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16 Jul 2009

An Alarming Side Effect of Wind Energy That We Have All Overlooked

wind-energyHave spent the day writing a ‘Transition Take on the UK Low Carbon Transition Plan’, which I will post soon.  One of the things it commits the Government to is a five-fold expansion of wind power over the next 10 years.  We have reported on many of the more colourful reasons people give for an expansion of wind generation being a bad idea, from the danger to them from flying cows and UFOs to the danger from terrorist attack.  A piece over at New York Times online, reporting on the UK government’s plan, produced a comment so astonishingly stupid that it ranks now even above those previously mentioned. 

The comment went thus;

I am very concerned that these wind farms will affect the natural wind patterns thereby affecting weather patterns. A consensus of my friends who are scientists believe that a wind farm of this scale will shift the earth off its rotational axis and send it hurtling toward the sun in a matter of decades. Who stupid are these Brits? Don’t they realize that human actions on such a scale have worldwide consequences? Such an attempt to destroy the planet should be considered an act against humanity and declaration of war. Where is the condemnation from the UN?

Even more wonderful was the response someone else posted;

“A consensus of my friends who are scientists believe that a wind farm of this scale will shift the earth off its rotational axis and send it hurtling toward the sun in a matter of decades”
I think if you check carefully you’ll find that either
a) your friends are not actually scientists
b) they are pulling your leg

Learn some physics. Maybe some maths. Hell, just learn something based on facts.

Categories: Climate Change, Energy

Comments are now closed on this site, please visit Rob Hopkins' blog at Transition Network to read new posts and take part in discussions.


Eoin O'Callaghan
16 Jul 5:11pm

This reminds me of a talk I was at on the potential for renewable energy in Ireland. During the questions and answers session after the presentation, a man in the audience berated the speaker, saying that developing tidal energy would cause the moon to vacate its orbit around the Earth.

16 Jul 5:54pm

There was a debate broadcast on Radio Scotland last year, in which a member of the public questioned why Scottish Power sent electricity into the turbines in order to make them turn on non-windy days. His reasoning was that there was a conspiracy to make the turbines appear more efficient than they were.

Lee Shelton
16 Jul 6:57pm

Hey, a major world government (the UK government may or may not be this, but that is for another discussion) has actually made a halfway decent decision; someone has to poopoo it somewhere and somehow, even if it does smack of the aforementioned substance. It would be wierd if everyone just agreed.

risa b
16 Jul 7:04pm

This is like the letter-to-the-editor that ranted about “We should all get our meat from the store, so that no animals are killed” — something to that effect.

16 Jul 7:20pm

Dont forget the one from a few hundred years ago – that goes along the lines of the earth is flat – so eventually we would sail over the edge of it…..hmmmm…..

Though I do wonder about whether wind turbines make the amount of noise to those living bang nearby that I’ve read they do – now THAT would be worrying – if I lived bang near by…

Kevin Wilson
16 Jul 8:30pm

The idea of wind farms throwing the earth off its rotational axis is, of course, nuts.

But let’s remember that our current problems are the result of side-effects of previous technology, either unexpected, or pointed out by some (of us) and laughed off at the time. Wind and solar energy technologies are probably going to have some unexpected and unwanted side-effects too, so let’s not fall into the trap that our predecessors did.

John in NH
16 Jul 8:50pm

I seem to remember reading that on the very very large farms there is a small change in local weather patterns, but I don’t remember more then that. however with the education system the way it is today I don’t doubt that some of these people really and truly believe these things to be true, its very sad really.

16 Jul 9:06pm

I think the commenter was making a joke. It’s funny.

claude saint-jarre
16 Jul 10:17pm

Buckminster Fuller’s boook : Critical Path might be useful here with his idea of a world electric grid to which would be connected among others wind mills.Using only wind,could give us more energy than we need if it is connected to the grid, because there is always wind at 100 miles of anywhere .But hows to take care of the grid in a post petrol world remains a good question.

