VW Mk II: Wind Industry’s Acoustic Consultants Caught In Noise ‘Standard’ Scandal

Fraud tarnishes another ‘clean’ image …


Wind farm noise report ‘parallels VW scandal’, MP claims
Western Morning News
P Goodwin
22 October 2015

A new report co-authored in the Westcountry exposes “two decades of deception” from the wind industry about the effect of turbines on health of near neighbours, an MP claimed.

The Independent Noise Working Group (INWG) has used its study to call for an overhaul of the way wind farms noise is measured.

The findings were presented to Energy Minister Andrea Leadsom last week in a bid to persuade the Government to introduce new standards.

Noise campaigners believe the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) is now receptive to changing the existing method by which councils assess wind farms – the ETSU-R-97, which was created in 1996.

Conservative MP for Daventry Chris Heaton-Harris claims the new report draws “parallels with the Volkswagen emission scandal” where vehicles were rigged to conceal the harmful pollutants they emitted.

The Institute of Acoustics (IoA) – instrumental in developing the noise measurement policy – dismissed it served vested interests and “strongly refuted the allegations”.

One of the report’s authors, Mike Hulme – who has for ten years fought plans for nine 120m (390ft) masts at Den Brook in Devon – said a group of highly qualified acousticisans and sleep specialists had contributed to the document.

He says the true effect of amplitude modulation – where “swishing” sounds turn to a “thumping”, often at night – was being miscalculated by a “massive amount”.

In some cases claims of five decibel (db) noise had been detected as high as 15db, he added, huge in sound terms.

“We have showed with direct testing using real world data from wind farms that neighbours are not being protected,” added Mr Hulme.

“It shows what we have been saying for years – the means of controlling wind farms is seriously flawed and the Government has been wrongly advised.”

In a joint announcement with the INWG, the group’s “political sponsor” MP Mr Heaton Harris said the report showed “how a small group of wind industry funded acousticians have taken control of the Institute of Acoustics (IoA) and its noise working groups”.

“This façade of respectability afforded by the IoA has enabled the wind industry to dominate government noise assessment policy and planning guidance by providing inaccurate and misleading scientific advice,” the MP added.

“The parallels with the Volkswagen emission scandal are quite remarkable.”

The INWG suggest these two decades of deception are now resulting in serious annoyance and far reaching risks to the health and wellbeing of large numbers of people living in the proximity of wind farms.”

The IoA said the accusations are “completely without any basis” and said parallels with the VW emissions scandal was “an appalling slur on the professionalism and integrity of our members”.

It said the Good Practice Guide for the application of ETSU-R-97 was drawn up after “a lengthy and wide-ranging consultation” during which opinions were sought from all quarters, before “recommendations were later fully endorsed by the Government”.

A spokesman added: Throughout the whole process and the subsequent drawing up of guide’s supplementary guidance notes our whole approach and that of the members involved has been based on science and best practice, and we would strongly challenge the INWG to substantiate its claims that this has resulted in the advice given to the Government being ‘inaccurate’ and ‘misleading.”
Western Morning News

Definition of fraud

Now, there’s a surprise: the wind industry’s pet acoustic ‘experts’ pushing a claim that there is absolutely nothing wrong with the noise ‘standard’ (ETSU-R-97) that was written by …. yep, that’s right …. the wind industry’s very own pet acoustic ‘experts’.

Now, at the risk of sounding a tad cynical, STT is happy to go out on a limb and bet that the pitch from the Institute of Acoustics about “strongly refuting the allegations” is precisely what their legal advisers told them to say.

With that advice, no doubt, being driven by their professional indemnity insurers threatening to deny them cover for making any admission of liability to wind farm neighbours – with an instruction to the effect that: ‘when you’re in it up to your neck, then – whatever else you might do – keep your mouth shut’.

In our timeline post – Three Decades of Wind Industry Deception: A Chronology of a Global Conspiracy of Silence and Subterfuge – we covered the fact that – from 1995 – the wind industry drew together a hand-picked team with a mission to write noise rules with absolutely no relevance to wind turbine noise; and, therefore, of no benefit to wind farm neighbours (with predictable and soul-destroying results). Here’s an extract from it:

The NASA Research

Starting in the early 1980s, a decade’s worth of research was undertaken by NASA into a series of large wind turbines (then being developed by NASA), which included a stellar cast of physicists, meteorologists, geophysicists, seismologists, engineers (both mechanical and acoustic), and psycho-acousticians. Part of that research involved a multidisciplinary effort to identify the causes of complaints made by neighbours in relation to the operation of those turbines: we refer to it as “the NASA research”, which also included work carried out by Neil Kelley.

