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Breaking Wind: The Odd Culture of Wind Farm Protests

Wind Turbines

Wind farms are popping up all over the world with the lure of cleaner electric generation and a lessened dependency on fossil fuels. Renewable energy, including solar, hydroelectric, geothermal, and biomass, is all the rage in the race to combat climate change. So, why is wind so often contested amongst the general population?

Ontario citizens are fighting back, Tie Domi style.

There has been a recent spike in reports concerning communities and their disdain for wind projects being implemented in their towns. Residents in Goderich, Ontario are protesting a 140-turbine project currently being built in southern Ontario by K2 Wind, a partnership of three energy entities in Canada. They are standing up to what they say was a project in which they had  no involvement, and they are now complaining about possible adverse effects such as noise pollution, lower property values, and subjective eyesores. Shawn and Tricia Drennan are plaintiffs hoping to halt the project’s construction in a court case that commenced on Monday, September 22. Two additional families, one of which is concerned about its eight-year-old daughter’s hearing hypersensitivity, are also fighting back against a wind farm. The Dixon and Ryan families are protesting a 15-turbine project near Seaforth, Ontario. The collective grievance partially states,

In effect, our government has relegated the appellants to guinea pigs in the name of green energy. The fear and anxiety with being a guinea pig is only further heightened by the knowledge that the Ontario Ministry of the Environment has placed a moratorium on off-shore wind turbines because the environmental impact on the fish is not known.


Though the residents note that Health Canada is currently conducting a study to learn more about any ill effects that wind projects may have on a locale, the builders of the wind farms stand by their safety and insist they cause no harm. K2 Wind and St. Columban Energy argue that an injunction against construction of the projects would harm the companies financially. They maintain that they have the required permits and that the wind farms are environmentally-friendly and create economic advantages.

I love New York, but New York doesn’t love wind.

In nearby New York, two communities are also putting up their best fight to stop the continuation of wind projects. In Orangeville, residents recently filed a $40 million lawsuit against energy company Invenergy. The case states that the firm is violating the town’s 50-decibel noise ordinance and is causing sickness, soreness, and disability. Invenergy installed a total of 58 turbines, each nearly 430 feet tall, at the Stony Creek Wind Farm.

As is the case in Ontario, concerned residents are complaining of lowered property values and health issues due to noise and vibration. They claim the issues are caused by turbines in close proximity to their houses. Invenergy is staunchly fighting back against these claims with a statement that partially asserts,

While support for renewable energy is strong across our country, we take seriously any concerns of those who live in a project host community. That is why we took great care in developing the Orangeville wind farm in accordance with all local, state, and federal laws and regulations. The lengthy authorization process was open and inclusive, allowing extensive opportunity for citizen input. Numerous studies – conducted in countries all over the world – have found no evidence to support a link between sound emitted from wind turbines and adverse health effects. The Orangeville wind farm will vigorously defend itself against the unfounded claims set forth in these complaints.


Additionally in New York, Chemung County residents are at odds with a proposed NextEra Energy wind farm that would create nearly 30 wind turbines in the town of Catlin. Resident Patricia Collins claims that this should be on a ballot as a public referendum; however town officials say the issue doesn’t merit one due to state law requirements.

NextEra Energy already has 30 signatures showing residential support in favor of the project, and is close to passing a law that would let the building begin. Not all residents are in agreement, though. Vicki Petris states,

They make a lot of noise, they throw ice, in the winter time they can. One of the other things is it can make property values go down too.


Town officials are concerned about a potential loss of $209,000 starting in 2018, but claim the $200,000 in revenue it would receive from the wind project could prevent the town from going into debt. Town Supervisor LaVerne Phelps states, “If the wind company goes forward, the turbines will be in the town of Catlin, generating revenue going back to the town which will help to offset the loss in sales tax revenue and help stabilize the tax base.”

Is hate for wind just a lot of hot air?

Electricity from wind generation is poised to become a leading source of renewable energy in the years to come. So why do so many people not want it? Is it simply a fear of the unknown and not based on facts? There are studies for both sides of the argument that “prove” property values will or will not go down, that wind farms do or do not cause health issues, and that birds are in more or less danger from wind farms. With the rapid growth of this industry and the numerous backlashes from groups who oppose it in their backyards, this issue appears here to stay. Whether or not people will ever find common ground on wind energy is still in question.

What are your feelings on wind farms?
-They’re great and will steer us away from dirty electricity!
-You couldn’t pay me enough to live near those monstrosities!

