Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Wind Power

Something a bit different today. A topic came up in conversation yesterday about wind farms. I haven't blogged about this for years, so it's time.

I live close to the Amaranth wind farm, and there are several turbines near my house, 3 are visible. There are 133 of them altogether, spread over a wide area of flat hilltop.

Local people are sharply divided between lovers and haters. Chiefly the lovers are those who get $25,000 a year rent from having one on their farmland, and the haters are those who weren't allowed to have one, because their property wasn't suitable - there's a lot of sour grapes there.

Some of the haters will tell you that the noise is awful and some even say it's damaging their health. I'm not quite sure how they live their lives normally, because these are quieter than a fridge. They give out a rather soothing noise which would put me to sleep actually, but the fact is, you can't hear them once you are away from the property they stand on, unless there is absolute silence. So the neighbours that complain obviously don't have any small fans in their home on a hot day, for example, because that would cover the sound of the turbine.

The most amusing report of noise nuisance I heard was a lady who said she could no longer enjoy sitting in her garden because of it. She was asked, did the sound of the wind not cover the sound of the turbine? She said she was referring to windless days.

This is the top of a hill, 1800 feet up. In an average year we have maybe 2 windless days. But when there's no wind, the turbines aren't switched on. Duh.

Many other things in normal life are louder, including traffic, television, conversation, and just about any appliance you care to name.

When challenged these folk tell you that the problem noise can't actually be HEARD by humans, but it damages us physically anyway. It's odd, because it doesn't damage those whose property the turbines stand on (i.e. those closest) but only people some distance away. Some of them are as far away as I am, in fact. Doesn't hurt me. My family are bonny, thank you.

But maybe they are more sensitive flowers, and things they can't hear really do harm them. It's the vibrations, you know. Considering the amount of radio waves, wi-fi etc there are zooming about, I'm amazed they haven't fallen to bits.

If wind turbines harm humans, then it would follow they harm us all. I'm not seeing that. Multiple studies on the effect of wind turbines are not seeing that. Anecdotes by grumpy drama queens is not evidence of health hazards.

If you want something a bit more scientific, try this:

But there's no telling people that it's all in their imagination. As soon as they see a turbine, they suddenly feel ill. People who don't know they are there, feel fine.

The visual? Well some feel they are a blot of the landscape. I find them elegant and fascinating, like huge birds. Moreover in a rural environment they beat grain silos any day of the week. Matter of taste really.

Of course there are other complaints, about birds and bats being killed. Darwin probably has a few thoughts on that, but obviously I do care. The data on how many birds that have been killed by turbines is extremely variable, so take your pick, but what they don't tell you is how many birds are killed by OTHER human activity. In fact far more birds die flying into stationary tall buildings. And some not so tall. I've had them splatted on my second floor bedroom window, when disoriented by certain light conditions. If we are to ban wind turbines based on bird mortality, then we must also ban windows. And all vehicles. So, let's be sensible.

But the biggest question of all, surely, is what would you rather have? Would you rather have gas power stations? You don't want fracking. Coal? All that pollution. Nuclear? Have you SEEN the radiation in the Pacific? NIMBYS want power.

"Why can't we just have solar?" - I've heard this over and over. Well, because it's not always sunny enough in the right places. If you live in Arizona solar is the ideal power source. If you live in British Columbia, not so much. Wind power is ideal in certain places, because it's.....windy. I won't bore you with the data here, but it's available, if you are interested, at and other places.

Those who hate wind turbines have simply decided to hate them, and nothing we can say will placate them. You'll get anti people with just about anything. I think they have too much time on their hands.

But before you join in the cause against, VISIT a wind farm. Don't just rely on internet hearsay. Come to my house and try to hear the nearest turbine. Bring your hearing aid.


  1. When we went on a vacation in Kansas the thing I remember most was driving past a wind farm. I made Scott stop. I don't really remember hearing noise other than wind.

  2. And when I lived near San Francisco (in California, of course) I used to regularly drive by one near Tracy. There are a bunch of them near El Paso, TX. There is a LOT of wind in Texas and I'd love to see more wind farms. I think they are rather cool looking.

  3. I have seen the wind farms and would have no problems living in the neighbourhood of where farms are located. Besides the eco-friendly means of producing power, I kind of like the peaceful dance of the blades turning in the winds.

    Heck if I had the means to buy the right kind of land, I would have one myself.

  4. Visually, I rather like them. We have driven past big wind farms near Pitcher Creek, Alberta and other places during past travels. I was disappointed to hear they are hard to live near, so am glad to hear it may not be so. That said, I also know a person who is hyper sensitive to all sort of things. Their presence might well be agonizing to her. But then, when it comes to dealing with the frail among us at the expense of the community at large, where do we draw the line? This is a good topic for a blog.

    1. I will freely admit I have a hard time with the claims of some "hyper sensitive" people. I've known too many who are clearly better labelled "hypochondriac" or even "delusional". That in itself is a genuine disorder that requires sympathy, but I'm afraid I have to leave it to others to maintain ongoing patience and support because I run out very fast.

      And indeed, yes, can we pander to the needs of a neurotic minority? There must be a limit. The whole "no peanut butter in schools" question is similar. A good topic, but probably not one that should be written by me......

    2. Peanut butter in schools is exactly what I had in mind. I will write it one of these days, but not in this season.

  5. Thanks Melanie. I have to admit to just giving the whole issue a cursory glance. No wind farms in my area. I did find the claims of strange illnesses and noise rather bizarre. I had no idea you lived near such a farm; learn something new every day.

    1. We use it as a landmark for visitors, LOL. Come up Highway 10, and when you see all the turbines, you're close :)

      There are signs up objecting to it in many areas. People get hold of the idea that it's a bad thing, never bother to do any research, and is becomes that thing you love the most - gossip. Hearsay. So as a person in lives right in the thick of it, as it were, I feel I have a valid opinion.