John Droz, Jr., is a physicist who has spent a lot of time studying the impact of wind farms and wind energy. The following is the result of some of his research:
Wind Energy: Local Economics 101
What about the claim that industrial wind energy projects are a “financial boon” to hard-pressed rural communities? On the surface that sounds plausible, but to evaluate this assertion this we need to look a bit deeper. This is a two part answer…
First, we do not select our electrical energy sources based on the economic impact to host communities. Instead our electrical energy sources are chosen because of their reliability, true cost to ratepayers & taxpayers, proximity to demand centers, dispatchability, etc.
Wind energy fares poorly on ALL such metrics — which is why wind salespeople try the sleight-of-hand tactic to talk instead about local taxes, local lease payments, etc. We need to be careful about getting tricked by such marketing tactics.
Secondly, the only way that we can know if these projects are genuinely an economic asset, is if a proper NET financial analysis is done. In other words we need to do a comprehensive and objective investigation into the pros and cons of these projects.
We know the positives, as the developers and their proponents have done a fine job at spelling out the possible benefits: property tax income, lease payments to selected landowners, several construction jobs, a few permanent jobs, etc.
But what about the negatives? How do we come up with the numbers on the other side of the equation, so that we can do an accurate NET financial assessment? The answer is to carefully research studies done by independent experts — i.e scientists, academics, economists, physicians, etc. who generally have no dog-in-the-fight.
After carefully doing that research here are some reasons why a wind project can be an economic liability to a host community:
1 – Independent experts have concluded that local agricultural income can decrease as: a)bats being killed will reduce crop yields, b) turbines can affect local weather [up to 15 miles away!] which will also lower crop yields, and c) in some cases, farmers with turbine leases will reduce or terminate operations. For much more on this, see here.
2 – Studies from independent experts have concluded that there can be serious hydro-geological consequences from wind projects. Here is a sample study done in Vermont.
3 – Studies from independent experts have concluded tourism will drop in the region. For example, North Carolina State University (avid wind proponents) surveyed tourists. Although the majority of the visitors stated that they supported wind energy, 80%± said that they would not vacation in an area where wind turbines were visible. Some other studies that have concluded that tourism will be reduced are listed here.
4 – Studies from independent experts have concluded that property values will decrease for residences within 1± miles of a wind project. This was the conclusion of largest study in the world on this topic, done by the London School of Economics. Here is an extensive list of other studies and articles that came to the same conclusion.
5 – Studies from medical professionals have concluded that some nearby citizens will experience adverse health effects. The biggest concern is from infrasound (noise we can not hear). The World Health Organization has stated (p53) that infrasound is more problematic than audible sound. Infrasound can be so harmful that the US military is researching weaponizing it. Over a hundred studies have concluded that there will be health consequences (here is a representative sample, including cancer).
6 – Studies from independent experts have concluded that industrial wind projects can cause major eco-system damage. See this sample study (esp. pages 103-122).
7 – Studies from independent experts have concluded that industrial wind projects can harm wildlife and livestock animals. Sample reports: here, here, here, here and here.
8 – Studies from independent experts have concluded that industrial wind projects can adversely affect local hunting (and possibly fishing). Here is an explanation of that.
9 – Research by independent experts has shown that wind projects can cause serious interference with military facilities. Here is an overview of the topic.
10-Despite implications otherwise, leaseholders can suffer economic losses. See this explanation of 40+ possible legal and financial liabilities to signing turbine leases.
So what might the NET be after taking the positives and negatives into account? A sample analysis was done of the proposed NY Horse Creek wind project. The conclusion is that the NET economic impact would likely be a loss of $10± Million a year. For comparison, an analysis of the NC Timbermill wind project was also done. The conclusion is that there could be a NET economic loss of $12± Million a year.
So before any community can say that a “wind project is a financial windfall,” a comprehensive and objective financial analysis must be done. Right now, no one in any federal, state or local agency, is thoroughly investigating these wind energy liabilities.
Without such an analysis, all financial claims are simply one-side of the economic equation — and are not an accurate representation of the NET economic impact. The evidence to date indicates that wind energy is the “gift” that keeps on taking.
Let me know any questions (email: “aaprjohn at northnet dot org”). john droz, jr. physicist 5/31/19
PS — For additional information on all of these costs, please see WiseEnergy.org.
Wind energy is probably a good idea, but we are not there yet in terms of technology. If the free market were allowed to function in the energy industry, we might get there faster.
Note: I have linked a few of the studies listed in this paper. To go to the original paper and get the complete list go here.