Use this page to get answers to some of the most-asked questions about wind energy. Have questions you don’t see here? Email vpirg@vpirg.org. Click on a question in the table of contents below to navigate to the answer.

Table of Contents

Q: How do wind turbines contribute to reducing our greenhouse gas emissions?

Q: Could we meet our renewable energy goals without installing large wind projects?

Q: Could we get all the electricity we need from just rooftop solar?

Q: What are the environmental impacts of wind turbines and how do they compare with other energy sources?

Q: Will my property value decrease if a wind project is developed nearby?

Q: Should towns be allowed to veto new wind projects that are within their borders?

Q: We already have plenty of electrical supply in the grid. Why do we need more wind projects and what will happen when we try to add it?

Q: What are Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) and how do they contribute to our clean energy goals?

Q: Do wind turbines cause health problems for nearby residents?

Q: How loud are wind turbines when compared to other sources of sound?

Q: Is it true that residents living near wind turbine projects have complained about noise and health problems from the turbines?

Q: What has the Public Utility Commission proposed for a new statewide sound standard for wind turbines?

Q: How does the new proposed rule compare to other sound standards around the country and the world?

Q: Will technology advancements come into place that will make turbines quieter in the future?

Q: Do wind turbines emit low frequency sound or infrasound?


Q: How do wind turbines contribute to reducing our greenhouse gas emissions?

A: As we install more wind turbines and other renewable energy sources, we reduce the New England electric grid’s reliance on non-renewable sources – primarily natural gas. In addition, as we electrify our heating and transportation sources, in-state renewables will ensure that those sectors are also powered by renewable energy.

Wind turbines have among the lowest life cycle greenhouse gas emissions of all energy sources (including extraction/manufacturing, operation, and decommissioning).[1],[2] Procuring more of our electricity from in-state low/zero carbon wind and solar generation will allow us to reduce our reliance on the New England electric grid, which still relies largely on fossil fuel sources. While electricity is currently a small portion of our in-state energy needs, that percentage will grow as we adopt electric heating and transportation solutions including electric vehicles and heat pumps for air and water heating. To ensure we meet our renewable energy goals and carbon pollution goals, we should power those additional loads off of in-state renewables.

As we work to develop enough renewable energy, we will continue to draw power from natural gas plants that can quickly ramp up and down as our renewable sources come online. Our reliance on these plants will decrease as we develop more renewable and energy storage projects.

Germany, which is far ahead of the United States and Vermont in terms of renewable development, has seen the percentage of their electricity generation coming from fossil fuels rapidly decrease as they deploy renewable generation. Despite their total electricity usage increasing (as we expect to see in Vermont), the new generation is entirely coming from renewable sources. While there have been short periods of increases because of the decommissioning of several nuclear power plants, the trend continues downward.[3],[4] Most importantly, their greenhouse gas emissions have decreased by 27% compared to 1990 levels.[5]

Back to top

Q: Could we meet our renewable energy goals without installing large wind projects?

A: Realistically, no. In order to fulfill our renewable energy goal of 90% of all energy used in Vermont by 2050, we must build new renewable energy from a variety of sources, including large scale wind.

Large wind projects are much more efficient than small and medium size projects, both from an energy and cost perspective. While we strongly support individual net metered projects, it is functionally impossible to meet our renewable energy goals using solely small scale projects. For instance, if we were to aim for 25% of Vermont’s electricity needs from in-state wind, we would need an additional 380 MW of installed capacity. That would require 126 more 3MW turbines. Because smaller wind turbines are also less efficient (since they generally can’t be built in Vermont’s high wind speed areas), if we were limited to just 100 kW turbines, we would have to install roughly 7,850 new turbines to get that same amount of power. If they were 10 kW turbines, we would need approximately 104,740 turbines.

Back to top

Q: Could we get all the electricity we need from just rooftop solar?

A: No, there simply aren’t enough roofs in Vermont to support 100% of our electricity needs.

Vermonters sometimes ask if we could get 100% of our electricity just from rooftop solar. Doing so would require over 786,600 residential rooftops.[6] There are only 326,894 housing units in Vermont as of the 2015 census.[7] In 2012, NREL estimated that approximately 35-90% of roof space isn’t available for solar given shading and orientation limitations.[8] If we assume roughly a third of Vermont homes can actual install a solar system, that would be just shy of 108,000 homes, which is about 14% of the roof space we’d need to find to install enough solar to meet our goals. If you add commercial buildings to that calculation (approximately 3,650 acres total floor space, so less roof space than that – and as with homes, not all of that will be buildable), you’d still only be able to support about 1000 MW[9] of solar, which is less than a quarter of what we would need to reach 100% of our current electric load.

