Wind energy – is it really safe to use?

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Wind Farm on Highway

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When watching green energy commercials, chances are you’ll see solar panels and wind turbines. In fact, wind is second only to solar energy as the most popular form of sustainable energy – and it’s no wonder. Wind energy is entirely green and completely sustainable; it has no harmful emissions because it uses the wind’s kinetic energy to generate electric energy.

Of course, this is not to mentions its minimal effects on the geography of a landscape, and its ability to generate enough energy to power several thousand homes a year (for a small wind farm). Wind turbines are also part of a well-funded research and development sector that is constantly gaining headway in making cost-effective ways to generate electricity. With such benefits, wind energy seems to be an obvious place of investment in today’s push for greener energy.

However, wind energy is far from being a complacent theme in the hunt for sustainable development. On April 3rd, both Toronto and Ottawa saw a small spark of anti-wind power protesting in their streets. The protestors, who were part of the North American Platform Against Windpower (NA-PAW), wanted to publically raise awareness towards the many hidden issues that surround wind farm development.  Their protest comes in light of legal disputes between Canada and several wind turbine manufacturers, and the resultant push for wind turbine research in the near future.

With wind turbine approval ratings soaring as high as 80% on some polls, NA-PAW wants to change the public’s positive assumptions and preconceptions on this form of renewable energy. The following are some of the core issues raised during their protest.


Environmental Impacts

Wind turbines themselves have no negative emissions because they only use wind to power their generators. However, their integration into electric grids can be problematic because of the inconsistency of a wind-based energy source. Consequently, wind turbines must also be supplemented with more conventional ways of generating electricity in order to guarantee a stable supply for public use.


Cultural-Geographic Impacts

The addition of modern wind turbines in isolated rural towns means disrupting their long-preserved cultural landscape. Areas that are known for their quaint, idyllic settings lose tourism because of construction and because of the turbines’ sleek, modern image. Their construction in itself means disrupting wildlife and their respective ecosystems, while also emitting greenhouse gases.


Health Impacts

Wind farm neighbours have been known to suffer lack of sleep, anxiety, and stress due to the low-frequency noise emitted by the turbines. Known as “wind turbine syndrome,” this health impact affects citizens in a wide area around these wind farms due to the long wavelength of their low-frequency sound.


Economic Impacts

Wind energy is still only half as efficient as other, traditional methods of harvesting energy. Regardless, many governments are promising the creation of more wind turbines – especially offshore wind farms. NA-PAW believes that, until the technology truly catches up to these other forms of energy, government investment can be better spent on other renewable energy sources.

Wind Turbines at Sunset
Photo by Chauncey Davis


So often we are pressured by financial or eco-interest groups that we don’t stop to consider the full breadth of impacts that these projects have. This needs to change. We only have so long to make the right choices – let’s make sure they’re also informed ones.

  • Jerico Espinas

    Jerico is an English and Creative Writing student at the University of Toronto. He believes strongly in technology’s potential to reverse the damage that’s been done to the environment – if we can only cooperate as a global community! He hopes that, by writing progressive and informed articles, he too can make a difference in his community.

13 thoughts on “Wind energy – is it really safe to use?”

  1. How refreshing to read your article. It gives me hope that perhaps it’s possible we can eventually put our collective minds together and come up with a viable solution that will make everyone happy.

    My husband and I were all for wind energy until we started doing extensive research into the subject. After reading thousands of articles on both sides of the issue, we came to the realization that wind turbines are not as ‘green’ as we’ve been told. I do believe that the 80% approval rating you quoted would be far lower if people actually knew more about the topic. Most people equate wind turbines with the benign and romantic image of Holland. Unfortunately, they don’t take the time to truly delve into the mass amounts of research and studies available to us.

    As someone who belongs to one of the MANY groups present at the Toronto April 3rd protest, can I just clarify a few things. The protestors weren’t just part of NAPAW. They represented some 60 wind groups from across Ontario and a few from the States. The message we’re trying to get out isn’t one of Nimby’ism as we’re so often accused.

    We’re trying to get people to understand the negative impacts that wind turbines have, as you have described in your article. There are far more reasons than what you’ve mentioned but a huge one is the fact that governments around the world refuse to listen to those people who have gotten sick, living close to turbines. This isn’t just a Canadian thing. The ill-health effects have been well documented world-wide. Governments and wind companies continue to spew out the same rehashed studies that they’ve been using for 15 years….that there are no ill health effects.

    Doctors and nature say differently. If the infrasound from wind turbines can cause a bats lungs to explode (an absolutely indisputable fact) then imagine what it does to the human body, especially developing children.

    The McGuinty government is also giving carte blanche license to wind companies to kill endangered bird species. Birds that we fought for decades to protect are now being tossed to the wolves, so to speak.

    At any rate, I could go on forever on this subject, as I probably read more about wind turbines in one day than most people do in a lifetime. I did want to thank you for presenting the other view. I have a feeling that you ‘get it’. You understand that our protests about these things are not simply a matter of obstructing our view.

  2. It would see that Jerico has discovered some realities of wind turbines. Keep reading Jerico and you will discover just how the naive 80% that you refer to (including governments ) have been deceived.

  3. Oh, my, yes. And wind wind can bring deadly storms as well. It is also a proven fact that sunlight causes cancer and cyclists get killed by cars. Stop your whining and realize that nothing is perfect.

    We need energy sources that are sustainable and better than the unmitigated disaster of fossil fuels. When someting even better is found we can use it. Try thinking if them as sculpture.

