August 5, 2005

Low-frequency vibrations from wind turbines

The previous post, "The noise of a wind turbine," noted the very loud figure of 105 dBA 415 feet from the Clipper 2.5-MW model. The "A" in the unit designates that the measurement is weighted to the normal range of human hearing. A more serious problem may be low-frequency noise and vibrations that aren't measured in the dBA scale but have a profoundly debilitating effect on many people.

As reported in the Telegraph (U.K.) (January 25, 2004), a doctor in England had noticed that many people who lived near a 16-turbine facility in --- were complaining of migraines and sleep problems. She made a survey and found that 13 of 14 people who lived within 1 mile of the turbines complained of increased headaches, and 10 reported sleep problems and anxiety that started with the installation of the wind power facility two years before. Other complaints included nausea, dizziness, palpitations, stress, and depression. She is currently conducting a more scientific study of the phenonemon.

Another doctor presented a paper to the Royal College of Practitioners about a "marked" increase in depression among people in a northern Wales village where three turbines were erected in 2002. She said the cause is low-frequency noise that is felt rather than heard.

There are many reports of people who get dizzy and nauseous while they work near wind facilities, and the symptoms disappear immediately upon their leaving the site. People also report that windows in their houses often shake from the low-frequency sound waves from wind turbines. It was noted by a frequent visitor to Backbone Mountain in West Virginia that after the wind turbines went up, there was no longer any sign of wildlife where before it was teeming. That writer also noted, "the noise was incredible. ... It sounded like airplanes or helicopters. And it traveled. Sometimes, you could not hear the sound standing right under one, but you heard it 3,000 yards down the hill."

The Scotsman reported today ("Wind-farm noise rules 'dated'," August 5, 2005) that a study of the Dunlaw wind facility (26 660-KW turbines), which began operating in June 2000, found that infrasound and low-frequency vibrations as the turbines started to turn in low wind could be detected 10 km (6.2 miles) away.

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