If we look beyond rooftops to ground mounted solar, getting 100% of our electricity from solar would require over 28,000 acres. While that’s just a fraction of Vermont’s total land mass (Vermont has 5.9 million acres of land and statewide mapping shows 342,480 acres of potential solar land[10]), relying solely or primarily on one energy source creates additional problems for a stable, resilient grid. In addition, there has been some angst around the development of large solar arrays.

The reality is that Vermont must support renewable generation from a diverse array of in-state sources. Solar and wind complement each other in a distributed, renewable grid. Often wind speeds pick up as clouds are rolling in and solar is ramping down – and the winter, when solar is producing the least, is windier than the summer. Building a variety of sizes and technologies will allow us to both create a distributed grid and take advantage of the best, most cost-effective solutions at hand.

Back to top

Q: What are the environmental impacts of wind turbines and how do they compare with other energy sources?

A: The environmental impacts of wind turbines are tiny compared to the impacts from fossil fuel extraction and generation. In addition, wind developers are held to high standards of environmental protection when developing a project.

Coal mining, to take just one example, is estimated to disturb almost 1,000,000 acres of land each year.[11] Strip mining, which makes up approximately 65% of the coal that is mined in the United States, causes irreversible damage to mountains, forests, and streams. Land destroyed by coal mining is unusable for farming or forestry. While the scale of environmental impacts including water pollution and wildlife endangerment have not been fully measured, the damage from coal mining is massive and devastating.[12],[13] The impacts of other fossil fuel extraction – like fracking, deep water drilling, strip mining for tar sands – are similarly enormous.

In comparison, wind projects have a relatively minor impact on the land, which can still simultaneously be used for farming, ranching, and forestry.[14] In Vermont, Kingdom Community Wind disturbed a total of 135 acres of land (an equivalent amount of solar would have taken up about 1000 acres). However, as part of the development process, Green Mountain Power procured conservation easements on more than 2,800 acres of land on Lowell Mountain and elsewhere in the state.[15] Georgia Mountain, to take another example, hosts four wind turbines with a total capacity of 10 MW – along with a large maple sugaring operation.

Land View Comparison of Strip Mining and Wind Turbines

Wind FAQ Image

Before and after images showing the environmental impacts of strip mining.[16]

Wind FAQ Image

Image of Kingdom Community Wind on Lowell Mountain.[17]

Natural gas, which has flooded the market in recent years, is now largely obtained through hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.” Vermont became the first state to ban fracking in 2012. The practice has been linked to numerous environmental and public health problems around the country including groundwater contamination, air pollution, and earthquakes.[17]

Fossil fuels are also responsible for a far higher number of bird fatalities than wind turbines. Coal has annually contributed to killing almost 25 times as many birds as wind power.[18] (The biggest enemies of birds continue to be cats and buildings, which may kill at least 500 million birds per year and 97-976 million birds per year respectively.[19]) Despite wind’s relatively low contributions to bird fatalities, developers in Vermont and across the country are working to decrease the impact.

Energy production is the largest category of water withdrawal in the country. In 2010 it accounted for 161 billion gallons of withdrawal per day, or 45% of our total withdrawals.[20] While wind uses 0 gallons of water to produce one MWh of electricity, coal uses up to 1,100 gallons, nuclear uses up to 845 gallons, and natural gas uses up to 1,170 gallons.[21] This doesn’t include water required for mining and hydraulic fracking.

In general, individual projects face high standards of environmental protection when constructing a new project, particularly around wildlife protection and stormwater runoff. Kingdom Community Wind includes the use of innovative stormwater systems that prevented the clearing of twelve acres of forest and is uniquely adapted to the project’s terrain. A stormwater design expert confirmed in April 2016 that the system is causing no negative impacts to water quality. Ongoing monitoring at the site ensures those conditions do not change.[22]

Birds Eye View Comparison of the Land Impacts of Energy Sources

Mountaintop Removal in Pike County, Kentucky:

Wind FAQ Image

Permian Basin Fracking, Texas:

Wind FAQ Image

Athabasca Tar Sands, Alberta, Canada:

Wind FAQ Image

Sheffield Wind Farm, Sheffield, VT:

Wind FAQ Image

Back to top

Q: Will my property value decrease if a wind project is developed nearby?

A: Recent studies have found little to no impact on home values near a wind project.

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory recently completed two studies analyzing the impact of wind turbines on property values. The first, in 2013, looked broadly at the United States as a whole. The second, published in 2014, looked more specifically at homes in Massachusetts. Both concluded that wind turbines had little to no impact on home values.[24],[25]

More recently, in Colorado, a real estate assessor found that real estate value near a wind farm in El Paso County actually increased after the project was installed.[26]

Locally, the developer of the proposed wind project near Swanton have offered to buy nearby properties (within 3,000 feet of the turbines) if homeowners decide to move within six months of the project’s completion. While the developers think it is unlikely that homeowners will be bothered by the project and want to relocate, they are confident that they would be able to resell the homes. Homes currently on the market near the project have been selling despite awareness of the proposal.[27]

Back to top

Q: Should towns be allowed to veto new wind projects that are within their borders?

