“To those devoid of imagination a blank place on the map is a useless waste; to others, the most valuable part.” – Aldo Leopold *
Unsettling numbers of environmentalists fail to see that wind turbines are enemies of nature posing as saviors. Ruining the countryside with obscenely large towers is a continuum of the “build, build, build!” mentality that’s destroyed nature throughout history. It’s the towering, spinning version of “drill, baby, drill!” and supply-side ideology. Wind energy promoters are desperate to believe that their emperor isn’t an ungainly giant who cuts down trees, blasts ridges, kills airborne animals and tortures ground-based ones with blight and noise. They claim to be environmentalists but they’re mainly about non-fossil energy and new income streams. The presumption that nothing is workable unless someone’s profiting is a big part of the problem. Austerity and conservation are anti-revenue concepts that don’t sit well with a greedy populace.
The original point of environmentalism was buffering nature from all human intrusions and toxins, not just fighting a specific type of pollution (that allows pseudo-green machines to exist). Wind cheerleaders have decided that giant, mechanical weeds are green because they “must” be green. Reason and restraint were once central to ecological thinking and one wonders if younger environmentalists really understand what “the environment” is, beyond AGW. They should revisit the history of physical landscape destruction, which has entered a major new phase with wind power. Nature has a bleak future unless this industry is restrained quickly. It’s a tragic case of blight for naught when you see how ineffectual wind turbines really are. An all-electric economy may never be possible without earthbound nuclear fusion in portable configurations. The sun’s fusion reaction is the original solar, hydro and wind energy source.
Landscape-change denial has become as bad as climate-change denial. Along with their insidious noise, large industrial wind turbines are creating an unprecedented visual plague on the planet, with over a quarter million already installed as of 2016. Benign depictions of wind turbines “dotting” the landscape should be changed to “stabbing” and “blighting.” Nothing else is as tall, widespread, stark and kinetic. There’s no precedent for machines of this size and quantity, especially in the scenic areas they’ve invaded. Their closest rivals are offshore oil rigs, which are far less numerous, not seen from inland areas, and not designed for permanence. Some future schemes call for nearly 4 million wind turbines but backlash is already strong because people can no longer ignore their presence.
Note: If you’re a wind power pusher who’ll ignore the content on this page, click here for a one sentence summary.
Quasi-environmentalists keep repeating the same rationalizations for this growing blight on finite scenery. Here are some common propaganda tactics, with responses.
- “We think wind turbines are beautiful.” When you call something beautiful you must do it in the context of what it replaced, altered, devalued or ignored. You can’t expect others to accept something absurdly large and kinetically distracting as the new normal. Rare wind turbines in urban settings can be interesting but most end up in rural areas where they upset the historical sense of place. A number of soulless people have never respected nature’s grandeur without man-made “improvements.” It tends to be a Creationist or anthropocentric engineering mindset. Wind turbines are the biggest structures being forced onto landscapes by the same types who dammed rivers before they dammed air. Some of them claim to hate hydro power but water is much more efficient at powering generators, and dams make lakes, which are at least found in nature. They lament fish killed by dams but excuse wind turbines for killing birds & bats. Some of them trip up and say power lines are ugly while ignoring major new ones needed for remote wind sites. Where’s the moral consistency? Nothing in nature looks like wind turbines or flashes red lights all night. In the overrun UK, people are rightfully comparing them to War Of The Worlds tripods or marauding Triffids. In rural landscapes it goes against evolution to accept mechanical monsters as normal or desirable.
- “Would you rather live near a coal mine or wind farm?” This is a mostly meaningless diversion, since far more people are dealing with visible wind turbines now. Mines tend to be hidden at depth or obscured by ridges, whereas wind turbines are deliberately prominent. Unlike fossil fuel developments, wind projects aren’t limited by geological formations and they add new blight that nobody foresaw. Few people predicted the eventual size of these machines but it’s central to what ails them, plus their growing quantity. Even fracking is much less vertically intrusive and its sites can be restored (water is a separate issue). Wind turbines are put wherever the wind blows, and it’s often nice country that wouldn’t have been touched by other energy developments. The wind mob knows that many people resent the blight but they keep rationalizing the spread of their machines. Their money/subsidy motivations are covered in depth elsewhere.
