Visit Wales Now

Visit Wales and see some dramatic changes to the landscape

Experience the peace and tranquillity of the Welsh countryside

  Wind turbines are noisy, so donít be surprised if the peace and tranquillity you were expecting to experience in the Welsh hills is disturbed by the whooshing noise of turbines.

To experience the sound of a small (76 metre) turbine, click here.

This may take a few seconds to download.

 Why are wind turbines noisy?

Wind turbines are big machines so they are bound to be somewhat noisy. The noise from the mechanical gearing system of a turbine can be quietened to a limited extent. But the major noise nuisance is the low-frequency, penetrating sound that is emitted when the rotating blades pass the turbine tower. So far there has been no success in eliminating this low-frequency noise, and it can continue day and night for extended periods.

  What is low-frequency noise?

Low-frequency noise has been compared to the low thud of base notes from loud music, or the sound of a helicopter at a distance. This type of noise is sometimes inaudible; however, because it is ground borne, low-frequency noise tends to be felt through vibrations, which can resonate with the human body. Some people find these low- frequency vibrations very disturbing, causing headaches, dizziness and sleeplessness.

  How far will turbine noise travel?

The distance travelled varies with the wind conditions and the terrain. Residents living more than a mile away from a wind turbine have complained of the noise. The low-frequency noise travels further than the audible noise, up to several miles. For some people this type of penetrating noise is very disturbing; others feel no effects from low-frequency noise. Itís a chance youíll have to take as you travel through Wales.  

Italian wind farm diary

Mrs Gail Mair lives in the hilly landscape of Tuscany, Italy. In November 2006, ten wind turbines built by Gamesa went on line near Mrs Mairís home. The nearest turbine is 850 metres (2789 feet) from Mrs Mairís house.

Each of the 2-megawatt turbines is the G87 model: hub height 78 metres (256 feet); rotor blade 43.5 metres (143 feet); total height 121.5 metres (400 feet).

The Gamesa website has this to say about the G87:

Aerodynamic blade tip and mechanical component design minimize noise emissions. In addition, Gamesa has developed the Gamesa NRSTM noise control system, which permits programming the noise emissions according to criteria such as date, time or wind direction. This achieves the goals of local regulation compliance as well as maximum production.

Quite a rosy picture. But the reality of turbine noise has been quite different for Mrs Mair and her husband. In 2007, Mrs Mair kept a diary of her daily experience of living near a wind turbine. It is a chilling first-hand account of the effects of wind-turbine noise.

Click here to read Gail's diary (pdf format).

    Is the low-frequency noise a health hazard?

Dr Nina Pierpont in the USA has done substantial research into the health hazards caused by wind turbines. Wind Turbine Syndrome is the clinical name she has given to the constellation of symptoms experienced by many (though not all) people who find themselves living near industrial wind turbines: sleep problems (insomnia), headaches, dizziness, unsteadiness, nausea, exhaustion, anxiety, anger, irritability, depression, memory loss, eye problems, problems with concentration and learning, tinnitus (ringing in the ears).

As industrial wind plants proliferate close to peopleís homes and anywhere else people regularly congregate (schools, nursing homes, places of business, etc.), Wind Turbine Syndrome will likely become an industrial plague.

- Click here for more information on wind turbine syndrome  and to download a pre-publication copy of Dr. Pierpont's new book on the subject from her website, click here (the copy is in Adobe Acrobat format - 2.85MB).

Other research work done in Portugal, published in May 2007, shows there is a clear health risk to people living near wind turbines to a condition they have called Vibro-Acoustic Disease (VAD). This research suggests prolonged exposure to infrasound and low-frequency noise can result in damage to the brain, heart and lungs.

- Click here to download the research press release (PDF file) and the research work (MS Word file) done so far

In February 2007 a report was published by Barbara J Frey and Peter J Hadden on "Noise radiation from wind turbines installed near homes: effects on health", see www.windturbinenoisehealthhumanrights.com. This report includes an annotated review of the research and related issues, as well as comments from some of the families affected by wind turbines.

The review concludes that a safe buffer zone of at least 2km should exist between family dwellings and industrial wind turbines of up to 2MW installed capacity, with greater separation for a wind turbine greater than 2MW installed capacity.

Click here to download a copy of the report (PDF file, 986KB).

SHWAG (Seamer and Hilton Windfarm Action Group) an action group in the northeast of England near Middlesborough published a report in January 2009 describing many of the risks to the general public from wind turbines including noise, light flicker and the growing number of accidents worldwide involving giant turbines catching fire, shedding blades or parts of blades and throwing large ice lumps.

Click here to download a copy of their report in MSWord format.

 

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