Sunday, April 14, 2024

Practically Living Green

Showing practical reasons to live green.

Journal & Opinions

Are Wind Turbines as Dangerous as Some Think?

One of the arguments against wind farm development is the danger perceived by wind turbines. But in reality, they’re not nearly as dangerous as many try to make them sound.

In fact, there’s quite a bit of evidence to support the contrary.

In reality, wind turbines pose less of a threat than most other sources of power. Perhaps the only other energy source that is safer is hydroelectric.

Seriously, when’s the last time you heard of a hydroelectric plant going through a nuclear melt down?

Getting to Know Wind Turbines

Wind turbines work similar to the alternator in your car or truck. The unit spins to provide energy for the whole. Only in this case, it’s the wind that is spinning the blade and not the belt system on the engine.

Many of the same principles apply, such as charging a battery while providing enough power to keep the rest of the unit in operation.

Of course, the battery for your car is far less efficient than what is on the power grid. More on that in a moment.

But, there is so much misinformation out there that gives wind farms a bad rep. Is it justified, or just fear-mongering by those who don’t want to lose money in certain industries?

Myth: Wind Turbines Make You Sick

One claim people make against wind farms is how they can make you sick. Some claim how everything from nausea to sleeplessness, and everything in between, is attributed to close proximity to a wind turbine.

However, the science says otherwise.

Over the span of 25 scientific studies, there has been no correlation between health issues and wind farms. And if you live anywhere near a freeway, you’re probably getting more noise pollution than any wind turbine can generate at your home.

Myth: Wind Turbines Kill Birds En Mass

According to studies, birds collide with turbines at an average rate of 7.85 birds per turbine per year in California. That’s quite a few birds when you consider how many wind turbines are in any given farm.

And that’s the high end of the spectrum. In some areas, the collision rate is far lower.

Now take into consideration how a median estimate of 599 million birds die from smashing into buildings and glass per year. This doesn’t include all of the deaths caused by other sources.

Yes…that’s millions of birds.

This means the US would need about a minimum of 76,305,732+ wind turbines to kill the same amount of birds as buildings. And according to the American Wind Energy Association, there are over 60,000 in total in the US.

Nowhere near the killing capacity at its max to match up to the problems buildings deliver.

So, where is the same outrage to protect wildlife from nefarious buildings lining the city landscape? There is none, because it really doesn’t fit a financial or political narrative.

Myth: The Power Goes Out if it’s Not Windy

This is one of my favorite conspiracies. Apparently, those who spread this myth don’t know how electricity in power plants actually work. Do you think the power you’re using right now is coming directly from the plant?

Here’s an easy way to think of how the grid works. You have a windy day and the wind turbines pull in quite a bit of power. That power is stored in something like a battery. Then, when the wind is low, the electricity from that “battery” is used.

These batteries are often referred to as “super capacitors.”

Ever been shocked by a camera flash after you’ve pulled out its battery? Or, perhaps I’m simply showing my age in this example. At any rate, there are facilities that do nothing more than store energy from the grid to be used to offset low production.

And keep in mind the grid still has solar, nuclear, hydro, geothermal, and yes, even coal, still pumping power throughout the electrical grid in the US.

So, no, if the wind dies down, your lights and TV isn’t going to turn off.

Wind Turbines Are Cheaper to Maintain

Once the the wind farm is established, the day-to-day care is far cheaper to maintain than something like a coal-fired power plant.

As of 2016, the world consumes more than 8.5 billion tons of coal per year. Granted, this has been on the decline since 2013. Still, it costs money to pull the coal out of the ground.

Miners, transportation, refinement, health insurance claims, and much more is rolled into every bit of coal fed into a power plant.

For instance, the average transportation cost of coal in 2018 sat around $35.99 per short ton. So if the numbers of 2016 and 2018 were similar in terms of usage and production, the world spends more than $308 billion in transportation of coal alone.

Wind farms have no consumable resource that costs extra to produce the same amount of power.

This is probably part of why companies like Xcel Energy are moving to sustainable and renewable sources of energy. Not only is there public outcry, but overall, it would save the company billions over time.

Are Property Values Affected?

One thing I am unable to verify is whether property values are affected by proximity to a wind turbine. Some sources say yes while others declare there is no evidence to support the claim.

Out of all the websites I’ve read that stated property values decrease with wind farms, none have cited actual data. Every one of them pointed to blog posts or conspiracy theory pages that lacked any scientific data.

Unfortunately, I cannot say whether property values decrease by being within two miles of a wind farm. But then again, apparently, neither can anyone else.

However, if you know of any scientific data backing up the claim, I’d love to read it over. And I’m talking about real, hard evidence. Hearsay from a “real estate agent” isn’t scientific. Leave it in the comment section down below.

Always Research and Cite Your Claims

Unfortunately, a lot of people spread misinformation for two reasons. Either: a) it fits their personal agenda and narrative, or b) they don’t know any better and trust any source.

Personally, I err on the side of science.

Don’t simply trust a blog post written by someone who can’t cite an actual fact. Keep digging until you come to the root of the actual claim. Sometimes, you may even find the root cause to be nothing more than a belief rather than evidence.

Wind Turbines Are Advancing Renewable Energy

Wind is something that is never going away. It’s how Earth works. There’ll be days when the breeze is virtually non-existent. But some locales are just prone to constant, regular gusts.

The advancements made for wind turbines have helped ease the tension of CO2 by taking the place of some coal-fired plants. But, we’re long away from being reliant on renewable energy.

Still, the fact that coal-fired plants are becoming more scarce because of renewable sources is a good sign that we’re grudgingly marching into the 21st century.

If we could remove corporate greed from the equation, we’d surely meet and surpass goals set by the Paris Agreement.

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Michael Brockbank

Michael has been interested in the practicality of living green for quite some time. He works closely with GreenGeeks Web Hosting as the Content Marketing Team Lead and an author of various articles.

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