André Leslie — Deutsche Welle – February 4, 2013
Turbines line the highway in Essen. Wind parks are being built all over Germany, as the country phases out nuclear power and increases its investment in renewables.
Local resident Ruth is out walking with her dog in the field beside the turbines. She tells DW that she does hear sound from the machines occasionally in her home. “The sound is always there,” she says. “I hear it when I wake up and realize that something is there. It stays with me for the rest of the day.”
But other residents told DW that they don’t hear anything at all. They expressed concern that the audible sound and the shadows caused by moving rotor blades were bad for peoples’ health, but they weren’t aware of infrasound.
Nevertheless, sound expert Detlef Piorr says German authorities are taking the issue seriously. “It is not as if we in Germany are turning a blind eye to infrasound,” he said. “If there are new findings, and there are things that need to be investigated, then the universities will get the necessary funding so that they can research it further.”
Meanwhile, the German government seems to be taking the US reports seriously – a new research project investigating the effects of infrasound from wind farms has now been launched by the German Federal Environment Agency. It remains unclear when the results of the study will be released.
Opponents of wind farms in the US and Canada insist that low-frequency noise generated by turbines is detrimental to human health. But in Germany, experts aren’t convinced that infranoise poses a threat.
The whooshing sounds coming off the long rotator blades of a two megawatt wind turbine don’t sound too bad at first. In fact, in densely populated areas of North Rhine-Westphalia, a state in western Germany, busy roads and train lines are considerably louder.
But, in addition to sound that can be heard from the spinning blades, the turbines also produce sounds at such low frequency that they can’t be picked up by the human ear. This is infrasound and some people living near wind parks say it is making them sick.
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