The Problems with Wind Turbine Industrial Complexes
The issue of noise pollution deserves considerable attention as it is one of the most frequent complaints from residents living near and around wind turbine complexes throughout the world. The source of noise from wind turbines originates from the mechanical gearing and from the aerodynamic properties of the rotor blades. Wind turbine proponents generally deny that noise is a problem with todays technology. Irving Ltd., at its open house in November 2002 introducing this project, stated that the noise was comparable to that of the hum of a kitchen refrigerator and essentially dismissed the issue. The fact is that through improved technology, noise related to the gear box and generator have been reduced to a significant degree through improved gear box insulation and other measures: however, this is not the major origin of noise pollution from wind turbines which emanates from the rotor blades and particularly from the low frequency thumpand infrasound created each time a blade passes the turbine tower. This low frequency noise continues to be a problem and is the source of the complaints from residents living near wind turbine complexes. The quality of low frequency noise allows it to penetrate dwellings and it can actually be amplified in the process. Measures such as improved house insulation and sound proofing are largely ineffective. Because the sound tends to be impulsive in nature and is poorly attenuated over distance, it can affect dwellings for a significant distance away, far beyond the 250 meter limit originally proposed in this project. In fact, in Riverside County, California, a community which has had a decade-long experience with wind turbine development, the current county ordinance requires that wind turbines be placed no nearer than 2 miles from a residence due to this problem of low frequency noise. The only exception is if a manufacturer or promoter can prove that their machine does not produce any impulsive, tonal noise in the low frequency range. This basically defines the problem as it exists today.
It is also true that wind developers cannot predict with any real accuracy the negative impacts of noise in advance in any given location. There have been some refinements in mathematical prediction models for wind turbine aeroacoustics over the last decade. The U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory continues to conduct ongoing studies on wind turbine noise and acknowledges that this problem continues and remains a significant limitation for any plans to locate turbine complexes in and around communities. In the U.K., the responsible regulatory authority spends more of its budget on researching noise from wind turbines than on any other area of environmental noise problem (e.g.. traffic noise, airport noise, etc.) and this from the Welsh Select Affairs Committee, "For existing wind farms we are satisfied that there are cases of individuals being subject to near continuous noise during the operation of the turbines, at levels which do not constitute a statutory nuisance or exceed planning conditions, but which are clearly disturbing and unpleasant and may have some psychological effects". (1, 2, 3)
Also, from the U.K., 1999, "Barrows' chief environmental health officer said the Council was taking action against the noise nuisance".(1, 2, 3)
Finally, noise, particularly low frequency noise, has been clearly associated with stress-related illness, especially in the most susceptible populations, children and the elderly. The numerous instances of reported symptoms and illness by residents in and around wind turbine complexes is fully consistent with what would be expected from the effects of ongoing exposure to the spectrum and quality of sound produced by wind turbines. Ongoing detailed population studies of these adverse health effects continue but at this time, based on the weight of the evidence, for purposes of protecting human health and well-being, wind turbine complexes should not be located in and around communities.
Safety Issues :
The issue of safety deserves major emphasis and significantly, received absolutely no mention in the Irving Ltd. original proposal for this project. Wind turbine safety must be seriously considered in the context of this project as the proponent has set arbitrary limits for wind turbines as close as 50 meters to public roads and 15 meters from adjoining property boundaries.
There have been many documented instances of blade failure. The rotor of a Vestas V-80 turbine weighs around 35 Tons and has a rotor blade sweep area of approximately 100 yards. Blade tip speeds reach 300km/hour. On December 9, 1993, rotor blade fragments of a V-80 turbine broke off and planed up to 400 meters at Cemmae, Wales. At Tarifa, Spain, blades broke off on two occasions in November 1995, the first instance in gusty winds, the second in light wind (report, Windpower Monthly, Dec. 1995.). In an article written in January 1996, Professor Otfried Wolfrum, professor of applied geodesy at Darmstadt University reported on blade failures in Germany, detailing four particularly severe examples where blade fragments weighing up to a half-ton were thrown up to 280 meters. (1).