A: Vermont has statewide renewable energy goals that require new wind and solar generation to be built. Because meeting those state goals is about what’s in the best interest of the whole state, we believe decisions about new renewable energy projects should ultimately be made at a state level rather than on a town-by-town basis.

Towns have always had an important voice in the discussion around siting renewable energy projects within their borders. With the passage of Act 174 (2016’s energy siting bill), town plans will now be given “substantial deference” (in essence, far more power) in energy permitting decisions as long as their energy plans are in compliance with state energy goals. However, it still makes sense for the final decision to remain at the state level, with the Public Service Board. As a state regulator, they have appropriate oversight as to how a proposed project fits with our energy goals and state energy profile. They also have the resources to properly coordinate with other agencies to analyze all aspects of a new proposal, including many of the concerns raised above like environmental impact and sound levels.

Back to top

Q: We already have plenty of electrical supply in the grid. Why do we need more wind projects and what will happen when we try to add it?

A: Our current electric supply remains heavily reliant on fossil fuels. Our transportation and heating sources are even more so. Combined, we send billions of dollars out of state every year to pay for these fuels, money which could be spent in state as we electrify our heating and transportation sources and transition to renewable energy. Combining new renewable energy projects with storage and other technology solutions will help prepare our grid for a distributed, renewable future.

The more in-state electricity generation we have, the less we will rely on electricity from the New England regional grid (ISO-NE). Renewables, including hydropower, still only account for 16.5% of ISO-NE’s electric generation. The large majority is powered by natural gas.[28] This means that as we build more renewable generation here in Vermont, the overall use of fossil fuels will decrease.

Electricity is still a relatively small percentage of our total energy use right now, but we expect our electric load in state to increase over the coming years and decades as we electrify our heating and transportation sources (notably through heat pumps and electric cars). If we fail to prepare for that increased load by building in-state renewable resources, we will support the construction of out of state fossil fuel infrastructure to fuel our electric demand. Building renewable power in state is a boon for our environment (air pollution doesn’t recognize state borders, after all) and our pocketbooks. All told, Vermonters currently spend over nearly $2.5 billion on energy a year.[29] The more we can keep those dollars in state, and going towards renewable resources, the more we can support Vermont’s economy and our renewable energy future at the same time.

Vermont, along with most of the country, still relies on an aging system of poles and wires to transport energy long distances. As we install more renewable energy, we can use burgeoning technology to upgrade this system in a manner that will make it more resilient and reliable, and effectively maximize the renewable energy on the grid. This includes storage – like batteries that can store renewable energy as it’s being generated and hold it for when it’s most needed. It also includes other “smart grid” technology: systems that can manage when and where we use electricity to more closely align with the power being generated. These systems will work together to build a distributed grid powered by renewable energy, instead of simply replacing infrastructure designed for large, centralized fossil fuel plants.

Back to top

Q: What are Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) and how do they contribute to our clean energy goals?

A: Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) are certificates that track how much renewable energy is produced from a project. State policies called Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) determine how much renewable energy a utility needs to provide its customers. In order to prove it has met the goals of the standard, the utility needs to own and “retire” an equivalent amount of RECs. In 2015, Vermont passed legislation to establish an RPS for the first time, requiring utilities in Vermont to supply renewable energy to their customers. This standard takes effect in 2017.

When a renewable energy project is built, the developer typically has a long-term contract for the power that project generates. The Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) can be sold together with the electricity, or separately. Whoever buys the RECs from a project can claim the renewable attribute of the power. If a utility buys power from a project but doesn’t buy the RECs, they cannot claim the power they purchased is renewable and attribute it to meeting their goal.

Until 2015, there was no statewide policy requiring Vermont utilities to supply their customers with renewable energy, which meant Vermont utilities were generally not buying credits from Vermont renewable energy projects. Instead, those credits would be sold to utilities in other states, such as Massachusetts and Connecticut, which had Renewable Portfolio Standards.

In 2015, Vermont joined its neighbors and passed an RPS (Act 56). This law mandates that by 2017, 55% of a utility’s electric sales be from renewable power. By 2032 the mandate is 75%. RECs from most renewable power sources, new or existing, large or small, can be used to meet this requirement, and there are enough existing projects that utilities are not expected to build new renewable energy in order to meet it. Separately, starting in 2017, 1% of a Vermont utility’s power must be from distributed renewable generation, increasing to 10% by 2032. This segment of power must be from installations that generate under 5 megawatts (MW) of electricity, and were built in Vermont after June 30, 2015. This standard will support the development of over 400 MW of new renewable electricity in the state.

