Turbine noise “emerging as a significant block to development” (UK)

Aug 3, 2010

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“Noise threat to wind turbines”

Click here for original article in This Is Cornwall (7/31/10)

Westcountry households could see noisy wind farm developments blocked after the Government unveiled details of a review into controversial planning decisions.

Developers at sites across the Devon and Cornwall countryside have been locked in bitter disputes over the noise pollution caused by giant wind turbines that campaigners claim damage people’s health.

Plans to erect nine turbines at Den Brook, near Crediton, Mid-Devon, await a decision from the High Court following a two-day hearing this week. Now it has emerged the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) has commissioned a review to examine how planning authorities have applied guidance on noise pollution.

Energy ministers want to establish “best practice” on noise pollution and ensure communities get the “intended level of protection” after a series of onshore wind farm developments have suffered long delays in the courts.

But a prominent Westcountry objector last night questioned how much protection homes close to developments would be offered as the Government insisted it had “no plans” to change the guidance.

Mike Hulme, who has fought the Den Brook development for five years, said: “It is a positive step that something is happening. This is the result of many questions being asked by MPs. I think it is a result of being put under pressure rather it being a desirable thing to do.

“But I wonder what is underlying this report. Is it as smoke screen or is it a genuine attempt to rectify the problem?”

Mr Hulme, who argues “noise nuisance” has driven people from their homes, says guidelines to assess the noise impact of any wind farm – known as ETSU-R-97 – are now 12 years old and “dreadfully outdated”.

While the Government has indicated it is anxious to push the development of offshore wind farms, thousands of turbines have been earmarked on dry land.

While nausea, headaches and anxiety have been linked to people’s close proximity to wind farm developments, many have called for more independent research into the effects on health.

A study by a panel of independent experts this year found that the irritation caused by the swishing noise around wind farms can affect certain individuals.

Wind farms have traditionally been seen by protesters as a blot on the British countryside, but noise is emerging as a significant block to development.

Mr Hulme says it is the intermittent “thumping” sound caused by the fast-turning turbine blades that is the cause of most concern.

But he thinks it is unlikely the noise threshold will be lowered any time soon as it would “possibly eliminate too many sites” – putting the Government’s renewable energy drive at risk – despite noise being the “major issue” for most wind farm objections.

In two separate written questions by MPs, the Energy Secretary Chris Huhne was asked “whether he plans to revise the noise assessment guidance for wind turbines”.

In response Climate Change Minister Greg Barker, wrote: “Noise is a key issue to be taken into account in considering proposals for wind farm development.

“There is no reason to believe that the protection from noise provided for by the ETSU-R-97 guidance does not remain acceptable, and we have no plans to change this.”

He went on: “However, I have commissioned an analysis of how noise impacts are considered in the determination of wind farm planning applications in England.

“The project will seek to establish best practice in assessing and rating wind turbine noise by investigating previous decisions.

“Our aim is to ensure that ETSU-R-97 is applied in a consistent and effective manner and that it is implemented in a way that provides the intended level of protection.”

Consultants Hayes McKenzie is to start the work in September and it is hoped that it will be completed by the end of the year.

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