Eamonn Mullally
16 Jul 10:32pm

Some articles highlighted on the Construct Ire Forum a couple of days ago in relation to wind farms.

Watch out for UFOs…be-taken-down/
10 yr lifespan…iant-wind.html
Stand well clear now…
Chinese take away?
Ice and slice
Dizzy and sick…005?hub=Health

robin chalmers
16 Jul 10:50pm

I am reminded of a scheme proposed during the cold war. Tie all your aeroplanes to the ground all facing east and run them all up to full power. This will slow down the earths rotation and leave Russia in the dark (assuming you pick the right time to do it).

As a card carrying skeptic, I applaud your efforts to expose these unfounded ideas.
Today’s world seems to me to be awash with these and we Transitioners need to combat the when they cause other people to believe the unbelievable.

I meet many people in the course of my work as a Transitioner and I hear some remarkably stupid ideas. One guy told me that oil was not a non-renewable resource because after we had used up all the present supplies, the earth would make new deposits. I suggested to him that if his idea was true, it would take hundreds of millions of years and the source of the new oil would be the bodies of all the animals in the world including us.

17 Jul 1:36am

Here are some papers examining this issue:

Weather response to management of a large wind turbine array –

Use of Wind Energy in Power Generation: Some Questions –

Can large wind farms affect local meteorology? –

Influence of large-scale wind power on global climate –

Impact of a large-scale offshore wind farm on meteorology –

Climate Impact of Surface Roughness Anomalies –

Oh really, we all know people only object to wind farms because they spoil the view. But I’d rather have a spoiled view than no view at all, and I quite like the look of them.

17 Jul 7:59am

Yes Roger, one wonders whether the medieval Dutch had the same problems from their neighbours when they wanted to put up windmills to grind their grain… nasty ugly things…:)

17 Jul 12:44pm

It’s unfortunate that the quoted comment descended into absurdity (perhaps deliberately), because the initial premise is valid: There is a consequence of removing energy from the wind. It would take an awful lot of turbines to make a global or even regional change, but locally already, areas downwind of wind energy facilities look like thunderstorms on weather radar. For example:


New York:


Andrew Clarke
18 Jul 12:43pm

What a sorry state we are in! There is an awful lot of shockingly bad misinformation spread around by those trying to prevent wind power. Its notable that those protesting against decentralised local community renewable energy are predominantly pro centralised big power and nuclear! Unfortunately plenty of people seem all to keen to latch onto it and be gently befuddled by their stories.

What we are also seemingly missing is that as energy is trapped in our atmosphere due to global warming wind speeds are increasing. The amount of energy we remove by increasing use of wind turbines is minimal compared to what we have already inavertently added. Wind Turbines should be viewed as a method of removing excess energy from environments, perhaps even protecting properties and farming down wind of them!


The apparent appearance of thunderstorm like images on weather radar downstream of wind turbines is due to the rapidly reduced wind speed. Weather radar or LiDar relies on measurements of particles in the atmosphere to detect how fast the wind is moving. In a super cell or thunderstorm cloud the predominant movement is vertically with less side to side movement of wind. Weather radar if incorrectly calibrated to vertical movement will detect this sudden drop in lateral sideways windspeed downstream of turbines and relate it too something similar to a thunderstorm i.e. reduced sideways movement. Luckily we have knowledgeable meteorologist who see these phenomena as a source of mild distraction as they have moved to 3D interpretation of the scanning LiDar and can clearly see the difference.

It would be mildy amusing if it where not so destructive as the anti wind brigade whip it up into another fairy story disaster scenario!

18 Jul 2:15pm

Actually, Andrew, it is thought that global warming is more generally slowing the wind:

And yes, the meteorological radar can be recalibrated to account for wind facilities. NOAA is already doing so. The point was to show that large wind turbines do indeed create an atmospheric effect downwind.

