How and why did windmills lose their appeal with the Green Crowd?

I remember from the 70’s and 80’s how modern wind turbines were the darling of the Green Crowd. They were all about renewable power, they were going to make us independent from the oil sheiks; to love windmills was to love the Earth; nothing but hugs and puppies. Plus, windturbines with their ever evolving and improving high-tech, appealed to the geeks among the Green Crowd. Windturbines were the Green Viable Alternative, as we waited for solar energy and nuclear fusion to hurry up.

Now we’re in 2007, and I find that the Green Crowd’s love for windmills is over.
How? Why? What happened? Did windmills and winturbines just go out of fashion? Did they kill too many birds? And how many dead birds is too many, compared to the birds that have died and will due to lost-oil-at-sea disasters?
Or did windmills just become too commonplace, too ordinary? If that is the case, I am going to call “snobbery”; I don’t see how such a reaction is any different from whining that U2 became “too commercial” after the rest of the world started liking the band too.
And what is this talk about “horizon pollution”? What kind of irrational conservatist, anti-progress argument is that? The Eiffeltower was regarded as horizon-pollution in its day. So were skyscrapers.Or fields of corn instead of wheat.

I’m as green as they come, but I just hate it when we’ve reached a solution only to have it somehow disqualified by a part of the green crowd for irrational reasons. I’m beginning to suspect these people are not really interested in solutions, only in placing blame and making us feel guilty.

Could you give some evidence or example of wind turbines being rejected by pro-environment groups? For instance, Friends of the Earth have this to say on windpower: (PDF file, I’m afraid)

“Friends of the Earth supports the development of wind power in the UK. We must invest in renewable energy like wind power to offset the threat of climate change”

A cite? Not a good one, I’m afraid. I read Dutch papers, and in those it is mainly the wording.
For instance, I just got a newsletter from a local pro-environment group in my province, opposing the installation of a wind-turbine in the nature reserve they are campaigning for. They say, and I translate:
*“The council of Sittard is planning to install a wind-turbine park on the local industrial part of town. We feel that such a turbinepark will seriously damage the landscape. Besides, the environmental advantages of wind-turbines remain to be seen” * .

Is this just a somewhat hypocritical case of NIMBY “Not In My Back Yard” of is it more?

If I were Dutch, I’d be sick of windmills, too.

Alessan, we are densely populated, that much is true. Think 17 million people (about 1/10th of the US population) on a piece of land the size of Massachusets.

Actually that makes ist both more understandable and more irrational to whine about landscape ruining. There almost isn’t a piece of empty skyline left anyway.

Pure nimbyism. We’re getting it in Britain, too. Everyone supports using turbines to add to the energy supply, but suggest there’s one within five miles of anybody’s house, and it’s “Oh noesss!!!1! There might be a turning thing somewhere on the horizon!!!” There was a lot of noise around here about ‘horizon pollution’ bollocks when Scroby Sands was being planned. Funnily enough, now it’s up and running, people still manage to enjoy the coastline without their retinas being burnt by the sight of a few turbines, and some do actually make a point of visiting the location to see it.

I don’t have a cite available, but I remember reading somewhere in a local newspaper something that makes me think that what the Green Crowd dislikes now is the possibility of birds crashing in the windmills and dying. I remember reading something about the birds not being able to avoid it, or something like that, and probably about migration patterns being disrupted.

Personally I’m a bit skeptical. I mean, if birds are so stupid to crash in wind turbines, why don’t they smack in buildings all the time? And even if they do, why not build a cage of, say, steel netting around the wind turbine so the wind can go through but birds cannot?

My wife and I were doing a little touristing last year around southern Holland, and nearby areas of Germany, Belgium, and Luxembourg (including Maastricht - the town, that is, which is a really interesting blend of medieval and modern), and we saw a lot of wind turbines in the countryside. We thought they looked pretty cool, standing there in the middle of a pastoral landscape.

The one instance I can recall where they’ve run into big trouble in the U.S. was the whole Martha’s Vineyard thing, and that seemed almost set up as an opportunity to create bullshit opposition. The U.S. has vast areas of practically deserted territory in its interior, but they were proposing to set up turbines where they’d have cluttered a view that rich people pay a lot of money for.

It’s as if the power company really didn’t want to deal with turbines, so they picked a place to put them where the opposition would be as well-heeled and well-connected and generally effective as they possibly could be.

You know what they should do about windfarm nimbyism.

When they put the application in for building the wind farm, they should put an application in for building a nuclear powerstation on the same site and an asylum-seeker detention facility next door. The locals will expend all their energy preventing the nuclear plant and the detention facility from being approved the wind farm will slip by unnoticed, or possibly even welcomed.

