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Scientists Look To Owls For Wind Farm Noise Solution

June 22, 2015
Environmental Health

Barn Owl hunting mid afternoonResearch by scientists at the University of Cambridge and three US institutions could lead to quieter wind farms.

By adapting turbine blades using a new material made of 3D printed plastic to mimic an owls wings, they found a significant decrease in noise levels without any noticeable affect on aerodynamics. Reductions of up to 10 decibels were achieved during wind tunnel tests. Researchers now aim to carry out tests on a full sized wind turbine in the field.

Results could allow turbines to spin more quickly generating more power without concerns over noise while the technology could also be applied in other areas in the aeronautical industry.

Large owls such as barn owls are able to fly in near silence enabling them to hunt by stealth capturing prey at night. Professor Nigel Peake from Cambridge University explained more; “No other bird has this sort of intricate wing structure. Much of the noise caused by a wing – whether it’s attached to a bird, a plane, or a fan – originates at the trailing edge, where the air passing over the wing surface is turbulent,” He said. “The structure of an owl’s wing serves to reduce the noise by smoothing the passage of the air as it passes over the wing – scattering the sound so their prey can’t hear them coming”.

News of the research comes a week after the government announced plans to limit the development of onshore wind farms making it virtually impossible for them to be developed without local support.