dbx Acoustics Ltd was approached by Renewables First to assist with a contentious planning application for an Archimedes screw micro generation hydro scheme in Eaton Socon,  Cambridgeshire. The applicant wished to install a turbine to generate power for their home and the adjacent pub, but based on their observations of the twin screw in nearby Bedford, local residents raised concerns about the noise impact of the scheme.

dBx undertook a thorough survey and investigation process to ensure that we could accurately model and predict noise from the proposed turbine including the low frequency ‘slap’ of water exiting the base of the screw. We made measurements at a number of turbines across the country (including Bedford) in different flow conditions in order to obtain typical sound power data in third octave bands for both the screw and the machinery house, as well as reviewing the limited manufacturer’s data available. You can see a video of one of the turbines we measured on our YouTube channel.

Bedford Archimedes Turbine

Bedford Archimedes Turbine

A 72 hour noise survey was carried out at an around the proposed site, to ensure that the most peaceful periods of the existing ambient noise climate were captured. This allows for a ‘worst case’ assessment of potential noise impact as residents will be more sensitive to any new noise source when other sources – such as traffic, commercial use and plant – are at their quietest. The survey included measurements at the residential facades and amenity areas during both weekday and weekend periods.

Next, SoundPlan was used to create a model of the site and surroundings. This was made as accurate as possible, with topography, buildings of the correct height, areas of acoustically reflective surfaces (tarmac, water) and acoustically absorptive surfaces (grass, woodland) included. The proposed turbine and engine house was modelled in position, as a sound power source based on the data gathered from other similar sized turbines. Separate sources were modelled for the end of the turbine and its length, as well as for the machinery at the turbine head.

3d acoustic model

               3d view of acoustic model

plan view of acoustic model

              Plan view of acoustic model

The aim of the assessment was to carry out a BS 4142 assessment for noise from the turbine as received at the residential properties, demonstrating that the rating level for noise from the turbine would be no more than 5 dB below the night time background noise level at the receptors. The rating level includes corrections for ‘acoustic features’ and in this case it was decided to apply a +9 dB correction for the repetitive ‘thumping’ of water exiting the turbine.

In order to control noise to within the agreed limits, it was necessary to introduce mitigation measures to the design. This included a concrete wall to the west of the turbine enclosure, extending into the mill pond beyond the end of the screw, to provide additional screening to properties to the west. Unlike the other turbines observed during our investigations, the decision was made to fully enclose the screw, and a sound insulating sandwich construction was developed in order to control noise breakout whilst allowing access for maintenance.

Finally, an innovative rubber curtain design was developed to cover the opening at the base of the turbine and provide additional screening for water impact noise. This was designed to allow debris to pass through whilst remaining closed for the majority of the time in order to contain noise.


Sound propagation map

                   Sound propagation map

With these measures in place, it was possible to demonstrate that the BS 4142 rating noise level for sound emitted from the proposed turbine would be at least 5 dB below the lowest background noise level at the residential properties – in the majority of cases in fact far below this. As such no adverse noise impact is predicted.

In order to provide additional comfort, although not required by BS 4142, dBx Acoustics also carried out a frequency analysis of the measured and predicted noise in order to demonstrate that there would be no particular frequency content to the sound at the receptors. Finally, our report included detailed advice for the Client on the proposed mitigation measures, including the sound insulation performance of the enclosure, plant housing, and curtain.

We expect to be commissioned to carry out measurements on site post-construction to demonstrate the success and acceptability of the scheme, and will look forward to reporting back!