Barbados Wind Farm Question: What About Low Frequency Noise?


Everything in life is a trade-off in one way or another, and with any new development in technology it seems that there is always some negative side-effect that surfaces – sometimes years later.

Remember DDT? Great stuff for killing all sorts of pests. When it first came along, they even used to dust children’s hair with DDT to combat lice – just as a preventative measure! A few years later though, and people were horrified at how carelessly it had been used.

Unintended Side Effects Happen Everywhere

I was doing a little searching on the net to research the newly announced Barbados windpower initiative, when I discovered an article about illnesses and disorientation caused by living too close to the low-frequency sounds of large wind turbines.

From my old days of attending concerts where music was played at outrageous volumes, I know that certain levels of bass sounds can make a person sick to their stomach or even make them fall down. Apparently, some of these windfarms have the same effect.

Lets hope that the folks who build this much needed power source in Barbados take all this into consideration when choosing their locations and technologies.

Excerpts from the Toronto Globe newspaper…

Wind farm drove us from our home, family says

HALIFAX — A Nova Scotia man who abandoned his home, claiming noise from a nearby wind farm made his family sick, says a study by an audio expert proves his case, even though a new federal report concludes the exact opposite.

Daniel d’Entremont and his family left their home in the southwestern Nova Scotia community of Lower West Pubnico last February.

Mr. D’Entremont says the 17 wind turbines that tower over the community — the closest just 400 metres away — were sending low-frequency vibrations into the house.

This inaudible noise, he claims, deprived his family of sleep, gave his children and wife headaches and made it impossible for them to concentrate.

“We’ve only returned three nights, and whenever we return we feel this sensation in our body,” said Mr. d’Entremont, who now lives in nearby Abrams River with his wife and four of their children. Two other children live on their own.

But a study released this month by the federal Natural Resources Department, which oversees funding for wind farm projects, found no problems with low-frequency noise, also known as infrasound.

There is no consensus about whether low-frequency vibrations from spinning wind turbines can affect the health of nearby residents.

Some experts deny the link outright while others urge further research…

Gordon Whitehead, a retired audiologist with 20 years’ experience at Dalhousie University, conducted tests at d’Entremont’s home.

Mr. Whitehead said he actually recorded similar levels of low-frequency sounds in and around the home as listed in the federal report.

The difference, he said, is in his interpretation.

“They’re viewing it from the standpoint of an engineer; I’m viewing it from the standpoint of an audiologist who works with ears,” said Mr. Whitehead, who wrote the report on his own time and paid his own expenses.

“The report should read that [the sound] is well below the auditory threshold for perception. In other words, it’s quiet enough that people would not be able to hear it. But that doesn’t mean that people would not be able to perceive it.”

While it’s still not clear what, if anything, related to the wind farm was making the d’Entremonts sick, Mr. Whitehead says low-frequency noise can affect the balance system of the ear, leading to a range of symptoms including nausea, dizziness and vision problems.

“It’s not perceptible to the ear, but it is perceptible,” he said. “It’s perceptible to people with very sensitive balance mechanisms and that’s generally people who get very easily seasick.”

… Read the full article at the Toronto Globe Newspaper (link here)


Filed under Barbados, Environment

18 responses to “Barbados Wind Farm Question: What About Low Frequency Noise?

  1. Stuart

    Perhaps offshore wind turbines would make more sense.

  2. Frank

    We could power the whole island with the methane produced from political meetings alone.

  3. There was a lot of hysteria about DDT that to this day cannot be proven. What can be proven is that a lot pest and the desease they carry are back in large numbers, since DDT was banned. There is a lot of hysteria about windmills and noise, much the same about cell phones and the radio frequencies they use to transmit. What about micrwaves, etc.? I think Barbadians should think about taking another look at todays “windchargers” as an alternate or supplimental source of electricity generation thus saving themselves some hard cash.

  4. Diaspora-ite

    Stuart, if you like eating fish, offshore wind turbines make absolutely NO sense. For example, wind turbines were installed in the sea near Kastrup Airport in Copenhagen, Denmark. Shortly after they went operational, tests were done and the fish had disappeared…gonzo…completely.

    Wind turbines are a mixed blessing. The guy in Nova Scotia is probably affected by lack of melatonin production, which is caused by EMF’s [electro-magnetic fields], which are generated by wind turbines, among other things, such as clock-radios, televisions, etc. When melatonin prouction is inhibited, sleep patterns are interrupted.

    Think long and hard before installing what the Germans call “wind-monsters” because Germany went for wind-power in a big way, and they are now finding out what a mixed blessing they are. In fact most towns that originally welcomed them now want them removed. The good folks around Lambert’s in St. Lucy will probably end up with the same reaction.

  5. Stuart

    Diaspora-ite, I know very little about wind technology, and didn’t realize fishing habitat was adversely affected. What you say makes plenty of sense.