- “They will replace fossil fuels and help stop global warming.” This also fails the evidence test, since wind turbines merely stretch fossil fuels by using them to create a different, less efficient form of energy uptake. There are analogies to a hydrogen economy that needs fossil fuels to extract it, so why bother with the middleman. You can’t build or transport such absurdly large machines with electric power; you need heavy mining & smelting equipment and big diesel trucks to move them around. Due to wind’s intermittent nature, wind power can’t work on the grid without a backup energy source, often gas, coal or nuclear. In many cases (e.g. Germany) it’s been shown that CO2 emissions have actually risen as backup plants are installed in new areas to accommodate fickle wind patterns.
- “We can carefully site wind turbines to minimize their impact.” If this was ever true, why would there be so much resistance to almost every new wind project? In its 1970s infancy there were few protests because people saw it as a limited scale experiment but the monster escaped its cage and there are only so many places to put them now, with fewer remaining options after every new installation. Too much land is already developed and wind power just adds to existing blight. Wind energy advocates think their giant machines can’t be ugly due to a righteous anti-carbon message but landscape blight didn’t vanish as an issue just because global warming took center stage. Turbine apologists say that smokestacks are ugly but wind towers just add blades to the same general structure. The industry talks of making towers even bigger to work in lower wind areas, and concrete may become a means to that end, with a more smokestack-like appearance. Will they keep calling them beautiful? Some wind drones do admit that turbines blight landscapes, and they think offshore wind factories are the answer but it’s not cost effective to install them at distances where they’re invisible from shore. Many people see an unbroken ocean horizon as a basic right. Where else can you look to “infinity” without disruption? Ocean-based turbines also tend to be the largest models and harder to hide. See calculators for visibility vs. height and distance.
- “Wind turbines occupy relatively little acreage.” A popular scientist repeated this lie in 2014. It’s based on the disingenuous claim that tower-bases are the only land & ocean space physically affected by these looming machines. It shows that the wind industry has much in common with those who want to drill for oil in ANWR, citing “only 2,000” affected acres that actually sprawl over 1.5 million acres. A number of environmental groups support wind turbines yet understand the ANWR ruse, so who are they kidding? See this NRDC ANWR map vs. their hypocritical platitudes on wind turbines. The Union of Concerned Scientists also tows that line, apparently unconcerned with scenery. Any sprawling industrial complex has a footprint of its total encompassed acreage, including access roads. The whole area becomes aesthetically tainted. Many wind “farms” now exceed 30,000 acres and their extreme height and visibility are the obvious issues. The industry also pretends home values aren’t affected when turbines are in the viewshed, even miles away. A number of people have simply moved away, as they might with any lousy, permanent neighbor. Such large machines are difficult to remove for legal and financial reasons (e.g. Falmouth, MA) but there was a notable victory in France based largely on aesthetic damage. Those who claim turbines can be a bridge technology, later dismantled, are not facing facts. Their roads and cement bases may remain for centuries and the enormous energy put into building them is wasted now.
- “Rich people just don’t want their view spoiled.” With this canard, the wind mob plays the common man sympathy card while trivializing the importance of scenery to quality of life. It’s also an admission that “wind turbines are beautiful” is a damned lie. Some very humble people live in or travel through scenic areas. Wind companies often target cash-strapped farmers to bribe them for land-grabs. Some carbon-obsessives think tarnished scenery is our penance for fossil fuel use, but the subsidy-hungry industry pushes the same growthist agenda as the rest of the economy, using green sales pitches for a sense of urgency to ruin landscapes. Maine and Vermont are notable examples with remote mountains in the crosshairs. West Virginia has already been spoiled with eyesores like the Laurel Mountain project, with its additional battery storage blight. North Carolina set the rare precedent of banning all but the smallest mountaintop wind turbines in 2009, but it’s unclear how long it will last. The rural poor get caught in situations where a neighbor is paid to host turbines but one could be 10 feet from their property line and create nothing but noise. A number of wind executives are quite rich but how many would live near their own contraptions? T. Boone Pickens didn’t want turbines on his own land when pushing a Texas wind power scheme. He literally called them ugly.