While this standard made positive changes to encourage long-term sustainable renewable energy growth, VPIRG ultimately supports an RPS that would also get new renewable installations above 5 MW built. Currently utilities have no incentive or requirement to procure renewable energy from projects over 5 MW, so they are likely to seek the lowest cost credits (which are typically from existing, out of state projects like HydroQuebec or older hydro projects in other New England states) to meet the requirement. Requiring RECs from new, larger renewable energy projects would ensure that more of those projects get built, as a result reducing Vermont’s, and New England’s, use of non-renewable energy. In the meantime, VPIRG supports continued renewable energy development that increases the percentage of renewable energy on the New England grid, including the development of projects that may sell their credits out-of-state, even as we support a stronger Vermont RPS.

For net-metering sized projects (500 kW and smaller), the Public Utility Commission tried to address concerns about RECs being sold out of state in their revision to the net metering rule, expected to take effect in January 2017. Until now, renewable energy projects were permitted to keep the credits (and potentially sell them out-of-state) and still receive the retail rate for power the system produced. Under the new rule, projects where the net metering customer keeps their RECs (either to sell out of state or to keep for themselves) will be subject to a penalty, whereas projects that transfer their RECs to the utility will receive an additional incentive. However, most wind projects are too large for net metering, for the reasons we discuss above, so this change wouldn’t apply.

Back to top

Q: Do wind turbines cause health problems for nearby residents?

A: Numerous recent governmental health organization reviews have determined, using thorough and independent analysis, that there are no negative health impacts from wind turbines. Moreover, scientists across the globe agree that humans face high health risks if we fail to act on climate change and air pollution.

During the 2016 legislative session, Dr. Harry Chen, Commissioner of the Vermont Department of Health, testified that “no scientific research has been able to demonstrate a direct cause-and-effect link between living near wind turbines, the noise they emit, and physiological health effects.” In an updated review of health evidence released in 2017, the Department of Health concluded that “[a]t noise levels studied, there was no evidence of a direct effect of wind turbine noise on any of the health outcomes considered.” [30]

In 2010, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health reported that scientific evidence “does not demonstrate a direct causal link between wind turbine noise and adverse health effects. The sound level from wind turbines at common residential setbacks is not sufficient to cause hearing impairment or other direct health effects, although some people may find it annoying.”[31] In 2016, Health Canada (the federal department of health in Canada), released a further study, concluding that “[b]eyond annoyance, the current study does not support an association between exposures to [Wind Turbine Noise] up to 46 dB and the evaluated health-related endpoints.”[32]

In 2015, the Australian Government’s National Health and Medical Research Council conducted a review of the current body of evidence and concluded that “there is currently no consistent evidence that wind farms cause adverse health effects in humans. This finding reflects the results and limitations of the direct evidence and also takes into account parallel evidence on the health effects of similar emissions from other sources.”[33]

In 2012, the Massachusetts Departments of Environmental Protection and Public Health convened an expert panel on wind turbine health impacts, which found that: “There is no evidence for a set of health effects, from exposure to wind turbines, that could be characterized as a ‘Wind Turbine Syndrome.[34]

The studies recently cited by the Public Utility Commission regarding wind turbines and public health in their proceeding on sound from wind turbines all concluded that sound levels up to 45 decibels at the exterior of the home are fully protective of public health.

Finally, wind turbines are a renewable energy resource which contributes to fighting the effects of climate change and air pollution. The impacts of climate change “threaten our health by affecting the food we eat, the water we drink, the air we breathe, and the weather we experience.”[36] Air pollution from coal alone causes hundreds of thousands of premature deaths globally every year.[37],[38],[39]

Back to top

Q: How loud are wind turbines when compared to other sources of sound?

A: The wind turbine sound limits that govern Vermont’s existing wind projects limit turbines to a level of sound that is far quieter than most other home and farm noises Vermonters experience on a daily basis. The new statewide sound rule that was approved in October 2017 sets a significantly quieter limit on sound from wind turbines, enough to prohibit most, if not all, large wind projects from being built. [40],[41],[42] 

Wind FAQ Image

Back to top

Q: Is it true that residents living near wind turbine projects have complained about noise and health problems from the turbines?

A: Yes; complaints about wind projects have come from a small minority of homes near the projects.

For example, at the Georgia Mountain Community Wind project, out of 164 homes within a 1.5 mile radius, there were 4 complainants who recorded 77 separate complaints through November 2015. The map below shows the placement of the homes (blue squares) within 1.5 miles, 1 mile, and .5 miles of the turbines (yellow dots). The complainants are recorded as green squares. [43]

Wind FAQ Image

For the Sheffield Wind project, out of 54 homes within 1.5 miles of the project, there were 4 individual complainants who recorded 110 separate complaints through November 2015. The below map uses the same indicators as the map described above, with seasonal homes additionally indicated by grey squares.

