Department of Biology

Aarhus University Seal / Aarhus Universitets segl

Professor Peter Teglberg Madsen

How loud is the underwater noise from operating offshore wind turbines?

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Offshore wind turbines are increasingly abundant sources of underwater low frequency noise. This increase raises concern for the cumulative contribution of wind farms to the underwater soundscape and possible impact on marine ecosystems. Here, available measurements of underwater noise from different wind turbines during operation are reviewed to show that source levels are at least 10-20 dB lower than ship noise in the same frequency range. The most important factor explaining the measured sound pressure levels from wind turbines is distance to the turbines with smaller effects of wind speed and turbine size. A simple multi-turbine model demonstrates that cumulative noise levels could be elevated up to a few kilometres from a wind farm under very low ambient noise conditions. In contrast, the noise is well below ambient levels unless it is very close to the individual turbines in locations with high ambient noise from shipping or high wind speeds. The rapid increase in the number and size of offshore wind farms means that the cumulative contribution from the many turbines may be considerable and should be included in assessments for maritime spatial planning purposes as well and environmental impact assessments of individual projects.

Original languageEnglish
JournalThe Journal of the Acoustical Society of America
Pages (from-to)2885–2893
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2020

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