AMSTERDAM – The first Dutch climate refugees are a fact. Not because of wet feet, but because citizens cannot cope with the noise of wind farms.
Residents close to biomass power stations also complain bitterly. Are health and the environment in the Netherlands subordinate to our climate goals? “I do see a similarity with the Groningen gas and the Limburg mines: energy interests outweigh other interests.”
Every time he sent his Connexxion public transport bus across the Haringvliet Bridge, Claus aan de Wiel looked to the northwest with concern. Towards five windturbines two hundred meters high, ten kilometers away, near Piershil. “How’s the wind? Isn’t it too windy? What will it be like when I get home? ” Will it be another evening where the turbine noise rumbles like a rolling, roaring surf above the TV? “I never slept a wink. Sometimes I got back on the bus after only three and a half hours of sleep.”
Windfear. The bus driver and his partner Ine van den Dool suffered from it after the Spui wind farm was set up five hundred meters from their house. The initiator still boasted about the Rolls-Royce among the windturbines – so quiet. “But we were shocked. The noise was unbearable. The house was built by my parents, I grew up there and thought I would only leave between six planks, but we could not stand it ”, says Aan de Wiel. Sound waves banged on the facades from three sides. Even the moles disappeared from their garden.
Van den Dool loved the greenery and space in the Hoeksche Waard. “It was a heavenly, healing place. Where we sat in the garden with friends until late. The wind farm has distroyed that. It was as if a jet plane kept circling overhead. I developed severe asthma and could not stop coughing at night. As if my body was screaming: this is not safe, you have to get out of here. ” And so the pair left. As a climate refugee in their own country.
It is the compression of air when a wick sweeps past the mast that makes the typical turbine noise. “Our noise standards for wind turbines are much more flexible than in neighboring countries,” says Fred Jansen from Schagen. Ten years ago, as chairman of the National Critical Platform for Wind Energy, he already opposed the cabinet’s new noise standards. According to Jansen, they only work in favor of wind farm builders. “Local residents are the victims.”
The World Health Organization recommends that the wind turbine noise for local residents be kept below an average of 45 decibels per day (45 L-den). Louder noise “is associated with adverse health effects,” according to the 2018 report “Environmental Noise Guidelines for the European Region”. However, Dutch law allows an average of 47 decibels during the day, and peaks well above 50 decibels. Since every three decibels means a doubling, that saves a sip on a drink, Janssen believes.
Sound expert Marcel Blankvoort confirms the Dutch exceptional position. Our country works with averages, where other Western European countries, apart from Norway, allow a maximum peak load on the facade. “And we don’t include background noise. Elsewhere, a turbine in an industrial estate is allowed to make more noise than in the countryside, because there is more noise there anyway. Here, the same standard applies everywhere. That is why wind turbines in a previously quiet polder are more likely to be perceived as a deterioration in the living environment. ” In the ‘Nijpelsian landscape’ (named after the architect of the Dutch climate agreement), full of wind farms, those sound waves hit more and more citizens.
It is not only wind energy that the government is helping, on paper, to halve CO2 emissions by 2030. Subsidizing the burning of woody biomass also helps the accountants in The Hague to comply with the Paris Agreement. Billions of euros in subsidies have already been promised for hundreds of biomass plants. But the nuisance for local residents has caused a fierce social debate about wood burning.
“Recently our bedroom was full of smoke again,” says Rini Ruitenschild from Ede. He lives with his family at a distance of one hundred and eighty meters from one of the local biomass plants, which does not burn gas but wood for district heating. “It is not the first time. My wife has a lung problem. If your whole house is full of dirty air again, then you will become unruly.”