Earlier this week the press was having a field day with some of President Trump’s complaints about noise from wind turbines. The fact checkers were busily tracking down expert opinions to ruffle the President’s feathers over it. And while the idea that wind turbine noise causes cancer is certainly dubious at best, that doesn’t mean that the thumping of the turbines isn’t causing problems.
Here’s one case in point from last winter that might shed some light on the question. Out in Iowa, three massive wind turbines were torn down after a judge ordered them to be removed. The plaintiffs in the case were homeowners who lived next to the site and said the noise was simply intolerable. (Des Moines Register)
Developers who invested $11 million to install three wind turbines in eastern Iowa are tearing them down, after losing a legal battle waged by nearby residents.
It’s only the second time nationally a judge has ordered wind turbines to be torn down and a first in Iowa.
“It’s great. We love it,” said Cheyney Hershey, whose young family lives near the turbines. “You can’t sit outside on the deck and have a conversation without the constant thumping of the blades going round.”
The noise can even be heard inside his home, Hershey said: “There was nowhere to get away from them.”
As noted above, nobody in the neighborhood came down with cancer (that I know of) but they were being driven batty by the noise. And it’s a low enough frequency that it vibrates nearby structures, causing noise inside of the neighbors’ houses. And it never stops.
Isn’t noise pollution the same as any other form of pollution in this regard? If you move next to an airport, that’s on you. If someone builds an airport next to your property you have a valid complaint. That’s why these installations are generally put up in the hills out in rural areas, such as can be seen across much of Vermont. As long as they’re out of the way, people don’t tend to complain too much, but once you begin building them in residential areas there are going to be problems.
As to the President’s other complaints about wind, some of his claims that were “fact checked” aren’t as crazy as the media wants to make them sound. For example, in the New York Times piece linked above, they said we haven’t found “strong evidence” linking wind farms to nausea, headaches or sleeplessness.. Tell that to the people in Iowa from the article above.
The Gray Lady also said that Trump’s claim about how “the lights will go out when the wind drops” was another lie. They’re technically correct because the power grid draws energy from a variety of sources, not just wind. Electricity is generated in natural gas, oil or coal-fired plants, along with nuclear, hydroelectric (where available) and other sources. But when the wind drops and the turbines stop turning, the wind farm isn’t producing any electricity. That means the other sources have to make up the difference. If you build up too much reliance on wind, that strain can lead to brownouts.
Trump also claimed that property values drop near wind farms. The Times claims that “the balance of evidence suggests that this is uncommon.” Try telling that to the groups of homeowners up and down the east coast (including the Kennedy family) that have been fighting expensive court battles to stop the construction of offshore wind farms. Whether you find turbines to be an eyesore or not remains a personal matter, but claiming that they have no impact on property values seems dubious at best.
I’m not calling for an end to wind energy. I’ve always been a fan of the All of The Above strategy. Build solar where there’s lots of sunshine every year and put up wind farms in the hills where the wind blows regularly. Build more nuclear power plants with new technology that allows us to reuse the fuel in depleted rods. Burn natural gas and put turbines in all the fast flowing water you can find. We’re a big country and we use a lot of energy. Let’s just be smart about it.