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SoundScapeIssue 0138The good, the bad and the ugly The good news is that we live on a small, windy island. Well, at least it is good news in terms of being in a position to meet government renewable energy targets; after all, the UK receives around 40% of all European wind. The bad news is that wind farming does not produce the most reliable harvest. The wind needs to blow hard at times when the national grid is most taxed, and merely breeze on balmy summer nights when we are out enjoying our barbecue under the stars and resting our basic utilities. The problem is that energy produced from wind turbines cannot easily be stored for a later day, requiring large hydro installations taking surplus electricity to pump water up to a higher level to be released for generating during peak demand times. There have been instances where wind farms have been switched off to avoid surges of power to the national grid. The ugliest thing about wind farms is the damage they can do to life in rural or urban communities. The people that enjoy the force of nature, those who are keen to protect their environment and promote green energy, are the very ones often required to tolerate the torture of turbine drone and blade flicker, from poorly sited and poor functioning wind turbines, over which they have no control and from which they cannot escape.When this happens the penetrating sound of the rotating blades cutting through the air has been compared to the sound of a constant helicopter at a distance. Synchronise these pulses and you get something that resembles "a washing machine gone wrong". Operating day and night, the noise from these massive turbines, standing at around 100 metres tall, is invasive and can continue unabated for extended periods. Disturbing and distressing during the day, the beating sound is even more disruptive at night when the ambient background noise is much lower. It is this pulsing at a range of sound frequencies, including sensed experiences out of normal human hearing range (some of which can be detected over 10km away), that have been associated with a wide range of health problems such as depression, stress, anxiety and sleep disorders.With the UK Government planning to generate one third of Britain's energy from wind power by 2020, these profoundly disturbing noise issues need to be addressed. The Government's ETSU-R-97 guidelines, to

SoundScapeIssue 0139which wind farms are developed, were drawn up when wind technology was young and the turbines much smaller with no anticipation of the vastness of today's giant machines and their magnified effects - the guidelines themselves even proclaiming to be temporary.Merely ensuring consistency of application of these guidelines, as recently proposed by the Government, ignores the depth of the problem. Only a total review of the guidelines linked with further research can hope to bring a satisfactory outcome.To this end, the Noise Abatement Society is commissioning new research to deepen our understanding of the adverse effects of wind turbines on the nearby populace. For wind energy to be a truly sustainable form of renewable energy, producing noise pollution along with its negative health effects, is not an option.Fit for purposeThe good news is that wind energy development is a vibrant and ever-growing field and several emerging technologies could produce turbines that reduce the acoustic impact significantly.One company, quietrevolutionT, produce wind turbines that are more attractive and far less noisy than traditional models. Instead of using blades that rotate on a horizontal axis, quietrevolution's wind turbines use a vertical axis helix design. This system collects wind from all directions, avoiding the noise and vibration that many horizontal turbines produce.As international resistance to onshore wind energy grows, it is imperative that proper planning and investment in the most effective technology is undertaken for future wind farm developments whether sited onshore or offshore.We need to champion and encourage those expert manufacturers and developers who seek to improve wind turbine technology by investing in products and solutions which can be happily and respectfully integrated into our communities - for the benefit of present and future generations.Only a total review of the ETSU-R-97 guidelines, linked with further research, can hope to bring a satisfactory outcomeRegister your support