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Offshore Wind Farms May Be Heard Many Miles Away?

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As AEI has tracked noise complaints around wind farms on land, which seem fairly common between a half mile and mile (and in some cases up to a mile and half or so), I’ve held on to the idea that offshore will be the better way to go.  Offshore wind developers have been mostly aiming for siting turbines far enough offshore to minimize visual impacts (2 or more miles), which I had assumed would also make them inaudible from shore.  But recent reports are throwing some doubts on that hopeful thought.  We need to hear more from other locations, but a wind farm that began operating on Wolfe Island, Ontario, this summer has surprised local observers with its long-range sound transmission.

Wolfe Island Wind Farm

Wolfe Island Wind Farm

Wolfe Island is at the eastern end of Lake Ontario, at the mouth of the St. Lawrence Seaway.  Even ship operators have noticed turbine noise at 2-3 miles distant (and ships are not exactly a quiet place to listen from), and locals across the channel in Cape Vincent, NY have also been hearing the wind farm readily at 2-3 miles, and, in some atmospheric conditions, as far away as 7 miles!  Yikes….   The reasons for the easy long-range sound transmission are not yet known, though sound does travel well across water, so that may be a key feature.  If so, it ups the ante on offshore wind farms, at least when prevailing winds are toward shore.  (Though we must note that this is not along the coast, but rather at the end of a huge lake which fosters strong prevailing winds.) This one is not yet a clear red flag, but it bears watching….

And, on a brighter note, the health of Wolfe Island residents is being charted by Queen’s University researchers, in the first research study to assess health before and after wind farm operations begin in a community.  This is an important next step in clarifying whether the health effects that have previously been reported are widespread, or rare.

2 Responses to “Offshore Wind Farms May Be Heard Many Miles Away?”

  1. » Blog Archive » Ontario poised to keep turbines 5km/3mi offshore Says:

    […] wind farm (at the end of Lake Ontario, near the start of the St. Lawrence Seaway) suggest they are often quite audible from two miles, and occasionally somewhat audible at five to seven miles.  While there is often an assumption […]

  2. Wayne Gulden Says:

    7 miles is about right – I assume you are referring to Art Pundt’s letter ( From Amherst Island, about the same distance in the other direction, I can hear them also, again just in certain conditions.

    As for the Queen’s study, the last I heard, several months ago, was that Michaelutti was busy doing other things – I certainly haven’t seen any results.

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