Why Pulsing Wind Turbine Noise Causes Nightmares For Neighbours

Mary Morris still on the warpath over SA EPA bias and incompetence.


Starting over 30 years ago, the wind industry established noise rules deliberately designed to allow it to operate with complete impunity, while punishing wind farm neighbours with incessant turbine generated low-frequency noise and infrasound: Three Decades of Wind Industry Deception: A Chronology of a Global Conspiracy of Silence and Subterfuge

In December last year, the Administrative Appeals Tribunal handed down a decision which held that the so-called noise standards that apply to wind turbine noise are utterly irrelevant and not fit for purpose, because all of them use dB(A) weighting: a method of concealing the low-frequency noise, which causes neighbours to suffer from sleep disturbance, and worse.

The AAT held that “The dB(A) weighting system is not designed to measure the low-frequency sound emitted by wind turbines, and is not an appropriate way of measuring it.” And that: “The best way of accurately measuring WTN at a particular location is through ‘raw’ unweighted measurements which are not averaged across time and are then subjected to detailed “narrow-band” analysis” – the full decision is available here: Australian Court Finds Wind Turbine Noise Exposure a ‘Pathway to Disease’: Waubra Foundation Vindicated

Those findings mean that every wind turbine noise standard/guideline/criteria in use around the world is utterly irrelevant, because they are all based on the dB(A) weighting system, and none of them include any reference to ‘raw’ unweighted measurements, not averaged across time.

Corrupt and pliant noise ‘regulators’, such as South Australia’s Environment Protection Authority jumped into bed with the wind industry from the very beginning and continue to do its bidding.

The SA EPA’s nemesis is a farmer from its Mid-North, Mary Morris.

Mary continues to impress and inspire with her efforts to ensure communities get relevant noise rules and that they get enforced. Her relentless efforts to get the facts before the 2015 Senate Inquiry were super-human: Wind Farm Senate Inquiry Fallout Continues

Mary, still on the warpath, recently teamed up with STT Champion, Steven Cooper to produce a paper for the Acoustical Society of America’s conference in New Orleans. Their work follows on Cooper’s ground-breaking study at Cape Bridgewater in Victoria: Steven Cooper’s Cape Bridgewater Wind Farm Study the Beginning of the End for the Wind Industry

And utilises data gathered by Mary at Waterloo in SA.

What follows below is the audio, slides and transcript from Steven Cooper’s presentation of their paper to the ASA.

Revisiting the South Australian Environment Protection Authority 2013 Waterloo study using the Schomer principle
174th Meeting of the Acoustical Society of America
Mary Morris and Steven Cooper
7 December 2017

In 2013, the South Australian Environment Protection Authority conducted a 10 week study in relation to noise complaints at the Waterloo wind farm in the Mid North of South Australia. The study involved the use of diaries by 28 households located around the wind farm and noise loggers at 6 dwellings. In analyzing the residents’ diaries, the Environment Protection Authority focussed on “noise” events and disregarded comments or observations by the residents which related to other forms of disturbance such as sensation. In the light of the Schomer principle presented in the 2017 ASA meeting in Boston, the 2013 Waterloo study data has been revisited to include an examination of the Power Output and WAV files associated with periods where residents have reported high levels of disturbance.


Steven Cooper: In a Boston Wind Turbine Session earlier this year, Dr. Schomer presented a concept which has been called the Schomer Principle to look at what would happen with people’s reaction following the power output of wind turbines.

And if you look at this – that’s Mary Morris. I’m not her. I’m filling in, but I provided input. She’s done a massive amount of work to go back and look at the study done by the South Australian EPA.

Mary did originally a study for the community looking at the impacts for 10 kilometres out to a turbine, and it was quite a comprehensive study.

You’ll see that this is the Waterloo wind turbines. They’re located on a hill. The particulars in terms of it. And there are 230 homes within 10 kilometres. From the start of it, there were complaints. But the wind farm was identified as being compliant with the South Australian Wind Farm guidelines.

The study that Mary did had a phenomenal response (if we look at the New York study this morning) to get 40%. The community did it. Every house was delivered the survey and lo and behold, sleep disturbance was a major key finding that came out of it.

If you look at it in terms of the percentage of the community being affected, this degree of disturbance is much greater than norms. This was one of the issues that Dr. Schomer was looking at – we need to look at some of these things that are occurring.

Mary did this comprehensive study. She looked at the analysis and was actually accepted as part of a study by the National Health and Medical Research Council in Australia.

