Category Archives: noise

Hammered by a wind turbine

I got surprised last week (April 17-19, 2011) on a wind turbine noise survey with my long-time colleague Steve Ambrose, also a Member of INCE. We experienced all the symptoms described by folks unfortunate enough to live nearby where an industrial wind turbine facility has been built. Nausea, loss of appetite, vertigo, dizziness, inability to concentrate, an overwhelming desire to get outside, and anxiety.

The distance was approximately 1700 feet from one 1.65MW industrial wind turbine.

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

Vertigo came back much stronger for me today, a week later, simply while reviewing the precision audio recordings from the trip on small laptop speakers. Moderate nausea coming and going, and ears ringing and feeling full. That may mean that I have been “sensitized” and I’m now more susceptible to the symptoms.

If you’ve ever been seasick, or travel-sick on planes, you might understand the feeling.

http://www.windturbinesyndrome.com/news/2011/two-acousticians-succumb-to-wind-turbine-syndrome-maine/

Et, en Francais- terrecitoyenne.qc.ca.

Rollins Wind: Can There Be High Annoyance?

Recently a chart was created for predicting the percent of the community highly annoyed by wind turbine noise. Previous research showed that wind turbine noise is much more annoying than transportation noise at much lower sound levels [1].

The equation underlying the annoyance siting chart can be used to predict the percent of the community highly annoyed versus distance, based on the sound levels measured or predicted for an industrial wind turbine facility.

In the chart below, the predicted sound levels versus distance were charted for the proposed Rollins Wind facility, levels obtained from the applicant’s publicly available application document. Also charted were the measured highest hourly average sound levels at Mars Hill, obtained from the project files available at the Maine DEP.

The chart below illustrates the predicted percent of the community highly annoyed for the proposed Rollins Wind Facility, computed using the peer-reviewed equation developed by Pedersen and Waye by distance from the nearest turbine.

The chart illustrates what common sense suggests and what real world experience has already shown at Mars Hill, Freedom, and Vinalhaven. The percentage of the community that is highly annoyed by wind turbine noise levels is predicted to be high near the turbines and lessens with distance. Up to a two-mile setback appears necessary to minimize community disruption.

Has the potential for high annoyance due to industrial wind turbine noise been discussed in the Rollins Wind application process?

This high annoyance prediction method is based on 150kw-600kw wind turbines (smaller than those being installed in Maine) and does not factor in detailed effects of Maine topography. Taller turbines with longer blades may exhibit deeper amplitude modulation than those studied by Pedersen and Waye. In hill-valley or mountainous areas, the sound level versus distance may be channeled and elevated relative to the results from computer modelling. Higher sound levels and high annoyance could be sustained at farther distances than expected.

“Annoyance with wind turbine noise was associated with psychological distress, stress, difficulties to fall asleep and sleep interruption.”

1. Pedersen, E. and K. Persson Waye. 2004. Perception and annoyance due to wind turbine noise: A dose–response relationship, Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 116: 3460–3470.

Rollins Wind: Might The Model Be Low?

Sound level versus distance on semi-log paper has been for many years one of the best ways to review noise emissions and potential impacts from a power generation facility. Yesterday I took a look at the Rollins Wind Facility predictions at nearby residences and, levels measured near the Kibby facility this year as well as the existing Mars Hill operational data compiled for the Maine DEP. The resulting chart is shown below. It raised several somewhat technical points for me right away.

– I understand Rollins will use the same wind turbine as Mars Hill, the GE 1.5MW. Is it appropriate to compare the Oakfield prediction to actual noise emissions documented at Mars Hill? Or to Kibby’s 3MW Vestas, with their similar, blade-sweep aerodynamic noise production?

– Are the predicted noise levels at nearby residences in the ranges associated with sleep disturbance, as well as adverse health impacts especially for risk groups (children, elderly, those with pre-existing conditions or disease), according to peer-reviewed medical evidence compiled and published by the World Health Organization in their Night Noise Guideline (NNG) of October 2009?

– Is the existing Maine DEP night noise limit of 45 dBA adequate to protect the public health in the area?

– Does the data comparison to WHO health thresholds suggest that a setback distance of over two miles would be needed to minimize sleep disturbance and prevent adverse health impacts for risk groups; children, elderly, those with pre-existing conditions or disease?

Oakfield Wind: Might The Model Be Low?

Sound level versus distance on semi-log paper has been for many years one of the best ways to review noise emissions and potential impacts from a power generation facility. Recently a comparison was developed from the Oakfield Wind Facility predictions at nearby residences and the existing Mars Hill data compiled for the Maine DEP. The resulting chart is shown below. It raised several points right away.

– Both sites use the same wind turbine, the GE 1.5MW. Is it appropriate to compare the Oakfield prediction to actual noise emissions documented at Mars Hill?

– Are the predicted noise levels at nearby residences in the ranges associated with sleep disturbance as well as adverse health impacts for risk groups (children, elderly, those with pre-existing conditions or disease), according to peer-reviewed medical evidence compiled and published by the World Health Organization in their Night Noise Guideline (NNG) of October 2009?