Some of the key findings of the NASA research into the neighbours’ complaints were that:

“very low frequency” noise generated by NASA’s turbines (which was defined to include “infrasound”) was the cause of the “annoyance” reported by neighbours (“annoyance” being an acoustics term which does not involve emotional responses – ie “antipathy” to the “look” of wind turbines);

the “annoyance” being reported by neighbours included numerous physiological responses, which were described as “sensations”. These “sensations”, which they felt rather than heard, were sensations of “pressure”, “a sense of uneasiness”, “booming or thumping pulsations”. These sensations were at their worst in the bedrooms where they were trying to sleep;

the “very low frequency” noise generated by turbines interacted with, and was amplified by, the complainant’s homes, creating “structural resonances”, whereby low-frequency sound-waves “excited” materials within the home, causing vibration of the home;

the “very low frequency noise” generated by turbines was not “attenuated” by the structure of the homes (ie, sound pressure levels were not significantly reduced inside homes), but, rather, interacted with homes in the manner described above – resulting in higher sound pressure levels at very low frequencies (ie the noise levels recorded were higher inside than outside), causing greater “annoyance” to neighbours, as a result;

the vibration of these homes, caused by turbine generated infrasound, resulted in neighbours perceiving that vibration with their whole bodies (ie “whole body perception”);

the very low-frequency noise generated by NASA’s turbines was replicated in a “house” (a three room structure) during a further study; and was shown to cause “annoyance/displeasure” as a “presence” which participants could “feel” to varying degrees, up to “extremely annoying and uncomfortable”; sensations of “vibration/pressure” and “pulsations”, which participants could also “feel” to varying degrees, up to and including “severe vibration” and “very heavy pulses, booms and thumps”;

the common noise descriptor or weighting, dB(A) (used to measure noise sources such as air-conditioners) was found to be totally inadequate, with almost no significant relationship to the sensations and symptoms being reported; and, was, accordingly found to be the worst possible measure for predicting the level of “annoyance” being reported by neighbours;

a variety of noise descriptors, designed to capture low-frequency noise, showed strong correlations between the noise levels generated and the sensations recorded;

the first of the NASA turbine designs being studied as part of research had its blades down wind from the tower. The second turbine design placed the blades up wind (ie, in front of the tower). The infrasound and low-frequency noise levels generated were not significantly altered as a result. (Modern wind turbines use the “up wind” design);

the homes where people were adversely affected were situated out to as far as 3km from a single turbine;

the propagation distance (ie the distance over which noise travels before it “decays”) is far greater for low-frequency noise and infrasound generated by turbines, than the propagation distance of noise which does not contain sound energy at low frequencies.

In 1987, at a wind power conference in San Francisco, the wind industry was presented with the findings of NASA’s research; and told that these findings meant that dB(A) was an inappropriate method of measuring wind turbine noise, and the impact of that noise on neighbours. It was further told that low-frequency noise and infrasound were the dominant features of wind turbine generated noise, which would cause significant “annoyance” to neighbours.

Independent of, but concurrent with, the NASA research substantial efforts were made in investigating the impacts of infrasound on human health, particularly in relation to effects such as nausea, headaches and vertigo.

In 1985, a study was published (Nussbaum) that established infrasound as the cause of symptoms including: accelerated heart rate; increased respiration; fatigue; dizziness (vertigo); nausea (motion sickness); and headaches, among other things. The study found that certain people were more greatly affected by infrasound than others (ie more serious symptoms and/or sensations were experienced; or were experienced to a greater degree). These differences in response were, among other things, attributed to physiological differences, including differences in the size of the internal passages of the subjects’ ears.

The Wind Industry Cover Up

As the wind industry began to take off in the early 1990s it needed to set noise limits and planning criteria that would not present any obstacle to it in rolling out turbines in quiet rural environments.

The wind industry gathered what became known as the “noise working group” in 1995; a group which then, and thereafter, worked on wind industry noise guidelines.

The result was a document called ETSU-R-97.