    Wind turbines in California are having plenty of backlash from citizens, citing aesthetic pollution, as well as danger to birds. But I’m seeing wind farms sprouting all over – the economics keep getting better. But at the same time there’s a corresponding increase in investor confidence in uranium-related business too, my guess is that part of the reason is because they believe there will be increased pressure from citizen groups against wind farms “in their backyard” and increased public support for for nuclear plant development. My two cents…

  6. The White Rabbit

    Wind farms are not a mixed blessing, they are a curse. Forget the low frequency noise, how about the audible noise! Remember, too, that for every kilowatt produced by wind BL&P has to have a conventional back-up for days when the wind doesn’t blow and Parliament is not in session. The conventional generator must be paid for (the capital costs) as must the wind turbines, so we, the customers, must pay the capital costs for both wind and conventional production facilities. Wind power is known to be just about the most expensive power available in the world, and all thrust at us in the name of conserving fuel. The White Rabbit has frequently advocated producing power from the hot rocks found in our nearest neighboring islands (geothermal power) and sending it here in undersea cables, all absolutely standard technology. Free fuel with so little impact on the environment that it is difficult to even measure! Let’s make use of CSME and send BL&P to build geothermal power plants in St. Vincent and St. Lucia and reap the profits from the investment while actually doing something positive towards cleaning the environment and reducing greenhouse gases. This plan will work just as soon as the politicians can figure out how they can rich from the doing of it.

  7. Barbados was built on windpower. The scores of old-style, inefficient windmills around the island crushed our cane with ease. Only when steam technology came along powered by cheap but polluting coal, were windmills replaced.

    It is therefore ironic that Barbados should find all sorts of reasons why the new highly efficient & cost effective wind turbines whould not succeed here. It just doesn’t add up.

    Forget the doomsayers talk of infrasound and noise pollution. These same people say high power tension lines, microwave ovens, and cellular phones cause brain cancer despite careful research to the contrary.

    If windmills were successful in the past there is no good reason why sophisticated wind turbines cannot work efficiently in Barbados today.

  8. White Rabbit- you say “Windpower is known to be just about the most expensive power available in the world.” Where you get that- Alice in Wonderland?

    Windpower costs approx 5 cents (US) p., about the same as coal. Natural gas was cheaper until the recent price increases, is now 15-20 cents. Hydro is 5- 11 cents, Nuclear 11- 14.5 cents, and photovoltaic has come down rapidly to 8 cents. (Source- American Wind Energy Assoc.)

    Capital cost of windpower is around US$500 assuming it is fed back into a grid.

  9. P.S. Have just obtained an update. According to Economist Nov 18, 2006 windpower has dropped from 8-10 cents pkwhr in 1990 to 3.5-4 cents today.

    Look at you electricity bill, White Rabbit, and see how that compares with what we are currently paying here. Barbados Light and Power (I can’t say BLP) are too conservative to face up to the realities of today’s technology. Let’s see what the Danes come up with. Any latest word?

  10. Leo Sobers

    The fight against the erection of wind turbines is on-going.The Josey Hill Residents association is actively engaged in ——-can’t say too much.

  11. Re-reading the reports of low frequency damage, the audiologist who did tests said “It is perceptible to people with sensitive balance mechanisms.” The man in Nova Scotia who got nausea and dizzy spells was such a person.

    It looks like the Josey Hill folks are convinced they will suffer the same way, and condemn the project. I doubt if they realise the sound of the turbines is not “heard” at all. It is quite likely none of them has the sensitivity which will make them queasy from the unheard but subconsciously “perceived” vibrations. Tests could be conducted to find out. Clearly we cannot have them suffer.

    So it looks like an otherwise splendid project for clean energy is doomed, and BL&P can go back to their oldfashioned and inefficient ways of doing things. We Bajans sure don’t like change. Shame we didn’t keep the creaky old windmills, though.

  12. fullerenedream

    I just found a paper that has important information. It was published by people who don’t have a vested interest in windmills, as far as I know. Please read it and see what you think.

    G. Leventhall, Journal of the Canadian Acoustical Association, Vol 34 P 29, June 2006

    Click to access 06-06Leventhall-Infras-WT-CanAcoustics.pdf

  13. Crusty

    To Paradox: your web link does not work. Try:

  14. atomcat

    I have been educating people in Canada about wind for over two years. Don’t do it.

    I met Daniel d’Entremont when he testified at the OMB hearing in our community. A better person would be hard to find.

    The whole thing is a nasty scam. It’s main purpose is the creation of carbon credits.

    Denmark started using wind in the 70’s and they are still 83% dependent on fossil fuel for the creation of electricity and the boast the highest prices.

    German has the most wind – yet they are in the process of building 26 coal plants without scrubbers and using soft (dirty) coal. so much for the environment.

    I have met too many people that have had their lives ruined by wind turbines placed too close to homes.

    Anyway I have a blog at

    The scope has expanded as I have researched and wind farms have nothing to do with saving the environment.
    I shot a video at a windfarm near me. Several families were forced to move out.

    Take care


  15. Pingback: Wind Turbines at Lamberts, Barbados – How close is too close? « Barbados Free Press

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