How Loud Is A Wind Turbine?

Joanna Schroeder

There are several complaints that plague the wind industry including noise, visual impact and bird and bat mortality. Along with these complaints are sources that attempt to mitigate these issues. However, as with any emerging industry, the extent of negatives and positives are not known until later. That is why research is focused on answering these questions.

For example, many in the wind industry along with government agencies and universities have been conducting research on the topic of bird fatalities. The research includes bird and bat behaviors including migration, collisions statistics, how the turbine designs themselves affect birds and bats, and even how site selection can mitigate negative impacts.

Other areas of research focus around noise. Many people who live near wind farms complain about the noise, but how loud are they? The closest wind turbine to a home is 300 meters but they are usually placed further away. At this distance, a turbine will have a sound pressure level of 43 decibels. This decibel level equates to the noise emitted by an average air conditioner, which can reach 50 decibels of noise or a refrigerator which can reach up to 40 decibels.

General Electric (GE), one of the leading wind turbine technology developers and manufactures, has taken this complaint seriously. As a result, they have published a new graphic that demonstrates the “noise” factor of a wind turbine. According to GE, at .3 miles (500 meters) away from a turbine, the sound pressure level drops to 38 decibels.

According to Keith Longtin of GE Global Research, in most places, background noise ranges from 40 to 45 decibels, meaning that a turbine’s noise would be lost among other noises. For the stillest, most rural areas, Longtin says the background noise is 30 decibels. At that level, a turbine located about a mile away wouldn’t be heard. While more research is certainly needed, you can compare the noise from a wind turbine with the noise of other household items in the graph above.

Electricity, Energy, Wind