- “Cats kill more birds than wind turbines.” That’s only true in the context of how birds were being killed before wind turbines grew like a plague. There are no house-cats in many areas where wind turbines are installed, and the species of birds are often different, e.g. migratory or raptors. Cats don’t kill airborne birds passing through. And don’t forget bats, which can’t escape wind turbine blades via sonar. Bats die from pressure shocks as the blades narrowly pass by, and nothing else typically has that effect. Why would any “green” technology be killing animals on a regular basis? The wind mob generally ignores such ethical questions (gotta stop carbon by any means, even at the expense of nature itself).
- “People who complain about wind turbine noise are NIMBY liars.” This is a puerile denial of the obvious. You can’t honestly claim that gigantic machines, which intercept large masses of air, won’t affect the soundscape. Listen to the air-roar of a mere 20″ box fan, then ask yourself how something vastly larger with a driven generator can be quiet. The noise issue is complex in its manifestations and topography, yet fundamentally simple. The industry uses the complex parts to distract from obvious impacts, especially in opinion polls with cherry-picked residents. Infrasound causes some very unpleasant effects and can be hard to measure with standard equipment, but clearly the audible noise is bad enough. It needn’t be super loud, either, just unnatural or jarring, like a dripping faucet that would barely register on a dB meter but can prevent sleep. The typical industry excuse is that they aren’t louder than a refrigerator but who hasn’t been kept awake by a refrigerator in the same room, e.g. a motel? A related, equally dishonest angle is “I usually see wind turbines at a distance and never hear them.” Do these people think wind turbines have a magic motility that always makes them far away and quiet to a given observer? Why do they think setback distance from homes is a chronic problem?
- “Some right-wing climate deniers are against wind power, therefore that’s everyone’s motive.” This is an association fallacy or hasty generalization. Why assume that landscapes and quiet nights aren’t important to millions of Democrats and other random people? Wind turbines are very large machines built where nobody really expected them. Some things are offensive on a gut level no matter how much green propaganda is thrown around. Wind turbines are an example of something that can be done with applied engineering skills but ought not be, for moral reasons. They aren’t as dangerous as nuclear weapons (another case of hubris gone mad) but they are “blowing up” scenery in many ways. Wiser alternatives should be getting the bulk of subsidies. See the bottom of this post.
- “Wind energy advocates are good environmentalists.” Only because they say so, as they wreck landscapes while yammering about how beautiful or majestic their machines are. Many green groups were adamant about protecting scenery until carbon-dread quashed so many old concerns (typical human overreaction). How many who resent Trump’s attacks on national monuments like Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante would be silent if those same lands were blighted by wind machines? Same goes for the NODAPL protesters of a barely visible pipeline (water issues aside in this context). We’ve reached a strange point where the visible environment is seen as inconsequential compared to air and water pollution, but the damage is all cumulative. Climate concerns don’t make scenery ruination any less of an issue. The environment is intrinsically linked to its physical horizons all around us. People plant trees and grass in cities because we evolved in nature and don’t want it obliterated by buildings and machines. The industry’s growth is decades past the point where there’s any balance between the number and size of wind turbines and the fundamental need for nice scenery. German academics saw this coming in 1998 but landscape apathy prevailed and things are much worse now. Each new “farm” (aka factory) eats into more space that wasn’t tainted by huge machines, unnatural noise and light pollution. When you witness their common detachment from nature, it’s clear that many wind engineers, truckers, crane operators and maintenance workers could easily segue into fossil fuel extraction. Real environmentalists are conscientious on many levels and don’t ignore blight of this magnitude.
