Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS



Project ID: 44628
Funded under: FP6-SOCIETY
Country: Netherlands

Less noise for more support

With the increasing emphasis on alternative sustainable forms of energy, on-shore wind farms are becoming increasingly more common – as is opposition to them. An EU-funded project sought to evaluate the actual and perceived visual and auditory impact of wind farms on local residents in order to better design wind farms in the future for more widespread public support.
Less noise for more support
The ‘Visual and acoustical impact of wind farms on residents’ (Windfarmperception) project was undertaken to establish correlations, if any, between actual noise and visible features of wind farms and the perception of these by people living close to the farms.

The researchers selected 2,000 addresses in the Netherlands for the study. They calculated the sound level at the residents’ dwellings during high but not maximum power according to the international ISO standard for sound propagation. They also calculated the size of the wind turbines as perceived from each individual dwelling, incorporating the fraction of the space above the horizon occupied by all the turbines on the farm.

The researchers evaluated perceptions via a questionnaire. Of note, 14 % of respondents benefited financially from wind turbines by owning them, having shares in them or otherwise. Nine in 10 respondents were satisfied with their living environment and half of them were positive or very positive about wind turbines in general. However, only 20 % of them were positive or very positive about the impact of turbines on the local scenery.

As expected, the percentage of respondents noticing the sound from the wind farms increased with increasing sound levels, with no difference between those who had economic benefits and those who did not. The percentage of residents annoyed by the sound increased with increasing sound up to around 45 decibels and then decreased. Importantly, respondents with economic benefits from the wind farms expressed little or no annoyance. In addition, visibility of the wind turbines increased the report of annoyance from the noise.

The results support future focus on decreasing the noise from wind turbines, as sound was the most annoying aspect. In addition, decreasing visibility, or perhaps diminishing the contrast between the wind turbines and their environment, could lead to less annoyance and greater support for wind farms. Finally, involving the local community in wind farm planning and providing economic incentive could also foster positive attitudes.

In conclusion, the Windfarmperception project provided valuable insight into the factors affecting residents’ acceptance and support of local wind farms. Given the drive for sustainable forms of energy and the growing opposition to wind farms, the project outcomes should enhance expansion of on-shore wind farming with the support of local communities.

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