4 myths about wind turbines

4 wind-turbine myths

Wind turbines are accused of many evils, more often wrongly than rightly. The Rumor Detector had already analyzed the rumor that they were great bird killers. Here are four other myths. 

1— Are they harmful to health?

Wherever there are wind turbines, there are neighbors who say they are struggling with symptoms like dizziness, headaches and trouble sleeping. Some even mention the development of cancers and the triggering of epileptic seizures. 

The cause, they claim: low-frequency noise (see the following myth) and infrasound generated by wind turbines . The production of electromagnetic fields is sometimes also mentioned. In the long term, this exposure would have direct effects on health. 

These theses do not hold up well to examination of the facts. Both Health Canada and the Institut national de state of the scientific literature does not allow us to conclude that there is a causal link. 

The various negative health effects that some people attribute to the proximity of wind turbines, and which they lumped together some twenty years ago under the term “wind turbine syndrome”, could be nothing more than confirmation bias: roughly speaking, the more a person holds negative beliefs about wind turbines, the more likely they are to associate wind turbines with any impairment of their physical or mental well-being. 

In a small study published in 2015, two researchers spoke of the nocebo effect – when a patient claims to feel the side effects of a drug, when he has not taken any drug. Australian researchers noted in 2013 an absence of correlation between symptoms and the number of people living near wind turbines. One of the researchers had also observed that the number of people suffering from symptoms exploded when the media covered them. 

2— Are wind turbines noisy? 

The louder the wind blows , the more the blades of a wind turbine activate and produce electricity, but also noise. The recriminations of local residents are even stronger in the presence of a wind farm. 

Determining what is a noise nuisance can however vary according to the threshold of each person's tolerance. The noise level of a 1.5MW wind turbine corresponds to approximately 33 to 40 decibels, at a distance of approximately 500 meters – the minimum distance at which a resident can live. This compares to the noise level in a library or living room. At the source, that is to say if we were able to stand in the center of the blades, the noise of a modern wind turbine would vary between 98 and 105 decibels. 

That said, a host of factors influence the level of noise perceived by the human ear. The distance from the wind turbines of course, but also the topography, the presence or absence of vegetation and the weather conditions. 

3— They devalue the houses? 

The origin of this myth is a certain Donald Trump, in front of his supporters in 2019. The former President of the United States then said that “ if you live near a wind turbine, congratulations: your house has just lose 75% of its value”. He did not specify where this percentage came from. 

Studies that have looked at the subject in the United States and elsewhere in the world have painted a much more nuanced portrait. They had concluded that the fear of depreciation linked to the presence of wind turbines was largely unfounded. The effect, if any, would be small and difficult to distinguish from other factors that affect a home's value.

4— Their carbon footprint is heavy?

Erection of a wind turbine requires considerable civil engineering work, which requires energy-intensive materials. In 2009, an Australian researcher evaluated the carbon footprint of a small wind turbine at nearly 1,800 tonnes of CO2 equivalent, from its construction to the end of its useful life. 

Once in operation, the wind turbine nevertheless produces electricity from the wind, which is a renewable energy source. As a result, according to two British researchers, it would take 12 to 18 months – out of the twenty years of life expectancy of a wind turbine – for it to “repay” its carbon emissions debt. 

Link to the original article: https://www.sciencepresse.qc.ca/actualite/detecteur-rumeurs/2023/03/21/4-mythes-eoliennes

This article is part of the Rumor Detector section, click here for the other texts. 


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