide.
I was never that impressed with windmills. I always thought that if you installed enough windmills to meet even a few percent of our energy needs, mother nature would sooner or later figure out a trick to play on us, like bird kills or the whump-whump-whump noise made by those big blades, which understandably unnerves people. For this reason, I'd prefer solar cells. But then, if we were to install enough solar cell arrays, mother nature would probably think of another trick to play on us. Years ago, intellectuals were crying in their California wine that ANYTHING was better than nuclear power. Ironically those may be the same people who won't tolerate a windmill near their own homes.
By the way, To those who think that there is a "magic" bullet to put in noise cancellation systems. Those systems are only useable in individual such as headphones. Science has not figured out how to cancel sound in large areas becasue of all of the variable parameters in sound
We are doing considerable research on noise from these trbines and have found three problems. There is Very low frequency component that couple from the turbine into the ground and then everywhere around it by conductivity. There is nothing you can really do about since it is "structure" borne noise and is directly transmitted into the ground. The effect is to make you uneasy and anxious. Depending on the frequency you can also feel nauseous as well. This effect has been well known since the early thirties when the research at that time was done by the movie industry. The low frequency "thrum" or hum is present in almost all horror or suspense films at a very low level but enough to make you feel uneasy. THAT is why the movies like that sometimes make you feel creepy. The other 2 noises are the "swish" of the blades as they pass through the air and the other is the slight "cracking" sound coming from the blade tips exceeding the speed of sound in larger turbines. Both arte very disturbing to sleep and to general noise levels. It seems are no "pollution" free sources of power out there at this point. The choices out there are just a choice between "this" pollution or "that" pollution. Ron Sauro NWAA Labs, Inc
For this very reason, we fought Invenergy here in West Virginia and kept them from putting turbines too close to people's homes. The only reason we succeeded, though, was because of an endangered bat. Between the bird/bat kills, the so-called "green credits" that permit even more pollution to be created, the undependability and efficiency of the wind at siting locations and a host of other considerations, wind power isn't the be-all and solve-all that many people think it is. In fact, thanks to government subsidies, it's more often a boondoggle than it is a serious contribution to our country's energy needs. Invenergy is one of the worst companies in that respect. They are guided only by their bottom line, even if it would mean a net loss environmentally speaking.
This is a tough call - sort of the "beauty in the eye of the beholder" issue. Or to paraphrase - "I know noise when I hear it." Still, one has to wonder just how close to the homes these turbines are situated. If you ever have a chance to do a walking tour of a large turbine ranch, like the one near Palm Springs, CA, what one observes very quickly is the noise of the wind alone is nearly deafening. 30 to 40 mph winds are quite loud. In fact the turbines are almost impossible to hear in any direction within a few hundred feet when the wind is howling. (Hence the term howling!) Wind turbines will continue to be a new way of life. With time and data the wind industry will refute the noise? issue much like that of ?bird strike?. Jack Pouchet
I have a vertical axis fan in my office that I really like. Generates good airflow and takes up little floor space. I, too, wonder about the vertical axis wind turbines, and how they compare to the standard propellor types. Tom
I would imagine $5000 could pay for some sound proofing. I'm not sure how much a noise cancellation system would cost. Have a microphone at a certain distance away from the building and then have a sound transmitted from speakers a bit closer set in a wave designed to counter the sound wave coming.
I don't doubt the effects of the turbines on health. I had an experience while working as a carpenter where I was trimming out a closet in the center of a new building. Outside the paving guys were using a gas powered tamper to pack the dirt down. As it vibrated against the concrete foundation of the building, I heard/felt a low frequency sound and immediately felt nauseous and disoriented. As soon as I stumbled out of the closet the effect disappeared. Step back in nausea and disorientation. It took me several minutes to figure out what was causing the problem. When I talked to my boss, he stepped in there and experienced no effect. It's not an across the board thing, some people are just more sensitive to it. My question to the wind farm guys is what about vertical axis turbines, they're supposed to be quieter, and agnostic to wind direction. Do they not have enough torque to drive the large generators that are required?
Wind Turbines have got to be the way forward to help solve world energy problems but people have a "not in My backdoor " attitude to them. I own a small web hosting business in the UK called Havenswift Hosting (www.havenswift-hosting.co.uk) providing shared hosting and dedicated servers for clients and we wanted to have a small turbine of our own (much smaller than those being talked about here) to help offset some of the costs of running our business but because we are deemed to be in a residential area were refused permission.
Could noise cancellation technology at the turbine or entire farm, work to diminish the sound problem?
Everybody has a price. Seems some people's price is really cheap. Once Cap & Tax goes into effect, $5000.00 will pay for 6 or 8 months utilities for them.
Wind turbines don't cause negative environmental impacts. Wind turbines offset the massive negative health and environmental impacts of fossil fuels.
"Every kilowatt extracted from the wind slows it down and this cannot be tolerated any longer."
@professorfiggen, We should probably cut down every tree and level all buildings, too. In fact, you should crawl rather than walk upright, to block less wind.
Altamont is badly sited along raptor migration routes. The vast, vast majority of wind farms are not sited on raptor migration routes and have statistically negligible fatality rates for birds. Wind turbines kill
Turbines, when they generate any infrasound at all, generate it at much lower levels than are audible and appreciable by humans, and at much lower levels in homes than are generated by air conditioners and passing traffic. Outside of the non-existent infrasound BS, noise is also extremely easy to manage: white noise generators cost less than $30, an iPhone white noise app costs $0.99, foam ear-plugs costs pennies in bulk and windows are easy to close. http://www.quora.com/Wind-Power/What-might-cause-people-who-live-near-wind-turbines-to-get-sick/answer/Mike-Barnard
$30 buys a white noise generator. $0.99 buys a white noise app for an iPhone. Closing the windows is free.