Comment below!

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Renewables, like hydro, are not opposed in e.g. Sweden. It is lies and misunderstandings like solar and wind that are not appreciated, although there are plenty of people in this country who have been led to Believe that lies and misunderstandings can provide reasons for replacing or discounting hydro and nuclear.

In case anyone is interested, nuclear and hydro gave this country one of the highest standards of living in the World, but then the parasites and charlatans - especially from academica - stepped in and the machine Went off the tracks.

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Have you ever tried to sleep near a wind turbine? The monstrosities are nosy. They also a monumental eyesores while being positively lethal to birds, especially when the Cuisinart machines are in flyways. Adding insult to injury, the wind farm owners are immune to laws against killing raptors (compliments of Obama)

I recall local residents pitching fits over combined cycle plants which are pretty innocuous in terms of their size. Don't blame them one bit for objecting to placing massive skyscrapers in the middle of the plains.

How about you "greenies" taking your contraptions and jamming them up your ....

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A good article Wayne, free of the usual hyperbolic rhetoric we have been subjected to in the past.

Firstly I am very familiar with the area around Goderich as it is only about 50km away from one if the largest nuclear power plants in the world...the 8-Unit Bruce Nuclear Power Development. The contrast is remarkable. BNPD cannot be seen unless you are almost on top of it. The windmills can be seen for miles...a true tragedy in this beautiful part of the world along side the shores of Lake Huron.

Secondly I am not at all opposed to the use solar panels or wind turbines to produce electricity. They are wrongly called "renewable" sources but as Einstein pointed out energy cannot be created or destroyed therefore it cannot be renewed.It can only be converted from one form to another.

However to call such machines "environmentally friendly" is surely an abuse of the term. Many people in the area of Goderich and Bruce County are already subject to the noise and constant vibration these machines produce. Yes they are fairly silent from afar but within a few hundred feet the "swish-swish' of the blades is truly annoying and I would hate to live anywhere near one. Many are forced to move out or lose their sanity. Without question property values fall dramatically. The Amish who inhabit this country area will not purchase farms with wind turbines on them.

Compared to the enourmous amount of electricity produced by the Bruce Nuclear Power Plants tucked discreetly away on the Douglas Point peninsula the few hundred megawatts produced (some of the time) by these wind plants is most definitely not worth the damage they do to this very beautiful part of Ontario. It is so sad to see these dubbed environmentally dfriendly when they are nothing of the sort.

At night, because they are tall enough to be a hazard to air transport, each one is required to have a flashing red light to warn aircraft. Imagine for a moment on a dark clear night watching the entire countryside light up every few seconds with a red glow. Now imagine trying to sleep with that going on every night.Who would buy a house in that mess.

Perhaps you can see why the people who live near them do not want them whatever they pay the local farmers who will benefit financially.

As Fred Banks alludes to above these machines are of little economic benefit since, while proponents ALWAYS use the nameplate ratings of the generator to describe the amount of power produced these machines have at very best a 25% capacity factor. It is the key number for any generating machine. Nuclear plants operate with capacity factors of 90% typically which means they operate at full power 9 days out of every 10 and that depends only on the reliability of the machines. A wind generator - even at the most windy sites can only operate at full power 2.5 days out of every 10 and that is dependent both on the reliability of the machines AND whether the wind blows or not and at what strength it blows at. Many days it simply does not blow at all.

And of course that begs the question what do you do when the wind is not blowing...well you start up gas turbines is what you do. In fact many studies show that wind turbines INCREASE the amount of carbon produced - not DECREASE it. But you will never hear any of the proponents say that although they know full well it is true.

I think it is clear to every thinking person that the environmental damage and human cost of installing such machines without the consent of the public that is directly affected by them is not at all environmentally or ethically acceptable. Add to that the fact that they cause the emission of more carbon dioxide - not less and do very little for the power supply of the Province and you can see that the public is being sold a bill of goods.

I think we should install one each next to the homes of those that are in favour of them and see whether the red flashing lights induce a good nights sleep.Somehow I doubt whether such wind projects will get accepted so close to politics.

Wind turbines and solar panels are about as good for the environment as an oil slick.

Malcolm

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Just as no one would want to have ANY new power plant, or other large industrial facility, or an airport, constructed within let's say 1000 feet of their home, this applies to wind farms, as well. Complaints outside of a reasonable radius are specious. Suggestions about being forced to live right next to one are just rhetorical nonsense.

