No more noise than a fridge

The fourth lie: Wind turbines make no more noise than a refrigerator.


Did you ever wake-up at night with palpitations? Many windfarm neighbors do, and it’s not because of their refrigerators. The culprit, we know now, is infrasound emitted by wind turbines, aggravated by pulsations. Governments, scientists and wind turbine manufacturers knew that as far back as 25 years ago: this is why they always refused to measure infrasound emitted by wind turbines. They know they would be in trouble if they did. But they will have to do it now, as the news of their cover-up has just hit the fan:

I shall comment further on infrasound later, but for the moment I wish to say something about the noise issue. For not only has the wind industry covered-up on infrasound, it has also fudged the noise issue and told the public a big lie, namely the title of this post. One of Denmark’s leading newspapers has lambasted Vestas for it just recently:

As published on 1st July 2013 in JyllandsPosten:

Acousticians criticize Vestas 

  • The Vestas campaign, which aims to prove half truths and myths wrong through facts, has made a serious error itself.
  • We need to correct our phrasing, says a Vestas spokesman.

By Axel Pihl-Andersen (Journalist, JyllandsPosten)


Vestas has just launched a global campaign, which according to the wind turbine-giant itself is a counter-attack on the anti-wind movement, which is to be put in place by the pioneering Act on Facts-campaign.

For too long, the wind industry has allowed itself to be run over by few, but influential anti-wind movements, arguing with half truths and wild myths. Vestas now responds with a fact based global campaign, which aims to turn the passive majority of people into active advocates of wind power.” These are among the words in Vestas’ press release, which states that the campaign shall replace “hard-lived myths and lies about wind energy with documented facts”. But Vestas has large problems with the documented facts themselves, say Denmark’s leading acoustics scientists at Aalborg University.

Noise from a refrigerator

One of the campaign’s major topics is noise, and Vestas claims that the noise 400 meters away from a wind turbine is less than the noise from an average refrigerator. But that is pure nonsense, says acoustics professor Henrik Møller from Aalborg University.

If you take a sound level meter to your refrigerator, it will register a noise level of approx. 30 dB. The sound pressure level for a wind turbine at a distance of 400 meters will be approx. 40-43 dB, and that is a very big difference. If the noise level of a refrigerator were 40 dB, it would be impossible to sell”, says Henrik Møller.

He believes that Vestas, in spite of its facts-campaign, has messed seriously around with acoustic terms. Producers of refrigerators do announce some noise levels of about 40 dB, but according to Henrik Møller, these refer to a technical measure called the sound power level, and this cannot be compared to the sound pressure level.

Two different types of decibels

I think they have compared the sound power level from the refrigerator with the sound pressure level from wind turbines, and those are two very different measures. Decibel is not just decibel – it depends on what you are measuring”, says Henrik Møller.

Press officer and spokesman Jens Velling from Vestas admits that there is some “uncertainty” about this information. “We are aware of it, but I want to point out, that the campaign first launched is designed for Australia, where the required distance between a windturbine and a residence is 800 meters. At this distance, the numbers make sense”, says Jens Velling.

But you write 400 meters in your material?Yes, that is something we need to rephrase”.

It is not a good thing that you present wrong information in a campaign that is supposed to be based on facts, is it?  – No, you are right about that. It is essential, that the information we give is correct. We need to take a look at that phrasing.”

Professor Henrik Møller states that the numbers don’t make sense at 800 meters distance either. At a wind speed of 8 meters per second for a 3 MW Vestas wind turbine with a sound power level of approx. 107 dB, the sound pressure level will measure approx. 37-38 dB. This is still significantly more than the refrigerator’s 30-32 dB [ed. note: 5-8 decibels represent a huge difference for those who must live with the noise].

The National Association for Neighbours of large Wind Turbines in Denmark also criticizes Vestas’ campaign for manipulating numbers and information. “Vestas’ campaign contains much misleading information, but worst is the assertion that the noise of a wind turbine at a distance of 400 meters compares to that of a refrigerator”, they write in a press release.


Original in Danish:

9 thoughts on “No more noise than a fridge

  1. In Australia, the Clean Energy Council has spun it differently – perhaps lost in translation? They say the noise of an industrial wind turbine it is like a fridge at 500m. So the fridge is meant to be 500m away. See this video and the quote is at about the 3 minute mark.

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  6. Many people don’t realize that decibels are measured on a logarithmic scale.
    This means:
    – an increase of 3 dB(A) corresponds to a doubling of the sound intensity;
    – an increase of 10 dB(A) corresponds to a sound intensity ten times bigger.

    So, it only takes two or three decibels above the authorized limit to turn an acceptable noise into one that is intolerable.

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