There is also an established danger of ice formation on blades and ice fragments being thrown considerable distances when blades begin to move in the wind. The Finnish Meteorological Institute, recognizing this problem, is conducting ongoing research in an effort to mitigate blade icing but acknowledges that "icing of wind turbines is a complex problem for safety and operation". (4). Markker J. Vartianinen, at the proceedings of BOREAS II at the Finnish Meteorological Institute, has written on this subject, "some ice layers 150mm thick have been detected and their mass has been as high as 20 to 25 kg per meter." (9). Professor Wolfrum documented that these fragments could be thrown up to 550meters and land with impact speeds up to 170miles/hour.(1)
Civic authorities in Palm Springs, California, being mindful of these human safety issues, and being the site of large wind turbine developments for a number of years, in the late 1980s made developers move wind turbines to a distance of half a mile from highways for these safety reasons.
Negative Impacts of Disturbance, Morbidity, and Mortality Caused by Wind Turbines
The issue of negative impacts on birds is a matter of great concern when wind turbines are proposed to be located in an environmentally sensitive area. It is an issue that has been largely ignored or at best given token consideration by the proponents of this project. In their proposal, the proponents refer to a National Wind Coordinating Committee report of 2001, a wind power promoting organization in the U.S., that gave an average of 2.19 bird fatalities per wind turbine per year in the U.S. They infer, by improper extrapolation of this figure, that bird mortality at Malpeque would be acceptably low.
What they don't say is from the same report, "many of the wind plants are located in areas with relatively low bird and raptor use", and "it appears that from the available data that siting wind plants in areas with low bird and raptor use is currently the best way to minimize collision mortality". (5) Similarly, in the proposal, a reference to a Bird Studies Canada study (6) of wind turbines and impacts on birds at North Cape, P.E.I. is juxtaposed in the text to infer that the conclusions of that study could be extrapolated to Malpeque and justify construction there. However, quite to the contrary, the conclusions of that comprehensive study are the opposite. "The most important step that can be taken to avoid future adverse bird interactions is to locate facilities based on careful siting studies and away from critical habitat",and "most studies seem to reach the same conclusion: impacts are not likely to be significant if wind turbines are located in areas of poor habitat, low bird densities and without significant populations of susceptible species of high conservation importance".(7) The same conclusion seems to be shared by the National Audubon Society, an organization that supports responsible wind project development, when it stated, "responsible wind development means conducting site surveys and impact studies that minimize the threat of bird collisions, and siting wind plants away from large raptor habitat zones and critical points along migratory pathways".(8)
Malpeque is blessed with a large native and migratory bird population and is a major staging area for Canada geese and migratory ducks on the Atlantic flyway. Peak numbers in this very small area reach into the tens of thousands during late March through mid-May and early September through early December. Malpeque is also home to an endangered species, the Piping Plover and is one of only a few RAMSAR sites in Canada, an area of highest avian conservation importance internationally. Clearly Malpeque doesnt meet any of the criteria for a suitable site for wind power development with respect to avian issues. No prospective site-specific studies to assess this have ever been done. To proceed with the construction of 41 huge wind turbines in this small area would not be consistent with responsible wind power development and the P.E.I. government should heed the results and conclusions of its own commissioned studies.
Other Issues :
There are many other issues of major importance pertinent to this project and wind turbine industrial complexes in general. These include, but are not limited to,
- 1) aesthetic considerations,
- 2) radar, radio, TV interference,
- 3) potential adverse effects on surface water resources and ground water aquifers,
- 4) adverse effects on tourism and the associated economies,
- 5) residential and vacation property market devaluation and
- 6) potentially dangerous strobe lighting effects from wind turbine blades on residences. These issues and more are given full treatment in many other web sites and we will provide appropriate links and references below.
References and Links :
7. Kingsley, A., and Whittham, B, Potential Impacts of Wind Turbines on Birds at North Cape P.E.I., Bird Studies Canada, Atlantic Region, 12/13/01.
9. Proceedings of BOREAS II, p.219, 1994