Local Opposition to Wind Energy Projects

NIMBY Wind Project

People worldwide are generally in support of wind energy as a source of power generation. Different consumer polls on wind energy taken in different nations indicate that there is a high level of support for the industry, and its benefits derive from its status as a clean source of energy that has a high level of efficiency. However, despite this praised public perception, grassroots organizations opposing wind energy have continuously sprouted near the sites of wind farms and have given the locals a voice different than that of the greater public.

NIMBY stands for “Not in My Back Yard” and is essentially a pejorative term used to refer to local residents who oppose some sort of development that is being constructed in their community. This acronym becomes synonymous with particular locals if they are outspoken about something primarily from their individual concerns when it could have a significant but different impact on society. Local opposition to many different wind projects has been labeled by some as NIMBYist, with the claim that these people simply just do not the way the wind farms look.

Wind energy requires electricity-producing turbines. Turbines are not something that people often are opposed to, since are generally hidden or underground away from the view of any people who are gaining their electricity from conventional forms of energy. However, for wind energy, the turbine spins from the flow of wind, so it is placed where it is always in sight of people nearby. Some can find their appearance alone unbearable. An additional complaint is the noise they generate, which can be irritating during the day and keep people awake at night. IEC 61400-11 ED. 3.0 EN:2012 - Wind turbines - Part 11: Acoustic noise measurement techniques specifies guidelines for measuring and characterizing the noise emissions that derive from a moving wind turbine to address this issue.

Wind Turbine Noise and Birds

Another major complaint that people have about wind energy, particularly when it is close to them, is that of damage to nature and wildlife. Most notable is the idea that wind turbines have been responsible for a high amount of bird fatalities. Unfortunately, this complaint is true, with wind farms killing between 140,000 and 328,000 birds each year by being struck by the spinning blades, or by having their nests fall out of the turbine as it moves.

Bird fatalities are notably higher with larger wind turbines, since they increase the risk of a bird collision. The impact of wind energy on birds can be reduced through the use of shorter wind turbines, which are specified in IEC 61400-2 ED. 3.0 B:2013 - Wind Turbines Part 2 Small Wind Turbines. However, one drawback of these types of windmills is that they are far less efficient than taller ones.

Another solution to many of the complaints of wind turbines is to place them offshore. Offshore wind turbines, as discussed in IEC 61400-3 ED. 1.0 B:2009 - Wind Turbines - Part 3: Design Requirements for Offshore Wind Turbines, have their foundation in the seafloor, make use of the strong and consistent winds that move over the surface of the ocean, and moves these turbines away from where people live on land.

Offshore Wind Turbines

However, offshore wind, despite not being directly in people’s backyards, still attracts the attention of locals whose opposition could be interpreted as a NIMBY attitude. A good example of this occurred during the plan to anchor 170 towering wind turbines five miles off the coast of Cape Cod. During the course of this project, the locals, whose property values would suffer due to the obstruction of an ocean view, allied with several different organizations, including the Humane Society and the International Fund for Animal Welfare. This opposition cited both the issue of bird mortality and the possibility of the windmills being a problem for plane traffic, two things that would be problematic for onshore wind farms as well. One unique issue that these groups raised was that of damage to marine biodiversity, since the placement of the planned turbines requires artificial material to be inserted into relatively undisturbed spots of nature. They demonstrated that many of these wind turbines, despite acting as a clean source of energy, can provide many undesired environmental impacts.

A potential solution to these concerns: only put wind farms in locations that are far separated from the public that could complain about them. However, this could greatly diminish the purpose of using wind power, since it is intended to accommodate the large energy loads that are required of places with big populations. Additionally, it can be seen that many of the oppositions that have been labeled as “NIMBY” generally have some basis in actual concerns with wind energy usage, which can affect the local human or biosphere communities. Because of this, wind really does not have zero ecological impact, but it is still much cleaner than conventional forms of energy. 
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