I think it's time we have a candid conversation... about wind.

Q:  What about noise from wind turbines?  

A: Most wind ordinances set the exceedance level for turbines at 55 decibels.

How loud is 55 decibels?  Rainfall is 50 decibels and a normal conversation is 60 decibels.

Whispering is 30 decibels and normal breathing is 10 decibels.

How loud is a wind turbine?

At the base of a turbine, it can be as loud as a lawnmower. But the sound level drops pretty quickly as you move away from it.  From the distance where homes are usually sited, a turbine is about as loud as your refrigerator. The Center for Hearing and Communication has a great list of common noise levels so you compare the sounds in house now and the sounds of a turbine.

Photo credit: NREL

Q: Some individuals blame wind turbines for headaches, insomnia, and other common ailments. Are these health concerns legitimate?

A: Studies by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection as well as a scientific literary review by the Environmental Health Journal, have found no scientific evidence to support such claims.  Meanwhile, soot pollution—a by-product from burning fossil fuels that results in small particles in the air composed of a mixture of metals, chemicals, and acid droplets—is one of the deadliest and most dangerous air pollutants. Exposure to soot pollution is extremely dangerous and is linked to premature death, heart attacks, lung damage, and a variety of other significant health problems.

Q: What impacts would a wind farm have on birds?

Photo Credit: A. Manville, USFWS

Photo Credit: A. Manville, USFWS

A: While every wind farm has differing effects on bird populations, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) requires monitoring of such effects.  The negative impacts on bird populations can be reduced by conducting proper research prior to construction and using this information to site wind farms in better locations.  For instance, placing sites in agricultural fields have been found to reduce the stress on the bird populations.  There are also many other human influences that have been found to have worse effects on bird populations than wind turbines.

Q: How would a wind farm in coastal North Carolina affect the military?

A: The permitting process addresses those issues, with full input from the military.  The law requires wind developers to notify either the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) or the Military Siting Clearinghouse.  If the military objects, the state Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) would deny the permit.


Q: How would a wind farm affect tourism on the coast:

A:  The full impacts are not known at this time, but wind farms have the potential to increase tourism in other regions.  In Atlantic City, New Jersey, wind turbines at a water treatment plant attracted over 15,000 visitors in 2010.  Tours were only available twice a week and by appointment only; but still, 15,000 people toured a New Jersey sewage treatment because they wanted to see wind power up close.


Q: What effects would a wind farm have on property value?

A: Several studies have been conducted to determine what the aesthetic change from a wind farm would have on nearby property values.  One study conducted by the University of Connecticut and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found no effect from wind farms on property value.

Isn't wind too expensive?

On the contrary, wind is one of the most cost effective sources of new electricity generation. Wind creates long term predictability for power companies and consumers.  

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Doesn't wind power get subsidies that other sources don't get?

While the wind industry has had some modest subsidies to help the new industry diversify our nation's energy needs, fossil fuels get about 5 times as much incentives as wind.