Wind FAQ Image

Back to top

Q: What did the Public Utility Commission recently adopt as a new statewide sound standard for wind turbines? 

A: As part of Act 174, the Public Utility Commission (PUC) was tasked with creating a statewide standard for sound from wind turbines. In October, this rule was approved by the Legislative Committee on Administrative Rules (LCAR) and finalized by the PUC. While the PUC made some changes to the rule in response to objections by LCAR, this rule is still so restrictive that new large wind projects are unlikely to be approved while it is still in place.

In May 2017, the Public Utility Commission issued a final proposed rule on sound from wind turbines, and in October that rule was approved with some changes by the Legislative Committee on Administrative Rules (LCAR).[45] VPIRG worked with an acoustic engineer from Maine in the Public Utility Commission’s rulemaking to propose a new permanent standard for sound from wind turbines. To learn more about what we proposed, read our update, review the comments we filed with the Board on their website (initial commentsreply comments, technical comments), and our testimony with LCAR (initial testimony and rebuttal).[44]

The final rule sets the nighttime sound limit at 39 decibels. Based on the sound models made under similar criteria to what is being proposed, the nighttime limit could be an effective setback of up to 6,000 feet. This rule will likely make most, if not all, large wind projects impossible to build in Vermont while it is in place.

Wind FAQ Image

Sound model of a wind project in Maine, illustrating that reducing the sound limit to 39 dB(A) from 45 dB(A) effectively doubles the distance requirement. Maine’s rule is similar to the proposed rule in Vermont in terms of what is required in the sound model. Maine’s nighttime limit is 42 dB(A) and daytime limit is 55 dB(A).

Administrative process in Vermont requires a committee of legislators to review all proposed rules to determine whether they meet legislative intent and are based in the evidence in the rulemaking record. On October 26th, 2017, LCAR voted to approve the rule (read our update on this decision here), despite clear evidence that the rule was not based on the science and facts around wind sound.

The rule initially also proposed a setback distance of 10 times the turbine height, or approximately one mile. VPIRG demonstrated to the PUC and LCAR that the setback was unnecessary and not based on acoustic science. LCAR objected to this setback on the grounds that it was arbitrary, and the PUC agreed to remove it from the rule.

Back to top

Q: How does the new rule compare to other sound standards around the country and the world?

A: The new rule is among the most restrictive limits on wind turbine development found anywhere in the world, and will likely take wind off the table as a clean energy resource for Vermont.

The sound limit (39 decibels at night) is the lowest fixed sound limit in the country. The nearest comparable standard is in Maine, which has a standard of 42 decibels at night and 55 decibels during the day. VPIRG would support a standard based on Maine’s nighttime level, as this has been proven to support wind development in a terrain and environment very similar to Vermont’s.

Some countries in Europe, including Denmark and Germany, appear to have comparably low limits. The comparison, however, ignores the complete picture around land use and energy in those countries as compared to the United States. Both Denmark and Germany differentiate sound limits by type of area (Denmark further differentiates by wind speed). The highest limits are for “open countryside in Denmark (42/44 decibels) and for “heartland, villages, mixed areas” in Germany (45 decibels).

Wind FAQ Image

To understand how these area types are defined, it is important to understand that European zoning regulations are essentially the opposite of the United States’ in regards to sound. In order to encourage urban density, the quietest sound limits are imposed on residential centers – suburbs and urban areas are considered “noise sensitive.” At the other end, their “open countryside” or “heartland” areas are considered working landscapes and have the loudest limits, and that is where most wind is built in those countries. Looking to Vermont, the sites with the best wind resource in Vermont (where turbines have been proposed already) would be considered “heartland” or “open countryside” and would be subject to the 42-45 decibel limits under Denmark or Germany’s standard.

In addition, compensation for renewable energy is much higher in European countries than it is in the United States, meaning that developers can build projects in Europe that would not be financially viable in the U.S. For instance, European developers may be able to develop a project despite it needing to be significantly curtailed due to sound output.

Some states in the U.S. use relative limits based on the background sound levels of the particular area. Both Massachusetts and Oregon have limits of 10 dB(A) over background levels. That means that in some parts of those states, the limit could be quieter than 39 dB(A). However, background sound levels are often much higher than 39 dB(A) to begin with, so in much of the state, the effective limit would be louder than 39 dB(A). Throughout the sound rulemaking process, VPIRG advocated against a relative standard since it is unpredictable and could decrease protection and transparency for neighboring residents. Background sound levels vary significantly based on season, time of day, and atmospheric conditions. Acoustic best practices support a fixed sound limit.

Back to top

Q: Will technology advancements come into place that will make turbines quieter in the future?

A: Companies around the world are working on developing even quieter wind turbines, and it’s possible that future wind turbines will be quieter than those being installed today. However, the potential for this future technology does not justify overly restrictive and unsupported sound limits today.