Andrew Clarke
18 Jul 6:48pm

We need to be careful using data from the US for a selected period as a reflection of global trends. The same way that increasing intensity of rainstorms causing flooding in the UK are no reflection of increased drought and desertification in sub saharan Africa. Wind speeds are increasing globally, hence the term global warming. One area particularly, the UK will see average wind speeds increasing over the next 50-80yrs by between 12-18% in winter with more modest increases in summer. Please refer to the UKCIP09 projects for some excellent peer reviewed scientific evidence of this.

18 Jul 7:26pm

The cited paper analyzes the results of 7 other data sets as well, from around the world: “Studies that have analyzed wind speed data from terrestrial anemometers have generally found declines over the last 30-50 years.”

Syn Diesel
18 Jul 8:04pm

Ha. That comment reminds me of the comment thread that grew over at the page listing a container of uranium for sale.

Vidar Kristiansen
20 Jul 1:14am

@Robin Chalmers

You wrote:”One guy told me that oil was not a non-renewable resource because after we had used up all the present supplies, the earth would make new deposits. I suggested to him that if his idea was true, it would take hundreds of millions of years and the source of the new oil would be the bodies of all the animals in the world including us.”

Actually there are people who believe some very weird ideas regarding this issue of exactly how the earth is supposed to make this “new deposit”. Some of them even deny that oil is a fossil fuel in the first place. Just have a look at this page for instance:

Terrence Reed
20 Jul 9:47am

While there are benefits to Wind Energy, every silver lining has a cloud. I am sure that Henry Ford would be right in saying that a few hundred cars will have no effect on the Earth’s climate. Everything has an effect. Energy does not come out of thin air, it has to come from some force and as such when we tap the energy of that source we in some way, inperceptibly as it may be, effect that source. We have thrown caution to the wind for too long. We should look good and hard before we jump into Wind, Solar, Ethanol, Nuclear, Fission, or any type of Power. What is most important is that we conserve as much energy as possible. No matter the source, energy costs the Earth.

23 Jul 8:39pm

I reckon i can trump this story.

I went to see Conservative MP Peter Lilley to ask about why more money was spent on nuclear than windfarms. He said that windfarms were a lot more dangerous than nuclear. I had expected him to have a reason but I had to say this one caught me a bit cold. I asked him to explain his reasoning. His argument was that there would have to be windfarms all around the coast and the blades would brake off and hit people on beaches – presumably chopping of their legs and arms. The casualty rate would be huge.

Good to know we have such creative thinkers in our government to be!

24 Jul 7:47am

Without wishing to give credence to any of this scaremongering, the point made by the man at Eoin O’Callaghan’s talk might have had point about the tides and their effect on the moon. Well, at least there might have been a tiny grain of truth behind it. The subject was discussed on the Material World on Radio 4 yesterday ( – as I remember the argument, the frictional energy loss of the tides on earth leads to a loss of rotational inertia of the moon and it is therefore edging slowly away from the us (measurements from laser ranging back this theory). The drift away is only a few nanometres a day though so we’ve probably got larger issues to worry about!

1 Oct 5:52am

OMG, Thank you, I can not stop laughing and such stupidity. Thank god we don’t have quite such stupid fools here in Australia.

Mark Rahm
9 Oct 4:16am

A woman who opposes the construction of a wind farm in our county says her reasons are based on “well documented facts” that she has “several pages of”. One of her arguments is that they cause “dizziness, nausea, and increased migraines.” My response to her would be “don’t watch the blades turning, maybe that won’t happen.” The people in favor of it, and the local media, don’t give much time to hear her side of it, and most are in favor of bringing jobs to the area with this project.

9 Oct 12:58pm

The dizziness, nausea, and increased migraines appear to be caused by low-frequency noise from the turbines, not the flicker. This is an increasingly documented effect, sometimes called “wind turbine syndrome”. Or such health effects may simply be the consequence of disrupted sleep from the turbine noise, which is often much louder at night.