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Why oppose wind power?

A page in the Wind Power Ethics group*

I've been interested in wind power for many years and have followed wind power developments in Australia since the first wind farm in Esperance, which was built in 1987. I've been writing about wind power in Australia since before 2004.

There is no rational justification for the amount of opposition that we see in Australia in 2015; for an explanation we must look at misinformation and unjustified fear.

Written 2014/02/20, modified 2016/05/30
Contact: email daveclarkecb@yahoo.com (David Clarke) – ©

On this page...

The arguments used
Conclusion


Related pages...
Why support wind power?
Wind energy opposition


 

What about the advantages?

We hear far less about the advantages of having a nearby wind farm development than the (alleged) disadvantages. The advantages are substantial and much less contentious than the disadvantages.
  • We must change from the burning of fossil fuels for energy if we are to slow climate change and ocean acidification. Wind turbines are the most economically viable form or renewable energy for most of Australia at the present;
  • More renewable energy means less of the pollution from coal fired power stations that unquestionably causes health problems and many deaths each year;
  • Employment during, and after, construction;
  • Business for local contractors, cafes, delis, hotels, accommodation providers, etc. during construction;
  • Substantially increased income for the farmers who host the turbines;
  • A general increase in the local economy;
  • Probably there will be a community fund when the wind farm is operating. (The Clements Gap Wind Farm near my home town provides $50 000 per year for the local community.)
 

What if we don't change to renewable energy?

What will happen if we do not quickly reduce our greenhouse gas production including by adopting renewable energy such as wind power? I will list a few things here, but there are too many for me to write about all in a page such as this; a comprehensive list is given by Wikipedia.

Above all, the planet will be greatly damaged by climate change and ocean acidification and future generations (both human and non-human) will have to live in a world that is much inferior to the one that we enjoy. Just some of the more specific problems we can expect are:

  • Increased bushfire frequency and intensity;
  • Increased frequency of exceptional weather events including storms, floods and heat-waves – consequently rising numbers of deaths from these causes;
  • Environmental damage;
  • Increased sea level causing displacement of large populations from low-lying areas – with consequent increases in the number of refugees;
  • Changing rainfall patterns, wetter in some places, drier in other places, again with increasing numbers of refugees;
  • Melting of mountain glaciers with down-steam effects on irrigated farming, again with increasing numbers of refugees;
  • Life in the oceans greatly damaged by the acidification of the water.
In recent years I'm sure that in many cases the opposition comes from people who believe the lies spread by the less scrupulous opponents of wind power, opponents of renewables in general, and supporters of fossil fuels. No doubt many of those who tell us that climate change is nothing to do with humanity are also telling lies about wind power because they see it as being to their advantage to do so.

There are valid concerns about wind power developments, but many of the objections are either unrelated to valid concerns or are out of all proportion to the valid concerns.

Why do people oppose wind farms? My opinion

Foremost, as mentioned above, is the irrational and unjustified fear that has been created by the small group, like Sarah (ex Dr) Laurie, who spread false claims that wind turbines harm people's health. And quite a few people are only too willing to accept the misinformation spread by those opposed to wind farms without examining whether it has any factual basis.

Apart from the irrational, emotional, ill-informed aversion to wind farms there are some more logical reasons.

Visibility: A lot of people just don't want to have to look at nearby wind turbines or don't like the look of wind turbines anywhere. Of course there are places that most of us would not want to see a wind farm built. In November 2015 I received quite a lengthy email making the case that the appearance of wind turbines in the landscape was quite sufficient reason to oppose wind power development all-together.

Noise: Even though the sound levels are low, some people find the sound annoying. Others fear that a wind farm that they've heard is to be built nearby will be noisy because that's what many of those opposed to wind power are 'shouting from the roof tops'. I have made a point of visiting many wind farms; nearly all of those in South Australia and Victoria, most of those in NSW, and a few in WA. I have even camped out and slept beneath a number of turbines, I have slept in a cabin 850m from a wind farm on two nights and in an abandoned house near another wind farm, so that I could get first-hand experience. In every case I was not bothered by the sound and had a good night's sleep.

Health: Some people who find the sound of wind turbines unpleasant may lose some sleep if they live very close (~500m) to wind turbines (although the evidence is uncertain). Some people can become anxious about nearby wind turbines and this anxiety can lead to health problems. Apart from this there is no evidence that wind turbines make people sick.

Property values: there may be justification for the claim that wind farms reduce property values if the nearest turbine is very close, say considerably less than 1km from a home, and property values may decline slightly and temporarily in response to the negativity that sometimes surrounds a proposed wind farm, but almost all the credible studies show no decline in the value of land near wind farms.

Simple pig-headedness: "I'm opposed to this and I'm going to get my way no matter what!"

Envy: "My neighbours are making money out of this, I'm missing out and I don't like it!"

Not in my back yard (NIMBY):

  • "It's our rural landscape and we don't want to hand it over to the city colonisers."
  • "I'm not opposed to wind farms, but they should be somewhere else."
These people don't seem to care much about climate change and ocean acidification, or at least they place their own interests before the good of the planet and the lives of future generations. Nor do they seem to care about the very real health impact that the burning of coal has on other people: wind power can and does replace coal-fired generation.
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How the 'arguments' used to oppose wind power differ from the actual objections

 
Low cloud streams past wind turbines
Snowtown
Snowtown Wind Farm, South Australia
People who object to wind farms realise that saying "I don't want to look at wind turbines" will not get them a lot of sympathy. Saying "I don't want my neighbours to make big money out of wind turbines while I miss out" is even less likely to get them support. So even if these are their main objections they use other arguments when publicly opposing a proposed wind farm.

A couple of years ago I was sufficiently disgusted by the devious and dishonest objections being spread by some who opposed a proposed wind farm in South Australia that I set up a Facebook page in an attempt to start an open debate about the desirability of the project in regard to the region, the nation and the world.

Looking back at that time I now realise that I was naïve. I was hoping for an honest exchange of arguments for and against the project. While there were some valid objections, some questioning of the economics of wind power, the possible impact on aerial fire-fighting, some claims that wind farms were not appropriate in an agricultural area, what dominated the postings by those who opposed the project were ill-founded and unresearched claims about wind turbines being inefficient, unreliable, generating little electricity, "destroying my quality of life" and denying the reality of anthropogenic climate change.

I suppose what surprised me the most was that many of the postings by those opposed to the project either contained abuse, name-calling and insults or were nothing more than abuse, name-calling and insults.

Perhaps my greatest disappointment was in human nature. I had a higher opinion in the honesty, decency and rationality of the general population than was demonstrated by the people who were opposed to the proposed wind farm.

One of life's great mysteries to me is why it is, when climate change and the related problems is obviously going to do great harm to this world that I so love, so few people care enough to try to do anything about it.






Conclusion

There is very little disadvantage in having a wind farm nearby, and there are advantages.

The consequences of unchecked climate change will be dire. Future generations will live on a planet inferior to the one that we are privileged to enjoy. Thousands or even millions of species will become extinct.

So it seems to me that to oppose construction of a wind farm is either amazingly selfish and short-sighted or shows an ignorance of the facts.



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