Wind turbine farms are popping up all over the place. The mammoth wind-mills are planted in the ground and then proceed to twirl their giant blades in a lazy circular motion, pumping out electricity in the process. The blades that cut through the sky vary in size, but are generally around 35 meters long. Of course some are bigger…much bigger. The largest turbine in the world – the Enercon E-126 – has a rotor diameter of 126 meters and stands proudly in Emden, Germany where it generates 20 million kilowatt hours per year. In the United States, wind generated power accounts for about one percent of the energy consumed. Wind turbines are symbols of the alternative energy movement, but the consequences of living near a wind farm aren’t always positive ones.
Wind turbines are constantly evolving into bigger, more efficient, and quieter machines. Unfortunately, individuals living next to these farms may complain of illnesses linked to the slow humming of the blades cutting through the wind. Symptoms range from migraines and mood swings to stomach aches and ulcers.
As if that isn’t enough, many individuals find that the large structures ruin the flow of the landscape, while others are horrified at the sight of a dead bird or bat lying near the turbine, after having suffered fatal injuries from flying near the blades.
The rapid spinning of the blades causes the air pressure around them to fluctuate. Decreases in the air pressure around turbines on exceptionally windy days have been known to kill bats by destroying their sensitive lungs, while vibrations in the air may not be heard, but can travel for miles effecting individuals living nearby.
Wind turbines are an excellent source of alternative energy, but not when human health is put on the line. This is a controversial topic, since organizations like the American Wind Energy Association claim that the noise from a wind turbine (1,000 feet away) is comparable to the light hum of a kitchen refrigerator, while neighbors to the farms are adamant that the contraptions have a detrimental effect on their lives.
Engineers are constantly improving wind-power technology with sound-dampening technologies, while researchers recommend that a wind farm should be surrounded with a buffer zone up to 3 miles wide. In theory, wind turbines are a great energy source: They are clean, efficient, self sustaining and create numerous jobs in an economy where finding employment is becoming more and more difficult. But nobody accounted for the health problems that the turbines seem to blow into homes.
Wind turbines are an innovative solution to the energy crisis. However, we can assume that there are going to be issues associated with wind farms until the design has been perfected.
The Enercon E-126 6.0 Megawatt Wind Turbine,
the largest wind turbine in the world, stands
656 feet (198 meters) from base to top of rotor sweep.