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Good night's sleep under wind turbines

Some people would have us believe that wind turbines are noisy, even harmful to our health. I have slept under wind turbines many times, in a house 500m from turbines on another night, and in a cabin 850m from the nearest turbine of a wind farm on two more nights. I had no problems getting to sleep or staying asleep. Far from being annoying, I found the sounds – when I heard them – rhythmic and even relaxing.

Several wind farm opponents have argued, curiously, that turbines are more harmful at some considerable distance rather than close up, so I was unharmed because I was close to the turbines. This argument is baseless because, while I was close to one turbine, I was at various greater distances from many other turbines. (And, of course, it contradicts the dose-respons relationship between cause and effect.)

Written 2012/03/02, modified 2016/12/08
Contact: email daveclarkecb@yahoo.com

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Waterloo Wind Farm

 
Waterloo Wind Farm
Swag under turbine
My swag can be seen behind the car
The photo on the right shows my swag (behind the car) set up beneath one of the wind turbines at Waterloo Wind Farm on the evening of 2012/02/09. The turbine above my camp, and the other 36 at Waterloo – the majority of which were stretching away behind me when I took the photo – was operating most of the night; yet I had a perfectly good night's sleep and suffered absolutely no ill effects.

This wind farm is of particular interest in that it is one where there is a more organised opposition than most in Australia, with about six local people claiming major noise problems, and several of these being very active.

A few days later I slept 100m away from one of the other turbines at Waterloo. Again, a good night's sleep and no harm to my health.

When coming and going from the Waterloo Wind Farm I have made a point of calling into the township of Waterloo, which is three kilometres from the line of turbines. Although I have called about ten times I have yet to definitely hear the turbines from the town. A couple of my visits were in ideal conditions for hearing the turbines, with little, if any, breeze in the town, while the turbines were operating in a good breeze over the ridge. Just once I may have heard them; they were operating, there was no breeze in Waterloo, but the bird sounds were sufficient to make me unsure whether I could hear the turbines. Yet it is claimed by some opponents that houses have been abandoned in Waterloo due to intolerable noise from the turbines!

The Waterloo turbines are Vestas V90 3MW.

Clements Gap Wind Farm

 
Clements Gap Wind Farm
Sheep sheltering
Sheep using the shade of a turbine at Clements Gap Wind Farm. It was operating at the time.
Another good night's sleep was beneath one of the 27 turbines at Clements Gap Wind Farm. The turbines were operating on and off during the night.

The Clements Gap turbines are Suzlon S88 2.1MW.

Illnesses and injuries that have environmental causes, such as: nuclear radiation poisoning, ultra-violet exposure, microwave exposure from radar installations, heavy metal poisoning, exposure to carcinogens, snake and spider bite, hearing damage caused by loud noises, and poisoning in general show a dose-response relationship. The greater the dose or exposure, the more serious you can expect will be the illness or damage.

The dosage of anything radiating from a wind turbine would obey the inverse square law of physics. Put simply, if you are twice as far away as someone else, you would receive a quarter the dose that he or she would, and if you were three times as far away you would receive a ninth the dose, in any given period of time.

So by sleeping right under a wind turbine, I would be getting a huge dose of anything that the turbine would (hypothetically) be radiating; yet I was entirely unaffected. Also see Is your car making you ill?
 
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Starfish Hill Wind Farm

 
Starfish Hill Wind farm
Starfish Hill wind turbine
One of the Starfish Hill turbine
The first night I slept under wind turbines was 2007/03/14 when I slept at Starfish Hill Wind Farm.

We are told that people have differing susceptibilities to the allegedly evil, noxious and malevolent forces that radiate from wind turbines. We are told that susceptible people can be made ill a kilometre or more from a wind turbine.

 

Calculation

1km = 1000m; 1000 × 1000 = 1 000 000; 80 × 80 = 6400; 1 000 000 / 6400 = 156
By the inverse square law I, at 80m from the turbine head, would be getting more than a hundred times the dose that someone else at 1km would be getting. (Also, the sound where I was would be more than a hundred times as loud.)

Yet I had a good night's sleep and was entirely unharmed! We can believe some variation in susceptibility, but isn't it hard to believe that some people are more than one hundred times as susceptible as others? We don't see anywhere near such variation in susceptibility to any of the other environmental illnesses or injuries listed above.