    • Mr Blaney I suggest you tag along behind Mr Jerico for a while to learn the realities of wind turbines. Or I can arrange for you to live for 6 months or longer in a number beautifull homes in SW Ontario that have been abandoned by the owners because of the infrasound etc.
      Walk a mile in the shoes of these people before you open your uneducated mouth.
      Incidently we hardly use fossil fuels in Ontario -we are however using more and building more natural gas stations (fossil fuel) because of the unreliability of such inept generators such as ancient technology wind
      turbines and solar power

    • @ Thomas. I absolutely agree with you that we need renewable energy sources that are sustainable. I know hundreds of people who are battling the onslaught of wind turbines across Ontario and ALL of them are either 100% in favour of renewable and truly “green” energy, or they are avid conservationists who believe we have to stop wasting and exploiting our resources. These are highly educated people. Not “dumb” farmers.
      To assume that just because we (who actually live near wind turbines) have found major flaws with them, including the fact that they use up valuable fertile farmland and destroy fragile ecosystems, means that we’re anti-earth or anti-environment is a shallow assumption on your part.
      It’s truly boggling to me that wind proponents have such a closed mind towards anything even slightly negative about your precious turbines.
      If they’re so great, why don’t we see hundreds of them along the Toronto shoreline? We could easily fit several hundred if not thousands from Oakville to Oshawa. So why aren’t they building them close to where the power is most consumed in Ontario? Why does rural Ontario have to sacrifice our land, our health, our lifestyle to keep the GTA lit up at night?
      How many 600 to 1000 foot turbines do you have within a kilometre of your home?

  4. I don’t live near any wind turbines, nor any other power generators, or even a major urban center, but I do have chronic asthma and cannot even go outside when pollution levels are high.

    The problem is not with the wind turbins, but in proper siting and zoning. The real problem is with your political representation, like most people. I would object to living next to any commercial power facility. We have farmers and ranchers who coexist with wind turbins without any problems.

    Thirty years ago I was doing R&D for one of the largest solar manufacturers on the continent. Our political system failed and the Reagan administration destroyed the entire alternative energy industry for a generation. The back of the fossil fuel industry must be broken before real progress can be made in sustainability.

    • You’re correct. Siting is a key part of the problem. Not sure if you’re aware, but in every single contract that the landowners sign with a wind company (don’t know about solar) there is a gag clause that they cannot discuss any ill effects from having the turbines on their property. As well, I know of a few instances where the landowner has purchased a home away from their land, so that they don’t even live within view of the turbines.

      There’s a couple in Goderich, ON who are currently in the court system battling to get these gag clauses lifted under the FIA. They have 3 autistic children who would be greatly affected by having turbines near them (autistic children have a high sensitivity to sound that doesn’t bother other people – I also have a son who is autistic) and they have been unable to get any of the landowners who have turbines on their property to disclose anything about the sound levels with the turbines.

      It’s SOP as far as wind contracts go. We’re hoping that if this couple gets the courts to lift the gag clauses, that the true effects of these turbines will be known.

      One other thing about gag clauses…..people who sell their property to wind companies due to ill health effects (there’s been a few in Ontario) have also had to sign non-disclosure clauses in the sales agreement. Google Barb Ashbee from Mono, Ontario. She and her husband had to abandon their property due to the turbines around their property and eventually took a buyout offer from a wind company at a great reduction to the value of what their land was worth. In defiance of that agreement, they have gone public about what happened to them anyway.

      I know Barb and her husband and they went through hell and back, which is why they decided to go against the gag agreement.

  5. Come on, people… Looks like you’ve become too civilized 🙂

    One key factor which should be considered when you install wind turbine – whether you have enough wind. Placing turbines close to places where people live – cause of all complains. If wind power plants operators had “more than oil” payback, they would persuade you, that wind turbine power is better than iPhone 🙂

    All this complains about terrible noise, ground shaking and even wind syndrome sound like a nonsense.

    Strangely, no complains about noise of air conditioning, buses shaking ground, and no syndromes of discharged iPhone.

    • Hi Alex,
      Unfortunately, it may sound like a lot of nonsense to you, but that is because most likely, you don’t live anywhere near a turbine.

      Couple of things to note. Many large wind companies are owned by big oil. So if you think that building turbines is sticking it to the oil companies, you’re wrong. You’re actually funding the tar sands.

      Secondly, the Toronto shoreline from Oakville to Oshawa would be able to hold hundreds if not thousands of turbines. There’s certainly plenty of wind coming off the lake. Why aren’t they building them there? Toronto uses more power than almost the rest of the province combined. Shouldn’t we be putting these industrial machines closest to where the demand is? Less cost in terms of transmission, and less intrusion and disruption of the provinces natural beauty.

      Know why they won’t put them along the shoreline of Lake Ontario? Think about it. It’s the biggest kind of nimby’ism. Toronto would never stand for it. McGuinty’s not about to rock that boat. Toronto is the reason he’s won the last 2 elections. No way he’s going to start destroying Toronto’s lakeview and disrupt the tourist trade, and the leisure boating activity. He knows if he blankets the shoreline down there the way he is up here, then all of you urbanites would know exactly what we’ve been saying up here for the past few years.

  6. Hi Jerico. Just wanted to thank you again for posting this. If just one person understands a bit more about the struggle that rural Ontarians (and rural people all around the world) are facing, you’ve done a great service.



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