Category Archives: Noise

Infrasound from Wolfe

Several months ago I splurged for an infrasound detector, with the intention to establish a baseline in several homes on Amherst Island before the wind turbine project becomes operational and then compare them with the levels afterwards.  All of the homes I’m interested in are built close to the shoreline and I figured that waves would be the main contributor.  While I don’t have the ability to record wave action, I do record wind speed and direction from the nearby Kingston airport.  So far (at least on Amherst Island in a rural environment; in my town it varies more with human activity) it seems that wind itself is the main contributor, with direction (and subsequent wave action) not seeming to have much of an effect.  I use the word “seem” as I’m still looking over the data, and will be updating my postings as I gain any new insights.

The home where the detector is now installed is on Amherst’s South Shore, facing Lake Ontario.  Visible from the home, across a sliver of Lake Ontario, is the Wolfe Island Wind Project (WIWP), with the nearest of its 86 turbines 13.8 km away.  I wondered if part of the infrasound I was measuring was due to the WIWP, but there was no way for me to separate out the effects of the wind and the project.

And then serendipity struck!  On December 20th an ice storm swept through the area and the WIWP went offline until December 27th, while the wind kept blowing.  And I was recording the entire thing!  There have been several articles written about infrasound from wind turbines, but I am unaware of any studies that involved a shutdown of anything more than a few minutes, let alone over a week.

Now the numbers.  For the entire month (698 samples, the weather station at the airport shuts down overnight sometimes), the average noise level (in mPa) was 297 with an average wind speed of 10.16 mph.  For the non-iced period (562 samples while WI was running normally) the averages were 306 and 10.18.  For the iced-over period (133 samples, I left 3 transitional hours off) the averages were 262 and 10.14.  The increment comes to 44 mPa, an increase of 17%.  The dB equivalents are 82.3 to 83.7, an increase of 1.4 dB.  Now 1.4 dB doesn’t sound like a lot, but recall that this is an average over an entire week.  Kinda like an average temperature deviation of 2 F doesn’t sound like a lot; however it is enough to get us to remark on it being either colder or warmer than usual.

To show the difference in a more meaningful manner, I charted the noise levels vs. wind speeds (above 4 mph – there’s very little noise below that speed) for the two periods.  Here’s the charts.  First, with the WIWP shut down.  The slope of the line indicates that each mph increase in wind speed produces an average of 41.8 additional mPa of infrasound. noise-v-speed-1402-iced

Second, with the WIWP operating.  The slope is now 54.5.noise-v-speed-1402-normal

These results fly in the face of several studies that claim that wind projects produce very little infrasound.  Wind proponents will, of course, find all sorts of reasons why these measurements are invalid: my science was wrong, my equipment was wrong, my biases were wrong, the winds were wrong, something, anything.  What they won’t do, of course, is cooperate enough to allow an independent researcher to run a similar experiment.

Some details.  The detector was an Infra-20, with a frequency range of 0.1-20 Hz.  It was located in the same place the entire month of December (in an upstairs loft overlooking a large glass-fronted great room, which may explain the relatively high averages).  I used a home-written Perl program on an XP/Dell computer to record the 50 samples/sec that the Infra-20 produces (their Amaseis wasn’t reliable enough – my code has been surprisingly stable; I missed much less than 1% of the samples for all reasons combined during the entire month).  Every hour I’d calculate the average noise level and save that for input to a spreadsheet.  If you’d like the spreadsheet or the program let me know.

Stressed Geese

Several days ago Ontario Wind Resistance posted a study from Poland on the effects of raising geese close to a wind turbine.  Their posting included several quotes from the study, which indicated the nearby geese suffered from both elevated cortisol levels and less-rapid weight gain.  I was intrigued enough to take a closer look.  The OWR posting and the excepts didn’t really do justice to what the Polish researchers found.  While the study is properly cautious with its conclusions, the data itself shows the extent of the problem. Continue reading Stressed Geese

Cullerin and Chapman


The Cullerin wind project is located in NSW, Australia, about 60 km NE of Canberra and 200 km SW of Sydney.  At first glance it isn’t particularly remarkable.  There’s 15 2.0 mw turbines, fairly tightly packed on a rise of about 130 m above the surrounding terrain.  The area is sparsely populated, with maybe 50 people living within 5 km (the red line below) of any of its turbines. cullerin

The only reason I’m even mentioning Cullerin is that it has produced a remarkable number of complaints, directly contributing to an audit announced by the NSW government, a slowdown in wind project approvals , some of the strictest noise limits in existence and a bill introduced in the Australian Senate.

