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Noise from Wind Turbines

Dr Bob Thorne

Audible Sound and Noise

Wind farms and wind turbines are a unique source of sound and noise. The noise generation from a wind farm is like no other noise source or set of noise sources. The sounds are often of low amplitude (volume or loudness) and are constantly shifting in character ("waves on beach", "rumble/thump", "plane never landing" etc). People who are not exposed to the sounds of a wind farm find it very difficult to understand the problems of people who do live near to wind farms. Some people who live near wind farms are disturbed by the sounds of the farms, others are not. In some cases adverse health effects are reported, in other cases such effects do not appear evident. Thus wind farm noise is not like, for example, traffic noise or the continuous hum from plant and machinery.

Audible noise from modern wind turbines is primarily due to infrasound, turbulent flow and trailing edge sound. Sound character relates to blade characteristics and blade/tower interaction and can be grouped into 4 main bands. The sound can be characterised as being impulsive and broadband, audible and inaudible (infrasonic):

Not all these frequencies can be heard by a person with 'normal' hearing as hearing response is unique to an individual and is age-dependent as well as work and living environment-dependent. It is important to note that infrasound can be 'audible' to people with sensitive hearing.

Technically, wind turbines in Australia and New Zealand can be classed as 'upwind turbines' where the blades are upwind of the tower. As explained by Hubbard and Shepherd, the noise is created by the blade’s interaction with the aerodynamic wake of the tower[140]: “As each blade traverses the tower wake, it experiences short-duration load fluctuations caused by the velocity deficiency in the wake. The acoustic pulses are of short duration and vary in amplitude as a function of time...


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