So we look at the zero to five kilometres. We look at zero to ten kilometres. Now you’ve got 93 households and you look in terms of the amount that’s looking at disturbance versus no (disturbance). It’s obviously more disturbance as we get closer.

But what we looked at, in terms of this study, is she asked particulars about (the sleep disturbance, such as) ‘can’t sleep’, ‘ear pain pressure’, ‘headache’, ‘vibration’, a whole combination to see what was occurring to give us some better information about this matter of sleep disturbance.

The South Australian guidelines have a core objective which has never been met on any of the wind farms that I’ve been to as far as residents are concerned. There’s supposed to be a guideline which balances it with protecting the acoustic amenity of residents. And there are plenty of residents who are disturbed such that they complain in terms of the EPA that they were getting a raw deal.

Community consultation and the advantage of a lot of pressure and public ridicule, I guess, of what was going on caused the EPA to attend some public meetings and give an undertaking to do a study of the Waterloo wind farm.

They did this matter of noise study. It was identified as a base document in my Cape Bridgewater study in terms of it. Whilst the EPA were doing measurements, Adelaide University and I were conducting measurements at the same time. And I can tell you that our data and our conclusions is somewhat different from that of the EPA.

The EPA provided a diary format. And what they were after was noise events. They weren’t interested in anything else, but the residents put down comments on the side there as to what was occurring. And when the report was done, all of those comments were disregarded.

We can see by the blue arrows in here where the wind farm is located on a ridge. And so as to identity the matter of observation has been made such by Dr. Leventhall about seeing turbines. The sunglasses indicate that the people on that side cannot see the turbines and there are limited views.

Why does that occur? Well, you’ll see in this photo that there is a hill on the right hand side of the graph and that is blocking the view, but there are residents out to 10 kilometres from the turbines that can sense the operations when they reach certain power levels.

The EPA came to some conclusions and said it’s a compliant wind farm. There’s a little bit of amplitude modulation, but it’s not there as you’ve got to wind the gain up to listen to things. And basically that’s it.

What became interesting is Murphy’s Law came into play, and a few weeks after the survey was finished there was a cable outage and the entire shutdown of the turbines, there was no power and it was down for about 10 days. And Adelaide University raced back up there and they got data without the turbines and the community kept their diaries – and they weren’t being disturbed.

Now, the Schomer Principle was looking about and he raised this back from the Shirley wind farm, could we look at plotting the power output, see what was going on, and following on from the Cape Bridgewater, could we plot those diary results? So we went back, primarily Mary, to go through the diaries that were available, with the permission of the residents and see what we could occur. It is a mammoth amount of work that has been done to get this information here.

I’m going to go through very quickly a whole pile of the days, but the idea is, in blue are the audible events that were recorded by the residents. And you have inserted into the arrows identifying where they are in relation to the turbines. So we’ve got West and we’ve got Township, which has got quite a few houses abandoned since the turbines came online.

Looking and getting the concept through these graphs is the red are events reported by residents which did not get into the EPA study. In other words, they were ignored. And they weren’t just inaudible  – there was audible, there was sensation, there was vibration.

If you look through the pattern, the hypothesis that came from the Cape Bridgewater study is when turbines start up (because they do turn before the cut in power to occur – they are rotating less than three metres per second) when they come on are they having an instability?

The other hypothesis was at high-power and when they were changing their power up and down because we were looking at if the blades weren’t aligned efficiently to the wind.

So we a lot of instances where we’re getting events that are occurring by the power changes. We get down here and we’re continuing on in the days, which has shown us a pattern to occur in the events.

Now, we get reasonably stable in the middle of the day and there’s not that many events that occur, but we can look in the early hours of the morning where people are getting these events not as audible events.

We can see in this graph that we’ve got the turbines trying to start in the early hours of the morning at low power and we’re getting the disturbances being reported and, again, not all of them are noise. And then we get the changes in the latter part of the day where we get these events that are occurring.

The EPA said that they would provide data for the study for people that asked. And maybe I’m on their black books, but no matter how many times I requested officially in writing,I was never provided any of the measurement data – not one bit. But the residents were and they provided some information.

If we look they did a shutdown for testing between on and off. And you’ll see on the right hand side the graph a little bit after 11:30 is a matter of vibration, there’s inaudible noise and sensation that’s reported.

Well, we were given MP3 files, and without calibration tables, we had the data for it to look at the exact time. And this is the narrow band that corresponds with that very complaint from the house, which is one of the houses that I was measuring in.