The sound levels of current turbines in Vermont, as enforced by the individual permits for those projects, are fully protective of public health. We support technological innovation that will make future turbines as quiet as possible to minimize any aesthetic impacts, but it remains unclear when and if these advancements will be deployed.

Instituting sound limits that would be impossible to meet with current turbine technology in Vermont, as the limits that the Public Utility Commission has proposed would do, is effectively a ban on wind. The potential for hypothetical future developments in turbine technology that may or may not be able to meet this limit is not sufficient justification for such a ban when current technology has been proven to be protective of public health.

Back to top

Q: Do wind turbines emit low frequency sound or infrasound?

A: Yes, at levels far lower than many other regular household appliances and common sound emitters, and well below any levels that would present public health impacts.

Low frequency sound is sound that occurs below the typical human threshold for hearing (approx. 20-200 Hz). Infrasound is the very lowest frequency sounds (below 20 Hz). Humans are regularly exposed to sound at low frequencies from things like oil heaters, cars (particularly when inside), and weather (wind and waves). Wind turbines also emit sounds at low frequencies, at levels well under guidelines for public health.

In 2005, the Danish Environmental Protection Agency conducted an in depth study of infrasound from wind turbines. He found that “wind turbines of contemporary design… produce very low levels of infrasound. Even quite close to these turbines the infrasound level is far below relevant assessment criteria, including the limit of perception.”[48]

Denmark is also the only jurisdiction that has instituted a low frequency sound limit (20 decibels), which was put in place in 2011. In 2014, the Danish Department of Acoustics presented the results of a study of whether this limit had any impact on the sound emissions from turbines. The conclusion was that low frequency sound rarely approached the limits imposed and that the ‘normal’ (i.e. audible) sound was the “decisive parameter.” In other words, they found when the projects stayed within the audible sound limit, they were well below the low frequency limit. In addition, the study concluded that the low frequency sound emissions were the same from projects permitted before and after the low-frequency limits were imposed.[49]

Back to top

Interested in learning more? Below are some additional external resources on wind power.

Union of Concerned Scientists: Environmental Impacts of Wind Power The Union of Concerned Scientists provides some additional science around the impacts of turbines on local habitats.

Wind Energy Foundation: Interesting Wind Energy Facts A list of some of the aspects of wind power you might not be aware of!

U.S. Department of Energy: Wind Energy FAQ The U.S. Department of Energy answers frequently asked questions about the benefits of wind power, especially in terms of job creation and energy independence.


Sources:

[1] U.S. DOE, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Life Cycle Greenouse Gas Emissoins from Electricity Generation, January 2013. http://www.nrel.gov/docs/fy13osti/57187.pdf. (accessed Oct 6, 2016)

[2] Garvin A. Heath, et al. “Harmonization of initial estimates of shale gas life cycle greenhouse gas emissions for electric power generation,” Proceedings of the Anational Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, vol. 111 no. 31, August 2014. http://www.pnas.org/content/111/31/E3167.full. (accessed Sep 13, 2016)

[3] The World Bank. “Fossil fuel energy consumption (% of total),” DataBank, 2014. http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/EG.USE.COMM.FO.ZS?end=2014&locations=DE&start=1994. (accessed Sep 13, 2016)

[4] International Energy Agency. “Electricity generation by fuel: Germany,” IEA Energy Statistics, 2015. http://www.iea.org/stats/WebGraphs/GERMANY2.pdf. (accessed Sep 13, 2016)

[5] Kerstine Appunn. “Germany’s greenhouse gas emissions and climate targets,” Clean Energy Wire, Mar 17, 2016. https://www.cleanenergywire.org/factsheets/germanys-greenhouse-gas-emissions-and-climate-targets. (accessed Sep 13, 2016)

[6] Note: Assuming current electric load of approximately 6,000 MWh, approximate rooftop solar system size of 6kW, and a solar capacity factor of 14.5%.

[7] US Department of Commerce, US Census Bureau. “Quick Facts: Vermont,” US Census, July 2015. http://www.census.gov/quickfacts/table/PST045215/50. (accessed Sep 13, 2016)

[8] US Department of Energy, Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, NREL. SunShot Vision Study, February 2012. DOE/GO-102012-3037, p. 35. http://www.nrel.gov/docs/fy12osti/47927.pdf. (accessed Oct 4, 2016)

[9] Asa Hopkins. “State goals and analysis of future solar development,” Solar Siting Task Force, Sep 17, 2015. http://solartaskforce.vermont.gov/sites/solarsiting/files/documents/meeting_materials/ASH%20for%20solar%20siting%20TF%2020150917.pdf. (accessed Sep 29, 2016)

[10] Ibid.