One Patina Schneider took it upon herself to run a survey of everyone within (more or less) 10 km of the project.  Her results, published in August of 2012, are telling.  To sum them up:

“73% of all residences out to 5km returned the survey with 85.7% of households indicating
that noise is present at their residence and property during the day and/or night, with 78.5%
of households reporting sleep disturbance from the noise generated by the wind energy

Here’s a timeline:

  • July 2009 – project becomes operational
  • Complaints started immediately
  • February 2012 – audit announced
  • August 2012 – Schneider’s first survey
  • September 2012 – Senate bill introduced
  • November 2012 – audit results released to the developers, NOT to the public
  • August 2013 – Schneider’s follow-up survey published

Schneider’s follow-up survey added questions about whether or not the neighbors had complained to anyone.  It turns out they had, an estimated 322 times, to just about everyone: the developer, their doctors, the local MP’s, the planning department etc.  Certainly the authorities were aware of the problems at Cullerin.  Problems which sadly continue to this day.


OK, so Cullerin’s a mess.  How does Chapman come into this?  In March 2013 he published a study purporting to conclusively demonstrate that the complaints about noise are due to Nocebo effects, and not to the actual noise.  The centerpiece of that study was his Table 1, which showed the almost-complete agreement between noise complaints and anti-wind-activist activity in the area for all 49 wind projects then in Australia.  That table includes Cullerin (thankfully clickable):chapman-cullerinThe columns are: Name/Location/Developer, Size, Date, People Within 5 km, Complaints?, # of Complaints, Local Anti-Wind Activity.  Note the obvious – he has Cullerin listed as having had NO COMPLAINTS!  Maybe he asked the wrong people.  Maybe the people he asked lied to him.  Maybe there was no anti-wind activity there and having complaints would destroy his hypothesis. 

This isn’t the first rending of this study.  I critiqued it shortly after it came out, and additionally it has been thoroughly trashed by others with far more letters after their names than me: Hartman, McMurtry, Punch, Swinbanks, Rosenbloom among others.  A common critique among these is that he made no serious attempt to go out into the field and find out what is actually going on.  The mismatch between the reality of Cullerin and Chapman’s presentation of that reality is the result.

At best an error of this magnitude renders his entire study worthless, at least if you are actually interested in finding truth.  At worst, it shows that Chapman is willing to change the data to fit his agenda.  I’ll let my readers decide.


Too Close?

When people are talking about “too close” and wind turbines, normally they mean the neighbors have the misfortune to live too close to the turbines.   Recently I came across a survey from the Cullerin Wind Project in Australia, and I was struck by how far out people’s lives were being affected by the noise/infrasound.  Large majorities of all the residents at distances even in excess of 5 km were complaining.

After generating an overhead picture of the project on Google Earth it struck me that I’ve now seen 4 Australian projects that have have significant complaints lodged against them by large numbers of neighbors.  All of these projects have two things in common.  First, they are built on ridges above the neighbors, in order to get the best winds.  Second, and perhaps more importantly, the turbines in all four of these projects are either massed or lined up less than 300 m from each other.  Distances vary, of course, but all four have typical turbine separations of somewhere around 250 m. Typical industry standards are 4x rotor diameter spacing across the prevailing wind, and 10x (recent research recommends 15x) along the prevailing wind.    Obviously 250 m isn’t far enough in any direction.  The four projects are:  Wonthaggi, Waterloo, Waubra and Cullerin.