– Is the existing Maine DEP night noise limit of 45 dBA adequate to protect the public health in the area?

– Does the data comparison to WHO health thresholds suggest that a setback distance of over two miles would be needed to minimize sleep disturbance and prevent adverse health impacts for risk groups?

Is Noise Pollution a Taking?

The Takings Clause
“…nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.”

The Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution provides that private property shall not be taken without just compensation. Ultimately, takings issues have ended up in the courts. Case law on this clause has been convoluted and contradictory determining when, where and how a “taking” has occurred and what “just compensation” shall be made. In other words, people including judges have differed, at times strenuously, about takings.

However, it is generally accepted now, with case law in place for airport noise pollution and others, that noise pollution travelling onto a private property is a taking of property value requiring just compensation.

Since 1989, the State of Maine Chapter 375.10 Site of Location Development law scribes “protected location” areas 500 feet in radius from a residential home. In other words the existing State law treads inside private property as far as noise pollution goes. Under Chapter 375.10, if the property dimensions are sufficiently large and the 500 foot radius ends within the property, in the remaining area of the private residential property, the developer is allowed 10 dB higher noise immissions. This “feature” of Chapter 375.10 is at variance with most noise ordinances and regulations in the United States and abroad, which recognize and utilize the property or “lot” line as the legal property boundary for noise limits.

Consider the potential difficulties for a hypothetical property of 10 acres, if for example, the owner decides to allow his son to build at some future date a house on a portion of the land not within the 500 foot radius. (See sketch below-added 9/10/2010 for clarification.) During a permitting process for a new development near this residential property, the noise to be permitted is controlled by distance or engineering to the State standards for the protected location- but outside the 500 foot radius around the existing house, the developer may exceed the State night noise limits, up to 10 dB higher (to the daytime limits which apply around the clock). In this scenario, noise impinging on the father’s house is controlled, but noise impinging on the son’s (future) house could be 10 dB higher. That is allowed under Chapter 375.10. Were the State noise regulation (or local noise ordinance) to be based on a property line limit, as is the case with most noise regulations, noise at the son’s future house would be controlled to night noise limits as well because the developer would have to meet the regulation’s night noise limits everywhere along the property line.

This potential noise pollution issue could apply as well to someone who used their property for a home business (yoga center, writing retreat, and so on), after a nearby development permitting, on some portion of their property outside the 500-foot radius used during the permitting process. The enjoyment or use of the private land could be compromised by excessive sound levels on the portion outside the 500 foot radius around the existing structure.

In effect, this noise permitting feature of Chapter 375.10 has the potential to take future use, enjoyment, or quality of life from a property whole, dependent of course on a number of factors regarding lot size, distance and noise engineering options exercised during a development.

For property rights advocates, of whom there are many in the State of Maine, this little understood feature of the State noise regulation may bring concern. Has the State circumvented the Fifth Amendent’s takings clause? What vulnerability to lawsuit and legal expenses do town officials personally face if they pass a noise ordinance that reaches inside someone’s property and by doing so degrade enjoyment and quality of life; rather than using the property line for noise limits, as is the norm? Are town officials prepared for the financial and emotional costs of legal battle?

There is an additional concern for property owners wishing to sell a portion of their land: it may become impossible to sell once that land is polluted by noise day and night. To whom do they turn to seek just compensation? The developer? The selectmen? The State? And how will they recover their legal costs if they take on such an arduous task as a compensation lawsuit? Are landowners prepared for the financial and emotional costs of legal battle?

These issues stand distinct (well not entirely distinct) from the problem that the Maine Chapter 375.10 noise regulation applies only to some developments (the Wind Facility in Freedom, Maine is a baffling “exemption”). Further, the sound limits in Chapter 375.10 are considered outdated, based on an urban noise pollution issue involving Merrill Transport in Portland, Maine in the late 1980s. The sound limits are inappropriately high for the 98 percent of Maine that is rural, and far too permissive given the comprehensive research on the health effects of noise pollution in the last few years.

It appears towns should think very carefully before adopting the approach voted in by the State Legislature in 1989.

Wind Turbines: No Bang For The Buck?

My rule of thumb is 60 acres per megawatt for wind farms on land.

— Tom Gray, Director of Communications and Outreach, American Wind Energy Assocation

There have been serious questions raised in Maine as to the costs and revenues of wind turbine facilities large and small. Actual financial performance apparently has not been revealed to any substantive extent. Not only is this rather baffling- wouldn’t the wind producers want people to know how well they are performing- but also, there would seem to be some requirement at least in the public arena for a degree of transparency in these matters. After all, a large percentage of the investment capital is coming from the taxpayers.

Perhaps the financial performance figures will remain cloistered until such time as public outcry forces these data into the open. However, it is simple now to evaluate wind turbine performance in terms of power rating versus land use, specifically, by evaluating output to land area affected by noise pollution for various power generation systems.

From a noise pollution viewpoint, an ideal power generation system is efficient, producing very little noise and vibration as waste by-products; or, it is a good neighbor, being quiet by design or incorporating noise controls to limit off-site noise pollution. For the same output, a wasteful design requires more land area or distance to reach a low enough noise level to be a good neighbor.

