Why Don’T People Like Wind Turbines?

Why don't people like wind turbines?

Wind turbines are becoming an increasingly popular source of renewable energy around the world. However, despite their environmental benefits, wind turbine projects often face opposition from local communities. There are a number of reasons why some people oppose wind turbines, including concerns about visual impact, noise, impact on birds and wildlife, efficiency and reliability, infrastructure requirements, public health and safety risks, economic impact, and policy and regulations. This article will provide an overview of the key factors driving opposition to wind turbines and the arguments made on both sides of this issue.

Visual Impact

Many find wind turbines visually unappealing or say they spoil natural landscapes. The height of modern wind turbines, often over 100 meters tall, makes them stand out and can dominate the landscape. Some argue they have industrialized rural areas and negatively impacted scenic views.

There are a few ways the visual impact of wind turbines has been addressed:

  • Careful site selection and planning to blend turbines into the existing landscape as much as possible. Avoiding obstructing or disrupting key scenic vistas.
  • Design considerations like turbine color, finishes, lighting to help them visually integrate.
  • Siting turbines far enough from homes and residential areas to minimize visual disturbance.
  • Using models and visual simulations during the planning process to assess the visual change.
  • Community engagement and benefit sharing to get public buy-in.

Despite efforts, the visual impact remains one of the most consistent complaints about wind power. But visual preference is subjective, and over time views can shift as people get accustomed to seeing turbines as part of the landscape.


One of the major concerns surrounding wind turbines is the amount of noise they generate. While modern wind turbine designs have reduced noise levels compared to earlier models, the rotating blades still create a “whooshing” sound that can be audible from over half a mile away (FACTS ABOUT WIND ENERGY AND NOISE). The noise is most prominent when standing directly underneath a turbine, where sound levels can range from 60-80 decibels, comparable to the noise levels from highway traffic (How Loud Are Wind Turbines?).

For people living in close proximity to wind farms, the persistent swooshing noise generated by the spinning turbines can cause sleep disturbances and other health issues. Noise regulations typically limit wind turbine noise to around 55 decibels during the day and 45 decibels at night to minimize impacts (Wind Turbine Noise Regulation Standards and Guidelines). However, the sounds can seem excessively loud in rural areas where background noise levels are much lower.

There have been many complaints over wind turbine noise from people living near wind farms. However, developers claim that modern turbine designs have reduced noise substantially, and that noise concerns should not preclude building wind projects. More research is needed to establish ideal setback distances from homes to minimize noise disturbances.

Bird and Wildlife Impact

Wind turbines can have negative effects on birds and other wildlife. One of the main concerns is that birds and bats can collide with the spinning turbine blades, resulting in injury or death. According to a study from the U.S. Department of Energy, the cumulative collision mortality of songbirds from wind turbines is estimated to impact less than 0.01% of populations on a national scale (https://www.energy.gov/eere/wind/articles/exploring-wind-energys-impacts-wildlife).

However, the impacts vary greatly by species. Birds of prey and migratory birds seem to be among the most vulnerable. A 2022 study published in Nature found that certain bird and mammal species avoided areas near wind turbines, affecting their distribution patterns (https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-022-05159-1). The number of bird deaths per turbine also depends on factors like the location, layout, and design.

According to MIT research, wind projects kill an estimated 0.269 birds per gigawatt-hour of electricity produced. This is far lower than other energy sources, such as fossil fuels, which kill an estimated 5.18 birds per gigawatt-hour (https://climate.mit.edu/ask-mit/do-wind-turbines-kill-birds). Still, steps can be taken to minimize wildlife impacts through careful site selection, operational adjustments during migration seasons, and deterrent systems.

Efficiency and Reliability

One common concern about wind turbines is over their efficiency and reliability. Some question if wind power can really generate electricity consistently and efficiently enough to be a major energy source. However, research shows wind power can be quite efficient and reliable.

According to data from NREL, modern wind turbines generally have high reliability rates when it comes to their gearboxes, blades, and integration with the electric grid. Manufacturing standards and designs continue to improve turbine reliability over time.

Capacity factor is one way to measure wind turbine efficiency – that is, how much electricity it actually produces over time compared to its maximum rated output. According to a 2019 data review, capacity factors for wind turbines averaged 33% globally in 2018, ranging from 21-56% across different regions and turbine designs. Capacity factors have increased steadily over the past few decades as technology improves.

While wind power’s efficiency and reliability lags behind fossil fuels, it has proven more consistent and productive than critics claim. With the right turbine technology and siting, wind power can play a major role in energy grids without reliability issues.

Infrastructure and Maintenance

Constructing and operating wind farms requires substantial infrastructure and ongoing maintenance, which contributes to the overall costs. Onshore wind farms need roads and transmission lines to transport electricity from the remote turbines to substations and onward to population centers. Offshore wind farms require undersea transmission cables, substations, and ships capable of transporting and lifting massive turbine components during construction and maintenance.

According to a UK government report from 2020, maintenance costs can account for 30% of the lifetime costs of a wind farm. Routine maintenance on wind turbines includes inspections, component replacements, and software upgrades. Offshore turbines in particular face corrosion from ocean air and require frequent maintenance. Transporting spare parts and technicians to remote, offshore sites can be challenging and expensive.

