Thorne, R. Victorian Wind Farm Review Updated June 2014
The Perception and Effect of Wind Farm Noise At Two Victorian Wind Farms
An Objective Assessment June 2012
Reissued June 2014
Dr Robert Thorne, PhD, MS, FRSPH, MIOA, MAAS
Noise Measurement Services
This Report is part of a research program commenced in 2003 – 2005 into the human perception of low amplitude intrusive noise.
The objective of this Report is to respond to a request from a number of families living or working near wind farms in Victoria for an independent impartial wind farm noise assessment and is a follow-up to the 2009 – 2010 reports for Mr and Mrs N. Dean with respect to the Waubra wind farm. At the time concerns about wind farm noise were raised by local residents and are recorded in evidence before planning hearings in 2010 and the 2011 Senate Inquiry into the social and economic impact of rural wind farms.
The current study consists of formal objective measurement tools for quality of life, sleep disturbance, noise sensitivity, environmental amenity and sound character analysis; as well as standard measures for sound levels, sound quality and (special) audible characteristics including amplitude modulation and tonality. The confidential acoustical, attitudinal survey data and human perception analysis is summarised in this Report following professional peer-review.
Two wind farm locales (Waubra, Cape Bridgewater) and one ‘green-fields’ location (Berrybank) were surveyed. Persons affected live between 700 metres to a distance of around 3500 metres from the turbines, with an ‘average’ of 1400 metres. Residents participating in this study record considerable stress and identifiable adverse health effects due to wind farm noise.
It is not within the scope of the Report to determine compliance or non-compliance with respective wind farm development approvals; this is the task solely of the Minister for Planning. It is not within the scope of the Report and author to discuss these initial findings with any party other than the respondents and the peer reviewers.
Report Format and Limitations
The format of this Report is in summary form; discussion as to cause and effect has been canvassed previously in evidence by the author before the Environment Court New Zealand (Turitea wind farm application) and VCAT Victoria (Berrybank, Moorabool, Mortlake, Stockyard Hill, The Sisters wind farm applications) as well as the 2011 Senate Inquiry into the social and economic impact of rural wind farms. The contents of this Report are confined to:
- Wind Farm Sound – A summary discussion of noise measurement methods, levels recorded and assessments made;
- Health and Perception – A summary discussion of methods for quality of life assessments and adverse health effects recorded;
- Sound from the Waubra wind farm, when measured at residence 2 (Lobbs Road), exceeds the night-time criteria and is therefore assessed as being non-compliant on a frequent and regular basis with or without the special audible characteristics penalty applied under NZS6808.
- Based on the results of the study it can be argued that, when exposed to wind farm noise and wind turbine generated air pressure variations, some will more likely than not be so affected that there is serious harm (also termed ‘significant adverse effect’) to health. By ‘serious harm’ it is meant harm that is more than mere annoyance and that can be quantified in terms of reported illness, sleep disturbance or other physical effect. A measure of serious harm is if the exposed individual is adversely affected to the extent that he or she is obliged to remove themselves from the exposure in order to mitigate the harm.
- The technical outcome of the report is to emphasise the need for, and practicality of, the 2km setback that the Minister has implemented for new wind farms.
- It is recommended that the 2 km setback be implemented at Waubra, Cape Bridgewater and other existing wind farms.