“The effects of landscape and visual impact cannot be measured or calculated and mitigation measures are limited. However, experience gained recently suggests that opposition to wind farms is mainly encountered during the planning stage. After commissioning the acceptability is strong.” (source)
They start with the specious claim that blight “cannot be measured or calculated” in a technical sense, which ignores aesthetic gut reactions. There is no official ugly scale but ugly is still ugly! Ski lifts and office buildings (like LG’s 143-foot proposal on the Hudson River) have often been protested as environmental blight. Much smaller cellular towers can spoil views and are disguised as trees or shrunk to fit their surroundings. You can’t do that with wind turbines so they resort to propaganda. That first lie sets up the ruse that opposition to industrialized scenery is mostly temporary. They claim “after commissioning the acceptability is strong” but cite no objective polls. A more likely scenario is that people give up fighting and just try to cope, like Indians beaten down and trapped in reservations. At least that article admits that “mitigation measures are limited,” which is a dry way of stating that you can’t un-see or un-hear huge towers all over the place, so you either cope or move. The wind business forces itself onto rural communities and expects them to adopt a Stockholm Syndrome mindset. Gag orders are placed on landowners as part of their turbine-hosting agreements (almost everyone has a price) and upbeat polls ask if people favor “renewable energy” without specifying its ugliest component. Articles and forums supporting wind power are constantly ignoring or downplaying its aesthetic damage to scenery and the animals it kills. A truly green business wouldn’t need so many cover stories. They’re filling the fields, mountains and oceans with colossal, noisy, flashing towers and acting like it’s easily ignored (see cognitive dissonance). Engineers are generally not stupid people, so they’re either lying to themselves or have chosen to disrespect nature.
Propaganda sites dismiss the downsides with “careful siting” lies and implausible schemes to discourage birds & bats from entering their expanding gauntlets. They won’t explain why they find landscapes non-integral to the environment, except to insist that AGW dwarfs other concerns based on feeble evidence that wind turbines can actually stop it. Here are some random samples:
http://www.awea.org/ (money clearly motivates them, just like the fossil fuel business)
http://www.wind-works.org (wind advocate since the 70s, pretends the scale hasn’t grown ugly)
http://www.windustry.org/ (lists many of the downsides but gives them little weight)
https://cleantechnica.com/ (deletes anti wind power comments with the typical tunnel-vision)
http://ramblingsdc.net/windenergyopposition.html (another “environmentalist” who trivializes scenery, etc.)
You can’t reach hardened wind power advocates with aesthetic arguments. Many of them don’t intrinsically respect nature because they’re anthropocentric technophiles and neo-environmentalists. They probably spend far more time looking at computer screens than physical horizons. Maintenance of the technological world and its power grid is their top priority, with nature as a quaint distraction, or a backdrop for extreme sports. The height of wind turbines plays into the bungee-jumping, thrillseeker mindset and they get fascinated with the ability to build something that large. Ancient concern for nature is lost in their awe of Man’s hubris (not unique to wind turbines but they’re top dog now). Windnuts share many traits with the wingnut climate deniers they claim to despise; always pushing for more gigawatts and construction projects. Instead of protecting nature from people, now it’s about sustaining what people built with fossil fuels, using much weaker forms of energy that require vast acreage. If landscapes must be trashed for the “greener good,” they’re fine with it. Way to go, you soulless idiots! Pursuing a nature-wrecking technology in the name of environmentalism is dystopian irony at its worst. Wind power just escalates Man’s historical plundering of nature and the Manifest Destiny mindset. It squanders our last chance to conserve and downsize per countless warnings about carrying-capacity overload.
Wind turbine manufacturers compete to see who can build the biggest eyesores. Watch some of these videos where they take pride in looming as tall as possible over the countryside. Anything green is long forgotten in those brag-fests. It’s become a bloated excuse for manufacturing, mining, logging, blasting, road building, trucking and crane rigging jobs. That’s what it takes to get huge machines installed in the hundreds of thousands, eventually millions if madness prevails. Too bad they can’t try it on a different planet instead of experimenting on the public and wildlife. Maybe there’s a planet Enercon (emphasis on the con) or a planet Vestas with no natural vistas. There’s also something sinister about the word Iberdrola, like a disease that’s also a corporation. Not only are they in the wind business, they’re vested in a controversial hydroelectric dam in Brazil. Groups like Greenpeace oppose them for that but not for wind power blight. Where’s the moral consistency?
