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Individuals' Perception of Wind Farm Sounds

Dr Bob Thorne


Community noise exposure is commonly measured with a noise exposure measure. Noise exposure is the varying pattern of sound levels at a location over a defined time. The time is most often one day (short-term) or over weeks, months or a year (long-term).

The practical difficulty in locale measurements is that many of them are needed to describe a neighbourhood. It is customary, therefore, to use a suitable single-number evaluation for community neighbourhood noise exposure. Individuals, however, are different in their tolerance to specific sounds: there is a distinct—often short-term (measured in minutes)—duration/intensity relationship that varies depending on the character of the sound. There is no defined relationship that can predict when a noise is reasonable or unreasonable; for this to happen, the sound must be audible, intrusive and have a salience that causes an adverse response in the person listening.

This Paper discusses the differences between four distinct groups of people: one rural, one urban, and their responses to different sounds. The Paper may have application to wind farm developments in a wider context than Manawatu–Brisbane but its primary purpose is to highlight evidenced differences in human perception. The primary purpose of this Paper is to highlight evidenced differences in human perception.

The Manawatu–Brisbane Pilot Study

The Manawatu–Brisbane Pilot Study was established over 2007–2008 as a peer-reviewed study offered to respondents of an earlier survey investigating wind farm issues. A series of attitudinal and acoustical studies in the Manawatu and Brisbane to assess the differences between a rural population and an urban population regarding a specific set of sounds.

The Manawatu respondents were determined as being an ‘environmentally aware’ population. The group was chosen on the basis that this segment of the research required responses from persons who had an interest in their environment and who would be willing to answer a lengthy questionnaire. The occupational status of the Manawatu group was not identified. It was anticipated that the Manawatu group would exhibit a wide range of noise sensitivities as the group was drawn from different 'zones' within the Manawatu: wind-farm affected urban and/or rural locales, and 'green-fields' unaffected by wind farms.

A comparison group was selected in Brisbane...


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