If we were to believe the claims of (ex Dr) Sarah Laurie we would have to believe that some people are becoming ill while receiving one ten-thousandth the 'dose' 'received by' wind farm workers, who are inexplicably immune.

Toora Wind Farm

 
Toora Wind Farm
cattle and turbine
Young cattle grazing peacefully beneath operating wind turbines
My wife and I slept two nights in a cabin at the Toora Caravan Park in April 2008 within 850m of the nearest of the 12 Toora wind turbines. We could sometimes hear the turbines outside the cabin, but not from inside, and we certainly had no problems from them.

It seems, from these photos, that sheep and cattle don't have any problems either.

Opportunity to test living near turbines

The Toora Tourist Park is the only place I know of in Australia where the general public can conveniently park their caravan on a powered site, with all the usual facilities, or stay a night or two in a cabin, close to a wind farm. Anyone who is interested in learning the facts about 'noise from wind turbines' might consider a visit.
 
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North Brown Hill Wind Farm

 
North Brown Hill Wind Farm
Moon and turbine
Crescent moon behind turbine in early evening 2012/04/29
On the night of 2012/04/29 I slept in my swag about 300m from one of the North Brown Hill turbines.

There was a light breeze all night and whenever I woke through the night I could hear that the turbine nearest me was operating. It did not disturb my sleep, and I did not have any trouble getting to sleep, either when I first got into my swag or after waking through the night.

I got into my swag about 2000hrs (8pm) because the evening was cold and I had little else to do. When sleeping in a swag I don't sleep so soundly as when in my normal bed – this is mainly because I don't often sleep in a swag. I probably woke about five times through the night and was finally woken by daylight at around 0545. I would have had well over eight hour's sleep all together.

I measured the sound level from nearest turbine at 43 and 45dB(A) in the evening and morning, respectively. (I could hardly hear any other turbines, due to the greater sound from the nearer one, once again making nonsense of the claim from some anti-wind power people that turbines can be louder at a distance than up close).

 
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In the morning, while the nearer turbine continued to rotate, I noticed that quite a few others were not turning.

In other parts of the wind farm I noticed sheep very close to turbines, and to judge by the number of sheep droppings near the nearby turbine, sheep often camp there. Again demonstrating that livestock are not afraid of wind turbines.

Leonards Hill Wind Farm

 
Hepburn turbines
Hepburn Community Wind Farm, evening of 2012/11/17
I slept in an old house about 500m from one of the turbines of the Hepburn Wind Farm (also known as Leonards Hill) on the night of 2012/11/17-18. There was sufficient breeze on the hill to keep the turbines operating all night. It was calm and quiet at the house. I could hear the turbines when I was outside, but not a thing inside – apart from occasional road traffic.

Again, a perfectly satisfactory night's sleep.

Waterloo again

 
Waterloo turbines and campsite
Evening of 2013/05/28
On the night of 2013/05/28, Mark Parnell (Greens MP for SA), Daniel Spencer, Leonora Herweijer and I (the latter three all being participants in the Walk for Solar Power – Port Augusta to Adelaide, September 2012) slept under the turbines at Waterloo Wind Farm.

Mark had a meeting with some people who objected to the Waterloo Wind Farm in the afternoon before the sleep-over. I believe he visited one or more of the houses that the wind farm opponents claim have been abandoned due to noise from the turbines.

Mark is more generous than I am in that he keeps a very open mind to the claims by the opponents. After having visited the township of Waterloo around ten times, listening for noise from the turbines and hearing nothing, I'm more inclined to think that the opponents are suffering from over-active imaginations.

Getting back to the night beneath the turbines, it was quite breezy, with the turbines operating all night and averaging about 60% of their 3MW installed capacity in the early hours of the morning. At this time the sound that I was hearing was very similar to the sound that would be heard from a considerably stronger wind and no turbines, or the sound of heavy surf on a beach.

Of course we all had a good night's sleep. (Mark's tent partly blew down – a windy ridge is not an ideal camp site). I hardly need say that none of us suffered any ill effects from the experience.

 
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Mark is a member of a Parliamentary Select Committee for Wind Farm Developments in South Australia, together with Ann Bressington, Robert Brokenshire, David Ridgway (Chairman) and Russell Wortley.