[11] US Department of Energy (DOE), Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. 20% Wind Energy by 2030: Increasing Wind Energy’s Contribution to U.S. Electricity Supply, July 2008. Washington, D.C.: DOE/GO-102008-2567, p. 110. http://energy.gov/sites/prod/files/2013/12/f5/41869.pdf. (accessed Aug 29, 2016)

[12] US EPA, National Center for Environmental Assessment, Office of Research and Development. The Effects of Mountaintop Mines and Valley Fills on Aquatic Ecosystems of the Central Appalachian Coalfields, March 2011. Washington, D.C.: EPA-600-R-09-138F. https://cfpub.epa.gov/ncea/risk/recordisplay.cfm?deid=225743&CFID=64896154&CFTOKEN=81633390. (accessed Aug 29, 2016)

[13] US DOE, US Energy Information Administration (EIA). “Coal Explained: Coal and the Environment,” Energy Explained. EIA, Dec 2015. http://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/?page=coal_environment. (accessed Aug 29, 2016)

[14] US DOE. 20% Wind Energy by 2030, p. 110-11.

[15] Green Mountain Power. “Wind Power FAQ,” GMP: Innovative Power, 2016. http://www.greenmountainpower.com/innovative/wind/. (accessed Sep 12, 2016)

[16] US EPA. The Effects of Mountaintop Mines.

[17] Angela Evancie. Digital Image. Vermont Public Radio, Aug 24, 2016. http://digital.vpr.net/post/state-funding-research-turbine-noise-sets-stage-vermonts-next-wind-debate#stream/0. (accessed Sep 12, 2016)

[18] Environment America. The Costs of Fracking. Environment America Research and Policy Center, Sep 20, 2016. http://www.environmentamerica.org/reports/ame/costs-fracking. (accessed Sep 29, 2016)

[19] Alan Neuhauser. “Pecking Order: Energy’s Toll on Birds,” US News and World Report. Aug 2014 http://www.usnews.com/news/blogs/data-mine/2014/08/22/pecking-order-energys-toll-on-birds. (accessed Aug 31, 2016)

[20] Wendy Koch, “Wind turbines kill fewer birds than do cats, cell towers,” USA Today, Sep 15, 2014. http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/business/2014/09/15/wind-turbines-kill-fewer-birds-than-cell-towers-cats/15683843/. (accessed Sep 13, 2016)

[21] Molly A. Maupin, et al. “Estimated use of water in the United States in 2010,” US Geological Survey Circular 1405. 2014. http://pubs.usgs.gov/circ/1405/. (accessed Sep 6, 2016)

[22] Jordan Macknick et al. A Review of Operational Water Consumption and Withdrawal Factors for Electricity Generating Technologies, March 2011. Golden, CO: NREL/TP-6A20-50900. http://www.nrel.gov/docs/fy11osti/50900.pdf. (accessed Sep 6, 2016)

[23] Jeffrey A. Nelson. GMP Kingdom Community Wind Stormater System Permit Condition Compliance and Water Quality Protection, April 2016. Burlington, VT: VHB. http://legislature.vermont.gov/assets/Documents/2016/WorkGroups/House%20Fish%20and%20Wildlife/Wind%20and%20Solar%20Siting/W~Jeffrey%20Nelson~Kingdom%20Community%20Wind%20Permit%20Condition%20Compliance~4-5-2016.pdf. (accessed Sep 13, 2016)

[24] Ben Hoen, et al. A Spatial Hedonic Analysis of the Effects of Wind Energy Facilities on Surrounding Property Values in the United States, August 2013. Berkeley, CA: LBNL-6362E. https://emp.lbl.gov/sites/all/files/lbnl-6362e.pdf. (accessed Sep 7, 2016)

[25] Carol Atkinson-Palombo, Ben Hoen. Relationship between Wind Turbines and Residential Property Values in Massachusetts, January 9, 2014. Boston, MA: University of Connecticut, LBNL, Massachusetts Clean Energy Center. https://emp.lbl.gov/sites/all/files/lbnl-6371e_0.pdf. (accessed Sep 7, 2016)

[26] Peter Maloney, “Real estate values incrase near wind farm, Colorado assessor finds,” Utility Dive, June 27, 2016. http://www.utilitydive.com/news/real-estate-values-increase-near-wind-farm-colorado-assessor-finds/421628/. (accessed Sep 7, 2016)

[27] Melody Bodette, “Swanton Wind Files Application To Build Turbines,” VPR, Sep 9, 2016. http://digital.vpr.net/post/swanton-wind-files-application-build-turbines#stream/0. (accessed Sep 13, 2016)

[28] ISO New England, “Resource Mix,” ISO-NE, August, 2016. https://www.iso-ne.com/about/key-stats/resource-mix.(accessed Sep 13, 2016)

[29] Vermont Department of Public Service, 2016 Comprehensive Energy Plan, pg. 5. January, 2016. http://legislature.vermont.gov/assets/Legislative-Reports/Executive-summary-for-web.pdf. (accessed Sep 14, 2016)

