Wind power stirs up emotions on both sides, drawing support from environmentalists who worry about global warming, landowners who welcome a new stream of steady income and local governments seeking more tax revenue. However, those opposed are questioning the beatitudes professed by the proponents.
The advocates of wind power say it offers something for everyone: carbon-free electricity, construction and maintenance jobs, and competitive utility rates.
In fact, these factors have fueled incredible growth in the industry. But in the Midwest, where the greatest concentration of turbines are operating in the U.S., opponents have banded together to block wind projects in at least half a dozen states, including Nebraska, South Dakota, Indiana and Michigan. Disputes are still being waged in Iowa, Minnesota, Illinois and Maryland, and the Northeast has experienced intense opposition in Maine, New York, and Vermont.
For many critics, their opposition starts with a simple disdain for the metal towers that support blades half the length of a football field. They want the view from their kitchen window or deck to be scenic; farmland or hills, not giant wind-harnessing machinery.
Others cite grievances such as; the turbines make them dizzy, irritable, and unable to sleep. The whooshing noise and vibration from the blades, they say, forces them to close their windows and blinds and use “white noise” to mask the mechanical sounds. Some say that they fear for their property values, as fewer people will want to buy a home overlooking a wind farm.
The wind industry says there are no independent studies proving that wind turbines cause health problems. And in many cases, they argue, that the wind farms boost property values in the surrounding areas, because developers pay to upgrade surrounding roads, and the tax revenue generated offsets property taxes making their homes more desirable.
Dan Litchfield, a senior manager at Invenergy, one of the world’s largest wind-energy developers, blames much of the opposition on misinformation but acknowledges that some resistance persists even when neighbors are provided with full details. “A lot of people tell me they like the look of wind turbines,” he added. “They find them graceful.”