An impartial observer would probably think that Mark should be congratulated for taking the trouble to experience a night out among wind turbines, but David Ridgway, a noted wind power opponent and a man not greatly concerned with the facts, claimed it to be a political stunt. Interestingly Mr Ridgway slept in one of the houses that have been claimed to have been abandoned due to noise from the same wind farm on the night of 2013/07/17. It seems that Mr Ridgway believes this is not a stunt; does the reader see a contradiction here?

 

Ketan Joshi's take

Ketan wrote an insightful piece on this. It includes some good graphics.
For the record, this was the sixth time that I had slept in the open near or under the turbines of a wind farm. I have also slept in an old house within a couple of hundred metres of the Leonards Hill turbines and two nights in a cabin at Toora, about 800m from the Toora turbines. I had no trouble sleeping on any of these occasions; if anything, I found the sound from the turbines restful. Of course I suffered no health affects at all.

Matthew Abraham and David Bevan, ABC radio

Abraham and Bevan did a segment on this which can be heard on Breakfast Reloaded.

 

Inverse square law

Not only is sound attenuated with distance due to absorption of some of the sound energy by the air (about 5dBA per kilometre), but sound intensity also declines with distance according to the inverse square law of physics. According to the inverse square law the intensity of a sound emanating from a point source will be 10 000 times weaker at 17km than at 170m, even before accounting for air-attenuation. (100 times the distance, 100×100, one 10 000th the energy).

Bob from Bradey Creek, 10km from the turbines, would have a sound intensity from each turbine about one 2500th that which we would have experienced at about 200m, before accounting for air-attenuation and the intervening Tothill Range.

Multiplying by 37 (the number of turbines) gives one 270th the sound energy at Ms Morris' 17km and one 68th for Tom from Bradey Creek (before losses due to attenuation and intervening objects).

Mary Morris, probably the most vocal opponent of the Waterloo Wind Farm, said on this program that she lives 17km from the turbines, but when her children get headaches and earaches she blames them on the turbines.

David Ridgway was also interviewed. It seems that he thinks that the sound is somehow going to be very different and more harmful in an abandoned house several kilometres from a wind turbine than right among them. Perhaps he should look into sound attenuation and, particularly, the inverse square law of physics?

'Bob from Bradey Creek' was also briefly interviewed. He said he was 10km away, but "I can hear them now". It happens that the Tothill range of hills, higher than the range that the turbines are on, lies between the wind farm and Bradey Creek. As mentioned above, I have visited the town of Waterloo, three kilometres from the turbines with a clear line of sight from town to turbines, around ten times now. I have never heard the Waterloo wind turbines from Waterloo township. It is quite impossible that Bob could hear them at ten kilometres on the far side of the Tothill Range.

Sleep-over in abandoned house, night of 2013/07/17-18

Mr Ridgway, Mr Parnell and Russell Wortley, all being members of the South Australian Parliamentary Select Committee on for wind power, slept one night in an abandoned house about 2km from the turbines of the Waterloo Wind Farm.

Mr Ridgway, a noted wind power opponent was quoted by the ABC as saying:

"I couldn't really hear any distinctive noise that I could say was coming from the wind farm".

and

"At times we thought we could hear something when we were standing outside and I just spent the last hour or so lying in bed listening hard, but the wind is in the wrong direction so it's blowing the noise away from us."
Mr Parnell said that the wind was blowing directly toward them from the wind farm early in the night, but, perhaps not surprisingly, Mr Ridgway did not mention this.

A short segment by 9 News is on U Tube. It was stated on the segment that the house is two kilometres from the turbines. Bob Lamb and Ally Fricker also featured on the video clip. They live eight or nine kilometres east of the wind farm, on the far side of the Totthill Range of hills are have long opposed wind farms. Ms Fricker said that "they [the turbines] were incredibly noisy at our place last night as a matter of fact". Can the reader believe that? The turbines were inaudible 2km away, yet were "incredibly noisy" 8km away on the far side of a high range of hills?

Tom Richardson, of the InDaily, wrote a piece on the sleep-over. He wrote "Personally, I couldn't hear a thing above the snoring resonating from the rooms around me."






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Clements Gap
Leonards Hill
North Brown Hill
Opportunity to test living near turbines
Abandoned house
Starfish Hill
Toora
Waterloo
Waterloo again
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