Sunday, 13 December 2009

Windswept

I'm all in favour of wind farms, if they help prevent global warming. But it seems they're so noisy that people living close to them are going through hell.

The constant swishing and beating of the turbines is not only disturbing and distracting but prevents people sleeping. They're said to be as loud as helicopters, planes or express trains - and all day every day.

Jane Davis and her husband Julian have had to move out of their Lincolnshire home because of the racket. "On a bad night it's like three or four helicopters circling round" said Jane. She was getting only three hours sleep a night.

Ron Williams in Cumbria has to take sleeping pills and describes the turbine noise as "like a Chinese torture." Lynn Hancock in Cambridgeshire says it's like "a seven-ton lorry left running on the drive all night."

The government seems blithely unconcerned about the turbines' effect on people's health and well-being. They just want to get as many running as possible to increase their green credentials.

According to one report, they actually ignored a recommendation that the maximum decibel limit should be 33 and allowed a higher limit of 43.

How many MPs live near wind turbines and have first-hand experience of what they're like? I suspect none of them, which is why they're so indifferent. Perhaps some of them should visit the affected homes and see why the residents are so angry.

People living near airports already have to put up with worsening noise disturbance as the airports expand to allow more and more flights. Belfast City Airport is a case in point.

If people living close to wind turbines are now expected to put up with the same sort of daily background din, this is complacent officialdom at its worst. Either the noise-battered residents should be helped to relocate or the turbines themselves should be quietened down. Otherwise the whole idea of wind farms will take another hammering.

Pic: Jane and Julian Davis

28 comments:

Leah said...

Nick, I had no idea about this "side effect" of wind turbines. That sort of relentless noise can be absolutely harrowing. I agree it could completely destroy any quality of life. I wonder whether there will be proximity laws developed if more of these are built?

Nick said...

Leah - Proximity law is not a familiar term in the UK but having googled it I see how it's used in the States. A proximity law on wind turbines sounds a very sensible way of dealing with the problem.

Bunc said...

Nick - we have wind turbines not far from where we live - at the top of a hill overlooking the village.

I have never once heard them in the village. We have been up to where the windfarms are and you could only really hear them once you were within a few hundred metres. All this talk about noisy wind turbines is greatly exaggerated I think.


If there are individual homes so near that they can hear them then perhaps those individuals have cause for complaint.

My only complaint is that the villages nearest to where they site wind turbines should get some financial reward from them

Grannymar said...

I am with Bunc on this one. I have been to a wind farm and stood closer than the couple in the photograph. There was very little noise. There are inbuilt gears to slow them down and they do not work 24/7. How do I know? I look across the valley at 15 windmills.

There was louder humming coming from poles carrying old telephone cables.

Nick said...

Bunc - Interesting. Might the ones near you be quieter ones or smaller ones? It's hard to believe these guys in the story are imagining their severe distress. Wind turbines have got much larger in recent years, some are around 300 feet high. And maybe they are noisier if they are closer together?

Cash compensation for nearby villages? Good idea.

Grannymar - I know the turbines you're referring to, but I've only seen them from a distance. Perhaps the speed regulator makes them quieter?

e said...

Hello Nick,

You have a very interesting assortment of content on this blog. Unfortunately, I've no experience with this issue except for the fact that the U.S. isn't doing enough in the area of green technologies. If this noise issue were happening in the U.S., there would likely be some attempt to impose distance restrictions, a lawsuit from one of the parties or both.

It would be interesting to see if there is any shift from the government now that the issue of noise has been in the media?

Cinnamon said...

I had no idea there were that noisy. That's not acceptable, but as you say, government has its own agenda.

Los Angelista said...

Wow, really that noisy? Sounds like there has to be some way to make them produce less noise but still be of value. Sounds like the technology wizards need to put their thinking caps on.

Nick said...

e - As far as I know, the individuals mentioned aren't taking legal action, but there's a group called the Den Brook Judicial Review Group in Devon that's opposing a planned wind farm. They're the ones who discovered the recommended 33 decibels limit.

So far the noise issue has had little media coverage, but if the issue builds up the government will have to respond.

Cinnamon - Clearly, according to these four people, the noise can be horrendous. And I know there are similar complaints about noise in the States. It's odd that other people find the noise insignificant.

Liz - You're right, the techies need to sort this one out. In particular they need to work out why some turbines are unbearable while others are hardly noticed.

Liz said...

