Environmental news from California and beyond

« Previous | Greenspace Home | Next »

Wind turbine noise is not a health risk, says trade group report

Turbine The American Wind Energy Assn., the country’s main wind-power trade group, released a report today that said  the sounds generated by wind turbines were not a health risk.

The report argues that the levels and frequencies of the noise are no more significant than those normally present in cities or other urban environments.

A panel of medical doctors, audiologists and acoustical professionals from the U.S., Canada, Denmark and the U.K. brought together by the association and the Canadian Wind Energy Assn. concluded that “annoyance is not a pathological entity.”

For more than 30 years, the “vast majority” of the people living near the more than 50,000 European wind turbines and more than 30,000 North American turbines have had a “positive experience,” according to the report.

“There is no evidence that the sounds, nor the sub-audible vibrations, emitted by wind turbines have any direct physiological effects on humans,” said Dr. Robert J. McCunney, an occupations and environmental medicine physician and research scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who co-authored the study.

But critics of wind-turbine sound are adamant that it causes a variety of ills.

According to one fact sheet, about 20% of wind farms tend to generate noise complaints.

In a self-published book, New York pediatrician Dr. Nina Pierpont says “wind turbine syndrome” leads to symptoms including disturbed sleep, headaches, tinnitus, dizziness, vertigo, nausea, blurred vision, rapid heart rate,  irritability, concentration and memory problems and panic episodes.

According to the book, Pierpont interviewed 10 families, or 38 people, living near 1.5- to 3-megawatt wind turbines built since 2004. The symptoms appeared once the turbines began running but would disappear if the subjects left home, according to the book. Eight of the families eventually moved away.

-- Tiffany Hsu

Photo: Turbines near the Altamont Pass, east of San Francisco Bay. Credit: Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times

Comments () | Archives (9)

The comments to this entry are closed.

This study is one of several useful overviews of wind farm noise released in 2009. It found no evidence of DIRECT health effects from noise exposure near wind farms, which is unsurprising since noise levels are moderate. However, it nearly completely omitted any consideration of sleep disruption, which is likely to be the direct effect that CAN sometimes be severe enough to lead to related health effects. See an assessment of this, with links to other recent studies on night noise issues from WHO and others, at

The noise issues near wind farms is complicated by the well-known individual variability in sensitivity to noise. Well-designed surveys seem to indicate that while a majority of those who can hear turbines from their homes are not particularly bothered, a significant minority can be quite severely disrupted. Nearly all serious problems occur when turbines are within a half mile (though again, among a minority of these neighbors); virtually no major impacts appear to occur beyond a mile. Ongoing relatively non-adversarial coverage is available at the link in the header.

One thing the wind industry study doesn't mention is that the people who live closest to wind turbines, i.e., those who lease their land for them, are generally bound by gag orders to keep quiet about any problems. Many neighbors also get paid "forebearance easements" with the same prohibition against going public.

And contrary to the report's effort to insist on its lay meaning, "annoyance" is indeed a term used in the noise and public health realm to indicate a threat to health.

They should ashame to publish this. This is paid advertisement from a lobby. If they employed actual reporters who weren't blind to what are happening to people. Look at to see the hundreds of people who can't sleep, are bought out of their house by big wind operators. If it doesn't bother people, why do they but their houses. Wind energy is really bad when they squeeze these huge 400 foot helicopter like machines right next to peoples houses. They are breaking numerous health codes, but they are currently the golden child. Get informed and then read this blatant joke of an article. This is like an oil company saying oil spills don't hurt wildlife.

dripping water on the forehead also does no physiological harm to humans, yet it has been an effective method of torture for centuries, eventually driving the recipient totally insane.

