Blog Update!
For those of you not following me on Facebook, as of the Summer of 2019 I've moved to Central WA, to a tiny mountain town of less than 1,000 people.

I will be covering my exploits here in the Cascades, as I try to further reduce my impact on the environment. With the same attitude, just at a higher altitude!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Wind turbine - eyesore or awesome?

Since we're talking energy these days, I wanted to ask your opinion on something I read in yesterday's NY Times that discussed how some individuals were being thwarted from installing a wind turbine on their private property even though the code in their area says it's legal. Mostly the reasons for it are due to the height and, basically, what an eyesore they are for the neighbors.

Other issues include improper installation and fear of the windmill falling over and landing on your house, fear of the blades shearing off and/or ice flying off the blades in winter, shadow flicker (the strobe of sunlight passing through rotating blade) and, most importantly, noise. Perhaps flying fricasseed birds should be added to this handbag of reasons. The American Wind Energy Association estimates that one-third of small wind projects are thwarted by vague or overly strict local laws, or by outdated zoning rules that preclude them.

What do you think about the responsibility of neighbors regarding installing these energy generators? It can certainly be argued that it's one thing when you live out in a rural area with lots of land. It's another issue altogether when you live in close proximity to someone else's property.

I know in California the installation of solar panels has caused issues since you can force a neighbor to cut down or trim their trees if the branches shadow your solar panels. Are we going to see the reverse problem when it comes to the responsibility of the owner of these wind machines?

Poll time!

What do you think about wind turbines?

Photo courtesy of the NY Times


Kristin said...

Living in a smaller town, we always have people we don't know saying stuff about our yard projects. I could definitely see people making comments about a wind turbine, but nobody has a problem with the huge 50 foot antennas coming off all the old people's houses.

Lisa said...

Kristin makes a wonderful point! And I think wind turbines are beautiful. :)

The 4 Bushel Farmgal said...

If the wireless phone companies can install cell phone towers (which have health and safety arguements of their own), then why can't citizens put up turbines or solar panels to generate their own power?
I'd like to see the prices come down, the tax credits (and the turbines) go up.

jewishfarmer said...

The reality is that I'd rather see wind turbines in affluent neighborhoods than the usual strategy, which is a coal plant powering them off in a poor neighborhood that doesn't have pretty zoning.


Farmer's Daughter said...

Around here, people think they own the view (THEY DON'T!). There were ideas of setting up turbines in Long Island Sound, but the folks who live on the water freaked.

The reality around here is that people with money get what they want, even if it they really don't have a say in the first place.

My husband has come into many arguments over his clamming lots, since the homeowners on the water don't want their buoys to ruin their view (since when does a buoy ruin the view of the ocean?). But since they only own to the high tide mark, they couldn't do anything about it. However, they've had a lot of people try to buy the lots or block them from fishing there, simply because of the view.

Anonymous said...

I live completely off-the-grid out in the country and have a wind turbine on a 100-foot tower. My neighbours are far enough away that it doesn't concern them at all.
Personally I love wind turbines - to me they represent the generation of electricity using a clean, renewable resource - the wind. Much of the electricity generated in the U.S. these days comes from coal which is dirty and not renewable.
The problem is that wind turbines are not good for city locations... there is too much turbulence caused by buildings and trees anyway, to make them very effective in the city.
Best to build large ones out in open fields or along bodies of water where there are strong, uninterrupted winds.
If urban people want to do something good for the planet and generate their own electricity they should put up solar panels which work well wherever there is sunshine!

Kate said...

Installation is key - if the real fear among people (and not just the excuse) is that improper installation might cause the wind turbine to fail or fall then maybe there should be some sort of regulation regarding who can install the wind turbines in an area of over X population or X close to another property.

People don't own their views, that's true - but I'm just as guilty as others for thinking bad thoughts about what some of my neighbors are doing - of course, mine are, oh my goodness you've left the car idling for 30 min or do we really need that many chemicals on our grass?

What bothers me is that we get into these battles and don't respect our neighbors (on both sides). While I may want solar panels and a wind turbine, I should at some level respect my neighbor as well - to discuss maybe where I will put them BEFORE I do. Maybe trying to minimize our impact on the environment around us could start with trying to minimize our impact on our neighbors as well.

Probably not the most popular opinion but, well, it's mine. :) And sorry about the previous post my computer likes to go all wonky at weird times.

Greenpa said...

aztextpress has it exactly right: "The problem is that wind turbines are not good for city locations... there is too much turbulence "

Britain has already done a study on the efficacy of urban wind generators, and the answer is: with few exceptions, they suck, bigtime.

Small turbines can also be incredibly noisy. My last one, a "Whisper" !!! - was so noisy during 25 mile/hour winds that I called my neighbor to the north, to ask if it was bugging his dairy cows. Seriously- I was concerned it would put them off their milk production.

The vibrations in that machine killed it quickly- it now stands in place- with 2 of the blades broken off. But by golly, it's got "state of the art iron-neodymium-boron magnets!" Which I paid for. And which do nothing, whatsoever.

I find the big wind farms nearby fascinating. I can't understand why no one has set up "Wind Farm Cafes" all along the interstates. Imagine having a nice cup of coffee, and just watching them. It's like gazing into a fire. I think the cafes would clean up. "!00% Wind Powered Pie & Coffee!"

Amy in Tacoma said...

