Opposition to Wind Facilities Spreading Across U.S.

Published September 26, 2016

Over the past 18 months, local resistance to wind-energy facilities has spurred governments in a growing number of jurisdictions, from California to Maine, to restrict or reject projects within their boundaries.

Wind projects have raised the ire of local residents concerned about noise from turbines, their possible impact on aviation, visual blight, potential human health impacts, and the threat posed to wildlife, among many other issues.

“Wind energy is one of those things that sounds great in theory but that, in reality, has a lot of unintended consequences,” said Marita Noon, executive director of Energy Makes America Great. “The more people actually experience industrial wind turbines, the less they like them.”

Energy researcher Robert Bryce of the Manhattan Institute compiled a list of more than 60 jurisdictions that acted in 2015 to limit or block wind projects due to public concerns. Another 40 government entities in 18 states rejected or moved to restrict the installation of wind-energy facilities during first six months of 2016.

Resistance in Northeast and Beyond

The various levels of government taking action against wind projects include town and county governments, local management districts, and even one Indian tribe.

New York State had the largest number of government bodies, seven, restricting wind projects, with Michigan coming in a close second with six.

Various local government entities in four New England states—Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Vermont—enacted 15 ordinances limiting wind-power placement.

In total, about 66 government entities in 22 states moved to ban or restrict wind projects in 2015, including 30 towns and 27 counties.

Local Governments Limit Wind Projects

Among the actions taken by local governments to limit wind projects was a decision to oppose the Weaver Wind project in Maine, which was handed down by the state’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife on June 19, 2015. It said the primary reason for opposing the project was it would have a negative impact on birds and bats.

            On July 14, 2015, a county Board of Supervisors in Los Angeles, California voted unanimously to ban wind projects in unincorporated areas of the county.

On August 2, 2015, the Buchanan County Zoning and Planning Commission, located in Iowa, denied a permit for Optimum Renewables’ three-turbine wind project.

In North Carolina, on October 1, 2015, the Bald Head Island Governing Board adopted a resolution opposing wind turbines within 24 nautical miles of shore.

According to the resolution, “[W]ind turbines located within the Bald Head Island viewshed would transform our community’s natural and historical vista of open ocean to a view of massive industrial machinery … Such a change would represent for us the most destructive commitment of ocean resources that we have ever heard proposed in North Carolina—one that could irreversibly damage the natural environment and resources that we cherish and that drive our economy.”

Opposition Growing

Independent physicist John Droz, who has provided free assistance to some of the communities fighting wind projects, says opposition to wind power is growing.

“The evidence clearly indicates that the more citizens get educated on the subject, the less they like industrial wind energy,” said Droz.

Bonner R. Cohen, Ph.D. ([email protected]) is a senior fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research.