There’s a strong peak in the 50 Hz 1/3 octave band, but it’s 46 Hz being the second harmonic of the fundamental frequency that comes out associated with the turbines assuming to be the output gear shaft. It is there.

If you take the material and we don’t have enough gain in terms of here. If you look at as the time files, which is a method we’ve used before by taking a waterfall and looking down the one-third octaves, you have quite a fair bit of modulation that’s occurring at 50 Hz. And if you listen to the WAV file, or the MP3 file, add the gain in it, it is classic amplitude modulation.

There is also a five Hz, which to the followers looking at infrasound, it’s quite a fair bit of modulation that’s occurring. So it’s a multiple of the harmonics of the blade pass frequency.

If you look at the information from the EPA, it seems that some of these microphones or the systems didn’t go down real well to low frequencies. If you use a modem to get the Sentinel information out, it doesn’t get much below 20 Hz. So some of the data in talking about the microphones became a bit useless.

But we, and Adelaide University, have instrumentation that could measure full spectrum and look at the times and there’s been plenty of papers by Adelaide University looking at on-off, showing the modulation, showing all the frequencies to occur. The time is limited that I have. We get back to following a few days later. We get those issues. So we’ve got a pattern.

Conclusions. The study of EPA focused on audible events. When we did the Cape Bridgewater we tried it and the residents said, “We don’t understand this thing.” So we introduced sensation, and sensation to people has made a big difference in their description of their comments.

There are wakenings, sensations that were identified by the community. They consider that if you do further investigations you need to look at these issues.

The community has no faith in the South Australian EPA and they don’t believe the core objectives are satisfied. There are plenty of residents that can sense the operation of the turbines four kilometres away and they can’t see them.

If we go through and look at it, we’ve seen that the Schomer Principle works out well if you’ve got the results to report about the disturbances.

This is old data. The diary format is not so much as what we did with Cape Bridgewater but we got residents in proximity to the Macarthur and Cape Bridgewater wind farms have kept the diary format since we did our study in 2014.

They can go to a website and get the output of the wind farm. They can look at it. I’ve been in contact with them. And they actually confirm that the Schomer Principle works. And they can track it, see what occurs, it fits in the hypothesis. So further work looking at it is what Paul said. You can look to see the residents’ reactions. The diaries see the power output. And in some cases, completely bypass acousticians. But that’s what we looked at as best we could in the limited data and we found the information to support it.

I have to acknowledge that there’s probably thousands of hours that Mary went to go back through all the diaries, all the data, cross-correlate it, put it all together, and provide the graphics to assist. Thank you.

Questioner: With respect to the last point, as I understand, the residents that are living near the Macarthur and Cape Bridgewater wind farms are now taking a diary and then they themselves are checking the output at that time?

Steven Cooper: No, afterwards. You get the data the next day and you can download it. The AEMO website covers all power generation in Australia and you can go back and look at it, normally for 30 days, but if you know how to trick the data you can go back a long way. And you can look at individual wind farms, individual power stations, and look at the data of the output.

Questioner: The suggestion I have is that someone other than the residents ought to be checking what the power output is so that the data that the residents are taking in their diaries are given to an independent person who can then tabulate that with the power to prevent any possible bias with the data.

Steven Cooper: Yes, absolutely. But there’s nobody actually doing any studies on that. It’s a matter of the residents been, those that have remained and haven’t abandoned the houses, have been looking at that. And at least in Australia we can get hold of the wind data because in Shirley, Duke energy wouldn’t provide the power output and the information.

Questioner: Will there be a ranking of response for the amount of change in power levels, or at what amount of power change did responses emerge?

Steven Cooper: In Cape Bridgewater we were looking at a 20% change in the power level, so it gave us a wider grouping. And some of the residents have been looking at smaller changes. When we first started it, their diaries were only reporting changes, and that’s how we found what was going on and we said no, we want regular reporting. And that was our pilot study that was done back in 2014. So we were looking at that and looking to see the trend.

When we’ve been dealing with power stations, we can see certain power drop offs and it’s more like a resonant frequency occurs or something goes wrong with the power station and gives rise to disturbance. For them it’s down about 10% or at maximum level when the generators are more than about 10 MWs apart in their output.

Questioner:  Would power changes be linked to changes in house resonance?

Steven Cooper: The power change … if it changes the output or the pulsing … If, for example, the pulsing where the blades are not aligned to the wind and there’s more turbulence on the blades, if that creates a greater level of pulse, then, yes, it can give a greater level of excitation to household resonances.

