Letter to the Editor
September 15, 2011
What if turbine noise doesn’t make people sick?
In his column in the Connection on September 15, Ron Hartlen says that wind
opponents and wind supporters have been arguing about the impacts of wind turbines
ad nauseum. It’s tedious alright but if people say inaccurate things, we should try to
correct the public record.
For example, Mr. Hartlen says that the first and only thing we need to resolve health
issues is effective sound measurement.
The recent Environmental Review Tribunal review of a project in Chatham Kent found
that noise from wind turbines that meet Ontario’s regulations does not cause serious
Research shows that some people find turbines annoying. This can be stressful but this
is not a health problem caused by turbines but by individuals’ reaction to turbines.
As a practical example that living near turbines doesn’t necessarily cause health or other
problems, there appears to be little or no complaint from over 1000 host landowners and
Since this is the case, more research is required to establish if there is any relationship
at all between wind turbines and human health and then address those issues if they
Mr. Hartlen says that wind power isn’t available when it’s needed.
No one expects wind power to be around only when it is needed any more than we
expect nukes to be turned off and on at a moments notice. Wind is part of Ontario’s
electricity system functioning with other forms of generation to meet demand as
Ontario’s Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) doesn’t find wind power a
In the IESO report on electricity production in 2010, the CEO, Paul Murphy, said wind
generation is starting to play an important role in meeting Ontario’s energy needs.
"Energy production from new renewable resources is accelerating, and we are revising
our operating policies and processes to integrate this new supply. At the same time, we
remain reliant on conventional sources of electricity, which provide the flexibility we need
to manage the grid."
The initial letter from Mr. Ron Hartlen follows:
Collingwood Connection, September 15, 2011
WIND TURBINES, HEALTH THE ENVIRONMENT AND ECONOMICS
BY RON HARTLEN
Robert Knox and Lorne Gillis have been duking it out on this subject ad nauseum. There
can be no credible, compelling resolution until the necessary data is available.
The generation and propagation of aerodynamic noise is a very complex subject. What
reaches a dwelling will depend on many factors. Primary factors would include the
Turbine output, atmospheric conditions, the geometric array of turbines and how their
contributions combine at a specific dwelling. The penetration of the aerodynamic noise
into the dwelling is also a complex issue. It will depend upon the plan view of the dwelling,
its azimuthal orientation relative to the propagating noise field, and its construction
details. To top this off, whether it's a problem depends upon the, legitimate sensitivity of
a specific resident.
My use here of the term "noise" is an oversimplification. The main unresolved issue has
to do with "infrasound". Infrasound denotes very low frequencies, well below the nominal
threshold of human hearing at 20 Hz. You can't hear it, but it may nevertheless affect
your body. Industrial noise standards, and most sound measurement equipment, looks
only at noise above 20Hz. So, to my knowledge, there is precious little in the way of
relevant data and criteria upon which to base a conclusion.
Based upon the factors noted above, the necessary scope of new investigative
measurements becomes more clear. It must focus on infrasound. Furthermore, one
cannot just go out to the home any old time; sometimes it's there, sometimes it's not.
Finally, the investigation must aim to definitively distinguish between real measurable
effects, and complaints that may be unrelated to infrasound. This suggests an
investigative program wherein the data collection of measurements within the home is
automatic and is triggered by either measured infrasound, or by the affected resident at
times of particular concern.
Until such a program has been done, neither monologue has credibility.
Now, on to environment and economics. I have been monitoring the mix of electricity
generation in Ontario for a long time. It now seems clear that significant wind power is
seldom available when we need it and when it is available we don't really need it. As a
result there is not really that much displacement of coal, and there is often displacement
of nuclear and hydro, which are clean anyway. Don't believe me? Look for yourself. Go
to this remarkable webpage, http:// media.cns-snc.ca/ontarioelectricity /ontarioelectricity.
html. Yes, the webpage was created by the Canadian Nuclear Society; but the data is
real time right from the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) website, That
webpage is not someone’s opinion; it is all facts. So regarding wind' there's more to talk
about than Medical Effects.
Ron Hartlen is a retired Mechanical Engineer living in The Blue Mountains. Much of his
education, and work experience specialized in aerodynamics, structural vibration and
noise. For 35 years he performed research and technical services in the electrical power