That document reads as if the NASA research had never happened as it:

  • excludes any reference to low-frequency noise (the source of the problem shown by the NASA research as the cause of the sensations and symptoms suffered);
  • excludes the noise descriptors and weightings that were found by the NASA research to be the best predictors of the annoyance caused to neighbours, and the sensations and symptoms suffered;
  • relies exclusively on the dB(A) weighting (found to be irrelevant as a consequence of the NASA research);
  • assumes that, in all cases, the sound pressure levels inside neighbouring homes are substantially less than what is recorded outside those homes (entirely to the contrary of the findings made in the NASA research);
  • excludes testing inside homes for noise of any frequency (let alone low-frequency noise);
  • instead, limits noise testing to measurements taken external to homes, using the dB(A) weighting only;
  • established methods by which monitoring equipment can be placed in a way that will simply measure environmental noise (eg “wind in the trees”). In the first instance, these “methods” allow for the placement of monitoring equipment in locations where high levels can be recorded prior to the construction of a wind farm (eg, underneath trees or in bushes). Subsequently, noise level criteria can be met by simply shifting the location of the monitoring equipment (eg, placing them in the open away from trees or bushes).

All of the wind industry noise standards or guidelines which have emerged around the world since then can trace their origins to ETSU-R-97 – think of it as the wind industry’s template for deception.

Over the last decade or so, the wind industry has fought tooth and nail to defend these standards or guidelines. It has resisted all attempts or even suggestions that would:

  • result in standards which include the measurement of low-frequency noise and infrasound;
  • set controls for low-frequency noise and infrasound inside homes;
  • require wind farm operators to cooperate with meaningful noise testing by, for example:
    • shutting turbines on and off in order to distinguish between the noise generated by turbines and environmental noise, such as wind in the trees; or
    • providing operational data, such as wind speed and power output data;

Indeed, whenever these topics are raised by authorities or community groups the wind industry becomes defensive; and even aggressive in response [precisely the line taken by the wind industry’s consultant group in the article above].

Along the way, the wind industry continued to press planning authorities for even higher noise limits than were originally set (in the irrelevant dB(A) measure, of course) – that would permit ever larger turbines to be located ever closer to residential homes; planning authorities and Environmental Protection Agencies willingly obliged.

In South Australia – the first state in Australia to introduce wind farm noise guidelines – its EPA was so obliging to the wind industry, that its 2003 guidelines include the entirely fictional assertion that wind turbines do not produce infrasound at all, the guidelines stating:

Infrasound was a characteristic of some wind turbine models that has been attributed to early designs in which turbine blades were downwind of the main tower. The effect was generated as the blades cut through the turbulence generated around the downwind side of the tower.

Modern designs generally have the blades upwind of the tower. Wind conditions around the blades and improved blade design minimise the generation of the effect. The EPA has consulted the working group and completed an extensive literature search but is not aware of infrasound being present at any modern wind farm site.

The same fiction appears in the current version of the SA EPA wind farm noise guidelines published in 2009.

The wind industry’s efforts to use noise standards to cover up the issue of infrasound, and to obtain ever higher dB(A) noise limits, occurred despite knowing, full well, that low-frequency noise and infrasound was causing harm and distress to wind farm neighbours.

For example, from 2004 onwards, employees and management of Danish turbine manufacturer, Vestas warned that the wind turbine noise guidelines were inadequate in relation to the protection of wind farm neighbours; and, by 2011, knew that greater setback distances were required to avoid problems of precisely the kind being caused; especially in relation to the larger 3MW turbines, which were being rolled out by Vestas from 2010 onwards.

All of the above, and more, is laid out in the timeline.

The World Turns Full Circle

Recent work performed by leading acoustic engineers around the world has simply confirmed all of the facts and findings made in the NASA research, which concluded over 27 years ago.

The recent research that confirms the extensive work done by NASA, includes work carried out by:

  • Dr Paul Schomer, George Hessler, Rob Rand and Dr Bruce Walker at Shirley, Wisconsin in 2012 (available here);
  • Professor Colin Hansen and his team from the Adelaide University at Waterloo in South Australia during 2014 (see our post here); and
  • the groundbreaking research conducted by Steven Cooper at Cape Bridgewater in Victoria, also during 2014 (which has been recently published – see our posts here and here).

That work, like the NASA research before it, shows that the noise guidelines written and relied upon by the wind industry are utterly irrelevant when it comes to the question of protecting public health; and the adverse consequences of living with incessant turbine generated low-frequency noise and infrasound.