Some in Melissa (Ware’s) house, the roof, which is a metal roof, if you took vibration measurements up the wall, you’ve got greater levels of vibration close to the roof. And in the abandoned house, house 87, there was a wall in the centre of the building that was more prone to vibration but the wall extended into the roof, so the cavity space and the pressure pulses, yes, were giving greater levels and, yes, it was giving rise to some room resonances in the building.

Questioner:  With respect to the slides that you showed where there are certain events in which there are no audible disturbances but there was a disturbance or a sensation on that one graph, it seemed to me that there are a lot of other power changes that seem to be similar to those in which there was no observation. And I’m wondering if you’re planning to look at that data further to see and try to understand what type of changes might have effect at those responses. It seemed as if, to me, that there appear to be many instances in which there were similar power changes in which there was no response.

Steven Cooper: Yes. In terms of the earlier studies, particularly in the house that was used in the amplitude, the lady would come through in the room and they weren’t always keeping the diary and sometimes they weren’t there during the day, but the idea is that I asked the residents to give me an indication by their hand if they could feel the operation and could they sense the pulsation.

And so a lot of times they didn’t feel that it was warranted putting it in the diary. It was there, they were used to it. And so if it became stronger than they noted in the diary, and that was the thing that happened in terms of the Cape Bridgewater. We had the data. Of course, we don’t have any funding to go back and look at it, but it was in 2013 that study … And we actually found that if you are looking at narrow band and you looked at the 4 and 5 Hz, when the levels where above 50 dB, then the residents involved in the study could actually sense the operation of the turbines. You couldn’t hear them, but you could see on the screen. So that’s where we’re looking at the infrasound’s signature as a result of the pulsations.

There’s a lot of work in getting them to do the diaries on a regular basis, whether they’re affected or not or changes. And it becomes very taxing for those residents. But, yes, we’ve gone back to look at some of them and we’d like to do it on some further work.
Acoustical Society of America

Download PDF of Slides

Steven Cooper giving evidence to the Senate Committee on wind farms.

About stopthesethings

We are a group of citizens concerned about the rapid spread of industrial wind power generation installations across Australia.


  1. Jackie Rovensky says:

    Mary is not someone who is ensconced within an academic institution, protected, with people helping her, but she is a qualified and educated individual as well as a hard working farming partnership with her husband with a family to support and look after. The work she has and is doing to bring to attention and explain the damage being rort on innocent families from areas where industrial turbines have been installed is nothing more than spectacular. Thank you Mary and your family for their support of your work.
    What needs to be understood is these turbines are placed where they are for one purpose only and that is to make a profit for the companies who own them. They purport to place them in the most wind advantageous positions plottedby people who have no other role than to find these positions, many of which are probably wrongly positioned anyway, as they also include looking for these wind advantageous positions along a line that is close to existing grid access.
    No one involved in these projects considers the dangers posed to families living nearby – yes Governments play make believe by having planning regulations that turbines are not to be placed within certain distances of homes, yet they cannot show evidence which proves these distances are safe and will not cause health issues to those nearby, especially when these turbines are becoming bigger and bigger with a greater MW capacity factor and longer blades.
    The Governments and companies even ignore existing planning approvals and allow bigger turbines to be erected using existing planning permissions that were granted for much smaller turbines, without the companies ever having to offer updated planning and environmental research showing there will be no damage to the amenity of people, fauna or flora. Even the positioning of turbines are altered without having to resubmit evidence that the environment will not be disadvantaged.
    Why, because the industry owns the Politicians and their Departments both Federal and State. The EPBC is ignored if an application for changes is put forward for a project that received approval for smaller turbines, even though the changes may encroach on endangered environments and creatures.
    What do we have controls for? Why do we have planning regulations when they are constantly ignored by Government? Why do we need people like Mary Morris have to do for nothing what Governments are there to do or have done on our behalf. They are meant to be looking after our interests, our health and wellbeing.
    Maybe if we sat on our bums taking illicit drugs and drinking ourselves stupid we would be better served by our Governments.
    Again thank you to Mary Morris, Steven Cooper, Sarah Laurie and the army of people from around the world who are working to right this wrong – they are truly Superhuman without the fancy clothes and makeup.

  2. Mary, Morris is a Champion. I wish for her strength to go on with what is a very hard battle to fight this scam. Knowing Mary Morris personally I can only tell you all she is one of a kind, and I’m happy to call this Lady a good friend. Thank You Mary for all you do.

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