Wind turbines are one of our sources of clean renewable energy. However, some people who live nearby complain that the repetitive shadow flicker, the audible sounds and the sound pressure levels are ‘annoying’. They claim that this negatively impacts their quality of life
Researchers from the University of Toronto and Ramboll, an engineering company that funds the work, investigated how residential distance from the wind turbines affects people’s health. The residential distance studies was within a range of 600 meters (1,968.5 feet) to 10 kilometers (6.2 miles).
The team reanalyzed data collected for the “Community Noise and Health Study” from the month of May to Sept 2013 by Statistics Canada, the national statistical office. The team has reported their new analysis in the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America.
“The Community Noise and Health Study generated data useful for studying the relationship between wind turbine exposures and human health — including annoyance and sleep disturbances,” says Rebecca Barry, an author on the paper. “Their original results examined modeled wind turbine noise based on a variety of factors — source sound power, distance, topography and meteorology, among others.”
The new assessment has confirmed the initial findings of Statistics Canada. “Respondents who live in areas with higher levels of modeled sound values (40 to 46 decibels) reported more annoyance than respondents in areas with lower levels of modeled sound values (<25 dB),” Barry said. The survey’s respondents who live closer to the turbines “were more likely to report being annoyed than respondents who live further away.”
The earlier Statistics Canada study didn’t find any direct link between the residents’ distance from wind turbines and sleep disturbances (as measured by sleep assessments and the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index), blood pressure, or stress. However, the new study showed that the survey respondents that lived closer to the wind turbines reported lower ratings for their environmental quality of life. The authors of the study note that their cross-sectional study can’t distinguish whether these respondents were dissatisfied before the wind turbines were installed.
“Wind turbines might have been placed in locations where residents were already concerned about their environmental quality of life,” said Sandra Sulsky, a researcher from Ramboll. “Also, as is the case with all surveys, the respondents who chose to participate may have viewpoints or experiences that differ from those who chose not to participate. Survey respondents may have participated precisely to express their dissatisfaction, while those who did not participate might not have concerns about the turbines.
The research team’s more recent study weren’t able to explicitly find evidence that exposure to wind turbines actually impacts human health, but in the future, according to Sulsky, “measuring the population’s perceptions and concerns before and after turbine installation may help to clarify what effects — if any — exposure to wind turbines may have on quality of life,”