Wind turbines are an important alternative to generating energy from fossil fuels. NLR’s noise simulator adds a significant role when choosing the location and orientation of wind farms.

Environmental regulations in our densely populated country mean wind turbine projects demand a painstaking planning process. In 2011, the Ministry of Infrastructure & Environment commissioned NLR to design a simulator that could precisely mimic a cluster of wind turbines and the noise they create. The Virtual Noise Simulator (VCNS) allows all stakeholders to experience, in advance, the visual and auditory impact that wind turbines are likely to have. NLR has been studying wind turbines since the 1990s, gaining insight into environmental issues and supporting the wind farm industry in curtailing noise nuisance.

In addition to generating energy, wind turbines also produce noise. It is the cyclical element, the ‘swoosh’, that is generally considered to be most annoying. That element was also the chief motive for drawing up regulations for wind turbine projects. Noise nuisance experienced in their vicinity depends, among other things, on the position of the observer relative to the turbine, operational conditions and the actual layout of the turbines. VCNS is designed to create a representative model of all these variables and to clarify issues relating to sources of noise, potential counter measures and the location of these sources in a given area.

Research into wind turbines is derived directly from aeronautical applications, a focal point of NLR research. The physical and aero-acoustic characteristics of a wind turbine blade are comparable with those of an aircraft wing. VCNS has already been in use for some years as an air traffic noise simulator. With this project, NLR has demonstrated that other sources of noise, including wind turbines, can also be realistically simulated in a virtual environment.

Online demo of VCNS wind turbine noise