Turbine sounds being assessed
Australian researchers have reflected on the first 18 months of a five-year study into the health effects of wind farms.
Scientists on the NHMRC-funded study, including sleep experts and mechanical engineers with expertise in acoustics, say it is too early to make any claims, but they do hope they will eventually be able to conclusively answer questions on the controversial topic of wind farm health effects.
The Wind Farm Noise Study is using direct sleep recordings of brain waves and cardiovascular measurements while subjecting people to a range of different noises.
The three-part study, includes an in-home study of sleep and noise near winds, combined with laboratory components to investigate those same noise effects in a controlled sleep and noise environment.
“We're really focussing on the sleep elements of this debate, we think if there are adverse health effects, the most likely explanation for those would be through sleep disturbance and really no-one has looked in enough detail at sleep specifically,” professor Professor Peter Catcheside from Flinders University's Adelaide Institute for Sleep Health has told the ABC.
The effect of noise on sleep is extremely well researched, so the wind farm study is hoping to find out whether wind turbine noise is any different from other noises in regard to sleep disturbance.
By the time wind farm noise reaches most people’s houses, it consists almost entirely of very low, pulsating frequencies.
The researchers say current environmental laws assume noise (such as industrial or traffic noise) will be blocked out by the home, but wind farm noise could be particularly adept at penetrating the average house wall.
The team says it will be several years before any results from the study are released, and that they will be thoroughly reviewed when they do.
“The Australian peer review system … is a very tough environment to get funding in to support this area of research, and essentially that process ensures that only high quality science is funded to answer legitimate unanswered questions,” Professor Catcheside said.