In order to learn first-hand about the sound created by local wind farms, Aeron Hurley ’07 is spending part of this summer sleeping under the turbines and taking readings with decibel meter.
The project, inspired by a course with Professors Tom Drennen and John Halfman, is part of a series of studies Hurley has undertaken into the social and cultural impact of renewable energy.
Hurley’s project has three parts. The first is to collect ambient noise data from future wind farm sites, then return when the sites are finished to check the noise levels again, gathering data about the amount of noise pollution created by wind energy. Hurley is also sleeping in wind farms, gathering data about some of the sites already in place.
As it turns out, noise pollution is all around, but it’s usually not the fault of the wind farm. “Sometimes people will complain about noise, but it’s really just local traffic,” he said. “One site has a train track running next to it: that creates a lot more noise than the turbines do.”
The geography of the site also has a major impact. “Terrain and temperature will propagate sound,” he said.
Hurley is also attending town council meetings, listening to those who speak, and sharing his experiences.
“The companies who make the wind turbines sometimes say they make no noise at all and the anti-wind groups claim they make a lot of noise,” Hurley said.
Despite the obstacles to wind energy and the long nights out in the field with only the turbines for company, Hurley thinks his efforts are worth it. “Wind has the most potential of any renewable resource,” he said. “It’s important that we gather reliable data to help people make the best decisions.”