Who opposes wind power and why do they do it?

Anti-wind farm activists

I have studied wind power as it is developing in Australia for more than ten years. In the early years of Australian wind power development – from the first wind farm at Esperance in 1987 to around ten years ago – there was practically no opposition to wind farms. Serious opposition is a phenomenon that has arisen in the last five years or so.

What is the opposition all about? Why do people oppose wind power? Can we say anything about the type of people who oppose wind power developments? Can we say what motivates them?

There are several things that the great majority of the wind power opposition have in common:

  1. A willingness to exaggerate, use half-truths, misleadingly twist the facts, or simply to lie;
  2. They repeat fallacies that have been created by other, earlier, wind power opponents; they do little checking of the facts;
  3. If they do any research, they cherry-pick the evidence (see below);
  4. They ignore the damage to health due to the air pollution from burning coal;
  5. They either deny climate science or place more importance on their own selfish concerns than on the damage that climate change and ocean acidification is doing to our planet.

This suggests several things:

  1. The opponents do not have many valid objections to wind power;
  2. The valid objections that do exist are not serious enough to significantly help the opponents achieve their aims;
  3. The opponents feel that the general population is ignorant about wind power and will not recognise the misinformation as such;
  4. Some, at least, of the opponents are themselves ignorant that many of the arguments they use are false.

There are two main classes of people who oppose wind farm developments:

  1. Those who have financial reasons; these people are usually supporting the mining and/or fossil fuel industries;
  2. Those who are more concerned about the impact that a local wind farm will have on them personally than they are about what it will do for the region, the nation, and the planet. (Many of the concerns of this group come from the accumulated misinformation built up by other wind power opponents).

The former group is usually opposing wind power in general, while the latter group are against a local development. The former group is fundamentally dishonest, while the latter group are more mixed. The reasons that they oppose wind farms include fear that the wind turbines will make them ill or that the noise will be unbearable and a belief that their land values or farming practices will suffer. There is no factual basis for these fears and beliefs; they have grown out of a misinformation campaign, partly orchestrated and encouraged by those who have a financial interest in stopping renewable energy developments and partly grown out of the repetition of the irrational beliefs and fears by an irresponsible and sensational media and by other wind power opponents.

Another reason that people will oppose a nearby wind farm is envy of their neighbours who will do very well financially out of the development. This is particularly strong in those people who might have had wind turbines on their land, but missed out because they demanded more money than the developer was willing to pay. (Imagine how they would feel when it started to look like their less greedy neighbours were going to be getting perhaps $15,000 per turbine per year while they themselves would entirely miss out!)

Most opponents are very willing to cherry-pick evidence. A good example of this is to do with land values. There are a very few cases of courts deciding that a wind farm, or a proposed wind farm, has caused a decrease in land values. The great majority of the evidence, including a number of studies, have shown that there is no significant or long-term decline in land values linked with nearby wind farms. The opponents reference the few court decisions while ignoring the bulk of the evidence.

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12 thoughts on “Who opposes wind power and why do they do it?

  1. I’ve worked with several groups opposed to wind farms in our rural communities and it generally comes down to rural people not willing to submit to being colonized by cities’ energy projects while sacrificing their ridge tops and rare high elevation habitats, property values, and often, mountain springs that irrigate their farms. The Earth First! rondy action 2010 blockaded an industrial wind farm being built by Transcanada in Maine’s North Woods. The eco-liberals who expect us to hand over our rural landscapes for their industrial wind farm fetish should be looking to their cities and suburbs (and coast lines) to build locally first. Until I see the coasts lined with offshore wind, I’m not going to take them seriously.

    1. “rural people not willing to submit to being colonized by cities’ energy projects” Then again, many rural people see regional investment and jobs (which does not affect farm use) as a good thing.

  2. Alex; it comes down to priorities. Climate change and ocean acidification are looming disasters that can be mitigated by turning away from fossil fuels to renewables. The planet belongs to all of us; are we willing to put up with an alteration to our view if it helps to give future generations a better world to live in than they would otherwise have? (By the way, there is no convincing evidence that property values are adversely affected by nearby wind farms. How on earth could a wind farm affect mountain springs?)

