Last update: December 13, 2017

University of MinnesotaJune 24, 2014United States

Infrasound emitted by wind turbines

University of Minnesota researchers used natural snowfall to visualize airflow of large-scale wind turbine.

Our comments:

Notice the swirls (the black spots) due to localized aerodynamics dumped off the blades, like what you get of the end of a paddle worked in water. Those swirls by themselves aren't the infrasound acoustic waves (pressure pulsations) traveling away from the turbine at the speed of sound. The swirls are slow-moving in comparison.

Pressure pulsations are emitted every time a blade passes in front of the tower. The blade passing frequency and its harmonics are in the infrasound range.

Let's take an example: at the maximum rotational speed of 15 revolutions per minute, the blade passing frequency is:

15 rpm × 3 blades = 45 passings per minute

per second, it is: 45 / 60 = 0.75 passing per second

The frequency in Hertz is equal to the number of passings per second: f = 0.75 Hz.

Harmonics are integer multiples of the fundamental f:

FundamentalHarmonics
f2f3f4f5f6f7f8f9f10fetc.
0.75 Hz1.5 Hz2.25 Hz3 Hz3.75 Hz4.5 Hz5.25 Hz6 Hz6.75 Hz7.5 Hzetc.

⇒ All these frequencies are indeed in the infrasound range (frequencies < 20 Hz).

For years, people have been told that infrasound you cannot hear cannot affect you. This is completely WRONG.
As the inner ear DOES respond to infrasound at levels that are not heard, people living near wind turbines are being put at risk by infrasound effects on the body that no-one presently understands.
Until a scientific understanding of this issue is established we should not be dismissing these effects, but need to be erring on the side of caution.”

Alec N. Salt, Ph.D. — Department of Otolaryngology - Washington University - School of Medicine - St. Louis, MO 63110

Researchers set up a large searchlight with specially designed reflecting optics to generate a gigantic light sheet next to the 130-meter-tall wind turbine for illuminating the snow particles in a 36-meter-wide-by-36-meter-high area.

The snow is easier to see in the light at night, much like the average person looks into a streetlight to see how much it is snowing during a snowstorm.

Researchers videotaped the snow particles as the wind turbine spun to show airflow patterns. This video was digitized and synchronized with wake flow and load data from the fully instrumented research wind turbine.”
(University of Minnesota)