If there are two things about wind farms that we know from decades of experience both here and overseas, it's that wind is quiet and having more wind in the grid reduces the cost of power.
It's a source of constant frustration that when opponents of wind try to argue that the opposite is the case, they routinely ignore the wads of credible research that exist if that research doesn't suit their argument. People living in wind communities deserve better treatment than this and deserve to have access to real information.
Two reports that provide just that kind of information were released recently.
Wind is quiet
The South Australian EPA followed up its study on infrasound (ie. sound levels below 20 hertz) in noisy urban settings and near wind farms with another report on levels of low-frequency noise (ie. sound levels between 8 and 250 hertz) in the same settings.
Put simply, if you're worried about low frequency noise, you should move out of the city and move in next to a wind farm.
They measured levels of low frequency noise inside and outside homes 1.5 km away from wind farms and compared them to levels at a home that was 10km away from a wind farm and also some urban office settings. As the graph to the right shows, the lowest measurements they found were inside a house 1.5km from the Bluff Wind Farm.
Standards around night time noise levels were regularly breached in the urban settings they measured but were never exceeded at the houses near the wind farms.
They also took measurements when the wind farms were on and off and found that while one of the wind farms increased low frequency noise when operating, it was well within the relevant noise limits.
It's worth noting that because the background levels of noise in rural areas are much lower than in the city, its possible that even modest amounts of low frequency noise might be more noticeable there. But while this may, in some instances, lead to a level of annoyance, it certainly is not in any way a danger to human health.
Wind reduces the cost of power
Because the fuel for wind power comes for free, it's incredibly cheap to run a wind farm. This means that wind farms often offer their power to the market at a cheaper price than coal or gas-fired power plants. The effect of this is that wholesale power prices in Australia are around $12 megawatt hour cheaper than they would be if we didn't have the Renewable Energy Target for large-scale renewables like wind power (LRET).
These were the findings of a report produced by respected energy economics consultants, Sinclair Knight Merz.
"But what about the cost of the RECs?!" I hear you say?
Well, as reality would have it, this cost is small and it is outweighed by the reduction in wholesale prices mentioned above. This means that if you live in Victoria, your retail prices are $35-50 better off with the LRET in place.