Mar 27 2009
The early 2009 issue of Conservation magazine, the popular press publication of the Society for Conservation Biology, has a great overview piece on the effects of noise on animals. It focuses on changes in animal behavior and song that have been observed over the course of the past decade, drawing on studies from several different researchers. Much will be familiar to AEI regulars, but it remains highly recommended for sharing with others and for the concise overview it provides.
See the article at http://www.conservationmagazine.org/articles/v8n2/not-so-silent-spring/
Mar 22 2009
The USS Impeccable, one of two US Navy long-range Low Frequency Active Sonar (LFAS) surveillance ships deployed in the western Pacific, was repeatedly harassed by Chinese Navy and other Chinese ships during March. The Chinese attempted to snag the towed array cables with poles, and to obstruct the ship’s passage by dropping wood in the water and buzzing it with its ships. The incidents took place 75 miles offshore from Hainan Island, site of a key Chinese submarine base; China claims sovereignty of its entire 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zone, while the US recognizes only the 12-mile territorial water limit, and insists the Impeccable was therefore operating legally in international waters. While the Impeccable is well-documented as one of the US Navy’s two LFAS ships designed specifically for monitoring quiet submarines, and deployed in areas where they can keep tabs on Chinese and North Korean navies, some press reports seemed to downplay or obfuscate this; for example the BBC report said that the Impeccable’s sonar is used to “map the ocean floor.” Sources: American Chronicle, 3/22/09 [READ ARTICLE] BBC, 3/10/09 [READ ARTICLE] SEE US NAVY VIDEOS OF THE INCIDENTS [YOUTUBE]
Mar 20 2009
The United States and Pakistan are cooperating in a new initiative to supply the Pakistani Navy with 445 sonobuoys, including mid-frequency active sonar units used to detect quiet submarines. It is not clear what subs would be the target for this program (the “Taliban Navy” and “Taliban Airforce” are often tossed out by bemused observers as the only likely mutual threats), or how carefully they would be deployed in regards to marine mammals. Source: Domain B, 3/9/09 [READ ARTICLE]
Mar 19 2009
The Hawaii Superferry, which began operations last summer under a special state law that allowed it to begin runs while completing its state-regulated Environmental Impact Statement, has been docked after the state supreme court ruled the law unconstitutional. The EIS is underway, amidst vehement complaints that it is a toothless process. The Ferry is under fire on several fronts, including that it uses massive amounts of fossil fuels, and that it travels at such a fast speed that whale strikes are more likely. According to some local activists, the ferry company has resisted requests to do underwater noise studies; some locals claim the ferry will produce Level B Harassment of whales (i.e. cause behavioral changes) at distances up to 1000 yards. Hawaiian waters are also home to many freighters, delivering essential goods; how loud are they? I wouldn’t be surprised if they also trigger behavioral changes out to a half mile to mile. Should the Ferry have to meet a different standard? Or, is it indeed much louder than tankers and freighters? For more on this see the following media reports:
The Nation, 2/25/09: big picture view of local resistance to the Ferry
KHNL, 3/17/09: report on the suspension of service after the court ruling
Honolulu Advertiser, 3/19/09: Hearing on EIS
Honolulu Weekly, 3/18/09: Noise concerns
Mar 06 2009
A new noise-cancelling system being developed in Germany could help to minimize what has become a major source of concern for residents near wind farms. While some noise-dampening systems are already used in turbines, they are “passive”, meaning that they reduce certain frequencies or sources of vibration noise, but do not respond “actively” to the changing frequency ranges of an operating turbine.
The new system “listens” for vibrations and then produces vibrations that exactly match, in reverse, the problematic motion within a turbine tower or base. From PhysOrg:
“These systems react autonomously to any change in frequency and damp the noise – regardless of how fast the wind generator is turning,” says André Illgen of the Fraunhofer Institute for Machine Tools and Forming Technology IWU in Dresden. The key components of this system are piezo actuators. These devices convert electric current into mechanical motion and generate “negative vibrations”, or a kind of anti-noise that precisely counteracts the vibrations of the wind turbine and cancels them out. The piezo actuators are mounted on the gearbox bearings that connect the gearbox to the pylon. But how do these piezo actuators adjust themselves to the respective noise frequencies? “We have integrated sensors into the system. They constantly measure the vibrations arising in the gearbox, and pass on the results to the actuator control system,” says Illgen. The researchers have already developed a working model of the active vibration dampers, and their next step will be to perform field trials.
Mar 06 2009
A three-year research project in Scotland has been announced, which will study the impacts of tidal energy turbines on sea life. From Wave and Tidal Energy News:
The groundbreaking study will be conducted through a PhD studentship at the Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS UHI). It will look specifically at the background noise levels in areas being considered for tidal renewables development, as well as the noise made by tidal turbines. It will also explore the extent to which marine animals, particularly protected species, can detect and, potentially, avoid colliding with such devices.
Marine ecologist Dr Ben Wilson, who will be supervising the project, said: “This is an exciting opportunity to contribute to both sustainable marine energy extraction and conservation. Scotland is rapidly becoming a magnet for the companies developing devices to capture energy from tidal currents. These machines however will have to share the sea with vulnerable and protected species like whales, seals and fish. Understanding how these animals will perceive and behave around underwater turbines is a mystery but sound will undoubtedly be the most important sense for them, particularly at night and in murky water. Knowing what the natural sound-scape is like in prospective tidal energy sites and the noise output of different devices will help us identify those devices that marine animals will most easily move around without harm. With this understanding we will be better able to promote those machines that have the most gentle ecological footprints.”
Mar 05 2009
I’ve known Gordon Hempton for quite some time; this is a good peek into his quest to find and hopefully protect natural quiet. He claims that several years ago he could only found two places in the lower 48 where human sound did not intrude on a regular basis…..
Defender of quiet places | csmonitor.com
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Mar 04 2009
Manufacturer Quiet Revolution has completed installation of the largest-yet urban installation of its vertical-axis wind turbines, which they say are “whisper quiet.” The new installation consists of 8 turbines atop an office building, which generate enough electricity for the 200-person building. How quiet are they? Most vertical axis turbines produce less energy than utility-feeding wind farms want/need, but the promise of distributed power generation without severe noise issues is pretty enticing…. Read more at what appears to be a press-release-based post on Environmental Graffiti.
Mar 04 2009
As towns, counties, and states across America work to establish permitting guidelines for wind farms, reports from many places continue to suggests that noise can be a real issue, especially within a mile of active turbines.
In Michigan, a resident near a new wind farm shares this: At 1500 ft, we thought we may be safe, but we were mistaken. I don’t know what the answer is for setbacks, but 1500 ft. is to close. Since the turbines began turning this fall, we have been amazed at the amount of noise they create. The sound is like that of a distant jet. The sound can often be heard indoors- especially at night. The nature of the noise is so out of place it is hard to mask. When we’re outside, the noise created by the turbine echoes off the buildings and seems to be amplified. When the wind is strong, the noise is masked, but about 75% of the time, the turbines are the dominant sound outside. A big concern we have at this time, is that as the weather improves (which we hope it will soon) windows will open, weather proofing will be removed and the noise that dominates the outdoors will intrude on the indoors even more. Read more from this person.
In New York, this: “When I signed the contract, I was assured there was no noise,” said Hal Graham. “”Don’t let them buffalo you. You know, I wanted to do something for the ecology. And now I can’t sleep at night, in the winter, with the windows closed. Read the rest of this entry »