[tap on the video above for a little taste of what the fuss is about]

Now, the work done by the Independent Noise Working Group has simply added more weight to the insurmountable problem for the wind industry, their pet acoustic consultants and their respective insurers of legal liability in damages to wind farm neighbours for ‘slam-dunk’ claims in negligence and nuisance – claims that will run into the many, many $millions.

The Group’s damning report is available here: Wind Turbine Amplitude Modulation and Planning Control Study Acoustics 15 Oct 2015

Whether it’s fiddling with computer programs on cars to beat tests set for tough emissions standards – VW style; or writing wind farm noise ‘standards’ deliberately designed to ignore everything known about the health impacts of incessant low-frequency noise and infrasound, there’s an inescapable adage in life: ‘you reap what you sow’.

For the wind industry and its acoustic consultants, their deception – and the utterly unnecessary harm that they have meted out on thousands of their victims around the globe – will have a reckoning.

STT is happy to wait for Karma to settle the score – but the victims – whose abilities to live in and enjoy their homes and properties have been thoroughly and maliciously destroyed – are likely to seek a pound (or more) of flesh from their tormentors, just a little sooner than that.


9 thoughts on “VW Mk II: Wind Industry’s Acoustic Consultants Caught In Noise ‘Standard’ Scandal

  1. Another excellent article STT. And one that I can relate to 100%

    After nearly 7 years of having the Pacific Hydro industrial wind
    turbines forced upon us here at Cape Bridgewater, this article reads like a checklist of the health problems that I experience daily.

    How can I best describe this to the uninitiated?

    If you have ever flown in a jetliner, you may have noticed
    sometimes that as you descend, your ears ache. Whilst modern jets fly at around 30-40,000ft, the cabin is actually simulating an altitude air pressure of around 6-8000ft. Some more modern aircraft like the Boeing 787 are able to simulate an even lower cabin altitude pressure. This can make for a more comfortable flight. As the plane descends, the cabin pressure readjusts to the pressure at the destination. Some passengers like myself can experience strong ear ache during this phase of flight whilst others may not. This is just one way of describing how myself and many others experience the changes in air pressure and infrasound around giant modern industrial wind turbine sites.

    Well, so what you may say? Many passengers are prepared to experience this to get to their destination quickly.

    However, for those of us who have the misfortune of residing next to industrial wind turbines, we are expected to live with this at any time of the night or day 24 / 7, year in year out, FOREVER! Sometimes it is constant for days on end. We are trying to function in our day to day lives and sleep in this hazardous industrial environment. The wind companies have built over the top of us. And we are, as STT recently put it, effectively being evicted from our own homes. This cannot continue in the 21st century especially in a 1st world country like Australia. Yes Cape Bridgewater is windy. But PEOPLE LIVE HERE!!! We have rights!

    The longer I am exposed to industrial wind turbines, the worse the problems get. Western Victoria is becoming an industrial “no go zone” for myself and many others. I can actually name stretches of road that can cause extreme ear ache or head aches around the state near industrial wind turbine sites. Sometimes I have to pull off the road the pain is so excruciating. But it is difficult to explain this to a person who is not suffering the same symptoms and more often than not, they will simply switch off and stop listening.

    Thankfully however, this is where experienced health professionals and acousticians in the field, the ones who have not been drawn over to the “dark side”, come to our aid. And they have taken the time to describe in great detail what is happening to myself and others. Whilst these superb professionals exist, there is still hope that this industry will finally be exposed! These turbines are giant fans. Fans generate infrasound. The bigger you make them the bigger the problems with infrasound.

    Victoria is a wonderful state. But I am witnessing the gradual destruction of rural Victoria first hand. And with the rollout of industrial wind, I do not like what I am seeing one bit. “Greed” in all its ugly glory and at any cost to health or the environment. I can also see how the Anti Fracking movement is being hijacked to manipulate voters to vote Green. Whilst I do not support gas fracking myself, the irony of this situation is that the Greens beloved wind farms need gas to back them up! Wake up Australia.

    In a recent trip to Tasmania, a state that has sensibly largely chosen Hydro, I spent several nights in the delightful coastal town of Swansea. I cannot remember when I last had such a deep sleep. The peace and quiet should be prescribed! I hope the residents of Swansea realise this and protect it at all costs. Because the wind developers are out there amongst us looking for new sites to destroy. No rural community is safe as long as this evil industry is allowed to continue.

