Monday, March 22, 2010

Wind Noise

I am, of course, quite concerned about noise issues related to wind turbines. As everyone who knows me knows, I am quite intolerant of noise.

A wind power acquaintance from Buffalo, Dave Bradley, sent me the following links "proving" that wind turbine noise is not a problem, so I thought I would pass them along. Dave very kindly showed me some possible sites for NH3 production at abandoned industrial locations. His idea is to generate NH3 from inexpensive electricity from Niagara Falls, then use the excess heat from production to keep greenhouses warm (and fertilized). The green house proposal would generate a lot of local jobs and produce food locally all winter. His blog is at I stopped in Buffalo on my way to Detroit to work on NH3 engines.

This whitepaper is a quite good explanation of the technology and science behind measuring noise from wind turbines. Interestingly the most bothersome noise tends to be when the wind is quiet, i.e., below 10 mph. However, wind turbines do not begin making noise until there is enough wind to start spinning, typically about 6 - 8 mph. There is very little background noise at low wind speeds, so the noise of the turbine is more apparent. At higher wind speeds, the ambient wind increases and masks the sound. By 30 mph, this report says that perceptible turbine noise disappears, even close by. Seems like a reasonable approach to minimize noise would be not let the turbines spin until the wind is over 10 mph. Not much power is produced at low wind speeds, anyway.

This noise report is an engineering study of a proposed wind farm in upstate NY. A brief review on Google does not show any widespread opposition. The report, like most engineering reports, measures wind speed in meters per second. One meter per second equals 2.24 miles per hour, so 3 m/s is 6.7 mph. This is rather dry reading, and it does not convince me of anything except that the developers spent some money on a report. I have no idea if this wind farm studied is/will be noisy. Let me know your thoughts.

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