  3. “I have studied wind power as it is developing in Australia for more than ten years.” Do you want to consider editing your opening sentence? You confuse the past and present tenses “I have…”, “as it is developing…”: I wouldn’t want the Waubra Foundation jumping on bad grammar as evidence of bad argument.

    Persnickety English teacher.

    1. You may well be right Mark, I am not strong on English. I would have thought the “I have studied wind power” goes with the “for more than ten years”. The “as it is developing in Australia” is, I think (but am probably wrong), a subordinate clause? I grant you that it would be better if I said something like “I have been studying the development of wind power in Australia for the past ten years”.

      If you like, please check the English in my Internet pages (supposing you have a spare few years). ramblingsdc.net

  4. I live with a wind farm.The closest turbine is just 600 mts. from my door one of six 145 mts high!
    I cannot sell my property because given the choice people do not want to live next to an industrial zone in a rural landscape.I have a mortgage to pay despite owning a bllghted property.I realise people like me are simply “sacrificed” for the common good? Please practice what you preach before preaching to those of us that KNOW better.

    1. Duped; can you tell me where you live? At least which wind farm you live close to? Could it simply be that you live in an area where it would be hard to sell a house whether or not there are nearby wind turbines (for example, Waterloo, South Australia)? There is no evidence that wind farms significantly reduce land values (see http://ramblingsdc.net/Australia/WindProblems.html#Land_values_and_wind_farms) in the long term. What do you mean by “practice what you preach”? Are you saying I should buy a property near a wind farm? If so, it’s not a very practical suggestion. A wind farm was proposed to come within 4 or 5km of my home in Crystal Brook; I was very disappointed when the project was abandoned. I do live about 15km from another wind farm. I’d love to have a big turbine on my land, but unfortunately I don’t have a spare $5m.

  5. Hello Dave, I live in the Loire valley France.A very attractive sought after area.Before the wind farm was built my propery was valued at 200.00 Euros. this was five years ago. Now I find my property is not “desirable” any more.Some potencial buyers do not even get out of thier car on arrival at my property as six 145 mt.turbines “loom” over my house.My neighbour is having the same problem and have been trying to sell for four years. By saying “practice what you preach” I mean do not tell me house prices are not negatively affected when you yourself do not live within 600 mts of turbines with a house you would like to sell.How could you have any idea what t is really like? I had no objection to the wind farm before it was built I was all for it! Unfortunately they have turned out to be anything but quiet.I find given the choice people do simply not want to take the risk of buying a property so close to a wind farm when can buy a property without one………….hardy rocket science is it? a quiet property with a beautiful view, no light flicker no red lights blazing away at night!.Talk is easy…………living the daily experience is something else.Please borrow the money and get a turbine and then you can have the experience as well.

  6. Duped, you won’t get a reply from him and if he did reply, he would say you are telling lies. Your story does not fit his mould.

    We all know that people will not buy properties adjacent to turbines, it has been proven time and again, but he chooses to ignore it.

    TCW.

  7. Hi TCW, thanks for your comment. ……………it seems it is only a matter of time before it is proven to be the case that turbines reduce property prices? In the meantime I just have to keep paying my loan and hope the turbines near me fall out of favour or fall over!

  8. TCW and Duped. I have just come back to this page after not looking at it for a long time.

    The vast majority of the evidence is that nearby wind farms do not reduce property values. For example a study by the highly respected Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in the USA: “… this report analyzed more than 122,000 home sales, between 1998 and 2012, that occurred near the current or future location of 41 turbines in densely-populated Massachusetts communities. The results of this study do not support the claim that wind turbines affect nearby home prices.”

    I have listed more such studies at http://ramblingsdc.net/WindValues.html

    I have recently heard of a report, not yet released, from the UK that suggests a slight fall in property values; if so, it is an outlier.

    As I have said before TCW. If you would like to come out of hiding behind your false name and you really believe that I write lies, why don’t you sue me? Go on, do it. I wonder who would be found to be the liar?

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