Inter-turbine turbulence can be problematical.  First, it reduces the efficiency of the downwind turbines by a considerable amount – 30% for the second in the line and more for subsequent ones.  Second, it increases stress on the blades as the forces upon them are constantly changing.  Third, and most importantly for this discussion, it increases the noise generated.

I have no real conclusion for this posting – I’m just pointing out something I noticed and maybe someone out there will follow it up.  It would be interesting to go through more projects and see if this pattern holds.  Below are my pictures for these four projects.













Kouwen and Weaver

Last year Dr. Kouwen put together a very competent system for measuring noise and wind speed specifically for wind turbines in Ontario.  His first foray into the field demonstrated that the noise from wind turbine projects routinely exceeds both what they predicted and what the Ontario regulations allow.  More recently he took his equipment to another location and found, yet again, these violations.  There is now an unbroken string of measurements (a sampling: Ashbee, Rand, Shirley, Kouwen, Libby) at homes of complaining neighbors that demonstrates, beyond any reasonable debate, that these noise complaints are caused by (drum roll) noise!  I have yet to see a case of a complaining neighbor where there wasn’t some underlying noise or vibration problem that could be traced to wind turbines.  Weaver continues this string. Continue reading Kouwen and Weaver

The MOE and Libby

David Libby lives in rural Ontario, unfortunately within 700 metres of a wind turbine.  He complained to the Ontario MOE about the noise and in December of 2011 they dispatched some noise and weather-measuring equipment to his home.  Whenever the noise bothered him, he could press a button and a 10-minute detailed recording period would start.  During the 7+ days the equipment was in place he pressed the button 9 times.  The MOE ran off and after a while dutifully reported back that the operator was substantially in compliance.  Libby released that report to the public back in January 2012, which got a posting on Ontario Wind Resistance.   John Harrison then took a look at it,  and now we can see just how complicit the MOE is in harming people in order to protect this industry. Continue reading The MOE and Libby

Kouwen on Models

Humans have used models to describe and predict their environment for millennia.  With the advent of computers the number and sophistication of these models has taken a quantum leap.  Many have proven their worth, and their impact upon our view of the universe has been profound.  Unfortunately, it is almost inevitable that something with this much influence over our affairs will be misused by those whose with a self-serving agenda – much like junk science.

Dr. Nicholas Kouwen, in his study on wind turbine noise, discovered that the models used to predict that noise substantially underestimated it – a most convenient result, given Ontario’s regulatory regime, for the developer who hired the modellers.  In his commentary on why this disconnect occurred he mentioned empirical models and their limitations.  I thought the topic was important enough for a separate posting, and here it is. Continue reading Kouwen on Models

Kouwen on Noise

Of the many issues surrounding wind energy, noise continues to be a controversial topic. The industry and governments continue to insist that wind energy projects are appropriately sited – far enough from the neighbors so they are not a nuisance.  However, around the world the health/nuisance complaints and abandonments indicate that whatever rules are in place are generally not adequate.

Dr. Nicholas Kouwen, a retired engineering professor, had the time and resources to examine the noise issue in some detail for Ontario.  Starting in June of 2012 and going into November he took extended noise measurements at five residences in the Grey Highlands region; three of them within the Plateau Project and two “controls” at locations away from the turbines.  The Ontario wind project noise regulations, pretty much unique in the world, allow more noise at higher wind speeds so he also recorded wind speeds.  He then compared the actual readings with the Ontario limits and it should come as no surprise that those limits were routinely violated. Continue reading Kouwen on Noise

Heath Gets It

The town of Heath, Massachusetts, like many other town faced with wind turbine projects, formed a committee to study the issue.  Their final report is a very accurate  and very readable compilation of the issues surrounding wind energy.  Hats off to the members who took the time to do the research and had the strength to do it honestly.

Heath, Final Report, text

Heath, Final Report, full

Unfortunately, the Town of Heath hasn’t posted the report on its web site, so there’s no link to the original.  In the meantime, the town has proposed a bylaw that outright bans wind turbines within the town.  UPDATE, February 27, 2013 – Heath voters unanimously passed the ban.

