# An Introduction to Sound and Wind Turbines. Mark Bastasch, PE March 2011

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1 An Introduction to Sound and Wind Turbines Mark Bastasch, PE March 2011

2 What is Sound? A rapid pressure fluctuation above and below the static atmospheric pressure measured in decibels (db) Typical sound levels: 70 to 80 dba Freeway or trains as heard from 50 feet 30 to 40 dba Interior of bedroom or living room Typical audible range: 20 Hz to 20,000 Hz Middle C of piano 261 Hz; Lowest C 33 Hz Infrasound below 20 Hz Low frequency between 10 and 200 Hz Threshold of hearing is higher for lower frequencies, but all frequencies are audible if level is high enough 2

3 Sound Pressure Level Atmospheric pressure is approximately 14.7psi (about 100,000 Pascals (Pa) = 34 feet water) 94 decibels sound pressure level (4-hr OSHA limit) = pressure fluctuations of 1 Pa = psi = inch of water The pressure fluctuations above and below atmospheric pressure are very small 3

4 Sound Pressure Levels (Lp or SPL) Noise Source at a Given Distance A-Weighted Sound Level in Decibels Relative Energy Carrier deck jet operation ,000, ,000,000 Jet takeoff (200 feet) 120 1,000,000 Auto horn (3 feet) ,000 Jet takeoff (1000 feet) 100 Shout (0.5 foot) 10,000 N.Y. subway station 90 Heavy truck (50 feet) 1,000 Pneumatic drill (50 feet) Freight train (50 feet) 70 to 80 Freeway traffic (50 feet) Air conditioning unit (20 feet) 60.1 Light auto traffic (50 feet) Living room 40 Bedroom.001 Library 30 Soft whisper (5 feet).0001 Broadcasting/Recording studio

5 Decibel Math 50 db + 50 db = 53 db 50 db + 60 db = 60 db Must convert back to pressure before doing math: Lp1 + Lp2 = 10*Log(10Lp1/10+10Lp2/10) Lp1 Lp2 = 10*Log(10Lp1/10-10Lp2/10) 5

6 Sound Power & Pressure Levels Sound power level is INDEPENDENT of distance from the source (wattage of light bulb) Sound pressure level varies with distance (brightness or intensity of light bulb) Sound pressure levels should always specify distance if characterizing a source 6

7 Sound Power & Pressure Levels Though interrelated, sound power level and pressure level cannot be directly compared Noise Source at a Given Distance A-Weighted Sound Level in Decibels Relative Energy Carrier deck jet operation ,000, ,000,000 Jet takeoff (200 feet) 120 1,000,000 Auto horn (3 feet) ,000 Jet takeoff (1000 feet) 100 Shout (0.5 foot) 10,000 N.Y. subway station 90 Heavy truck (50 feet) 1,000 Pneumatic drill (50 feet) Freight train (50 feet) 70 to Freeway traffic (50 feet) 70 1 Air conditioning unit (20 feet) 60.1 Light auto traffic (50 feet) Living room Bedroom

8 Fundamentals of Perception Pure Tone Threshold of hearing is higher for lower frequencies Thresholds vary: 16% > 6 db more sensitive 2% > 12 db more sensitive All frequencies are audible if level is high enough Hz is equally loud as Hz Middle C of piano 261 Hz Lowest C 33 Hz

9 Fundamentals of Perception A-weighting (dba) - reflects hearing threshold Low levels are audible if frequency (Hz) varies from background level 9 dbc minus dba may be used as indicator of Low Frequency Noise (LFN). LFN problems typically related to tonal sources. Evaluating tones require more detailed analysis (1/3 octave band). Wind itself results in high dbc levels.

10 Noise Generating Mechanisms Aerodynamic Trailing edge noted to be most important Noise level generally proportional to tip speed 5 Tip vortex noise is not typically significant source Complex mechanisms at work Typical noise control solutions (enclosures, barriers, silencers, vibration isolation, etc.) are not applicable 10

11 Noise Generating Mechanisms Mechanical Sources Gearbox Generator Yaw Drives Cooling Fans Mechanical sources may operate when winds less than cut-in speed Standard noise control measures are used to minimize mechanical noise Yet still requires detailed analysis and engineering Aerodynamic noise remains likely dominate source of operational noise 11

12 Outdoor Sound Emissions IEC Wind Turbine Generator Systems Part 11: Acoustic noise measurement techniques Microphone mounted on ground board(hub Height + ½ Rotor Dia.) Wind speed measurements with and without wind turbine operating Sound power levels calculated (1/3 octave bands from 20 Hz to 10 khz to be incorporated in update) Update to change reference wind speed height from 10-meter to hub height to avoid confusion 12

