Wind turbines aren’t noisy!

I read this morning that a petition to the Welsh Assembly Government has been raised demanding that wind farms be switched off from time to time to give local residents “some respite from the noise they make”.

In fact wind turbines, even big ones, make far less noise than people seem to think, and certainly less than motor vehicles. So if you’ve got an objection to wind farms, please make it an honest one.

25 Responses to “Wind turbines aren’t noisy!”

  1. Anton Garrett Says:

    Agreed. Here are some better objections:

    1.They produce power only intermittently, and power cannot be stored on a scale large enough to match supply and demand.

    2. To produce enough power to make a real difference to the UK’s energy requirement then you need to plaster tthem all over this green and pleasant land.

    3. They are subsidised by our greatly increased energy bills, which drive poorer households into poverty or winter cold.

    4. Some of those subsidies go into the pockets of landowners who are already rich, on whose land these turbines are sited.

    5. The rest of the subsidy goes to the turbine owner; most of them are owned by overseas companies, so the UK is simply giving taxpayers’ money away.

    6. Maintenance costs are considerable, especially on offshore turbines.

    7. They are a menace to bird life.

    But apart from that…


  2. 1. It’s true that the intermittency of the energy source means that they can never be the whole solution, but they can reduce demand on mainstream generators when circumstances allow. Smarter grid technology will improve this capability.

    2. The crucial limiting factor of wind turbines rather than tidal stream or other water turbines is the kinetic energy of the air, which 1000 times smaller than water travelling at the same speed. This will, in my opinion, always limit them to a minor role but does not make them entirely useless.

    3. Higher energy bills are not caused by subsidies for renewables. They are caused by power cartels putting up their prices whenever wholesale gas costs go up, and then not reducing those prices when wholesale prices go down. They have done this over and over again. Poor people are actually subsiding the dividends of energy companies’ shareholders.

    4. Not all landowners in rural areas are rich.

    5. I’m afraid most of what’s good in the UK is already owned by foreign companies.

    6. True. But as high as nuclear?

    7. Actually, I’m told by a bird expert that this isn’t true. It’s an urban (rural?) myth. Apparently birds rarely have problems with wind turbines, any more than they do flying into buildings. Curiously, though, turbines do seem however to have an adverse effect on bats.

    I am however concerned that the focus of renewables is excessively focussed on wind farms, which I don’t think can ever provide more than a 10-per-cent solution.

    • Anton Garrett Says:

      My personal choice is for a nuclear fission stopgap (NB fast breeders are far more economical on uranium) until nuclear fusion power comes online; with less squeamishness in the present about coal (see AGW debate elsewhere on your blog) and with more emphasis on solar and longer grid connections. We import gas over long pipelines from Russia, so why not electricity likewise from a solar project in the Sahara? I also agree that it would be great to find a way of tapping the tides. But you invited your readers to tilt at windmills, so I did.

      Someone claimed elsewhere on your blog that it would actually be good for the German economy to close down its nuclear power plants and go to green energy. The idea that expensive energy is better economically than cheap energy is obviously a fantasy. The great wealth of Western economies has been founded on cheap, readily applicable energy. If you go down the German route, you pay for it either by higher taxes or higher energy bills, landing proportionately harder on the lower paid. (Or you can just print money, debasing it with the effect of ripping off prudent people with savings in favour of credit splurgers with debts.)

      In corresponding response to your numbered points:

      3. Increased energy bills are due to both your explanation (energy companies using a ratchet racket) and to mine (source of green-energy subsidy). To take the debate further we need to get quantitative.

      4. Wind turbines invariably are placed on land belonging to large landowners, because power companies do not want to deal with several hundred Welsh hill farmers owning subsistence levels of sheep when they can deal with Lord Somebody owning thousands of acres (and a large mansion). I seem to be the left-wing advocate in this case.

      6. The cost of nuclear is more iin startup than maintenance – but, again, let’s get quantitative.

      7. It didn’t do this bird much good:

      80 eagles/year die this way in California alone.

      • In the United States, cars and trucks wipe out millions of birds each year, while 100 million to 1 billion birds die by colliding with windows of buildings. These mortality rates compare with 2.19 bird deaths per turbine per year.

      • Anton Garrett Says:

        Yes, but only a few oddballs think that we should stop driving cars and stop constructing buildings upwards in city centres (where ground acreage is expensive) because of bird collisions – whereas wind turbine bird fatalities are futile deaths, because wind power is lousy for the other reasons stated. Also, soaring birds, generally birds of prey, are particularly vulnerable, and there aren’t so many of those as there are sparrows, which is why they are protected species.

  3. Adrian Burd Says:

    There is a reasonable amount of literature on this. A Google Scholar search for “wind turbines” & birds brings up a nice selection. As with all things biological, and particularly with larger animals (i.e. anything larger than a copepod), the devil is in the details and common sense (not placing wind farms near breeding sites or favored hunting areas etc.) would prevent many bird fatalities from wind farms. In other words, as with many other things, taking the behavior of affected animals into account in the planning stage would prevent many such adverse affects.

  4. I find wind turbines rather attractive, unlike pylons for example. As most of the British landscape has been ‘made’ rather than natural for the last 6,000 years, I think all it needs is for the old fuddy-duddys to die out, and we’ll soon be sending greetings cards with picture of a set of wind turbines marching majestically across the hills. I think I am trying to make a serious point

  5. Anton Garrett Says:

    “Investing in other forms of energy is like any government spending which creates jobs…”

    No it’s not. It takes money in taxes from businesses which would otherwise employ people in jobs making things that people actually need. When nuclear reactors in southern Germany are threatened by a 50ft tidal wave, let me know.

    • In the current economic climate businesses are not employing more people or investing more money making things because there are not enough people wanting to buy the things they might make.

    • Anton Garrett Says:

      Yes, times are hard. How many businesses have gone to the wall becaues of extra unnecessary taxes?

    • Anton Garrett Says:


      Yes, businesses exist to create profits. It’s not a dirty word – I use the profits from my business to buy, among other things, food without which I should starve.

      There is a positive correlation between turnover and number of employees.

      Higher taxes on business, lower incentive to expand the business. That re-investment is tax deductible does not alter that fact.


    • Anton Garrett Says:

      “Warren Buffett recently said that had never known anyone who refused to invest due to taxes being too high.”

      Did he mean invest in one’s own business, which is what we are talking about; or invest speculatively in other businesses via the stock market, which is his own speciality?

      Even if he meant the former, people probably wouldn’t single out high taxes as the reason not to expand their company; many factors go into a cost-benefit analysis, but if taxes were lower then the decision would be more likely to be to re-invest.

  6. Adrian Burd Says:

    To those who say that lower taxes lead to greater investment and increased numbers of jobs, I say, show me the unequivocal data that backs up such a position.

    Now back to preparing tomorrow’s lecture on….general circulation models! Oh what fun the Navier-Stokes Equations are.

    • Anton Garrett Says:

      Presuming you mean RE-investment in one’s own company, then higher taxes obviously lead to less investment, because (1) if more money goes in tax then less is available to re-invest; (2) the relationship is clearly monotonic; (3) investment makes a company grow, and there is a positive correlation between company size and number of employees.

      If you think that there are too many assumptions behand that argument, consider for yourself the running of a company where tax is 99%.

  7. Frank E Devlin Says:

    After spending a six figure sum on planning and initial site works, I’ve abandoned a house build because of a racket from a nearby (1000 metres) wind farm – despite your assurances about how ‘quiet ‘ they are. See:


    • telescoper Says:

      Rather implausible. You spent a six figure sum and then gave up? What were you planning to build, a mansion? And where?

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