One study found that a 1GW onshore wind farm incurs yearly maintenance costs of $15-$27 per kW, while for offshore wind it ranges from $40-$60 per kW. As wind farms age, major component replacements may be needed, along with repowering with newer turbine technology.

Public Health and Safety

One of the most common concerns people have regarding wind turbines is the potential adverse health effects. Some individuals living near wind farms have reported issues like ringing in the ears, headaches, nausea, anxiety, irritability and sleep disturbances that they attribute to the turbines. This collection of symptoms has been dubbed “Wind Turbine Syndrome” by some, though it is not a clinically recognized medical diagnosis.

Numerous scientific studies have been conducted to investigate the connection between wind turbines and health problems. A 2014 review published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine examined 38 studies and found no evidence linking wind turbines to direct health effects. The authors concluded that while some people find wind turbines annoying, there is no strong evidence that they directly cause major health issues.

Another 2013 review published in Acoustics Today looked at potential health effects like sleep disturbance, headaches, tinnitus and emotional distress in people exposed to turbine noise. They found that some individuals are more sensitive and may experience stress and sleep disruption, but that there was insufficient evidence to directly link wind turbine exposure to major diseases or illnesses.

While more research is still needed, the scientific consensus based on current evidence is that wind turbines may annoy some people but are unlikely to directly cause major physiological health effects. Careful siting and noise reduction efforts can help mitigate annoyance issues experienced by individuals living close to wind farms.

Economic Impact

Wind energy projects can provide economic benefits as well as costs to local communities where wind farms are built. Some of the key economic considerations include:

Jobs and local economic development – Constructing wind farms creates short-term jobs, such as for construction workers, truck drivers, and crane operators. There are also longer-term jobs created for on-site wind technicians and other operations and maintenance positions. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, a 250 MW wind farm creates 1,079 full-time jobs over its lifetime. This includes direct onsite, supply chain, and induced jobs. The American Wind Energy Association estimates there were over 120,000 full-time wind-related jobs in the U.S. in 2021.

Land lease payments – Wind turbines are often located on agricultural land, providing a new source of revenue for farmers and ranchers who receive lease payments from wind developers. According to industry estimates, annual lease payments range from $3,000 to $7,000 per megawatt of capacity. This provides a drought-resistant cash crop for rural communities.

Tax revenue – Wind projects can expand the local tax base, providing new property tax revenue for counties and school districts. However, studies show the net fiscal impacts vary based on the unique tax policies in each community.

Tourism – Some communities have experienced increased tourism from visitors interested in seeing wind farms. For example, the first wind farm in Australia attracts over 50,000 tourists per year. However, tourism impacts vary greatly by location.

Property values – Multiple studies have found little to no impact on local property values from wind farm visibility. A U.S. Department of Energy review did not find statistically significant evidence of reduced property values, even for homes located within a mile of turbines.

While there are costs associated with constructing and operating wind power, many communities experience net economic benefits from local wind projects through increased tax revenue, land lease payments to farmers, and employment opportunities.


Policy and Regulations

Wind power projects in the United States are subject to regulations and policies at the federal, state, and local levels. At the federal level, the main policy is the production tax credit (PTC), which provides a tax credit per kilowatt-hour generated by qualified wind power facilities (National Renewable Energy Laboratory, 2015). The PTC has gone through cycles of expiration and renewal, creating an unstable business environment for wind developers (Wikipedia contributors, 2023).

At the state level, renewable portfolio standards (RPS) require utilities to source a certain percentage of their electricity from renewable sources like wind and solar. According to the Department of Energy, 29 states plus Washington D.C. had RPS policies as of January 2022 (Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, 2022). Some states like California have more aggressive RPS targets such as 60% renewable energy by 2030 (California Energy Commission, 2022).

Local governments may also implement zoning laws and ordinances that regulate wind power siting and permitting. These policies aim to balance renewable energy development with potential impacts on wildlife, viewsheds, and community character (Wind Energy Technologies Office, 2022). Careful policy design can enable wind growth while protecting other stakeholder interests.


In summary, the primary reasons for public opposition to wind turbines include visual impact, noise, perceived harms to wildlife, efficiency concerns, infrastructure requirements, health and safety risks, and economic impacts. However, many of these concerns can be addressed through proper siting, setback distances, noise mitigation, independent studies on wildlife, investing in the latest turbine technology, engaging communities in planning, and implementing reasonable policy and regulations. With responsible development and a focus on maximizing benefits and minimizing disruption, wind power can continue expanding as a renewable energy source that reduces fossil fuel dependence.

Looking ahead, as turbine technology improves, wind energy will become more efficient, quieter, safer for wildlife, and gain greater public acceptance. With the urgent need to combat climate change and air pollution, wind has an important role to play in the clean energy transition. But this transition must be managed responsibly and inclusively. Through open communication, community participation, safeguards for people and wildlife, and fair policy, wind energy can be harnessed to provide clean power for current and future generations.

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