Wind Turbine Generated Noise and the Human Response to It

Beginning in 2015, University of Minnesota’s St. Anthony Falls Laboratory (SAFL) and Department of Speech-Language-Hearing Sciences (SLHS) started an Xcel Energy Renewable Development Fund (RDF) project to be completed over the span of three years. The Minnesota Study on Wind Turbine Acoustics (MNSOWTA) will investigate wind turbine generated noise, specifically low-frequency and infrasound, and the human response to it. There has been a growing public opposition to wind turbines due in part to complaints about turbine noise. The main concern with turbine noise comes not from the loudness, but the modulating sound and possibly infrasound. The study will seek to “improve measurement, analysis, and annoyance thresholds based on measured human response” for turbine generated sound.

The project has two main goals to accomplish what it seeks to do. The first is to provide data and a review of wind turbine generated noise, practices for measuring it, and a recommendation for taking measurements for wind energy development. The second goal is to provide the wind industry with information on how humans react to wind turbine generated noise, including infrasound. There is also a secondary objective of supplying the public with unbiased information on wind turbine noise by creating and maintaining project webpages. The webpages will inform the public of the project.

This project will have major impacts in wind industry, research, and development. Upon completion, wind industry regulators will finally have scientific evidence to support or refute the health concerns about turbine generated noise, including infrasound.