No health impacts from wind turbine noise, says MIT study

Living in close proximity to wind farms does not harm human health, a study by the Massachusetts Institute for Technology (MIT) found, countering concerns that have been vociferously raised in countries as diverse as the UK and Australia.

The study was funded by the European Wind Energy Association EWEA and its Canadian counterpart CanWEA, although the associations had no input into it and were not involved in the formulation of the results.

"No clear or consistent association is seen between noise from wind turbines and any reported disease or other indicator of harm to human health," the study found.

The review took into consideration health effects such as stress, annoyance and sleep disturbance among other factors that have been raised in association with living close to wind turbines.

The MIT authors considered a number of case studies in Europe and the US to assess the impact of infrasound and quality of life of people living close to wind parks.

Measurements of low-frequency sound (LFN), infrasound and tonal sound show that infrasound is emitted by wind turbines, but disturbances to homes are typically well below audibility levels.

Four large turbines and 44 smaller turbines were investigated in the Netherlands, where infrasound levels were not deemed to cause problems and LFN sound in residential areas did not exceed levels from other common noise sources such as traffic.

While complaints from residents were more common during the construction of wind farms, other technologies such as gas and oil facilities drew more public criticism.

"These results should lay to rest any concerns that some citizens may have with regard to living near wind turbines," says Iván Peneda, head of policy analysis at EWEA.

Campaigns against wind energy on health grounds have contributed to a reversal of policies in Australia, where the federal government has been seeking to weaken its renewable energy target and abolished carbon pricing, while some Australian states have legislated for spacing restrictions.

Concerns over wind power have also rendered the approval process for onshore plants lengthy and difficult in parts of England.