Two personal examples: First: The home I grew up in, in Euclid, Ohio, was situated within 1000 feet of the largest wind turbine in Ohio - installed on the property of Lincoln Electric. This is a 2.5MW giant, 443 feet tall. It is separated from residential areas to the north by the I90 freeway (far louder and more illuminating at night), and to the south by additional industrial land. There was and is no local controversy. My recently deceased 83 year old mother LOVED that wind turbine and what it stood for. The seniors in the community lapped up the topical talks given by the Lincoln people. Standing under it, there is no perceptible noise. It can be seen for many miles in any direction. There is no local controversy.

http://newsroom.lincolnelectric.com/News+Releases/lincoln+electric+wind+...

Second: I spoke at a meeting of the Utility Coal Conference, sponsored by the American Coal Council, in May of 2009. It was being held on the headquarters campus of Great River Energy, Maple Grove, MN, which is housed in a platinum-LEED-certified building, and the campus includes a wind turbine of moderate size.

http://www.greatriverenergy.com/aboutus/ourleedbuildings/

During the lunch break, I took a walk outside, standing immediately next to the wind turbine, which was in operation during a pretty stiff breeze. There was NO SOUND from the blades - none whatsoever. The only sound emanating from the platform right at the base of the turbine was the hum from a transformer on the inside of the tower base. That's it. I scoured the ground looking for a dead bird anywhere. Again, nothing.

People will concoct malarkey objections to "new" things, based solely on concocted technological fears, poor logical associations, and manufactured discomforts. Electrification came with the same kind of anti-electrification arguments. I attribute them to the types of people who would object to someone in their neighborhood of white homes painting their house yellow. "Eyesore!" "Lower property values!" they would scream. 99% of these types of objections are rubbish.

Reasonable people would expect local concerns to be addressed through proper zoning and safeguards, accomplished by appropriate location and lighting of wind farm components. In my own experience, 1000' is more than adequate except for the visual presence.

As far as bird kills are concerned, stationary buildings, covered with windows, kill far more birds than wind turbines do, by an enormous factor, like 1000 to 1. So, another somewhat specious argument against wind turbines.

"Data" for stationary buildings: http://www.birdwatchingdaily.com/blog/2014/04/02/collisions-with-buildin...

"Data" for wind turbines: http://news.yahoo.com/wind-turbines-kill-birds-190145748.html;_ylt=AwrBT...

As a mentor to science students at my local high school, I had the opportunity to suggest a "beautification" program for wind turbines, which could be executed as a design completion amongst artists and art schools, to see what might be done to make turbines more visually appealing.

Similarly, experimentation could be done to create techniques which alert birds to the presence of turbines in operation - ultrasonics, optical cues, etc.

Meanwhile, no need to scream for a halt to deployment based on nearly all the manufactured arguments against wind technology.

Malcolm, anyone that argues that the integration of wind technology creates MORE CO2 emissions, is math challenged, and simply creating anti-wind rhetoric. Yes, a shadow fleet of generators may be required for a while.

RWV

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Well Richard, tell us something about the capacity factor of those soundless wind turbines and we can get to the math. By we I mean somebody besides my good self, because my new book is ready in a week or so, and that is about it for me where this business is concerned.

I am almost sure that there are places on this planet where wind and solar make a lot of economic sense, but you see if certain people are made aware of those places they insist that any nuclear plants that may be present should be scrapped, and wind or solar parks put in their Place. THEY JUST DONT WANT ANY NUCLEAR. .

This is madness. What is happening in the World now is that almost every intelligent person has to live with China competing for the limited energy and other Resources that are available and - more important - the even more limited Resources that are going to be available in the future. Where that competition is concerned I would indeed be surprised if the U.S. makes the cut, but I Think that Canada can if they really and truly want to, which is uncertain.

About wind and CO2, I dont see how that can be denied. If capacity factors are 25%, more wind turbines could - COULD, not will - mean more fast-start gas. gas burning Equipment. .In Sweden ´more hydro might work, but many of the same people who are against nuclear tend to be against more hydro.

. .

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Hi Fred,

There are certainly a number of studies available, and of course, some contain bias. This one seems to be pretty objective, with results for individual European countries included in Table 2.

Generally, the capacity factors quoted all over the place run from 20% to 35%, and are highly dependent upon location and sample size, as one would suspect.

