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4/7/2014 Designing for Low Mechanical Noise from Wind Turbines 1/2
Designing for Low Mechanical Noise from Wind
Sound emissions from wind t urbines may have t wo different origins: Mechanical
noise which we deal wit h on t his page, and aerodynamic noise which we deal
wit h on t he next page.
Mechanical Sources of Sound Emission
Mechanical noise, i.e. met al component s moving or knocking against each
ot her may originat e in t he gearbox, in t he drive t rain (t he shaft s), and in t he
generat or of a wind t urbine.
Machines from t he early 1980s or before do emit some mechanical noise,
which may be heard in t he immediat e surroundings of t he t urbine, in t he worst
cases even up t o a dist ance of 200 m (600 ft .)
A survey on research and development priorit ies of Danish wind t urbine
manufact urers conduct ed in 1995, however, showed t hat no manufact urer
considered mechanical noise as a problem any longer, and t herefore no furt her
research in t he area was considered necessary. The reason was, t hat wit hin t hree
years noise emissions had dropped t o half t heir previous level due t o bet t er
engineering pract ices.
Quieting Wind Turbine Gearboxes
Gearboxes for wind t urbines are no longer st andard indust rial gearboxes, but t hey
have been adapt ed specifically for quiet operat ion of wind t urbines. One way of
doing t his is t o ensure t hat t he st eel wheels of t he gearbox have a semi-soft ,
flexible core, but a hard surface t o ensure st rengt h and long t ime wear.
The way t his is done is basically t o heat t he gear wheels aft er t heir t eet h have
been ground, and t hen let t hem cool off slowly while t hey are packed in a
special high carbon-cont ent powder. The carbon will t hen migrat e int o t he
surface of t he met al. This ensures a high carbon cont ent and high durabilit y in
t he surface of t he met al, while t he st eel alloy in t he int erior remains soft er and
more flexible.
Structural Dynamics Analysis
When going by car, plane, or t rain, you may have experienced how resonance
of different component s, e.g. in t he dashboard of a car or a window of a t rain
may amplify noise.
An import ant considerat ion, which ent ers int o t he t urbine design process
t oday, is t he fact t hat t he rot or blades may act as membranes t hat may
ret ransmit noise vibrat ions from t he nacelle and t ower.
As explained in t he t our sect ion on Research and Development , t he t urbine
manufact urers nowadays make comput er models of t heir machines before
building t hem, t o ensure t hat t he vibrat ions of different component s do not
int eract t o amplify noise.
If you look at t he chassis frame of t he nacelle on some of t he large wind
t urbines on t he market t oday, you may discover some odd holes which were
drilled int o t he chassis frame for no apparent reason. These holes were precisely
made t o ensure t hat t he frame will not vibrat e in st ep wit h t he ot her
component s in t he t urbine.
Sound Insulation
Guided tour
Turbine siting
Energy output
How does it work?
Turbine design
Load considerations
No. of rotor blades
Optimising turbines
Low mechanical noise
Low aerodynamic noise
Manuf acturing
R & D
Electrical grid
History of wind energy
Wind energy manual
4/7/2014 Designing for Low Mechanical Noise from Wind Turbines 2/2
Sound insulat ion plays a minor role in most wind modern t urbines on t he market
t oday, alt hough it can be useful t o minimise some medium- and high-frequency
noise. In general, however, it seems t o be more efficient t o at t ack noise
problems at t he source, in t he st ruct ure of t he machine it self.
Copyright 1997-2003 Danish Wind Industry Association
Updated 10 May 2003