Does the Sound of Wind Turbines Affect Health?

There are more than 240,000 turbine-years of experience with wind turbines larger than 1 MW in size in the U.S. alone.30 Around the world, hundreds of thousands of people live near and work at operating wind turbines without health effects attributable to infrasound.

With respect to wind turbine noise, the one adverse impact that is supported by epidemiological data is an association between wind farms and annoyance. However, the rates of self-reported annoyance do not appear to correlate strongly, if at all, with quantitative assessments of the sound levels experienced by the population. Instead they appear more strongly influenced by other factors, including the nature and properties of the landscape, the personal views of the residents toward wind power, and whether the residents are personally benefiting from the operation of the facility.

In addition, there is limited and contradictory evidence for whether annoyance or the noise created by the wind turbine blades can cause sleep disturbance. Some studies have found limited evidence associating annoyance from wind turbine noise and sleep disruption when the intensity of the sound exceeds certain levels. The largest and most comprehensive study conducted to date used both subjective assessments of sleep quality as self-reported by study participants, as well as objective and quantifiable measures of sleep duration, time to the onset of sleep, and the number of nightly awakenings. Unlike the previous works, this study found no association between exposure to noise from a nearby wind farm and any increase in the prevalence of sleep disturbances at noise levels up to 46 dB(A).
Wind turbine noise

Individuals vary considerably in their sensitivity to stimuli, making it difficult to rule out a given individual person experiencing effects not generally seen in the population. However, it is important to note in this context that all of the existing sources of electricity generation used in the U.S. have significant and well documented health impacts, both direct (such as particulates and mercury emitted by coal, or the impacts associated with fossil fuel extraction and transport) and indirect (such as those associated with climate change). As far back as 2004, the World Health Organization noted that “the increased use of renewable energy, especially wind, solar and photovoltaic energy, will have positive health benefits.”

Looking at the larger picture, studies of the impact of wind farms on overall quality of life have also found conflicting results. Two large studies found that the presence of an operating wind farm had no negative effect on the quality of life of nearby residents, while one smaller study found a negative impact. Of note is the finding of the largest and most recent study that impact on quality of life was reported for those living near proposed wind farms, but that these effects not only disappeared once the facility was in operation, but were later reversed, with those living closest to a wind farm reporting a higher quality of life than those farther from the facility.

This finding is similar to those of an earlier study that found that many health complaints of residents near wind farms are likely to be caused by negative expectations regarding the impact of wind turbines and stress resulting from negative publicity, rather than from direct physiological effects. As a completely clean power source, wind does not have a negative impact on human health.
Wind turbine health

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