The complaints you hear about wind turbines installed near people's homes run a predictable gamut: They're too ugly, too big, or yes, too noisy. Because renewable energy sources are gaining in prominence and are still mildly controversial in some regards, these complaints make for popular stories in the media. They're are often treated with a 'what are the costs of clean energy?' angle. Take, for instance, this video on the front page of the New York Times' website, about Maine residents who are angry that wind turbines put up near their property are too loud.There are a few points I'd like to make about this -- first, citizen complaints about solar and wind power seem to get picked up in the media more than, say, citizen complaints about the detrimental effects of having to live too close to an industrial plant in an urban area. I'd wager a guess that those irked by wind power (living in spacious, open areas) are more often affluent, and better able to, say, spend their time monitoring precisely how loud a turbine out beyond his backyard is with expensive-looking equipment.
Which is why I can't help but be annoyed with these stories. They don't focus on the benefits that clean energy brings in any real detail -- sure, lower energy bills for the residents. But they don't mention the fact that without the turbines, these folks would likely be getting their energy from a coal-fired power plant -- which of course causes a host of problems far more worrisome than noise pollution to the communities it impacts. They don't mention the contaminated waterways, the polluted air, or the higher rates of asthma for people living around coal plants.
Instead, such profiles are content to show that some middle-upper class people are mad that there's something unfamiliar in their backyard. And, remember what they're mad about: That the turbines are too loud, slightly louder than the 40 decibel state nighttime limit. Consider this for a second, then. In response to the question "How loud is 40 db?' Answers.com offers this reply: "It is between a whisper and a normal conversation."
More on Wind Power Complaints
Common Eco-Myth: Wind Turbines Kill Birds
North Carolina Senate Bans Mountaintop Wind Turbines