Will Aussie Wind Noise Study Quiet Critics?

Wind power advocates in Australia are welcoming a study by a state agency that suggests that low-frequency noise from wind farms – the sounds said by some to be the source of a malady known as “wind turbine syndrome” – is no big deal.

The South Australia Environmental Protection Agency study [PDF] said the infrasound readings “at rural locations both near to and away from wind farms were no higher than infrasound levels measured at … urban locations.” Not only that, “the results at one of the houses near a wind farm are the lowest infrasound levels measured at any of the 11 locations included in this study.”

australia infrasound study

South Australia wind farm (image via Ian Sutton/Wikimedia Commons)

The Clean Energy Council, an Aussie renewables trade group, reacted with high fives (just guessing) and a press release.

“This is yet another clean bill of health for wind farms, which have been proven time and time again to cause no negative health impacts from noise,” Policy Director Russell Marsh said. “The results of the EPA’s report show that the real contributors to infrasound are things like air-conditioners, traffic and urban office environments – not wind farms. This is great news for clean and safe renewable wind energy and further reassurance for communities near wind farms.”

In a “context” summary [PDF] released after the study came out, the EPA did take pains to note that “testing has only been undertaken at two locations adjacent to wind farms and therefore general conclusions cannot be drawn based on these data alone.”

The agency said it will do more testing in April and May at four locations, all near the Waterloo Wind farm in the Clare Valley. Still, for now, the data is yet another blow to the idea that big wind is to be blamed for the a wide range of ailments lumped together by wind detractors as “wind turbine syndrome.”

A year ago, a Massachusetts-convened panel of medical and environmental health experts undertook a wide-ranging review of the research into the topic. It found little or no evidence to back up claims that low-frequency sounds from turbines harm the vestibular system, that turbine noise brings psychological distress or mental health problems, and that there is an association between turbine exposure and pain and stiffness, diabetes, high blood pressure, tinnitus, hearing impairment, cardiovascular disease and headache or migraine.

Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.

  • but they are very ugly…. no, it is a joke. I think. Wind turbines are giving us hope of a future. Another opportunity. Now we should keep the pace and be worried of the lobbies and their power and corruption.