In mid-2011, Victoria’s state government responded to the problems at Waubra by announcing that it would enforce a two-kilometer (1.25-mile) setback between wind turbines and homes. The state’s planning minister said the setback was needed for health reasons. In December, government officials in the state of New South Wales issued guidelines that give residents living within two kilometers of a proposed wind project the right to delay, or even stop, the project’s development. The rules also will impose strict noise limits.
The backlash against the wind-energy sector is particularly fierce in Europe, where the European Platform against Windfarms now lists 518 signatory organizations from 23 countries. In the U.K., where fights are raging against industrial wind projects in Wales, Scotland, and elsewhere, some 285 anti-wind groups have been formed. Last May, according to the BBC, some 1,500 protesters descended on the Welsh assembly, demanding that a massive wind project planned for central Wales be halted. Meanwhile, here in the U.S., about 140 anti-wind groups have been formed.
The growing resistance to large-scale wind projects raises a number of questions that must be addressed before Congress approves any further subsidies.
The most important one is also the most obvious: If the noise generated by wind turbines isn’t a health problem, why are so many people, in so many different countries, complaining about the noise in nearly identical terms? And why are some of them going so far as to abandon their homes?
Another question: Why isn’t wind-turbine noise getting more attention from the Environmental Protection Agency? The EPA has plenty of resources to investigate complaints about the oil-and-gas sector on the issue of hydraulic fracturing. Meanwhile, the wind industry is getting a free pass, even though tens of thousands of wind turbines could be built in the U.S. over the coming years thanks to the renewable-energy mandates that have been instituted in 29 states and the District of Columbia.
The Green Left is so married to the notion that wind energy might help reduce carbon-dioxide emissions that they are blithely ignoring the “energy sprawl” and noise problems that come with large-scale wind projects. Never mind if dozens, or even hundreds, of rural homeowners are being euchred out of their homes and property. They can be ignored. They can easily be sacrificed in the quest to appear to be doing something — anything — in the push to reduce carbon-dioxide emissions, no matter how small or inconsequential those reductions might actually be.
That same mindset prevails in the White House and at the Department of Energy. Indeed, despite the panoply of evidence that shows wind-turbine noise causes health problems, President Obama has made it clear that he wants lots more renewable energy. In his State of the Union speech, he said that he wants to impose a national standard requiring the use of “clean energy,” and that he wants to “double down” on the “clean-energy industry.”
When Dave Enz heard the president’s proposal, his response was simple: “I don’t think he cares about people like us.”
— Robert Bryce is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute. His latest book is Power Hungry: The Myths of “Green” Energy and the Real Fuels of the Future.