Social Question

rooeytoo's avatar

What is your opinion of wind farms as a green energy source?

Asked by rooeytoo (26929points) April 22nd, 2012

I love the way they look and it always seemed like a good idea. Although there have been questions such as does the energy they produce in their lifespan offset the energy used to manufacture? I have also read that since their production is not 100% reliable regular suppliers produce as they would if the wind farms were not online. Then this article appeared in the Australian. It is interesting reading and makes me wonder???

“A DEAD wedge-tailed eagle, chicken eggs without yolks and a dysfunctional village with residents bursting to flee. This is the clean-energy revolution Waterloo-style, where the nation’s biggest wind turbines have whipped up a storm of dissent.
Adelaide University has been drawn into a controversy that threatens to spin out of control after one of its masters students asked residents of Waterloo, 120km north of Adelaide, what they really thought about living near windmills and was knocked over in an avalanche of complaint.
Yesterday, a South Australian Department of Environment and Heritage officer collected the remains of a juvenile wedge-tailed eagle from the base of one of the Waterloo wind farm turbine towers. He said it would be X-rayed and examined to establish the cause of death.
It may help to explain why, according to one local ranger, three wedge-tailed eagle nesting areas identified before the turbines began to operate 18 months ago are no longer active.


Questions blowing in the wind

Winds of revolt

Department of Environment and Natural Resources district manager Ian Falkenberg said initial observations of the eagle remains showed a punctured skull and major fractures of the right wing, including a significant break about three inches from the shoulder.
GPS readings showed the remains were located 180m from the base of the tower.
Mr Falkenberg said eagles in the mid-north of South Australia were in lower numbers than in other parts of the state and considered “vulnerable” at a regional assessment level.
He said prior to the wind turbines at Waterloo, there were three eagle territories but was not aware of any of those territories now being active.
According to wind farm operator TRUenergy, there are still active wedge-tailed eagle populations in the hills.
TRUenergy spokeswoman Sarah Stent said: “Eagle monitoring on site of resident population today shows no decrease in bird numbers.”
TRUenergy acquired the Waterloo wind farm last year and has announced a $40 million expansion. It is also planning a wind farm development at Stony Gap. The company insists it has broad community support and certainly the strong backing of the SA government.
Waterloo has become a hotbed of concern among locals, many of whom claim to be suffering ill-effects from the wind turbine development.
They want independent noise measuring and for Senate inquiry recommendations for research into the impact of low frequency noise to be adopted. Some want to be relocated and many want the wind turbines to be turned off at night.
Village resident Neil Daws is concerned his chickens have been laying eggs with no yolks.
Ironically called wind eggs, the yolkless eggs can be explained without wind turbines.
But together with a spike in sheep deformities, also not necessarily connected to wind, reports of erratic behaviour by farm dogs and an exodus of residents complaining of ill health, Waterloo is a case study of the emotional conflict being wrought by the rollout of industrial wind power.
When Adelaide University masters student Frank Wang surveyed residents within a 5km radius of the Waterloo wind turbines he found 70 per cent of respondents claimed they had been negatively affected by the wind development and the noise, with more than 50 per cent having been very or moderately negatively affected.
Mr Wang is concerned that a summary of his results was leaked before it could be peer-reviewed.
Adelaide University vice-chancellor Michael Head has written to TRUenergy in response to company concerns about publication of the summary. “I have looked into this matter and found that the study in question was undertaken by a student as part of a minor thesis for his masters by coursework,” Professor Head said. “This was entirely the student’s own project and not undertaken for or on behalf of the university.”
A university spokesperson said the survey was overseen by a senior lecturer and approved by the University’s Human Research Ethics Committee.
“There is clearly a need for further research that considers all aspects of wind farms and their impact on the community,” the spokesperson said.
Mr Wang told The Weekend Australian the university had been supportive of his research.
“Yes, definitely,” he said. “My supervisor helped me to choose this topic.”
Mr Wang said he was not willing to release his research publicly until after academic peer reviews.
Ms Stent said TRUenergy was not able to judge if Mr Wang’s results were a fair representation of community sentiment in Waterloo.
“It is not our view that the majority of the population is opposed to the wind farm nor dissatisfied with our approach to community engagement,” she said.”

Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

17 Answers

ro_in_motion's avatar

While there are ‘greener’ sources of energy, I don’t think there’s such a thing as ‘green’ energy. The Second Law of Thermodynamics guarantees that any energy used to provide work will produce ‘waste heat’. This waste heat is radiated into the environment.

Let’s say we have a really efficient power plant that only lost 50% of the energy to waste heat. A 3Mwatt power station would lose 1.5Mwatt as heat. This is hardly ‘green’.

Wind power is no different and, as the article shows, suffers from the NIMBY effect (Not In My Back Yard). Here in Wales, a proposal was made to put a wind farm out in the sea that would only just be visible. The protest against this ‘visual pollution’ killed the project.

Earth is a wonderful place for humans to start. To be really ‘green’, humanity needs to move out into space. Waste heat can be disposed off easily and cheaply. There is no environment to be concerned about.

Even the colonisation Mars and other bodies can use waste heat to make them a warmer place to live.

However, the Second Law, when used on Earth, is a nasty thing. Even if you collect solar power in space, when you bring it down to Earth, you are again going to produce waste heat when that power is converted to motion.

And, in all things, efficiencies are a ‘best case’ scenario. In practice, most machinery is not maintained to provide the absolute best possible efficiency.

