Listen to Dr. Nicholas Kouwen, P.Eng, Distinguished Professor Emeritus University of Waterloo in an interview with Wind Wise Radio.

Dr. Kouwen’s groundbreaking work over the past year has revealed that the Ontario Ministry of Environment’s noise limits are being exceeded a majority of the time near industrial wind turbines (IWT’s) at locations in Grey Highlands, ON, Canada. Furthermore it appears the MOE model is flawed and “substantially underestimates” wind turbine noise. We spoke with Dr. Kouwen about his methodology and ongoing work.

Dr. Nick Kouwen is introduced at the 20:00 minute mark of the wind discussion on Wind Wise Radio. Listen to Dr. Kouwen’s interview on infrasound.

Industrial Wind Turbines Shatter
Environmental Guidelines

PRESS RELEASE February 3, 2013.
Industrial Wind Turbines Shatter Environmental Guidelines.
Grey Highlands, Ontario

New scientific measurements reveal that industrial wind turbines (IWTs) in Ontario routinely exceed acceptable noise limits set by Ministry of Environment (MOE) guidelines.

Five typical sites in central Ontario were independently monitored using precision sound recording instruments.

Two sites provided background sound levels with no exposure to wind turbines. Three other sites were adjacent to turbines with distances ranging from .6 to 1.4 kilometres between the IWTs and the measuring instruments. These are distances beyond the 550m distance set by MOE.

The data shows that when wind turbines are present, the associated sound pressure levels are repeatedly higher than government guidelines permit during the day, evenings and late at night.

The study results suggest that the model used by the MOE to predict sound pressure levels substantially under-estimates levels of industrial wind turbine noise. This implies the problem is generalized and not merely confined to each test site under study.

The analysis reaffirms hundreds of subjective reports from residents living near wind turbine installations about daily disturbances.

Two policy aspects are key for investigation; the location of turbines relative to dwellings (i.e. their relative setback), and the validity of current MOE noise guidelines. Both policies influence citizen well-being and require review.

Nicholas Kouwen

Download Nicholas Kouwen full report. (Source: Read more)

Kouwen and Weaver


Last year Dr. Kouwen put together a very competent system for measuring noise and wind speed specifically for wind turbines in Ontario. His first foray into the field demonstrated that the noise from wind turbine projects routinely exceeds both what they predicted and what the Ontario regulations allow. More recently he took his equipment to another location and found, yet again, these violations. There is now an unbroken string of measurements (a sampling: Ashbee, Rand, Shirley, Kouwen, Libby) at homes of complaining neighbors that demonstrates, beyond any reasonable debate, that these noise complaints are caused by (drum roll) noise! I have yet to see a case of a complaining neighbor where there wasn’t some underlying noise or vibration problem that could be traced to wind turbines. (Source: Read more)

Kouwen for Models

Humans have used models to describe and predict their environment for millennia. With the advent of computers the number and sophistication of these models has taken a quantum leap. Many have proven their worth, and their impact upon our view of the universe has been profound. Unfortunately, it is almost inevitable that something with this much influence over our affairs will be misused by those whose with a self-serving agenda – much like junk science.

Dr. Nicholas Kouwen, in his study on wind turbine noise, discovered that the models used to predict that noise substantially underestimated it – a most convenient result, given Ontario’s regulatory regime, for the developer who hired the modellers. In his commentary on why this disconnect occurred he mentioned empirical models and their limitations. I thought the topic was important enough for a separate posting, and here it is.

There are basically two types of models – mathematical and empirical (also called scientific and engineering). Here’s a layman’s simplified explanation of them. (Source: Read more)

Kouwen on Noise

Of the many issues surrounding wind energy, noise continues to be a controversial topic. The industry and governments continue to insist that wind energy projects are appropriately sited – far enough from the neighbors so they are not a nuisance. However, around the world the health/nuisance complaints and abandonments indicate that whatever rules are in place are generally not adequate.

Dr. Nicholas Kouwen, a retired engineering professor, had the time and resources to examine the noise issue in some detail for Ontario. Starting in June of 2012 and going into November he took extended noise measurements at five residences in the Grey Highlands region; three of them within the Plateau Project and two “controls” at locations away from the turbines. The Ontario wind project noise regulations, pretty much unique in the world, allow more noise at higher wind speeds so he also recorded wind speeds. He then compared the actual readings with the Ontario limits and it should come as no surprise that those limits were routinely violated. (Source: Read more)

Grey Highlands 2012 Wind Turbine Noise Survey

These are the results of nearly six months of continuous sound measurements away from and near industrial wind turbines (IWT’s) at five locations in Grey Highlands, ON, Canada. The measurement protocol was designed to allow for corrections to account for wind induced noise resulting in findings that are directly comparable to the MOE tables.

The results indicate that for three IWT sites studied, the recorded sound pressure levels (SPL’s) exceeded MOE’s noise limits a majority of the time for non‐participating receptors outside the minimum distance of 550 m and outside the 40 dBA SPL contours calculated by consultants engaged by the wind developers.1 The other two sites were used to measure background noise levels. (Source: Read more)