Can testify to noise problem from Belfast City Airport as I live near one of the flight paths. Would love to see more wind turbines being built out at sea, plus tidal power etc.

Nick said...

Liz - I keep a close eye on the endless friction between the airport and the residents. Ideally the International Airport 20 miles from Belfast would be the only one, but the City Airport is much more convenient.

Indeed, there should be more wind turbines out at sea. I gather they also generate more electricity.

Kate said...

This sort of thing can drive some people out of their minds. When my son was a baby the house we lived in was next to the main Leicester to London railway line - there was always one due every two minutes and I can honestly say that after a while I didn't hear them.

But when there was a rail strike - my son didn't sleep at all!!!

Nick said...

Kate - That's intriguing that your son didn't sleep when the noise stopped! I lived next to a railway line for my first 21 years and as you say, you just don't hear the trains after a while, your brain ignores them.

Wisewebwoman said...

I've investigated these, up close and personal, Nick as I wanted one for my property, I think the noise has been greatly exaggerated unless these are turbines without deacceleration. The ones I saw were very silent.
One of my major concerns were the numbers of birds that get killed and the ongoing maintenance can be daunting(and expensive).
XO
WWW

Nick said...

www - Presumably a personal turbine would be a lot smaller than a commercial one and therefore quieter? I've heard about the bird problem but I don't really know how serious it is and how many birds get killed.

Nick said...

www - I see that a typical domestic micro turbine has blades 1.75 metres long. There are commercial wind turbines in Texas with blades 45 metres (148 feet) long. I imagine they would be a hell of a lot noisier.

Baino said...

They're noisy but it's not a noise I mind frankly. It's quite rhythmic and relaxing. Also there's no reason why they can't be disabled at night.

Since they're planted in very windy places (or should be) the wind itself can be disturbing. What about getting creative and offering soundproofing to homes within earshot at a discounted or Government subsidised level?

Nick said...

Baino - Rhythmic and relaxing, eh? That sounds ideal, how did they manage that? Hah, try getting our stubborn government to do anything as helpful as soundproofing houses. They'll just claim it's not necessary and anyway can't be afforded because of the economic crisis.

Quickroute said...

I saw a lot of the turbines out west USA but not a house in sight for miles and miles - wouldn't fancy living anywhere near the monstrosities!

Nick said...

Quicky - It makes sense that there aren't any houses nearby. I don't understand how in the UK huge turbines can be built close to residential areas if there's the slightest chance of noise nuisance.

Rummuser said...

Nick, during my working days, I was instrumental in setting up a few wind mills in a cooperative wind farm to avail of the tax incentives and reduced tariff for electricity. I have been to a few wind farms. Either the windmills need proper maintenance or replacement, if their bearings are shot or if they are our of true. Otherwise, they are very quiet and in India as at March 09 we had 10,254 MW of electricity produced by wind power and there has been no complaint of this nature from anywhere. One of India's most successful public lts firms produces, instals, maintains and services many windmill farms and is considered to be a bluechip.

Nick said...

Ramana - Interesting point about proper maintenance and possible shot bearings. Also interesting that you've never heard of any similar noise complaints. I'm even more mystified as to why some turbines should be such a nuisance.

Hopefully some enterprising journalist will investigate the problem more thoroughly.

Thriftcriminal said...

Perhaps some manufacturers have quiet ones, while others have noisy ones. Might be the noisy ones are cheaper? I did see a program about a village that in exchange for allowing the wind farm to be built now owns one of the turbines, so they make money for the village by selling the 'lecky from their turbine to the grid, seemed innovative to me, They also had no noise issue.

Nick said...

Thrifty - Owning one of the turbines as compensation is a good idea. Though if there isn't any noise, it seems they don't even need compensation. Smart negotiating....

Bunc said...

Sorry to be a cycnic but I 'll bet you'll find that most complaints about noise are from folk who don't like winmdfarms and campaigned to stop them being built. The ones near us are huge but very quiet. As someone else ponted out when they are going fast enough to make much noise then the wind itself is strng and noisy.

Glad you enjoyed my "Scottish Exam Papers" post on my Scotlandthedamp blog Nick.

Nick said...

Bunc - You may be right, I just don't have enough information. As I said, I look forward to some journo probing a bit deeper.

Your Scottish posts are hilarious! I'd love to see your take on bagpipes (I can't stand them myself).

Bunc said...

aagh Bagpipes! - now that's a post I must do - I'll let you know when its ready!

Nick said...

Bunc - Can't wait!