Sustainable Development Seminar: Eric Zou

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Sustainable Development Seminar: Eric Zou

May 13, 2019
4:15 PM - 5:45 PM
801 International Affairs Building, 420 W 118th St, New York, NY 10027

Current technology uses wind turbines’ blade aerodynamics to convert wind energy to electricity. This process generates significant low-frequency noise that reportedly results in residents’ sleep disruptions, among other annoyance symptoms. However, the existence and the importance of wind farms’ healtheffects on a population scale remain unknown. Exploiting over 800 utility-scale wind turbine installation events in the United States from 2001 to 2013, I show robust evidence that wind farms lead to significant increases in suicide. I explore three indirect tests of the role of low-frequency noise exposure. First, the suicide effect concentrates among individuals, such as the elderly, who are vulnerable to noise-induced illnesses. Second, the suicide effect is driven by days when wind blows in directions that would raiseresidents’ exposure to low-frequency noise radiation. Third, data from a large-scale health survey suggest increased sleep insufficiency as new turbines began operating. I estimate that the suicide cost of wind farms is not trivial in magnitude compared to the environmental and health benefits of wind energy.