Despite the increasing popularity of wind turbines, many Americans know little about them other than that they generate clean, renewable energy. Due to this unfamiliarity, it is all too easy for myths that are detrimental to the growth of the wind energy industry to spread. I hope to put some of these rumors to rest and provide you with the truth on wind turbines.
Myth: “Turbines are Noisy”
Fact: Wind turbines are quiet. As we discussed earlier, they are far from noisy, especially in comparison to other sounds we hear on a daily basis. An operating modern wind farm at a distance of 750 to 1000 feet is no noisier than a kitchen refrigerator or a moderately quiet room (“Myths vs. Facts”).
Myth: “Turbine Lighting is Excessive”
Fact: Lights at wind farms are non-intrusive, and improvements in design will make them even less so as the technology expands. Lighting is a necessity because the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) recommends it for most structures taller than 200 feet to ensure aviation safety (“Myths vs. Facts”).
Wind turbine lights, pictured above, are no more intrusive than things like holiday decorations and street lights.
Myth: “Nearby Residences Will Be Affected by Shadow Flicker”
Fact: Shadow flicker is a term describing the moving shadow caused by rotating turbine blades coming between the viewer and the sun. Shadow flicker is almost never a problem for residences near new wind farms, and in the few cases where it could be, it is easily avoided (“Myths vs. Facts”).
Myth: “Turbines Interfere with Television and Other Communications Signals”
Fact: Interference is rare and easily avoided. Large wind turbines can interfere with radio and television signals only if the turbine is in the “line of sight.” Improving a receiver’s antenna or installing relays to transmit signals around the wind farm can easily resolve this issue (“Myths vs. Facts”).
Myth: “Turbines are Ugly”
Fact: That’s simply a matter of opinion. Some people find wind turbines to be majestic. Whether one considers them beautiful or an eye sore, you cannot deny that they represent progress and a better future for our world (“Myths vs. Facts”).
Myth: “Wind Projects Depress Tourism”
Fact: There is no evidence to indicate that wind turbines drive tourists away. In fact, wind turbines can even draw tourists. As you know, I grew up in a beach town with heavy tourism during the summer months. I work at a souvenir shop in town, and we even sell custom-made t-shirts and coffee mugs bragging about Hull Wind! People love our two wind turbines, and I am certain that tourism has only increased since their inception (“Myths vs. Facts”).
The t-shirts sold at Carousels and Ships Gift Shop, a beachfront store in Hull, MA.
Myth: “Wind Projects Don’t Contribute to the Local Tax Base”
Fact: Installing millions of dollars of equipment in most areas significantly increases the local taxes assessed. Wind farms support the local tax base, helping to pay for schools and roads far more than their impact to local facilities. Indeed, economic development associated with a new wind farm extends far beyond taxes to increased employment (“Myths vs. Facts”).
Myth: “Wind Turbines aren’t Safe”
Fact: While people argue that blades can cause dangerous ice throws and that turbines may throw blades or collapse, that is not the case. Ice throw, while it can occur under certain conditions, is of little danger. Modern wind turbines are so safe that they successfully operate near schools, in urban settings and densely populated areas, and in rural communities. In Hull, Hull Wind 1 is located right next to the local high school. Hull Wind 2 sits amidst residential homes and a very large condominium complex. Turbines are perfectly safe (“Myths vs. Facts”).
Myth: “Wind Turbines Harm Wildlife”
Fact: While I will delve deeper into this topic in later posts, suffice it to say that wind energy’s overall impact on birds is very low compared to other human-related activities. People also assert that wind projects fragment wildlife habitats; however, most wind farms are built in areas close to transmissions lines, where habitats have already been modified and fragmented (“Myths vs. Facts”).
Myth: “Wind Turbines are Unreliable”
Fact: A common misconception is that back-up generation is needed for all wind turbines. On the contrary, the inherent design of the grid makes it unnecessary to back up every megawatt of wind energy with a megawatt of fossil fuel or dispatchable power. Some believe that wind turbines only operate a small fraction of the time, but in actuality they generate electricity most (65-85%) of the time. While the output amount is variable, it is still a dependable energy source. Finally, people posit that wind energy will never provide more than a little electricity. As I have demonstrated, we have the ability to supply all of our energy needs if we implemented enough turbines. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that America’s wind energy potential is much larger than total U.S. electricity consumption today (“Myths vs. Facts”).
Myth: “Wind Turbines are Inefficient, Expensive, and Heavily Subsidized”
Fact: Part of the wind turbine’s underlying beauty is the fact that it is incredibly efficient. The energy payback time for wind is perhaps even better than that of conventional power plants. In the larger sense, wind turbines are highly efficient because they generate electricity from a natural, renewable resource. Wind energy is inaccurately perceived as expensive because it has higher up-front capital costs. However, wind energy is now in a range that is competitive with power from new conventional power plants. In the long run, wind turbines are the more cost-effective choice. And while wind energy is indeed subsidized, the fact that every energy technology is subsidized is largely ignored (“Myths vs. Facts”).
Did you believe any of these myths until reading the post? Why do you think that the facts about wind turbines are being misrepresented?