Shirley and Infrasound

The wind energy industry has a long list of “studies” (i.e. Chapman’s 17) that they claim “proves” that wind turbines present no health issues for nearby residents.  One of my strongest criticisms of all of these studies is that nowhere in them has anyone ever gone to a victim’s home and actually measured what was going on in there.  There’s good reasons why they don’t. Continue reading Shirley and Infrasound

U Minn and Vestas Reality Check

A commenter recently pointed me to a University of Minnesota at Morris study  from 2008 that contained a wealth of interesting information about their one Vestas V82 1.65 mw turbine and how it has performed in 2006 through 2008.  The V82 is a rather common wind turbine, deployed in large numbers throughout the world.  Falmouth’s turbines are V82’s.  Thank you John.

Recently I’ve been working on the apparent decline of Capacity Factor over time and since this report appeared to have fairly granular hub wind speeds and production levels perhaps I could see if it suffered the same loss (somewhere between 1.5% and 2% per year) as has been noted in Ontario, Denmark and now Ireland.  The trend was in fact slightly downward, but the numbers weren’t consistent enough for just one turbine over just three years for me to put much confidence in that conclusion.  But during my examination of the report I came across a number of other interesting tidbits.

Electricity Production

In Vestas’ Life Cycle Assessment [backup link] of the V82 they “calculated”, per page 20, that at a Danish “typical” average wind speed of 7.38 m/s it would generate at a Capacity Factor of 40.8%, or an average of 673.2 kw out of its 1650 kw capacity.  I took UMinn’s daily average production and wind speed figures and produced the following clickable chart:

UMinn Reality vs Vestas Claims
UMinn actual production

The Vestas’ claim is represented by the yellow dot, which is clearly above the actual average of about 500kw – a decrease of 25%.  This is not trivial.  Adding to the exaggeration, below are the actual Capacity Factors for a selection of European countries – DK stands for Denmark.  So their “typical” and their “calculation” are each off by about 25%.  So instead of 40.8% we have 22.8%.

This exaggeration cannot be unintentional or uninformed.  The value of the turbine is slightly over half of what they claim.

Power Consumption

I have long been trying to nail down how much electricity a wind turbine consumes.  The wind industry seems quite reluctant to publish this.  As an example, in the V82 Life Cycle Assessment they lump all the manufacturing, operation, transportation etc. together into a 20-year lifetime total of 3392 mw-h, not willing to break it out.  Luckily, the UMinn’s reports include negative production numbers when the wind isn’t blowing enough to produce – about 3.5 m/s.  Each day they listed the minimum production, along with the minimum wind speed.  UMinn didn’t reveal the time increments, but fully 85% of the days during the 3 years had a negative-production period.  I graphed the results:

Daily minimum production vs wind speed
U Minn Minimum Wind Chart

The above chart shows the minimum productions plotted against the minimum wind speeds.  As you might expect, whenever the wind speed is above the 3.5 m/s cut-in speed the turbine starts producing, but not getting consistently into positive territory until about 4.5 m/s.  Notice the results when the wind doesn’t get above 3.5 m/s – typically there’s a MINUS 50kw of production.  This is power that must be supplied from the grid just to keep the turbine in business.  And 50kw seems to be what the turbine uses to stay alive in good weather.  In the winter it gets slightly higher – the highest negative numbers were in the 80 kw range.

So, finally, we have a measurement of just how much electricity they consume!  50 kw is quite a bit higher than my previous findings, which originated in industry statements and cash flow calculations.  Recall that the average Danish turbine produces about 376 kw (1650 * .228).  So a V82 operating in Denmark consumes roughly 13% of what it produces.  No wonder they want to keep this quiet.

I think the reason it is so high for the V82 is that the generator must use an electromagnet, compared with newer turbines that use rare-earth-based “super” permanent magnets.  In their Life Cycle Assessment for the V82 they mention the iron and copper in the generator but do not mention any rare earths.

