Is it easier to build a large turbine in the country, or a small turbine in your neighborhood?

Whether it is easier to build a large rural turbine or a small suburban turbine depends a lot on the community involved. One needs to consider the reasons people object to industrial wind turbine facilities. On the local basis, one needs to consider whether a wind turbine would raise the aggravation level approaching the point at which people would typically raise the issue.

Throughout the United States and overseas, opposition to wind turbines has arisen due to a number of causes even though the American Wind Energy Association has sponsored polls which purportedly show widespread support for wind turbine. An industry sponsored survey, while informative, often loses credibility since the proponents are sponsoring the survey. (References 1 – 4) Similar nuclear power plant surveys run into the same credibility issue.

Objections to facilities often are attributed to the following reasons.

  1. Obstructed or lost view
  2. Chronic noise
  3. Avian and bat mortality
  4. "Wind turbine syndrome" symptoms include headaches, dizziness and/or memory loss – due to living near the wind turbines
  5. Flickering shadows
  6. Reduced property values
  7. Thrown Ice
  8. Fire due to overheated bearings, degraded or failed equipment
  9. All of the generated power is going somewhere else
  10. No observed local benefit other than to select few. (References 5-7)

Concerns about noise are not unreasonable when one considers that freeway noise from I35 in Minnesota could be heard 10-15 miles away even with intervening trees, hills, and lakes. Noise from trucks on the State Highway 142 Klickitat valley grade can be heard 5 miles away, but may not be heard closer. Proximity to a turbine does not determine noise level as noted in some references. Perceived health issues should be aggressively addressed (References 8, 9).

The offshore wind turbines in Nantucket sound were stalled for years even though the simulated effect on the view was limited (Reference 10)

One might ask the question – what could be done to improve the acceptability of the industrial towers?

  1. Reduce the visibility by spacing the wind turbines more.
  2. Pay those closest to the turbines a premium or buy their property. The premiums could be either in the form of a direct payment or in the form of a supported property tax reduction or elimination. This case is similar to utilities that buy property to enlarge buffer zones around power plants.
  3. Pay those whose view is obstructed by the wind turbines a premium less in value than those closest to the wind turbine site.

Money and fair compensation can go a long way toward minimizing with the industrial wind turbines.

Through the years that I have owned real estate, I have observed or heard of numerous neighbor or community issues from friends or family, or in the news. In many cases the issues may seem minor, however, to the individuals, the issues were significant. Some cases led to physical violence, court cases, or even assignment to a mental institution. It is not unreasonable to expect that erection of a wind turbine on someone’s property could trigger a negative response from some neighbors.

Examples of items cited as neighborhood issues or complaints

  1. Property line, e.g. fence built on wrong side of line
  2. Old boat in yard
  3. Number of old cars and trucks in yard
  4. Satellite dish receiver (old large style)
  5. Diesel or gas fuel tanks
  6. Tree branches with acorns or leaves falling across property line
  7. Property maintenance – messy yards and houses; foul smells
  8. Feeding deer, bear, and other wildlife
  9. Dogs, horses, llamas – barking, loose, aggressive, growling or vicious animals (as appropriate); defecation on others property
  10. Kids cutting through yards
  11. Vehicles driven too fast on road
  12. Snowmobiles driven off-road
  13. Kids riding 3 wheelers cutting up gravel road
  14. Radio noise
  15. People noise from parties and swimming pool
  16. Unauthorized tree stand built and hunting on property
  17. Tree cut down on someone else’s property
  18. Fires in yard
  19. Juvenile vandalism (e.g. spray painting, broken windows) and theft
  20. Golf balls from adjoining golf course hit into yard damaging property
  21. Tall TV antennas
  22. Additions on home
  23. Person put “speed bumps” in road to slow down people driving by property
  24. Fences cut or torn down
  25. Failure to get building permit or proper environmental permits
  26. Unauthorized trespassing.
  27. Tractors working in fields
  28. Shooting at all hours

I live in a rural area where small turbines have been accepted. However, a number of those in our area really dislike the idea of industrial wind turbines in the county. Some of the anger was reflected in the local paper letters to the editor during several weeks following an article on the wind farms. Causes cited were health, ice, and view considerations (Reference 11)

In a more urban setting, local planning agencies could be expected to use a permit or variance process for authorizing installations of small wind turbines. In practice, the permit process usually accompanies a comment period whereby the rules were pre-noticed and discussed within the community. Once the permit process has been approved by the community board, installations that meet the criteria could then be authorized. Personally I have seen the impartiality of a zoning or planning commission affect upset residents both ways – suave their concerns or frustrate them further. Response really depends on the people.

Considering all of the above, I expect that small turbines would be accepted better than the large turbines.


  1. AWEA National Survey , March 27-28, 2010,
  2. Google search, poll about wind power acceptance,
  3. Windpower wins public approval, poll shows , KGO-TV, May 5, 2009,
  4. Gulf Oil Spill Paves Way for Alternative Energy Push , Charles Q. Choi, 10 June 2010, Live Science,
  5. Biased Poll on Wind Power Manufactured by Dennis Scanlin and ASU Energy Department , Mountain Ridge Protection Act Alliance,

  6. Google search, opposition to wind turbines,

  7. Google search, wind power opposition,

  8. Oregon wind farms whip up noise, health concerns , The Oregonian, March 26, 2009,

  9. Wind power takes a blow around Minnesota , Minneapolis Star Tribune, January 12, 2010,

  10. View from the Cape and Islands, Simulations,

  11. County wind farm harvest mixed reviews , Goldendale Sentinel, May 21, 2009,

In the preceding discussion,   I did not mean to imply there is a health issue. As long as there is a perceived health "syndrome", the industry should seek a truly independent assessment that can prove or disprove the issue beyond any reasonable doubt. For years, the opponents of the 500 KV DC power line in western Minnesota kept their protests going because of farmers' claims that their cows' health and their families' health were affected.

The following 3 papers illustrate disagreements that can arise on a health issue and how long it can take to scientifically resolve an issue:


Renewables Home - Virtual Nuclear Tourist - Tuesday March 29, 2011