If the human race survives elegantly, we will move into space and let Earth become a ‘garden planet’ with a greatly reduced population.

I think far afield of your original question but it was fun doing so! ;)

wilma's avatar

@rooeytoo I am living the nightmare of a wind farm.
It is not at all “green” the pollution and disruption of the land is immense.
Prime productive farmland turned into a wasteland. Residents fleeing faster than the for sale signs can be made. Property values plummeting.
The daytime landscape is filled with towering alien forms where there was once a bucolic scene.
The night is even worse with hundreds of flashing red lights ruining the nighttime sky.
Not to mention the noise and nauseating un-synchronized turning of the blades.
I have lived here my entire life and now I feel that I need to get out of here.

Qingu's avatar

@wilma, sounds absolutely horrible. Mind telling us where exactly this wind farm is so we can see for ourselves?

wilma's avatar

Yes @Qingu I do mind, as I’m not going to give out the location of the very small community in witch I live on an open internet site.
This is not where I live, but is representative of what it looks like. There are 133 turbines here now with 78 more on the way. The starlit sky that we did enjoy at night has been replaced with 133 blinking red lights. It seems that everywhere they are built the resistance and resentment at being misled grows.

Qingu's avatar

@wilma, your second source actually says the opposite of what you’re claiming. It says they leave the blinking lights off unless aircraft approach.

wilma's avatar

They are now trying leaving them off in that location. After much misery, grief and pleading.
That is not the case where I live.

wilma's avatar

For the record @Qingu I was hopeful, and still try to be about the turbines where I live.
I want good things for my community. I want positive growth, jobs, progress and especially environmental conservation. I was hoping that with the wind farm all of these things would happen. Right now it looks like it may be just the opposite.
I am still hopeful, but miserable about the whole thing as well.

Qingu's avatar

I think it’s important to compare wind turbines to the status quo. I understand that they can be noisy eyesores, but I’d rather live next to wind turbines than to a coal-burning power plant.

Mariah's avatar

The impact on birds is overexaggerated. Each wind turbine kills about 1 bird per year.

Wildlife is much more disturbed by the pollution that a coal-burning plant causes.

My source is my dad, who works on a wind farm.

wilma's avatar

I haven’t heard much about the birds in my area. I don’t think that is a big issue here.
@Mariah and I have communicated about the wind farm in my location. She has tried to help me with some of the issues that I have with them.
I will also say the my husband and sons do not have the same problems with the turbines that I have. The noise does not seem to bother them, the turning does not seem to give them the motion sickness that I get, and the marring of the landscape doesn’t bother them.
I may have to go find myself a small cottage in a far away woods and live the life of a hermit if I can’t turn this around for myself.

flutherother's avatar

I don’t like wind farms and I wouldn’t consider them a ‘green’ source of energy as that implies no negative impact on the environment. They look horrible, they are noisy and they just shouldn’t be there. Personally, I would rather be cold in winter. I felt sorry for the goats in this story.

rooeytoo's avatar

@wilma – you are certainly not alone, many people and apparently animals as well are made ill by them. I will say I don’t mind the way they look but when near them I can feel the thrumming in the air and I think it would definitely become bothersome if it were a constant.

Those who say they are not problematic should have a farm invade their neighborhood before they make pronouncements.

What I find relevant is that they don’t actually reduce the amount of energy produced by the conventional coal burning (we have no nuclear in Australia) plants because they are not reliable or consistant. And the fact that more conventional energy is used to manufacture them than they produce in their life span.

Recently a blade came off one, there was no livestock nearby so no one was injured but can you imagine one of those things flying through the air towards your house!

wundayatta's avatar

What is green? Yeah, they kill birds and bats. It’s a problem to solve. Haven’t heard about the lights before. That sounds like a rural issue. I live in an urban area and I doubt the lights of a wind farm would be noticed here.

There are also applications to put wind farms offshore. Two to five miles out, I think. I don’t know if you could see them from the shore or not.

I think we need all kinds of options for energy. I like geothermal, myself, but over time, I’m sure that will also have side effects. And what is pollution but unwanted side effects? We don’t like burning coal because of the greenhouse effect.

Green energy will have other side effects. Nothing will ever be unnoticable. Everything sounds perfect at first because it always takes a little while to see the unanticipated side effects. Then we see them and freak. Then we get used to it and cope. So it will always be, I suspect.

wilma's avatar

You can see the lights at night from over twenty miles away.

TexasDude's avatar

My conservation ecology professor made us read a bunch of articles about the negatives of wind energy last semester. I don’t remember the details, but apparently they can disturb local ecosystems through affecting the migratory patterns of birds (which does have an impact on the food web as a whole) and they have also been linked with potentially creating macro climate change (that is, they affect the climate negatively in their surrounding areas). This isn’t to say I’m opposed to wind energy (it’s definitely cleaner than coal) but I think people should be aware that green energy isn’t always so green, as other users have pointed out, before jumping on any bandwagons.

rooeytoo's avatar

Great answer @Fiddle_Playing_Creole_Bastard – there are 2 sides to every story and the bandwagon is always so tempting. Especially when it’s not in our own backyard!

augustlan's avatar

[mod says] This is our Question of the Day!

Answer this question




to answer.
Your answer will be saved while you login or join.

Have a question? Ask Fluther!

What do you know more about?
Knowledge Networking @ Fluther