Government vs. residents

The way the wind energy program has been imposed on rural Ontario is more than a shame – it is an abuse.

Watford Guide Advocate – May 12th 2011

I read with interest the recent article based on interviews with two households experiencing negative health effects from the turbines sited nearKettle Point and Ravenswood. What struck me most was Laura Wilde’s statement, “…she has a tall dresser leaning against the south-facing window in her bedroom to help muffle the noise. On worse nights she will throw a few pillows in between.” 

Clearly she is having a problem with intrusive noise that is causing sleep disturbance, and the obvious source ofthe disturbance is the wind turbine noise.  After 10 PM there would be littleelse in a quiet, rural community to cause someone to be suddenly awakened. Her experience is not singular, rather it is the very essence of most complaints about wind turbine noise – sleep disturbance. Repeat this experience over many nights and other more serious health problems will develop. Sleepdisturbance  is a well-known cause of serious health effects, andacknowledged by the medical community.

Why is this happening?  One would expect as the ground wind dies in the evening, the turbines wouldcease turning and there should be no noise. There is another feature of wind wind turbines that is obvious, but overlooked. They arenot “ground sources” of noise like a highway or an industrialplant. They are “aerial sources” more like a helicopter albeitone that remains in one place. At the height that wind turbinesreach , 80m – 130m ,  wind conditions are quite different thanthey are at ground level. 

The dirty little secret the wind industrydoesn’t want you to know is a phenomenon called, “WindShear”, which describes a condition where the ground winds are very lightor nothing at all; but, the upperlevel winds are blowing very strongly. Upper level winds blow at a more constant velocity than ground winds becausethe temperature is coler and much the same, day or night  -“stable atmosphere” is the term. Ground winds vary more due to thesurface temperature difference between day and night. During the daytimesurface heating from  sunlight  causes convection currents to rise,and so mix the upper level winds with the surface winds. As a result, the windspeed is constant from 0 – 100m or more. In the evening the surface heatsubsides and the ground winds drop.

Think of a summer night and how still it is at night. However, at 80m – 100m the winds can be blowing at  20km/h – 40 km/h, fast enough that the turbine is producing near fullpower and noise. This is a condition of high wind shear. High wind shear values are common throughout all of SW Ontario; and, not surprisingly, are highest nearest the lakeshore where Laura Wilde lives. The meteorological towers the wind companies put up are basically a hoax – they already know that their machines are tall enough to “harvest” the upper level winds – that’s where the power is.  Wind shear guarantees their profit – at the expenseof  residents sleep. Conditions of high wind shear will occur from 50% to 70% of time over the course of a year, mostly at night.

To make matters worse, wind shear willactually accentuate the noise of the turbines. Post construction measurementshave shown that the slight “swishing”noise caused by the bladespassing the tower, which is usually about 1dBA – 3 dBA during thedaytime, will become a pronounced “thumping” at night, increasingto 5dBA – 15dBA under conditions of “high night time windshear”. The noise will also carry further, as it tends to follow the”boundary layer”  of wind shear, much as it will whenit travels over water.  

So, the basic problem is that much of thewind turbine’s production will be at night when people are sleeping– or trying to. Little wonder the companies never explain anythingabout wind shear and its effects on noise. People are not beinggiven proper information. The “community consultation” meetingsare little more than farce. The MOE is protecting the interests of large corporations – not residents. 

The way the wind energy program has been imposed on rural Ontario is more than a shame – it is an abuse. It has and will  cause serious health issues fpr a significant portion of the population.

This is a program which rural Ontario must confront, and repudiate. With the hundreds of turbines that are planned for the area (that we know of),there will be no refuge – town or country. The people of Ravenswood and theLakeshore area will not be alone – others will suffer too. Manypeople will be displaced. Where will they go?

Harvey Wrightman

6 thoughts on “Government vs. residents

  1. Thank you Harvey for one of the best explanations I’ve read of the way windshear effects turbine noise.
    I had an odd experience regarding another form of turbine noise while working in the midst of the Kingsbridge turbines recently . It was a clear, still spring day… except for a noise that sounded somewhat like the constant squeal from a cars worn out disc brakes.
    It was hard to identify where it came from . It seemed to come from every direction and it was very annoying particularly on a day with few background noises.
    There wasn’t enough wind for the turbines to be operational, but they were being slowly rotated and for whatever reason the noise was actually coming from them. The person who lived there said it was not unusual. Can’t imagine what that would feel like on a regular basis.
    Made it difficult to enjoy being outside in an otherwise beautiful day.

  2. What you describe could be a case of the turbine being deliberately rotated to prevent “ridging” of the main shaft bearings – a significant problem of large wind turbines. The brakes would be applied also to prevent a possible, uncontrolled start-up that a suddeen gust of wind. Hence, the “squeal”. This would all occur when ground winds are under 6 m/s; thus, according to the company and the MOE, noise would be assumed to be under 40 dBA. Such conditions are not “modelled for.” In essence, while the MOE recognizes the phenomenon of wind shear, it utterly fails to account for the real world instances where wind shear will affect noise output. Yet another case where the noise control consultants desperately try to fit the data to the model.
    By the way, the power consumed by the turbine is not metered – provided free by Hydo and lumped into the “Global Adjustment” all electricity users pay.
    More reasons to join a 550m march wherever it may be.

  3. Put a wind turbine that emits noise, thumping and throbbing sounds at 40 decibels in a quiet (25 decibel background) rural setting and you’ve got a noise and annoyance problem.

  4. Everyone should also know that the turbines are run by electronics that can be adjusted. Normally it is set to make the maximum output for a given wind speed. This can also result in very noisy operating conditions, as the artical stated. Ajustments can be made to change the pitch (angle) and rpm of the blades. Which results in less noise but less power output. The wind companies want maximum output because that is how they make the most money.

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