Wind Shear

The wind gets stronger the higher above the ground you get, generally in a logarithmic manner.  The rate at which it gets stronger is embodied in the Wind Shear Exponent, which varies from 0.1 over water to 0.4 in urban areas.  UMinn’s exponent was 0.244, which is typical of a rural landscape with trees and small buildings.  UMinn produced the picture below which graphically represents how the wind shear affects the wind turbine.

U Minn wind shear
U Minn Wind Shear

Note that at the bottom of the rotors the average wind speed is 6 m/s, while at the top it is over 8 m/s.  This is a big difference in terms of the forces, which flex the blades every rotation and no doubt contribute to their wear.  This also contributes to noise generation, and may be responsible for the very annoying “thumping” that wind turbines sometimes produce.

No Consensus in NZ

New Zealand, like many countries around the world, has been encouraging the installation of wind energy projects.  Unfortunately, also like many countries, the residents who end up living next to these projects have been complaining about the noise, after having been assured that it would be minimal.  NZ has noise regulations that predate wind projects, but like many countries they have developed special noise regulations uniquely customized for the wind industry –  something called NZS 6808.   The previous version of this Standard (1998) didn’t protect the neighbors – there were hundreds of complains while the developer could plausibly claim to be following the standards.  So they formed a committee and came up with 6808:2010.  One person on that committee, Philip Dickinson, refused to agree to the new standard and went public about his reasons. Continue reading No Consensus in NZ


Brian McPherson was a resident of Cape Cod who was distressed at how miserable the residents close to the Falmouth, MA wind turbines were, due to noise.  So he hired Robert Rand and Steven Ambrose to measure inside one of the problem homes to see if they could establish what the problem was.  They were perhaps more successful than they wanted to be.  In short as they watched the levels of infrasound from the turbines increase with the wind, they became ill themselves.  Perhaps even more powerfully, the levels at which they became ill corresponded nicely with the projections previously published by Alec Salt.

This study was too important for a short posting, so I created a 9-page pdf with details on the work of both Salt et al and Rand et al, along with charts and some amount of discussion.

Link to my critique of the McPherson Study.

WHO Says?

The Liberal government of Ontario, faced with increasing complaints about the noise from wind turbines, continues to dig in and insist that their noise standards are very strict and meet the WHO’s standards.  As usual, the devil is in the details, and the details don’t favor the Liberals position.  Denise Wolfe has researched the WHO’s standards and written up a 2-page summary of how the Ontario government falls short.

Denise Wolfe’s Response to Liberal Claims

The Hall Memorandum

Wind Concerns Ontario published a memo written by a senior environmental officer in the Guelph MOE office that questioned the MOE’s draft regulations which specified the setbacks and noise limits of wind turbines.  In the end, his memo was rejected and the MOE went ahead with their industry-friendly regulations.  Since then, predictably, any number of neighbors have suffered due to the noise created by the turbines.  As I read the memo I noted how similar the officer’s observations were to what I and a number of others have been posting all along.  So I created a pdf (it got too long and convoluted for a simple posting here) with the memo in its entirety along with some links and comments.

My Comments on the Hall Memorandum


Robert Rand

Robert Rand is a professional acoustician from Maine.  He is a member of INCE, has his own consulting business, and has been active in industrial noise management in a career spanning 4 decades.  In his words, he has experienced just about every type of noise out there.

About two years ago he became interested in wind turbine noise following the complaints of neighbors at several Maine wind projects, including Mars Hill and Vinalhaven.  His interest apparently was piqued by the high level of the complaints relative to the low level of the noise, and he decided to independently (i.e. unpaid) investigate.

I first became aware of his activities when I stumbled across an impressive presentation on wind turbine noise he made in February 2011 in Michigan, which led to a posting here.   Then in April he reappeared when he wrote a remarkable letter to Dr. Pierpont [backup copy] where he noted that he (and an associate, Steve Ambrose) had personally experienced many of the health effects that the neighbors had been complaining about.  He writes:

I’m writing to let you know that we both experienced adverse medical effects in the vicinity of the turbine under survey (one industrial wind turbine) under strong wind conditions aloft. Nausea, loss of appetite, vertigo, dizziness, inability to concentrate, an overwhelming desire to get outside, and anxiety.

