The wind industry’s rapid expansion in the past few years underscores the industry’s significant potential to create jobs, spur economic activity, reduce water use, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, all while producing clean electricity.
However, many myths of wind energy have been spread, sometimes intentionally, sometimes through hearsay. It is important to cut through the noise and get down to the facts. Here are eight of the most commmon myths about wind energy
Myth #1: Wind projects are not economically feasible without the Production Tax Credit (PTC) or the Investment Tax Credit (ITC).
Fact: Although the PTC and the ITC have been important tools for expanding the wind energy industry, wind projects can utilize a number of economic models and financing opportunities that allow projects to be economically feasible without these two federal incentives. In fact, many wind projects have not qualified for the PTC.
The ITC for wind projects is a relatively new mechanism that was established as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, and so its value as a tool is only now being realized. Although these two mechanisms have aided wind projects with initial financing, developers often utilize other financing models, such as vendor financing, construction loans, permanent loans, investors, tax equity, new market tax credits, bonding, utility pre-payment, renewable energy credits, or various other state or local incentives. Some wind projects can also qualify for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Energy for America Program, which can help raise private funds for the planning and construction phases of the project.
Myth #2: Wind projects negatively impact the land values of people living in proximity to them.
Fact: Individuals living in close proximity to wind projects may be concerned about property values. Anecdotal and some documented evidence indicate that in some cases, reductions in property values have occurred. In addition, some studies have observed short-term reductions in home prices corresponding to the period following a project’s public announcement but prior to the plant beginning operations.
However, these declines were not observed after operations began, suggesting that they may have resulted from buyer apprehension during project development and construction. The most comprehensive study of those listed examined nearly 7,500 U.S. residential transactions for homes located within 5 miles of wind turbine installations, 1,900 of which were within 1 mile and 125 of which occurred after the wind facilities were operational. This study concluded that there was no statistical evidence of an impact on home prices from either views of or proximity to wind facilities.
Research published to date demonstrates that wind facility impacts are either too small or too infrequent to result in broad-based impacts to property values.
Myth #3: Wind projects do not create economic benefits.
Fact: Wind projects support jobs in construction, operation and maintenance of the facilities, and various other direct and indirect positions. They also provide economic benefits in the form of land-lease payments, local tax revenue, and “good neighbor” payments. Wind energy also helps buildings achieve third-party verification of their sustainability, such as a LEED Certification, which has economic value attached to it.
Myth #4: Wind projects have a negative impact on local wildlife.
Fact: Communities may be concerned about the impact of wind projects on local wildlife, such as avian collisions, displacement, and habitat fragmentation. However, through technological advancement, more thorough siting practices, and improved project planning, any negative impact to wildlife has been dramatically reduced.
In recent years, concerns have been voiced regarding bat fatalities. Preliminary research on bat fatalities has been focused on altering wind plant operations at specific times of the day or year and during periods of low wind speed. This preliminary research has shown promise, reducing bat fatalities by as much as 80%.
Myth #5: Wind projects use an excess of local lands.
Fact: Land requirements for turbines are rather modest. Between 2% and 5% of the total acreage of a wind facility is typically taken out of service, and the remaining land area can be used for its original purpose(s), including farming, ranching, and conservation.
Still, projects may be sited in close proximity to dwellings or community buildings (like schools), so it is important for the project developer to conduct sound and shadow flicker studies and work closely with the people who will be most impacted by the project so that their concerns and any potential impacts are understood.
Myth #6: Wind projects ruin the quality of life for people living near them.
Fact: While wind projects offer many positive impacts, including providing economic benefits and a clean source of renewable energy for local use, some are concerned with the potential negative impacts of a project. Concerns include aesthetics, sound, and shadow flicker. These concerns can be alleviated through the use of proper siting practices that are usually established on a local level and by open communication with the local population during project planning. By establishing local rules to address noise levels and setback distances, communities can limit negative quality of life impacts on those living in close proximity to a wind project.
Myth #7: Wind projects create noise that can potentially impact the health of those living near the turbines.
Fact: One of the greatest concerns regarding wind energy is the sound produced by the turbines. Some individuals living in close proximity to wind farms claim to have experienced acute health impacts from wind turbine sound, including nervousness, anxiety, nausea, chest tightness, and tachycardia, although studies have shown there is no epidemiological evidence of such health effects. To alleviate noise concerns, propagation models can help regulators and wind project neighbors better understand the noise level they are likely to experience. As noted earlier, local sound regulations and setbacks can place limitations on the level of sound created by wind energy projects.
Myth #8: Wind projects increase electricity rates for locals.
Fact: Many believe that integrating wind energy results in additional costs to the consumer, but recent contracted power prices for wind have been comparable to wholesale power markets across the country. Although the recent decrease in natural gas prices and the emergence of wholesale electricity markets have made it increasingly difficult for wind to compete, production efficiencies and continued technological improvements suggest that wind energy is likely to maintain its competitive position in the future. Also, because wind turbines have no fuel cost and relatively low operating costs, project owners can confidently predict the cost of energy for many years into the future.