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Science, Technology

Are Wind Turbines Ugly? New Research Gives Answers…

Wind turbines are the icon for the Green Energy Movement, but are they nothing more than an eyesore?

Wind Turbines have come to symbolise hope. The image of a slowly rotating wind turbine on a blue sky represents a rose-tinted future where energy is abundant and free; global warming has been conquered (and bunnies leap gaily around fields).

But who would really want to live near a wind farm? We long for a future without rising sea levels and greenhouse gases, but opponents to wind power say this is not the solution. The most hotly debated wind power issue is ‘Why are they so ugly?” No-one, it seems, would be happy having huge grey windmills spoiling their landscape.

What is the truth? Are wind turbines really that much of an eyesore? Recently published research gives us some clues and reveals that many of our concerns may be unfounded…

The Czech Wind Farm Story

Would a wind farm ruin your landscape?


The Czech Republic is a nation with outstanding natural beauty. Most famous for it’s historical towns and pilsner beer, this Eastern European nation is heavily reliant upon the tourist industry. Also renowned for stunning mountainous scenery and national parks, it is now home to increasing numbers of wind turbines.

Czech researchers set out to answer the question “Just how ugly are wind farms?”. Choosing two comparable countryside locations, they surveyed tourists and local residents. The one difference between the regions was that one had a large, visible wind farm and the other did not…

Are Wind Farms a Turn-Off to Tourists?

The survey results revealed that, despite local’s concerns, tourists seemingly weren’t put off by wind turbines at all. This findings showed:

  • People on vacation find electricity pylons and mobile phone masts more of an eyesore than wind turbines
  • Nearly all visitors (over 90%) didn’t think wind turbines caused the region to be less attractive or desirable
  • Wind Farms wouldn’t stop repeat visitors coming again
  • The majority of tourists (65%) would go to a wind farm if there was a visitor centre!

Ah, the wind farm museum… I can see it now: Happy families emerging from the wind farm museum all wearing spinning propeller caps!

The Local’s Opinion: “Wind Farms – Not in My Back Yard!”

No surprises here: Local residents were far less accepting of wind turbines. Many a local agreed to wind turbines in principle, but they feared how it would effect the area’s image.

It seems we all want a greener, cleaner future – but one that doesn’t inconvenience us, and especially one that doesn’t affect our house price!

Anyone for a propeller hat after a visit to the Wind Farm?

The researchers gave an upbeat conclusion for wind energy; but they conceded that these results may not apply to other parts of the world. However, the overwhelming finding was that our worries about the ‘ugliness’ of wind power may well be unfounded – and we should all try to base our perceptions of alternative energy on facts.

Question Marks Over Wind Power

The wind turbine stands for so much but serious concerns hang over whether this iconic invention could ever meet our energy-hungry needs. Opponents speculate that wind energy is inefficient, beset with logistical problems and ultimately unsustainable (see link below for more).

Concerns over he tourist trade are legitimate, but let’s hope is that these worries don’t stop us seeing the bigger picture…

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Thanks for reading – your comments and feedback are warmly welcomed!

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Related Posts:

The Future of Nuclear Power after Fukushima: Thorium Reactors?

A possible way to Survive Global Warming

References/More Info:

After reading this post, my father kindly emailed me a piece “Conflict in the Coutryside” he wrote about controversies surrounding Scottish Windfarms during his recent studies at Glamorgan University

Read an in-depth critique of ‘renewable energy’ (CATO Institute)

Perhaps having your own wind turbine could be a solution? (Energy Saving Trust UK)

Frantál, B., & Kunc, J. (2011). Wind turbines in tourism landscapes Annals of Tourism Research, 38 (2), 499-519 DOI: 10.1016/j.annals.2010.10.007

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About Stuart Farrimond

I love writing about science and health subjects. Strange, because I also teach the same things. I trained as a medical doctor before turning my hand to other things. Shortlisted for The Guardian/Observer for Science Writer of the Year 2011 and editor for Guru Magazine I also like to grow large pumpkins...

Discussion

7 thoughts on “Are Wind Turbines Ugly? New Research Gives Answers…

  1. Do you have a citation or link for the Czech survey? I’d be interested in looking at the results in further detail?

    Posted by Joy | June 6, 2011, 8:42 pm
  2. The author is glossing over the full context of wind turbines. It’s about the physical intrusion factor in general, not their aesthetics compared to similar sized structures (which are rare anyhow). Smokestacks of much shorter stature would be declared eyesores, yet wind turbines get excused by mere virtue of not burning oil; after construction, that is (truck trips, road building and clear-cutting take a big energy toll).

    Anything that turns a natural or bucolic area into something dominated by giant man-made structures IS ugly to those who are tired of seeing natural vistas vanish. Human overpopulation is constantly whittling away at nature and wind turbines are a big leap in that direction. Rural lands that never expected development are prime targets and the soulless desecration of landscapes should never be trivialized.

    Imagine a vandal running through museums and painting wind turbines on iconic landscape art. Would anyone say the paintings were improved by their presence? Aesthetic objections should be self-evident and attempts to rationalize them away are no less devious than AGW denial. Man is already ravaging the landscape with drilling, mining, roads, subdivisions, etc. Wind turbines clearly add to our net impact on nature. Climate change isn’t the only environmental problem!

    Their height and intended permanence makes them worse than oil and gas wells from a horizon/viewshed standpoint. At least drilled lands can be restored and equipment removed. Turbines are just too big and looming, like War of the Worlds tripods. Their movement creates added distraction. At night they look like an alien presence with red lights flashing. They also cast moving shadow-flicker on homes and create insidious noise that varies topographically and by time of day.

    Posted by E.A. | June 24, 2014, 12:38 am
  3. Keep in mind that wind turbine land occupation is far from complete! What you see today could be only a small percentage of future coverage if aesthetics lose to engineering zeal. A 2009 Stanford study on replacing fossil fuels said we’d need 3.8 MILLION “large wind turbines” to make a real energy dent. Put that in the context of the total number of skyscrapers in the world, which is well under 100,000 (150m+ buildings). And those are concentrated in urban areas, not spread over vast rural tracts.

    Wind turbines are essentially a global high-rise construction project and it’s hard to honestly justify them as non-ugly. Their “clean & green” badge is narrow-context buzzword propaganda. Any industrialized landscape is aesthetically fouled and less green than before, unless you ignore all visual impact and fixate on people getting (sporadic) electricity from it.

    Posted by E.A. | June 24, 2014, 12:56 am
  4. Why do we need “research” to understand visceral reactions to giant machines invading scenic areas, generating unnatural noise and killing wildlife? These eyesores are excused with buzzwords like clean & green but eyes and ears aren’t fooled. Wind energy is literally the biggest form of visual intrusion ever invented, with a typical new tower exceeding 400 feet and some ocean models over 700 feet. People complain about mere 80 foot cellphone towers, even when disguised as trees!

    The technicality of not emitting CO2 or particulates (after they’re built, that is) doesn’t free wind machines from serious criticism. The wind industry has become as corrupt as any business, which was inevitable, given the size and scope of their product and the need to greenwash them.

    Posted by Respect Silence | December 25, 2016, 11:19 pm
  5. Each people have own definition of beauty and ugly. I guess the set up of landscape is doesn’t nice that’s why they did not appreciate.

    Compare this one in Philippines.

    Not all people can please easily the beauty of wind farm.

    Posted by Christian Morales | February 14, 2017, 1:46 am

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