[30] Vermont Department of Health. Wind TurbineNoise & Human Health: A Review of the Scientific Literature, May 2017, Montpelier, VT. http://www.healthvermont.gov/sites/default/files/documents/pdf/PHA_wind_turbine_sound_05_2017.pdf. (accessed July 3, 2017)

[31] Chief Medical Officer of Health. The Potential Health Impact of Wind Turbines. Toronto: Queen’s Printer for Ontario, May 2010. http://health.gov.on.ca/en/common/ministry/publications/reports/wind_turbine/wind_turbine.pdf. (accessed Aug 24, 2016)

[32] David S. Michaud, et al. “Exposure to wind turbine noise: Perceptual responses and reported health effects,” The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 139, 1436 (March 2016). http://dx.doi.org/10.1121/1.4942391. (accessed Aug 24, 2016)

[33] Australian Government, National Health and Medical Research Council. NHMRC Statement: Evidence on Wind Farms and Human Health, Feb 2015, Canberra, AU. https://www.nhmrc.gov.au/_files_nhmrc/publications/attachments/eh57_nhmrc_statement_wind_farms_human_health_0.pdf. (accessed Aug 24, 2016)

[34] Jeffrey M. Ellenbogen, et al. Wind Turbine Health Impact Study: Report of Independent Expert Panel. Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, Massachusetts Department of Public Health, Jan 2012. http://www.mass.gov/eea/docs/dep/energy/wind/turbine-impact-study.pdf. (accessed Aug 24, 2016)

[35] VPIRG, “Rule 5.700 Technical Workshop Presentation,” Presentation to the Public Utility Commission, May 4, 2017, p. 5 (summary of studies used by the PUC). http://puc.vermont.gov/sites/psbnew/fies/documents/SoundRule/may4presentations/2017-05-04%20VPIRG%20Rule%205.700%20Technical%20Workshop%20Presentation.pdf. (accessed July 5, 2017)

[36] U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). “Climate Impacts on Human Health,” Climate Change. U.S. EPA, August 2016. https://www3.epa.gov/climatechange/impacts/health.html. (accessed August 25, 2016)

[37] Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI). Health. 2017. https://www.rmi.org/impact/health/. (accessed July 21, 2017)

[38] Wong, Edward, “Coal Burning Causes the Most Air Pollution Deaths in China, Study Finds,” The New York Times. August 17, 2016. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/18/world/asia/china-coal-health-smog-pollution.html. (accessed July 21, 2017)

[39] Friedman, Lisa, “Coal-Fired Power in India May Cause More Than 100,000 Premature Deaths Annually,” Scientific American. March 11, 2013.
http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/coal-fired-power-in-india-may-cause-more-than-100000-premature-deaths-annually/. (accessed July 21, 2017)

[40] “Noise Sources and Their Effects,” Purdue University. https://www.chem.purdue.edu/chemsafety/Training/PPETrain/dblevels.htm. (accessed Sep 9, 2016)

[41] “Decibel (Loudness) Comparison Chart,” Galen Carol Audio, 2007. http://www.gcaudio.com/resources/howtos/loudness.html. (accessed Sep 9, 2016)

[42] “Comparative Examples of Noise Levels,” IAC Acoustics, 2016. North Aurora, IL: Sound Seal, Inc. http://www.industrialnoisecontrol.com/comparative-noise-examples.htm. (accessed Sep 29, 2016)

[43] Note: The number of green squares doesn’t match the number of complainants, either because the address of the complainant is not known, or the complainant lives outside of the 1.5 mile radius.

[44] Vermont Public Utility Commission, “Rule 5.700: Rule on Sound Levels from Wind Generation Facilities,” May 16, 2017. http://puc.vermont.gov/sites/psbnew/files/documents/SoundRule/soslcar5-16/final%20proposed%20PSB%20Rule%205.700.pdf. (accessed November 6, 2017)

[45] Vermont Public Utility Commission, Proposed Rule on Sound from Wind Generation Facilities, 2017. http://puc.vermont.gov/about-us/statutes-and-rules/proposed-rule-sound-wind-generation-facilities. (accessed November 6, 2017)

[46] Jakobsen, Jorgen, Danish Environmental Protection Agency, “Infrasound Emission from Wind Turbines,” Journal of Low Frequency Noise, Vibration and Active Control, Aug 17, 2005. http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1260/026309205775374451. (accessed July 5, 2017)

[47] Sondergaard, Bo, Grontmij, Department of Acoustics, Acoustica, Denmark, “Noise and Low frequency noise from Wind Turbines,” inter.noise 2014, November 2014. https://www.acoustics.asn.au/conference_proceedings/INTERNOISE2014/papers/p991.pdf. (accessed July 5, 2017)