  2. The problem that VW have with emissions in their vehicles is only a small amount of chicken feed compared the the corrupt windweasel grubs. Goverments all over the planet are involved in this right up to their necks as well, let alone a number of grubby polies and others.

  3. Again around there world the same things are happening. This industry is an industry which has an instruction book created in partnership with each other to ensure where ever they invade the process of lies and deceit gives an impression the manner in which they work is a well accepted one supported by every country and that the standards they’ve created are recognised as being the worlds best standards.
    Its only when those suffering and their supporters start to tear down the appearance of acceptability of their methods that they begin to come unstuck, its then that this industry begins to falter and looks for ways to shutdown those who speak out. Unfortunately for them once the lid has begun to lift it cannot be shut tight again.

  4. Something we have all fought about from day one. There already was a noise standard BS4142 enforced under the Environment Act 1990. So acceptance of a lower standard was purely a fudge between the government and the Wind Energy companies!

  5. Reblogged this on windfarmaction and commented:
    Something we have all fought about from day one. There already was a noise standard BS4142 enforced under the Environment Act 1990. So acceptance of a lower standard was purely a fudge between the government and the Wind Energy companies!

    The Working Group on Noise from Wind Turbines

    Link to ETSU document:

    ETSU guidelines were developed by govt in collusioin with the windustry to facilitate development of the windustry without undue burden.

    Another interesting fact about ETSU is it’s disclaimer at the front of the document:
    “This report was drawn up under the direction of the Noise Working Group. While the information contained in this report is given in good faith, it is issued strictly on the basis that any person or entity relying on it does so entirely at their own risk, and without the benefit of any warranty or commitment whatsoever on the part of the individuals or organisations involved in the report as to the veracity or accuracy of any facts or statements contained in this report. The views and judgements expressed in this report are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of ETSU, the Department of Trade and Industry or any of the other participating organisations.”

    My interpretation of the disclaimer:
    1) The disclaimer states that any person or company relies on the ETSU guidelines at their own risk,
    2) The individuals and organisations involved with drafting the report cannot be held liable for people or organisations relying on its recommendations.
    3) The govt has distanced itself from the report by stating it is NOT responsible for the guidelines and recommendations, even though they commissioned the guidelines.
    Intro – Page 23 in PDF document:
    “The report was drafted in the light of the best information available at the time. However it is acknowledged that as more experience and information become available and as circumstances develop it may become necessary to revise and improve the contents of this report. The Noise Working Group therefore suggests this report and its recommendations are reviewed in two years time. To this end, any comments on the usefulness of the report would be most welcome, including any suggestions for improvement with any supporting evidence where possible.”

    NOTE: To my knowledge ETSU-R-97 has never been reviewed or updated. I stand to be corrected if I am mistaken on this point.

  7. On 9th October 2015 on ABC’s AM radio program we heard the claim that “VW had set out to cheat and lie to regulators and consumers”. Our first reaction was – just the same as the wind industry …… as outlined in tonight’s STT posting.

    Three levels of government have been party to the widespread fraud and deception of the wind industry, and done absolutely nothing about it.

    AGL carried out fraudulent noise monitoring at several properties around the Macarthur wind farm with one of the “pet acoustic companies”, NOT adhering to the Victorian guidelines by taking measurements further out from homes than the required 5 – 10 metres.

    The local shire was some time ago presented with a comprehensive assessment of the inadequacies and irregularities of two peer reviews of AGL’s Post Commissioning Compliance Noise Report (claiming the Macarthur wind farm is compliant, of course) …. these peer reviews commissioned by the State government and the local shire. Local residents commissioned an independent acoustic expert to outline the total failure of AGL’s compliance noise testing, and outline reasons the Macarthur wind farm is in fact NOT COMPLIANT, but the shire voted 6 – 1 against accepting this comprehensive report, let alone reading it and acting upon it.

    As a result of this wilful blindness, all levels of government are knowingly allowing the ongoing serious harm to resident’s health……..

    Let’s hope the truth emerges sooner rather than later, the way it has with VW, and those responsible, discover that “every dog has his day”.

  8. RLS, again

    ” the cruelest lies are often told in silence”

    Low frequency noise and infrasound are insidious pollutants which can harm human health.

    It is clear the acoustic profession has been insidiously polluted by corrupt members with ties to the wind industry.

    It is time for the honest brokers of the profession to join with their ethical colleagues already calling for action to break their silence on the coverup of acoustic pollution from industrial wind factories.

    Lest their profession be forever discredited and diminished.

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