Onshore wind seems to be highly competitive according to this data compilation: http://en.openei.org/apps/TCDB/

Click on the rightmost tab for Capacity Factors, and wind appears broken down into onshore and offshore categories, and is compared to virtually all common other forms of generation.

RWV

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Sorry, here's the link to the first study: http://docs.wind-watch.org/Boccard-Capacity-Factor-Of-Wind.pdf

RWV

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Some of my observations after about 10 years of living near a couple of large scale wind power projects:

> Noise is definitely an issue. The low frequency whump, whump, whump during a breezy night can be drowned out to some extent by light music, but you can still feel it in your chest, and it will affect your sleep. I would caution anyone who has an issue with an irregular heartbeat - it can and does mess with your heart rhythm. This effect seems to be most prevalent when you are downwind and somewhat perpendicular to a string of turbines, and we are about a half mile from a string towards the prevailing wind - quite a bit farther than someone's 1000 foot non-sense above. I also noticed almost no noise when I was standing next to an operating turbine and found it to be quite strange after having heard them from a distance.

> Other noises are a nuisance. On those nice calm, quiet, days, when you are outside doing yard work or something, you'll notice a lot of whirring and such. You might think a truck is coming down the road, but then you notice that it isn't getting any closer. After a bit you'll remember that it is a turbine being turned to unwind its cables, or it is turning to face a slight breeze that has developed from a different direction.

> Traffic can be an issue. We moved here to the middle of nowhere several years prior to the coming of the wind power projects. Construction traffic was horrendous at times. Many of those workers are not too concerned that you and your 5 year old are standing at the end of your driveway on a gravel road waiting for the school bus at 0700. After a couple of those instances of gravel spraying you and your child, you might find yourself throwing a rock slightly behind the open driver's window of the speeding 1-ton flatbed pickup truck. That's one of those not-so-good parental examples that can happen when you find yourself on the edge of a major construction zone. Also, when things are a bit muddy on the gravel roads, the school bus with your child can end up in a ditch when trying to get past the construction traffic. You don't want to be around the mother of the child that was on that bus! Also, you won't be able to put clean clothes out on the line due to all the dust from the extra traffic, so your power bill goes up a bit from running the dryer more than usual.

> Shadow flicker might be an issue for some. For me, it is just an annoyance, but it might be an issue for those who are sensitive to flickering light. The general effect is similar to driving through a wooded area with tree shadows spaced fairly evenly along the road. The research I did at the time indicated that the frequency of flicker should not normally be sufficient to cause seizures. However, that was for only one or two turbines. I am not sure what the effect might be if the person is at an angle to multiple turbines that produces a higher frequency of flicker when the sun goes behind them.

> You won't likely see very many local jobs generated. I know a few local people that were able to get hired by the generating companies, but most (75%?) came from somewhere else. Apparently, an automotive tech degree and a mechanical engineering degree are not good enough to get more than one interview for the many posted openings. Anyone interested in becoming a wind tech needs to look into the applicable schools and programs that have popped up over the last few years. Also, they seem to like hiring electricians, even though a lot of gear box R&R work seems to occur after a few years of operation. (Your grade school boy will be excited by the dozen or so trucks of crane equipment that goes by your house on those days.)

> Taxes seem to be an issue around here. In the early project stages, the wind power company and other project supporters will tout how much they'll be contributing to all the local taxing districts, thus lowering the burden on the general population. To verify things, you need to review the various state laws regarding how these machines will be assessed and taxed. Our County Assessor likely did things wrong in the earlier days, and the subsequent Assessor changed methodology to attempt a more correct taxation (at least that's how it appears to me). Now, some of our property taxes are higher for the new school, compared to what was originally proposed and voted on. I think our basic property tax did go down, but then so did all the values as a result of the housing/financial mess of a few years ago.

Best regards, Darby Hanson

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bill payne,

How about some complete sentences and paragraphs to make your points, if they are relevant to the discussions? What you have been posting here lately, seems like disjointed rambling...sorry.

RWV

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Richard, the energy and economics minister in Germany (Sigmar Gabriel) asked the Swedish prime minister for some help where supplying electricity is concerned. He wants the firm Vattenfall to continue operating their coal mining operations in Germany, even if it means wiping out some small villages-.

But I thought that Germany was going to renewables, to wind and solar. They are, and I hear all the time about how wonderful things are going for them, but most of that information is misunderstandings - and in some cases out and out lies - and it cant be more than that because Mr Gabriel knows as well as I and Ms Merkel that misunderstandings and lies explain what is going on today in the German energy World.

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