December 15, 2009

Michael Vickerman
RENEW Wisconsin

Report: Wind Turbines Cause No Human Harm
Consistent with 10-plus years of commercial wind generation operations in Wisconsin, a national report issued today concluded that the sounds produced by wind turbines are not harmful to human health, according to the state’s leading renewable energy advocacy group.

Comprised of medical doctors, audiologists, and acoustical professionals from the United States, Canada, Denmark, and the United Kingdom, the panel of reviewers undertook extensive analysis and discussion of the large body of peer-reviewed literature, specifically with regard to sound coming from wind turbines.

The panel was established by the American Wind Energy Association and the Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA).

“This report corroborates testimony that RENEW presented in the ongoing Glacier Hills Wind Park hearings at the Wisconsin Public Service Commission,” according to Michael Vickerman, executive director of RENEW Wisconsin. In that proceeding, We Energies is seeking approval to construct a 90-turbine 162 megawatt wind park in northeast Columbia County.

“If there were a human health impact with wind generation, why are communities such as Rosiere in Kewaunee County and Montfort in Iowa County so supportive of the wind installations nearby?” commented Vickerman.

“The experience suggests that nearby residents gradually overcome any initial misgivings and accept the turbines for what they are: clean, visible, and environmentally benign producers of renewable energy,” he continued.

According to Dr. Robert J. McCunney, one of the authors of the national multi-disciplinary study and an occupational/environmental medicine physician and research scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), “There is no evidence that the sounds, nor the sub-audible vibrations, emitted by wind turbines have any direct adverse physiological effects on humans.”

Another member of the panel, Dr. Geoff Leventhall, an acoustical consultant on sound and health for more than 40 years, testified during recent regulatory proceedings on the proposed 162 megawatt Glacier Hills Wind Park in Columbia County.

“Attempts to claim that illnesses result from inaudible wind turbine noise do not stand up to simple analyses of the very low forces and pressures produced by the sound from wind turbines,” said Leventhall in sworn testimony.

The national study’s top findings include:
• “The sounds emitted by wind turbines are not unique. There is no reason to believe, based on the levels and frequencies of the sounds, that they could plausibly have direct adverse physiological effects.”
• If sound levels from wind turbines were harmful, it would be impossible to live in a city given the sound levels normally present in urban environments.
• “Sub-audible, low frequency sound and infrasound from wind turbines do not present a risk to human health.”
• “Some people may be annoyed at the presence of sound from wind turbines. Annoyance is not a pathological entity.”

An executive summary of the report can be accessed here (PDF, 81KB). The full report can be accessed here (PDF, 440KB).