In case you think this is a rant with no hope, I’m all for rooftop & parking-lot solar panels or putting them over train tracks and canals. They are much greener than wind monsters because they don’t increase the human footprint, which was never solely about carbon until recent attitudes took hold. Geothermal is another good renewable source, along with small, non-dense wind turbines (under 50 feet tall) and safer forms of nuclear power. The whole centralized model of building “energy farms” and moving electricity over long transmission lines (additional sources of blight) needs to end. True green = small footprint. But unless people practice restraint and use more birth control, our long-term existence on this planet won’t be guaranteed by any technology. Fossil fuels built this whole mess and it will be hard to sustain without them. The whole notion that there “must be a solution” is countered by historical evidence of human greed and shortsightedness. This modern energy quagmire vs. the scale of growing needs aka overpopulation is unprecedented. Very large machines in the countryside are a new phase of urban sprawl that leaves many of us speechless. Ecocide, Phase 2 is a good term for it. If these were housing developments or freeways, most environmentalists would oppose them for destroying open space! In light of these inexplicable new values, some ecological thinkers have resigned themselves to the continued destruction of nature by old and new technologies. Wind power is actually an old technology, rebooted in the worst way.
It’s easy to find wind power opposition groups and antidotes to industry propaganda. The media has done a poor job of reporting both sides of the wind energy story but the tide seems to be turning as these machines reach a critical mass. Hopefully there will be a global moratorium on further construction, at least on mountaintops, where wind turbines are the most disrespectful. Subsidies in various nations have already been cut back as the ruse reveals itself but there needs to be an “outrage clause” that stops them for nature’s sake alone. With all the talk of Climate Justice, why not mention Landscape Justice?
Interactive map of U.S. wind projects. This is a good way to see how large these “farms” are, and debunk minimal land use claims (point 5 above). You can drive over 50 miles in some places and always see turbines. The industry wants to keep making them taller so they’ll work in lower wind areas. Scenery be damned is the general consensus.
“That ain’t progress, that’s shit!“ Fictional character Lewis Medlock echoed real views on water dams, which aren’t much different in principle than air dams. You can have large generators at ground level or smaller ones inside large towers in much greater numbers. Which is really worse? One kills swimming animals and the other kills flying ones. They both disrupt nature and neither emits standard pollutants (after construction) yet few people call hydro-power Green. If you’re against damming rivers, why make excuses for damming the sky? Wind power is a hasty reaction to the fossil fuel dilemma, not our sole choice on this scale. The definition of the word clean contains “morally uncontaminated; pure; innocent,” which is the opposite of scenery fouled by wind turbines. “Clean energy” has become dirty propaganda.
The anti-fracking movie, Promised Land, was originally going to be about wind turbines. They ought to do a sequel since the public is still largely duped by wind hype, thanks to media soft-pedaling. Both industries convert scenic, quiet places into energy factories and know it will disrupt lives, so they use slick propaganda. But fracking is much less visible at a distance than wind power and its lands can be restored, though water issues plague it.
* It’s unlikely that famous conservationists & naturalists like Henry Thoreau, John Muir, Theodore Roosevelt, Aldo Leopold, Ansel Adams, Rachel Carson, Edward Abbey, et al., would have welcomed this assault on landscapes. As an example, the John Muir Trust (a Scottish legacy charity) is against wind turbines in any sort of wilderness area but they’re fighting a tough battle. In America, Muir founded the Sierra Club, which has sold out to green-tech, dodging the evidence and calling for “appropriately sited” renewable energy projects. Do they think the planet has endless places to hide huge towers, with so many projects already resisted? Even iconic Loch Ness is threatened by wind energy now. It’s discouraging to see modern environmentalists buy into the weak benefits of a bloated, unreliable power source.
End note: This author isn’t a global warming denier but wind power should not be a linchpin of climate strategy. It’s taking us in the opposite direction of conservation, restraint and humility. We need a degrowth/steady-state plan vs. the same unsustainable growth rebranded as green. Nature’s been telling us to downsize and a wise species would pay attention.
This page will be updated at random with new information.