Aesthetics & Noise
The visibility of a particular wind system will depend on many factors, including tower height, proximity to neighbours and roadways, local terrain, and tree coverage. A wind turbine can affect your view or that of your neighbours, and it might block or change an historic landscape. In most areas of Canada, wind turbines are also an uncommon sight so it is natural to expect some local reservations about their introduction. Objections are more likely to occur in populated and tourist areas. Opposition is least likely to surface in rural settings. It should be noted that in many cases, small wind turbines actually serve as tourist attractions!
Most modern residential wind turbines produce around 52 to 55 decibels, equivalent to the noise generated by an average refrigerator. The most characteristic sounds of a wind turbine are the "swish...swish...swish" of its turning blades and the whirring of the generator. Within several hundred feet of a machine, these sounds may be distinguishable from background noise (e.g. local traffic or the wind blowing through the trees). The actual noise level depends on the turbine itself (some are noisier than others), the wind pattern (turbulent wind increases noise), the site terrain (sound travels farther in certain terrains), and the distance to dwellings. As a ‘rule of thumb’, the mean sound pressure level value should not exceed 6 decibels (dBA) above background sound, as measured at the exterior of the closest neighbouring inhabited dwelling (for wind speeds >10 m/s). If the turbine is well sited then noise is not usually a problem. It is critical to consult with neighbours, and to discuss noise issues with them before purchasing and installing a turbine (preferably with the help of data and case studies from the dealer and/or manufacturer). If adequate steps are not taken, and the noise levels are deemed too high, neighbours can raise objections with the municipality, or even ask provincial authorities to undertake a noise assessment as part of an Environmental Assessment (EA) process. This is a rare occurrence, however.
Some small wind turbine owners find that noise can become a focal point for unrelated concerns such as aesthetics, where noise is used to argue against the project even if the neighbours cannot hear the turbine in practice.