Europe - Creating a more sustainable energy supply is a topic that receives a lot of attention. Advancements in wind energy technologies have resulted in an increasing number of wind energy projects, a trend which is expected to continue for the foreseeable future. The development of these wind energy projects often raises concerns from residents and adjacent landowners about noise pollution and shadow flicker. Uncertainty about possible nuisance and the sense of not having control over the situation can cause unease within the local community.
Residents are particularly concerned about possible nuisance from things such as shadow flicker, visual pollution, ecological consequences, but above all noise pollution. The development of sustainable energy is better supported if residents and stakeholders feel heard and involved. They need to be convinced that developers, operators, local authorities and provincial authorities are taking their interests seriously when developing and operating wind farms. Together they can make the energy transition possible in a socially sustainable way.
The interactive Noiseforecast.app gives residents an extremely high-resolution forecast on wind turbine noise and shadow flicker. The app also shows the relationship between wind turbine noise and ambient noise. Residents can report their perception of noise levels at any time of the day in the app. The app also shows how much electricity is being generated.
Operators use the feedback from residents to map the perception of nuisance and collect more data about the influence of ambient noise and weather conditions on the perception of nuisance. This data is valuable in the development of wind farms and communications around wind farms. The feedback can also be used to optimize and monitor the effect of any nuisance-mitigation measures employed.
Everyone perceives sound differently. Important factors that contribute to one’s perception of sound include actual levels, characteristics, unpredictability of noise, visibility of wind turbines, and one’s attitude towards sustainable energy. Another important factor is the extent in which residents are involved in the development of a wind farm and whether they believe their perspectives are being heard.
The generation and transmission of noise by wind turbines depends on the weather to a large extent. The unpredictability of the noise due to variable weather conditions is perceived by residents as an additional nuisance. Background noise in the area also affects residents’ perception of the noise of wind turbines.
The Noiseforecast.app responds to factors that are important in the perception of nuisance. Experience has shown that residents are less likely to worry and feel frustrated when they know what to expect. They appreciate understanding why the sound is more audible at certain times, and that they can easily report any nuisance. Transparent communication enhances mutual understanding and trust. After all, monitoring the perception of nuisance gives residents, developers, operators and regulatory authorities better insight.
The app gives residents the best possible expectations on noise levels and shadow flicker around their own homes. These expectations are based on advanced noise and shadow flicker models, which factor in the specific characteristics of the wind turbines and the local environment. These calculations are supported by up-to-date, high-resolution weather forecasts from Infoplaza, the company behind weather websites Weerplaza and Buienalarm. The app also illustrates the relationship between the noise level and other noise sources in the area, such as roadway traffic.
innogy Windpower Netherlands BV recognizes the benefits of the app and has participated in a pilot project to test it with residents near an existing wind farm. All residents within a radius of approximately 1.5 km of innogy’s Kattenberg-Reedijk wind farm in the south of the Netherlands were approached for the pilot, which was held from the end of 2017 to the end of 2018. This wind farm is located in the municipalities of Oisterwijk and Oirschot, next to the A58 motorway between Tilburg and Eindhoven.
A noteworthy finding of the pilot project is that existing motorway noise often dominated the wind turbine noise. Additionally, the level of nuisance reported was remarkably low, and various local residents were impressed by how much energy the wind turbines produced. This is a good example of how the anticipated negative experiences did not materialize and led to more positive opinions about wind turbines.
In November 2019, the Noiseforecast.app won the ‘Award voor de Leefomgeving’, an award for innovations that improve the quality of the living environment.
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