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Making our energy supply more sustainable is a top priority, and more and more wind farms will be built in the coming years. When developing these wind farms, however, local residents are often concerned about shadow flicker, landscapes being tarnished, ecological impacts and, in particular, noise pollution. These concerns cause unrest and reduce support for sustainable energy development.
Support from local residents will increase if they and other stakeholders feel heard by developers, local and provincial authorities, and operators. The interests of these stakeholders need to be carefully considered when developing and operating wind farms so that all parties can come together in a socially sustainable way to ensure a successful energy transition.
With this in mind, Arcadis developed an interactive app called Geluidsverwachting.nl which gives local residents a hyper-local weather forecast and also provides information on the noise and shadow flicker of wind turbines. The app also shows how loud the wind turbines are compared to environmental noise. Local residents can report their experiences at any time of the day and can also see how much electricity is generated by the wind turbines. We use this feedback to map noise pollution and gain more knowledge about the influence of environmental noise and meteorological conditions on disruptions experienced by the residents. All this information is then used in the development of and communication about wind farms.
Everyone experiences sound differently. Intensity of the noise is not the only factor that needs to be considered. The type and unpredictability of noise, the visibility of turbines and the person's attitude towards sustainable energy are all contributing factors. Moreover, the noise from wind turbines is highly dependent on the weather, and the background noise in an area also determines how local residents experience the sound of wind turbines. The Geluidsverwachting.nl app takes all these factors into account.
Local residents are less likely to be disturbed by noise pollution if they know what to expect and can easily report any disruption. This in turn initiates transparent communication, which contributes to greater mutual understanding and trust. Our Geluidsverwachting.nl app facilitates this communication. RWE Windpower Netherlands B.V. used our app for a pilot project and also found this to be the case. The project showed that the noise from an existing highway was often louder than the noise from the wind turbines and that the level of disruption reported was remarkably low. As a result, most local residents did not have the negative experience that was expected, making way for more positive opinions about wind turbines.