The distance was approximately 1700 feet.

We obtained relief, repeatedly, by going several miles away.

He had his equipment out during this time and noted that there was no relationship between the dBA readings and his reactions.  He concludes: So we have a complete disconnect between medical impact and regulatory framework.

A Canadian talk-show host, Jerry Agar, picked up on the story and had a 6-minute interview with him on April 25, during which he repeated his account.   Three new tidbits emerged during the interview.  (1) Over a week after the exposure he still had trouble with vertigo and concentration, (2) the noise from wind turbines is in a class by itself, and (3) the home he was at when this happened will likely be abandoned.  One nitpick – Agar referred to Rand’s account as “anecdotal”.  Incorrect.  This was a first-person observation, reported and recorded in a manner that makes for pretty strong (if not conclusive) evidence that something is unhealthy about the noise from wind turbines.  What that “something” is may yet be unknown, but there’s no doubt it exists.

No doubt the wind energy promoters will dismiss Rand and Ambrose as either victims of the nocebo effect, or that they’re working on some financial angle.  I wonder, how many reports will it take before these stories are believed – that wind turbines, in certain conditions and to certain people, are a real hazard.  Or is this a case where how difficult it is to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon him not understanding it?

This Was All Predictable

Rob Rand is a professional acoustician with decades of experience.  On February 5, 2011 he was part of a community presentation about wind turbines and their effects at the Blissfield Middle School, Michigan.  If you have just one hour to spend learning about wind turbines and noise, listening to his  presentation would be a good way to spend it.  The other presentations were also very good and well worth the time if you want to learn something about wind turbines.

Most of what he said wasn’t particularly new to me, having studied this stuff for over 3 years now.  One point that was new was a study on community response to noise that was published by the EPA way back in 1974, way before wind turbines were on anybody’s radar.  Using their criteria, which were primarily developed for road and especially aircraft noise, it becomes easy to see why the residents are so upset with wind turbines. Continue reading This Was All Predictable

Dr. McCunney

Dr. Robert McCunney was one of the seven authors of the December 2009 AWEA/CanWEA Expert Panel Review on health, which I critiqued and more importantly the Society for Wind Vigilance critiqued.  Following the Review, McCunney has continued making appearances to different groups to present his opinions on the health issues of wind turbines, and has more recently appeared as an expert in hearings in Vermont.  He has solid credentials, MIT and all, but when you get past his predictably professional-sounding assertions, you end up discovering that either he didn’t do his homework or he is in the pocket of the wind industry.  I’ll let you decide. Continue reading Dr. McCunney

Harrison on Noise Over Water

John Harrison, retired physics professor from Queen’s University in Kingston, continues to produce thoughtful and well-written articles on various topics surrounding wind turbines.  This one discusses the propagation of noise over water, and how Ontario’s setback of 5KM is woefully inadequate.  It gets fairly technical, including research you won’t find in industry or government publications.

Harrison, Sound Propagation from Off-Shore Wind Turbines

Or Live by a Nuclear Plant?

When discussing the effects of living near a wind project, proponents often ask “Would you rather live next to a nuclear plant?”  Of course, that’s not the real choice.  To replace a typical nuclear plant you’d have to have something like 7,000 turbines that would stretch 20 miles in all directions plus maybe 5 typical gas plants for when the wind didn’t blow.

The same question is often asked with a coal plant replacing the nuclear plant.  In an earlier post, Rather Live by a Coal Plant?, I presented a case where a family that found itself in that situation would far rather live by the coal plant than next to wind turbines.

Now the residents of Hinkley Point in the UK have shown where their preference lies.  They’ve lived next to the nuclear plant there for 20 years, but they want no part of a proposed wind project built next to the nuke.  Proponents apparently cannot accept just how disruptive their wind turbines are when compared to coal and nukes and just about anything else.

Backup Link.