When I lived in Boston, I lived close to the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers' local headquarters, and they had a wind turbine. It was very effective (no problems with turbulence), and honestly, was one of the most attractive things in the city skyscape. (See photos: )

The IBEW's immediate neighbors were businesses, not residences, but still, I don't think they received any complaints. Most people I knew in the community seemed to think it was pretty cool, both visually and because of what it was accomplishing.

My only concern might be birds; does anyone know to what extent birds are at risk?

Amy in Tacoma said...

I just read Greenpa's comment. Honestly, I don't remember the IBEW's wind turbine being noisy, either. I walked past it on numerous occasions, and the only noises I remember hearing are the typical city noises of traffic and people's voices.

Laura said...

Can you have one installed on the roof (where it might be less of an eyesore - although I think they're beatiful), or have one at the top of an apartment building for everyone living there to enjoy? Hmmm. I'll look it up.

Amy in Tacoma said...

I just googled the IBEW's wind turbine to see what people in Boston still think of it. It's been so popular that the city now plans to build more, to power the fire department, city hall, and several public schools. This should be interesting: would this make Boston one of the first cities in the world powered so heavily by wind power?

Amy in Tacoma said...

BTW, here's the article on the plans for windpowering schools and city hall in Boston:

Amy in Tacoma said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Amy in Tacoma said...


See the article at the url I listed above. It talks about rooftop wind turbines.

Amy in Tacoma said...

I should mention that Boston probably has an advantage over other cities in using wind power. There is a law that limits how tall you can build a building within city limits. As a result, there are only two skyscrapers in the city, the Prudential Center and the John Hancock building. So there aren't a lot of tall buildings that would block the wind.

Brenna said...

I wouldn't have a problem with them and love seeing the big wind farms too. They are hypnotic.

I would be concerned about potential problems. They would need to be installed correctly, not in the way of migrating birds, and violate noise standards. As long as these things are addressed, then I would love to see more people use wind (and solar) for their own power.

Little Green Penguin said...

We have one in downtown Toronto, within walking distance of my condo. I think it was installed as a gimmick, and I'm not sure where the power generated goes. I know that it doesn't turn much (which is surprising to me, seeing that living right next to Lake Ontario makes most days breezy). And heaven's knows, if it does make any noise, it is impossible to hear over the traffic (both car and airplane).

Robj98168 said...

I would ove a wind turbine in my yard or any of my neighbors. But being so close to the Airport landing pathways it will probably never happen in this neighborhood.
I think large turbines are cool on windfarms- they look a lot better than those Oil Rig's and tuebines kind of make a dance when they all are generating power

Rosa said...

You know what's loud? Cars. Trucks. AIRPLANES. I'm guessing Greenpa thought the windmill was noisy because he doesn't live in a noisy place.

We already *do* have lots of rules about who can build things and install roofs and shouldn't be that hard to write a windmill ordinance for safety reasons.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Greenpa on the subject of noise. The small, home-sized wind turbines ARE noisy, especially during high winds. The big turbines are a different story... they turn very slowly and to me they are similar to the sound of waves lapping on a shore... very soothing!
As for the question of bird kills - research has shown that wind turbines kill fewer birds than domestic cats and certainly far fewer than highrise office buildings. It is a well-known fact that the lights from office buildings confuse birds who smash into the windows in huge numbers. But I've never heard anyone suggest that we stop building office towers....
What has been proven is that air pollution DOES kill birds in huge quantities and much of our air pollution comes from coal-fired generating plants!

koolchicken said...

I would have to say I'm against them where I live. We have too many endangered birds, it's not worth the risk. Also, I think it's not fair for those who don't pay for a fantastic view to have the most say in what blocks it. It cost's a lot to live where I do, and if those in the less forutnate areas started lobbying to put up large noisy machines in my backyard I'd be very angry. Even with all the trade winds to take advantage of, I wouldn't want those machines anywhere near my home. I don't see anything wrong with solar panels though, and in Hawaii they're really worth it.

Greenpa said...

"Rosa said...
You know what's loud? Cars. Trucks. AIRPLANES. I'm guessing Greenpa thought the windmill was noisy because he doesn't live in a noisy place."

:-) goodness, you think I'm a babe in the woods!

au contraire, I use a tractor, use a chainsaw, fly on jets, drive in downtown NY, - and live through prairie thunderstorms. And the odd blizzard and tornado.

:-) We got noise out here, I assure you.

Sure, not all windchargers (as we used to call them) are hideously noisy. But- some are; and it's most likely to be the little ones built by rambunctious start-ups that don't have the time or resources to do true life-time testing on their machines.

Often the noise is a matter of resonance at a particular windspeed- say at 18 mph, it's fairly quiet, but at 22 mph, it may start to vibrate like a bullroarer. They can.

And sometimes that kind of thing is partially dependent on the specific tower used; it may be wildly noisy on one kind of tower, and quiet on another; something the small outfits can't really test for.

In the long run; it really should be possible to find quiet designs - but that still leaves the problem that the wind in urban areas is usually very turbulent- which the typical 3 prop machines don't handle well.

Basically guys, I LOVE wind turbines; I intend to build one of my own design soon; but that does not mean they are suited to all uses, everywhere.


Rosa said...

not so much that i think you're a babe in the woods as that they rerouted the airplanes for something this summer and it's doubled our airplane noise.

But nobody gets to NIMBY the airport, oh no. Because we *need* we don't need electricity?

Also the "i pay for my nice place" folks thinking it's worse for them to have to deal with noise/blocked view but not unfair for the rest of us to deal with mercury and asthma.