Wind Power: Invisible Emissions
Any body who’s ever felt the approach of a train before they even heard it, or who’s heard the distant rumble of thunder (from lightning they can’t even see), can easily grasp how the persistent power of low-frequency energy/sound can travel for surprisingly long distances. This physical fact is at the root of a growing issue with Wind Power. Unfortunately, this is also an unpopular subject for discussion because it invokes images of hypochondria, psychosomatic symptoms and other prejudices about mental health, as well as the worst kind of self-serving NIMBYism.
More importantly, many us who seek clean, renewable energy options are often all too eager to dismiss any rational discussions around issues that might seem critical of wind power, in our zeal to follow a more direct path towards self-actualized sustainability.
Yet those are still aren’t valid reasons to avoid addressing the realities of wind-generated power, while searching for better solutions as a result. Even amidst the rush to ‘Green’ Ontario’s power grid through the the most politically expedient, yet possibly short-sighted methods possible, there are still issues that need to be addressed. At the very least, the results of pushing ahead with green plans at all costs will surely become more clear in hindsight.
Just the Facts
The fact is…Wind powered turbines and generators are inherently predisposed to producing a considerable amount of turbulence and wasted mechanical energy and these byproducts escape as heat and environmental sound pollution. Leaving aside the unique maintenance issues presented by accessing oil and bearing housings held in many separate locations high above ground level, let’s pause to at least consider the effects of un-remitting low frequency sound which are only now starting to yield their unexpected results…Please keep in mind that this is a well-meant exercise because nobody will seek solutions to issues if they are still too busy trying to deny the existence of a problem.
What’s that sound?
Fact. Wind turbines generate sound that can travel long distances. If your home became constantly filled with a barely perceptible hum you might start to think that (by comparison) the sound of a clearly audible dripping faucet would be comfortingly audible and clear, rather than reminding you of some evilly inspired subconscious torture method designed to slowly and inexorably drive you mad…Eventually. The solutions to this depend upon coming up with entirely new blade and mechanical designs and damping mechanisms. The alternative is to place turbines well-offshore, and lay underwater power distribution…Which puts offshore wind into an extremely expensive cost/yield bracket both for installation and maintenance, and greatly distorts the true value of such green energy, while funneling subsidies away from more immediately viable solutions.
In short, off-shore wind platforms have yet to demonstrate theri cost effectiveness, but I think most of us have our fingers crossed in hopes that the Danes, Dutch adn Germans will be able to scale this up into viability.
Personal Property Values
Meanwhile back on the homefront…We have more immediate concerns with wind power to contend with.
First we have to consider that your home’s value was likely drop considerably once the rest of the world figures out what you have already long-suspected. That houses near windmills experience worse noise than living next to railway lines, because even trains can’t run constantly and that the other 99-point-whatever percent of the time that they aren’t rolling past, you can live in relative peace.
Wind power is Still a Maturing Technology
University of Adelaide acoustics researchers are investigating the causes of wind turbine noise with the aim of making them quieter. “Wind turbine noise is controversial but there’s no doubt that there is noise. Finding ways of controlling and reducing this noise will help us make the most of this very effective means of generating large amounts of electricity with next to zero carbon emissions.”
“We know generally what causes that noise – as the turbulent air flows over the sharp edge of the blade it radiates sound much more efficiently, so the noise can be heard at some distance,” said Dr Doolan.
“What we don’t yet understand, however, is exactly how that turbulence and blade edge, or boundary layer, interact and how that makes the noise louder.
“If we can understand this fundamental science, we can then look at ways of controlling the noise, through changing the shape of the rotor blades or using active control devices at the blade edges to disrupt the pattern of turbulence and so reduce the noise.”
How do you fix what you can’t Measure?
A 2009 memo from a Ministry of Environment officer, obtained by Wind Concerns Ontario, said the Liberal government imposed noise limits as it approved wind farms, even though it has no way to tell if they comply with the limits.
“MOE currently has NO approval methodology for field measurement of the noise emissions from multiple noise sources,” wrote the senior environmental officer. “As such there is no way for MOE field staff (and I would submit anyone else) to confirm compliance or lack thereof with the noise limits set in the approvals.”
Wind Concerns’ spokesman John Laforet claims that the memo is proof the Liberal government isn’t telling the whole truth about wind farms.
Please feel free to comment on any other measures that are being taken to address these concerns, so that a bigger picture can be painted which includes solutions as well as complaints…Thanks