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Electric Currents

Wind Turbine Syndrome: Sleepless in Wisconsin

Based on public opinion polls in six midwestern states, the nearly 650 wind turbines in Wisconsin represent a clear and present public health threat in the view of more than 20% of the population. Across Lake Michigan, some 18% of Michiganer's concur. That view is shared by some 14% of the population in Illinois, Minnesota and Ohio.

The question is, Is it correct?

Curiously, in Iowa, just across the river from my home here in Omaha, the percentage is just some 7%, one-third that of Wisconsin, as reported on the EtwasLuft blogspot (German for 'Some Air').

Intuitively, you'd assume that there are far more wind farms in Wisconsin than there are in Iowa. After all, the more wind farms there are out there, the more of the population exposed to their alleged deleterious effects, which Climate Central characterizes as "headaches… sleeplessness… vertigo, blurred vision, and forgetfulness."

It turns out that intuition is dead wrong. There are 8 times the number of wind turbines in Iowa (5,177 as 2014) compared to 648 in Wisconsin. There are nearly as many wind turbines in Iowa (many of them visible as you drive along Interstate 80 west of Des Moines) as there are in California. Only Texas has more turbines, well north of 12,000 at last count.

The animated GIF below highlights the growth of the wind industry in the United States.

What can we conclude from this? That perception, for many of us, often is reality. I think as EtwasLuft rightly concludes, simply "using science and information to address residents' fears and debunk myths" isn't good enough.

"If someone adopts a belief for social, political or ideological reasons, scientific information won't be enough to cancel it out."

Wind energy proponents should view these polls as a warning, EtwasLuft cautions.

"… ignore sociology and psychology, and you'll draw the gap between reality and perception even wider."

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