New research from Flinders University has found the issue of wind farm noise to be overblown.
The research, consisting of a survey and laboratory study, is part of the National Health and Medical Research Council “Wind Farm Noise Study” that began in 2016.
The survey, interviewing 500 people living near wind farms in Australia confirms that insomnia, stress and snoring spouses have more impact on sleep than wind farms.
The lead author Georgina Rawson from Flinders Health and Medical Research Institute states in the media release: “we found that the proportion of residents living near wind farms who reported moderate-to-severe sleep difficulties for any reason was not different compared to those living in quiet rural areas.”
Along with a survey of people living near wind farms, an additional laboratory study found “no effect being observed” on people undergoing detailed sleep monitoring from wind farm noise.
The study reinforces findings of a meta-analysis by Flinders University that found “wind farm noise does not significantly impact objective sleep onset latency, total sleep time, wake after sleep onset or sleep efficiency”.
The research also confirms the result from the largest ever study into wind farms and health by Health Canada that found no “association between wind turbine noise and self-reported or measured sleep quality.”
So why do people report concerns about noise?
Flinders University research on wind farm noise began in 2016 when there was lots of misinformation circulating in the media. We’re glad the research has been able to shed light on this issue and we hope it alleviates community concerns in wind farm regions.
It’s no secret that wind farms have been a contentious issue over the last decade, with many prominent politicians counted among vocal opponents. In this context, it is understandable why people would be afraid of the impacts of wind farms.
Previous studies have demonstrated psycho-social factors can explain the perception of annoyance to wind farms. Key drivers include the presence of misinformation or the lack (both real or perceived) of direct and indirect benefit.
For context, a recent study showed most wind farms in Victoria have had no complaints since operating and others have had very few and when they do they are from “a handful of stakeholders” (p64).
The Australian Energy Infrastructure Commissioner (formerly the National Wind Farm Commissioner) notes in his previous Annual Report that there has been a decline of complaints regarding wind farms and that the majority of complaints are in the planning phase, not the operation phase.
Despite the fact that wind farms have had demonstrably little to no effect on sleep, state regulations have been tightened, especially in Victoria, to give communities certainty that they will be protected by the law. New technology such as the owl wing inspired turbine blade is also making wind farms progressively quieter.
Wind farms benefit local communities
Wind farms provide our electricity grid with renewable energy meaning our homes, schools and workplaces can have cheaper power that is good for our climate. We know the majority of Australians want to switch to renewable energy to reduce emissions and have cheaper electricity.
For farmers who are hosting the turbines on their land, it’s a fantastic way to receive additional income that is more stable year-on-year than their crops during a drought. For some it enables their business to continue.
Wind farm companies often provide funding to local community groups via community enhancement funds. Some companies offer co-investment or co-ownership to locals. There are so many positive models where the community actually gets to see profits from the wind company circulated back into the community.
It’s important for communities to understand these benefits early so they can negotiate with the company to deliver and drive outcomes for their community.