Big Wind is a TOTAL BOONDOGGLE. It is totally inefficient (the turbines blighting the Palm Springs area produce at a mere 15-19% of capacity!). It is so destructive (it requires full road systems to every turbine, and massive substations which are never shown in the soft-focus, falsified "renderings" used to depict these industrial eyesores, 33 cement trucks full for each turbine -so there goes any GHG offsets! - huge amounts of steel, bulldozers, herbicides and usually dynamite). It also destroys 50 acres for each MW of power generated, and since it usually produces at off-peak, erratic, unreliable times, requires full backup gas generators and produces low-value power.

We need rooftop solar and we need it now. Point of use solar destroys no wilderness, tortures no humans or animals, emits no sound, GHGs or light flickering, works when power is needed most, and increases reliability and security of the grid, while reducing grid loads. Plus, it is democratically owned, creates more jobs, and improves property values - a TOTAL WIN. Southern CA cities can easily produce more than 100% of peak load from existing rooftops, and close to 100% of total electricity usage (provided that storage solutions come online, which they will), so why are we destroying millions of acres of wilderness for private industrial profits?

And more importantly, where are our AB 811 loans and feed in tariffs so we can stop destroying our open spaces and quality of life, and start directly participating in the clean energy economy as more than suckers? Villaraigosa and Schwarzenegger are both grandstanding in Copenhagen while we are behind countries like Malaysia and Albania in implementing effective compensation programs for producing more clean power than we use - what's wrong with this picture?

This study answers one of the consistent challenges to wind projects. The American and Canadian industry associations were right to commission the study: which confirms there are no medical dangers with wind energy, just the need to control turbine noise during key hours.

If you’re interested in wind energy, check out It has hundreds of case studies on emerging green technology and wind farns. It's also the largest b2b green directory on the web.

1. Ambient background noise is much lower in rural USA where these turbines are going up, than in urban areas. The conclusion is misleading and based on a faulty, irrelevant comparison.

2. How "near" is this vast majority? I suspect the referenced experience includes an irrelevantly large sample of comments from distant observers, to dilute the experience of those living within a mile or two who CAN hear and feel the whooshing, thumping effects, as described by Dr. Pierpont and hundreds of nearby residents. Observing a forest fire can be fascinating too, but ask anyone who survived being in the middle of one, if you want a relevant opinion.

3. I have heard that many noise complaints are settled with "neighbor agreement" payments, which require confidentiality, etc. 20%? More bad data.

4. Who do they think they are fooling?

5. See a relevant study and summary of numerous other studies that prove the industry paid report is bunch of BS, here:

Who's bread I eat, who's wine I drink, who's song I sing. How many doc's did they interview before they were able to assemble this group of charlatans, cannibals and witch doctors?

Perhaps you should see the uk report:

Civil servants have suppressed warnings that wind turbines can generate noise damaging people’s health for several square miles around.

The guidance from consultants indicated that the sound level permitted from spinning blades and gearboxes had been set so high — 43 decibels — that local people could be disturbed whenever the wind blew hard. The noise was also thought likely to disrupt sleep.

The report said the best way to protect locals was to cut the maximum permitted noise to 38 decibels, or 33 decibels if the machines created discernible “beating” noises as they spun.

It has now emerged that officials removed the warnings from the draft report in 2006 by Hayes McKenzie Partnership (HMP), the consultants. The final version made no mention of them.

Need I say more!!!
Sue Margetson - UK

"No evidence of wind turbine noise"

You may be interested in the articles this week in UK nationals about how the British Government commissioned a noise firm (Hayes McKenzie Partners) to investigate this, when told thereWAS a problem they didn't like it so just suppressed it!

This "research" is an academic exercise designed to achieve a predetermined result.

The wind industry is determined to cover up anything that might require it to modify its practice to protect people who live (too) near wind turbines.

The article below for the UK Sunday Times last week underscores the immorality of industry and government collusion on this issue.

The academics who have joined in the collusion here should hang their heads in shame as they know what they are doing.


Recommended on Facebook


In Case You Missed It...


Recent News
Invitation to connect on LinkedIn |  December 12, 2013, 9:58 am »
New Cook Islands Shark Sanctuary proposed |  December 8, 2011, 8:00 am »