In the chart below, nuclear, fossil (coal, oil, natural gas) and wind turbines technologies are compared. It should be evident that the nuclear designs show by far the highest efficiencies, with the shortest distances and the largest outputs. Wind turbines on the other hand, appear to be by far the most inefficient from a noise pollution and land use standpoint, requiring substantial distances with meager power output compared to their nuclear and fossil counterparts.

Note: This chart was produced by scaling sound level versus distance for each power plant surveyed. No adjustments were made for plant capacity factors; with wind far lower than nuclear or fossil, we would expect increased vertical spread between wind and other technologies. Neither was adjustment made for tonal or short duration repetitive sound (SDRS) components as sound character data were not available for the nuclear and fossil units, only sound level in dBA at 1000 feet. Since nuclear and fossil plants tend to produce steady state noise, and wind turbines surveyed in Maine display tonal and SDRS components, one could expect that the nuclear and fossil plants require less distance to be good neighbors than shown on this chart. Thus both capacity factor and sound character would serve to increase the disparity in land use efficiency between wind and other plant designs.

Ocean Noise Pollution Can Lead Fish To Their Death

A recent compelling scientific study of the effects of noise pollution in the ocean yields yet another cautionary tale about further proliferation of wind turbine facilities in the world’s oceans. As outlined at Science Daily, the growing amount of human noise pollution in the ocean could lead fish away from good habitat and off to their death, according to new research from a UK-led team working on the Great Barrier Reef.

In earlier research, Dr Steve Simpson, Senior Researcher in the University of Bristol’s School of Biological Sciences discovered that baby reef fish use sounds made by fish, shrimps and sea urchins as a cue to find coral reefs. With human noise pollution from ships, wind farms and oil prospecting on the increase, he is now concerned that this crucial behaviour is coming under threat.

Fishing stocks in the Gulf of Maine have been devastated in the last five decades, and restoration will take time. Despite the apparent allure of distant offshore locations for reducing (with distance) the serious noise pollution large industrial wind turbines produce on land in Maine, credible studies such as this one point out how much we haven’t known about the effects of wind turbines in the nearby ocean.

It seems prudent to tread very carefully indeed in the Gulf of Maine, lest we lose what little we have left of our precious fishing stocks and fishing economy.

Noise Pollution and Compassion

“There is nothing amazing about being rich or highly educated; only when the individual has a warm heart do these attributes become worthwhile.” – The Dalai Lama

I have seen difficult or protracted noise pollution problems resolved, or moved toward resolution, when the noise producer recognized the impact caused by their operations, listened to or acknowledged those afflicted by their noise emissions, and from that awareness, worked to change the situation and prevent future occurrences.

When the noise polluter refuses to fully acknowledge the problems they create and refuses to listen to those they affect, the result is that suffering continues.

Pumps in Portland

Had a good visit today at a residential building in Portland with a noise problem; a team visit with Steve Ambrose, Member INCE (Brd. Cert.). The problem turned out to be clearly audible and persistent noise in the residential first floor from water circulation pumps that lacked vibration isolation located in the basement mechanical room. The impeller blade pass frequency and the pump “ringing” whine was clearly audible upstairs. Really didn’t have to do much in the way of analysis. A quick shot with the iPhone’s SignalScope application highlighted the blade pass frequency for confirmation in the mechanical room in the basement. Met some very nice people in the building, including the maintenance guy- good conversations and discussions about what an isolator looks like, where it would go (hangers mostly, lots of them!) and how to incorporate isolation in phases in the operating and maintenance budget. Now they have a preliminary plan and an idea of budget. Everybody walked away happy.

What things REALLY sound like

Part of my work with people (actually a very large part) is talking about, conversing about, listening to and understanding about, what things sound like. REALLY sound like. This can be an interesting process! And a very important process. Large and expensive conflicts can arise seemingly out of nowhere when people disagree about what things sound like and don’t take the time to understand (first) what the other person’s experience is about what something sounds like. I’ve been called in numerous times in my professional career to investigate and solve a noise problem that might have been preventable.

Now I understand that for some, large industrial wind turbines sound like- refrigerators. I’ve seen it over and over in the newspapers, press releases, and industry papers. Do large industrial wind turbines actually sound like refrigerators? Of course not. Not even close. Have folks impacted by wind turbine noise pollution, folks who can’t sleep, whose lives have been altered, who maybe had to abandon their home, have they been listened to, really sat down with and listened to and understood, by folks who think industrial wind turbines sound like refrigerators? –You’d have to sit down with and listen to the folks who think industrial wind turbines sound like refrigerators to get the answer to that one!

This web site documents in a light-hearted fashion how people often don’t understand what things really sound like, by looking at how sounds are portrayed in movies I believe people form and share collective consciousness about sound through shared experiences, and for many kinds of sound, I think one of the the most powerful shared experiences is watching movies. So this article is actually very informative about how powerful movie sound is and how we derive from movies what sounds are authentic. For those who haven’t heard it, the real eagle cry is, well.. talk about bursting a bubble. Enjoy!