I’m currently working on a plan to eliminate nuclear powerstation nimbyism, but I have a feeling it’ll have to involve paedophiles, terrorists and fox hunting with babies.

We explored that question in this recent thread - to sum up, there are lots of very good reasons why you can’t just build a cage around a wind turbine.

I think I might start looking to buy a house that has had its value ‘destroyed’ by a nearby wind turbine. I’d love to live next to one of these things! Heck, I’d like to live, lighthouse-style in one of them.

In Spain we’re getting both windfarm nimbyism and snobbery… they’re all over the place, so the same idiot who’s waving her cold Coke around while telling you that it’s cruel to drink milk will tell you that windfarms hurt the bald buzzard. Farmers of the traditional kind usually respond by saying that any buzzard dumb enough to strike a thing that big oughta be buzzard food anyway.

It’s had an additional benefit from my point of view: some people have gone from milking the EU for farming subsidies to not milking the EU, planting whatever they think is going to sell, and getting money for renting the use of relatively-few square meters to the windmill people.

I do think there’s a credible argument there, actually. The blades are actually moving bloody fast (roughly: 20m blade @ 30rpm = 70mph tip speed). And the wire cage idea is a whoosh, right? Apart from being a nightmare to construct, won’t a fine mesh wreck the clean airflow that the turbines need to perform efficiently?

If you scroll down almost to the bottom of this site, there are links to pages showing photos of wind farms all over the world by country.
There’s another neat picture of Scoby Sands from the air, and who knew Ascension Island had a wind farm!? (under ‘wind plants elsewhere’)

Not that this adds to the argument particularly, other than to show that wind farms are catching on all over the world, but it’s a neat site with some great photos…

The Isle of Lewis is currently being populated by about 180 sodding great wind turbines as part of the largest windfarm in . . . <insert hyperbolic>. Think it’s the largest in Europe, fwiw.

So they’re not yesterday anymore, they’re so tomorrow.

Well, wind energy is not the solution to alleviating our dependence on crude oil – the last time I saw figures, aggressive use of wind energy would make up at most 3% of the “energy budget.” That’s worth doing – but not worth abandoning everything else to follow through on.

There are a few serious issues with present commercial wind energy technology – losing a blade on one of those big turbine generators would be like equipping a naval gun to fire a 50- or 100-foot Ninja death star across the countryside.

I remember a thread something like a year back where Ralph124c had begun it by citing an accusation that Ted Kennedy was singlehandedly destroying the Hyannis/Marthas Vineyard project out of NIMBYism. By the time everybody had gotten through overanalyzing the situation, it was fairly clear that the reverse was the case: some wind energy proponents were pushing a site with clear major environmental (and aesthetic) problems, and Kennedy supporters on this issue included both Bush Republicans and Nader Greenies, unlikely as that may sound!

Sites where (1) there is a reliable wind supply available the great majority of the time, (2) such structures can reasonably be sited, and (3) they are in close proximity to places needing power, may cut the theoretic 3% of the energy budget to half or a quarter that. Still makes them worthwhile – but, like tidal and geothermal, as valuable small components of an intelligent energy policy.

Besides, some Greenies are quixotic – and wind power generators furnish an ideal thing for them to tilt at! :smiley:

Ok then, no cages around a turbine. What about putting some lights on the blades themselves, powered by the turbine itself? In this way, incoming birds would see some big, shiny thing waving its arms, and hopefully be scared off.

On second thought, I suppose this and other equally simple backup plans must have already been thought about by people whose actual job is to think about those things, and if they didn’t think it is not as easy as it looks, then I suppose it isn’t. Pity, I like wind turbines, and, like Mangetout, would not mind living in one *a la * lighthouse.

I’ve never been in or around one of the things; how loud is it ? I wouldn’t mind seeing it ( or a whole field of them ), but I’d hate to live in or right next to something that was constantly whooshing or rumbling or whatever.

I visited this place a while back - their turbine isn’t as big as some (but it’s still blerdy massive) - It was difficult to hear any noise at all until I was standing right beneath it - then it was a sort of rising and falling soft “swoosh” sound - analogous perhaps to gentle surf on a sandy beach, although quieter, but more rapid. Humans certainly tolerate far greater noise nuisances - living 500 yards from a motorway would be far worse than having a wind turbine right above your house, I would say.

You’re muddling “the green crowd” with “conservationists”. The latter group might be in the former, but do not represent it, and the while both groups probably contain NIMBYs, I’d imagine the latter has overwhelmingly more.

I personally find them stunningly beautiful. The ones on the shores of Galway Bay are breathtaking. They have a reassuring whooshing roar.