Opponents and skeptics of wind energy development, particularly onshore, often have concerns about the impact of wind turbines noise on humans. Resistance to this is particularly found among local communities. Recent studies have not found wind turbine noise to be associated with disease or disease symptoms.

The impact of sounds produced by wind turbines, particularly those on land, has been studied by researchers at the Turku University of Applied Sciences in Finland. No associated symptoms or illnesses have been observed in the vicinity of wind farms built in compliance with current noise regulations. It turns out that people living near wind farms had a higher risk of heart disease than those exposed to higher levels of noise from, say, traffic.

– If the traffic noise level in a resident’s backyard is 64 DB, the risk of heart disease is 4.5 times higher than for a resident whose backyard is 32 DB, said Valtteri Hongisto, associate professor and leader of the research team.

The only adverse health factor associated with higher wind noise levels was related to the annoyance of the sounds produced by the turbines. However, traffic noise bothered residents much more than wind turbine noise.

The study was conducted in Hamina, where three wind farms are located next to each other. All 2,500 households located within 2.7 km of the power plant were invited to participate in the survey. In addition, 500 households from a reference area far from the wind farm were invited to participate in the study. The study was conducted by the Built Environment Research Group at Turku University of Applied Sciences and funded by Business Finland, the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health and the Ministry of Environment. The results of the analysis were just published in Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews.

This study is an internationally unique health survey. The study area of the wind turbines was within the Finnish guidelines, meaning that the noise level generated by the wind turbines in the backyard did not exceed 40 decibels. According to Hongisto, this result can be interpreted to mean that the current guidelines for wind turbine noise are sufficient and there is no need to tighten them further.

Instead of wind noise, we should be concerned with the health effects of traffic noise, the researchers argue. This problem applies not only to wind farms, but to all areas exposed to high levels of traffic noise. According to the European Environment Agency, more than 400,000 of Finns are exposed to harmful traffic noise levels.

Source: Turku University of Applied Sciences