Wind farms: small changes = big impact.
Matthew Cand, Senior Associate
Why noise mitigation matters.
Sound is an inevitable consequence of wind turbine operation, and in certain situations this sound can be deemed ‘unwanted noise’.
However, what’s considered an acceptable sound by one person may be deemed unacceptable by another. Even the same person may find a certain level of noise unobtrusive in one situation but troublesome in another, for example at night when trying to sleep.
Environmental noise therefore frequently represents one of the most controversial and restrictive aspects of proposed wind energy developments.
As the uptake of wind energy across the UK grows, controlling cumulative noise impacts is becoming increasingly important.
It’s never been more crucial to have a robust and defensible noise assessment, particularly when the split of available ‘noise budget’ between competing schemes is at stake.
A careful balance.
Wind-farm noise assessments require a careful balance between utilising the full available generating potential of a site and controlling the risks of excess noise generation.
This balance is dependent on many considerations that are specific to each development site and are relevant to all scales of wind energy project. Failure to recognise and address these considerations can lead to unnecessary development constraints and exposure to non-compliance risks.
In short, if noise considerations aren’t incorporated into wind farm design at an early stage there can be costly repercussions: socially, financially, and environmentally.
The importance of robust assessment.
The influence of different noise assessments on the viability, risk and generating capacity of wind farm developments is frequently underestimated.
Why should you undertake assessments? Because small changes = big differences.
Through experience (our firm has worked on more than 250 wind farm developments, both in the UK and continental Europe), we know that seemingly small changes to environmental noise limits or assessment methodologies don’t always stay small. They can translate to substantial lost development opportunities.
For example, even relatively minor changes to individual parameters referenced in standard prediction methodologies can readily translate to a 40%+ reduction or enhancement of the energy generating potential of a scheme. Similar losses can result from inaccuracies in background noise measurements or wind shear assessments.
Our role is to help developers and planners to manage these conflicting needs. To be able to balance compliance requirements against the financial and environmental consequences of adopting an excessively conservative design philosophy is no mean feat – but, with the right knowledge and experience, it’s possible.