The debate over British government regulations for wind turbines noise should be based more on engineering issues and robust scientific evidence and less on politics, according to UK professional body, Institute Of Acoustics.
There has been criticism of the regulations, known officially as ‘ETSU-R-97’, as being outdated and in need of revision, given they are more than a decade old and are still being used to assess wind farm noise in local government planning applications in the UK. Opponents variously describe the guidelines as “daft”, “confusing” and designed for much smaller wind turbines than can now be built.
The IOA, which has more than 3000 members in the fields of acoustics, noise and vibration worldwide, hosted a Wind Turbine Noise meeting in Cardiff on January 27, with experts referring to the controversial regulations.
President-elect of the IOA, Trevor Cox, said “it might surprise people to know that the number of complaints about wind farm noise is actually rather small – maybe evidence that ETSU isn’t working too badly at the moment”. “Most, if not all, regulations have some imperfections because they are necessarily drawn up with the available data at the time. ETSU is no different; it it was being drawn up today, the chances are that slightly different procedures or criteria might be used. But are substantial changes needed? That is what the meeting in Cardiff will try to find out.”
Trevor, who is Professor of Acoustic Engineering at the University of Salford, referred to a presentation at the the IOA’s recent international Euronoise conference in Edinburgh.
That paper compared the number of people highly annoyed by road traffic noise in the Netherlands to the number of people likely to be highly annoyed by wind farm noise, if all proposed wind farms for this country were to be built. “For every person who might be annoyed by wind farms, there are hundreds more annoyed by roads,” he said. “We mustn’t forget the potential political ramifications if a decision is made to revise the ETSU guidelines. Undermining the noise regulations is a useful tactic for campaigners who are trying to stop planning permission being granted. A revision of the guidelines could be used by campaigners to cast doubt in the minds of planners.”
The IOA would consider recommendations from experts at the Wind Turbine Noise meeting. Trevor said that the organisation would “like to see the politics taken out of ETSU so that proper engineering decisions can be made on the best possible scientific evidence”. In future, the IOA may call for more research into Aerodynamic Modulation (AM) – the ‘swishing’ noise made by turbine blades, he said. “Although complaints due to AM are rare, there are a small number of high profile cases where it has happened and caused significant problems to a small number of people.
“Currently the causes and treatment of the problem need further research.”
Source British Institute of Acoustics