13 Outdoor Sound Emissions Sound emissions are variable, fluctuate with the wind Sound emission increase with increasing wind speed Potential for some mechanical noise when winds less than cut-in Sound imissions will vary with direction of the wind Lower levels realized at more distant upwind locations Typical modeling based on downwind conditions 13

14 Adverse Effects of Sound Noise-Induced Hearing Loss > dba Task Interference > 70 dba Speech Interference Above 80 dba, shouting often required Above 50 to 55 dba, voices begin to raise Sleep Disturbance guidance varies and is often based on transportation sources Annoyance 14

15 Characteristics That May Increase Annoyance Tonal Impulsive or excessively amplitudemodulated (AM) :51:55 13:51:56 13:51:57 13:51:58 13:51:59 13:52:00 13:52:01 13:52:02 13:52:03 13:52:04 13:52:05 13:52:06 13:52:07 13:52:08 13:52:09 13:52:10 13:52:11 13:52:12 13:52:13 13:52:14 13:52:15 13:52:16 Confusion between infrasound, low frequency, and AM noise (typical swish, swish) A time varying sound is more annoying than a steady sound of the same average level. Dr. Geoff Leventhall

16 Annoyance Analysis Studies of WTG Annoyance focus on A-weighted levels as appropriate metric Receiving economic benefit attenuates reported annoyance Annoyance also correlates with turbine visibility Perceived fairness of the process/procedures important Literature primarily focuses on transportation sources % Annoyed or Highly Annoyed (indoors) from wind turbine or industrial noise Source: Janssen et al (Euronoise 2009) 16

17 Wind Shear and Potential for Masking Increases in wind speed typically yields increases in background sound levels; at the same time sound emissions from wind turbines also increase with increased wind speed. Wind shear is a measure of how wind speed increases with height. The ratio between wind speed at ground level and hub height will vary on a number of factors. When potential for wind shear is not evaluated, turbines may reach maximum sound power under low ground level wind speed (particularly when turbines are located on ridgelines). Consider evaluating a project at its maximum sound power irrespective of wind speed. Important to avoid implying the project will be silent, inaudible or completely masked! 17

18 Infrasound and Low Frequency Sound Infrasound from wind turbines is not perceptible and does not exceed levels produced by natural sources. Low frequency sounds from wind turbines are not distinguishable from background sounds for frequencies less than 40 Hz. Perceptible levels of low frequency sound may be produced under certain conditions The audible swooshing sound is typically in the Hz range; it is neither infrasound nor low frequency sound. (Colby, et al 2009) Differences in Atmospheric Absorption: Hz; Hz (at 3300 ft) 18

19 Federal Environmental Noise Policy Varies by Agency 19

20 Allowable Increase from Federal Railroad and Transit Administrations L dn based for residences 20

21 Relative and Absolute Criteria Increase over what? Need to define existing level and metrics. (Scatter will typically be much more significant than depicted here. Correlate with measured hub height winds, differentiate between day and nighttime periods) Is 15-dB increase acceptable when result is less than 45 dba? How should a maximum level be established? How is variability or probability to be addressed? Is wind to be evaluated differently than other sources? Example of mixed absolute and relative night-time noise criterion

22 Wind Farm Sound Planning Non-acoustic factors may be as important as acoustic factors Visibility, attitude and understanding the necessity of the source Good public relations and outreach imperative Field trips to operating facilities likely reasonable given increased development (silence is not a reasonable goal nor should it be implied) Coordinate construction and start-up activities to avoid conflicts with neighbors Ensure local community and land owners understand benefits Respond to concerns, they may indicated maintenance issue Mitigation options limited but include control strategies or potentially acoustical retrofits to dwellings 22

23 Wind Farm Sound Planning Can permit process allow for flexibility? Allow micrositing through permitting project corridors Pre-construction filings assess compliance of final layout. Wind turbines can and will be heard Audibility has not been the basis for determining significant impact Noise from private enterprise is typically regulated at the local level Standards reflect local priorities; however, subject matter is complex What level of noise is reasonable to balance residential amenity? Realize satisfying everyone is challenging Some are reporting severe impacts why others similarly situated are not bothered 23

24 Wind Farm Sound Measurements Potential needs include: Development of certified equipment or other standardization Development of measurement protocol (pre- and post-construction) and associated data analysis techniques Development of compliance methods that do not require turbines to be cycled on/off. 24

25 Ontario Health Dept - May 2010 The scientific evidence available to date does not demonstrate a direct causal link between wind turbine noise and adverse health effects. Low-frequency sound and infrasound from current generation upwind model turbines are well below the pressure sound levels at which known health effects occur. Community engagement at the outset of planning for wind turbines is important and may alleviate health concerns about wind farms. Concerns about fairness and equity may also influence attitudes towards wind farms and allegations about effects on health. These factors deserve greater attention in future developments. 25

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