Wind power is an up-and-coming form of clean energy that has the rare distinction of being up-and-coming while simultaneously being older than dirt (ancient Greeks used wind power to ventilate buildings, and before that it was pushing ships through the water). However, with the rise in popularity of clean energy, wind power is becoming more and more commonplace. As a result, a lot of misinformation is spread about it, both from those who would actively seek to discredit it, and from simple ignorance and “common sense.”

Here are seven popular myths about wind energy, and why they are wrong.

Turbines Are Spinning Blades of Avian Death

It’s been shown that birds and bats occasionally run into the turbine blades of windmills, so on the surface, it’s true; turbines kill flying creatures. So do airplanes, buildings, and mean-spirited brats with pellet guns, and any one of those three kill more birds in a year than turbines do.

This myth stems from a wind farm built in Altamont Pass in California. Someone, in their infinite wisdom, decided to put many turbines close together right smack in the migration path of certain types of birds. They were also built low to the ground and close together, making it much more likely that the birds would run into them. Newer turbines are taller (over many birds’ flight path), more widely spaced, and not built on bird highways where generations of imprinting told them it was safe before someone placed a food processor in their way.

Statistics state the turbines annually kills less than one out of every 30,000 birds that live around them. Compared to the number of birds killed every year by buildings, roughly 19,300 birds die by running into an immobile structure than the blades of turbines. If you’re going to use this as an argument against wind-power, then you should probably protest the existence of cities and homes before tackling the windmill issue.

Wind Power Causes Localized Global Warming

The same people who will shriek “shenanigans” the second you mention global warming or man-made climate change will happily jump on this one as an argument against clean energy. “Your precious wind power causes global warming! Which isn’t real! Except in this case in which it works for me!”

They then drive off listening to Cat Scratch Fever and offering up prayers to Ted Nugent. Or maybe not, but it really is hard to comprehend that people will believe Earth either isn’t getting warmer, or if it is, it must be hippies trying to keep things green and not their 40-year-old truck.

This is another myth that has some grounding in actual data, but it is nothing close to what the opponents would claim. Recent studies have shown that wind farms can have an effect on the local climate, but to have a worldwide impact, the amount of land covered by wind turbines would have to exceed that used for farming, and I doubt that is in our near future, no matter how many people decide wind power is the way to go. The studies found that the turbulence caused by the turbines’ wake can cause warm air to be dragged down, increasing the overall temperature of the area behind the wind farm. It also turns out that this side effect might lead to increased use of wind power, since you can set up a wind farm for free power, then use the naturally occurring side effect of their presence to allow farms located downwind to grow crops over a longer portion of the year thanks to the mild increase in temperature.

Mind you, these changes are very localized, and wind farms are not causing the ice caps to melt. That is still the fault of burning coal and drag racing stepside trucks.

Wind Power Is Expensive

Like most myths, there is a certain degree of truth to this. Start-up costs for a wind farm are in the millions since modern wind turbines are not exactly some fabric and sticks on a twisty thing for running a simple mill or dredge up water. They have to hook into an existing power grid, require a decent expanse of land, and have to deal with the typical costs associated with building anything massive on Earth where a government holds sway (which is most of it).

While it does cost a virtual arm and leg to build a wind farm, it also costs a disturbing amount to build a new coal or oil plant, and wind power does not require mining or drilling operations, dependence on other countries, or a near-constant supply of dangerous fuel to be shipped in. You build it, maintain it, and let the air do what it’s been doing since there has been an atmosphere and convection currents (that’s a few billion years, for Earth anyway.)

Wind Power Is Noisy

Noise created by wind turbines used to be an issue; there are stories of nearby wind farms driving locals mad with the constant wooshing noise and the annoying flicker caused by the spinning blades. I’m the kind of person who goes nuts if the fan has a slight rattle or I’m trying to sleep with a single LED on the radio showing, so I can understand the concern here, and it was an issue with older models.

However, as with all technological improvements, the newer turbines are quieter, and are typically built away from dwellings so that any noise and obnoxious strobing they cause will be away from the people it is supposed to be helping. According to a noise comparison chart, the noise generated by a wind farm is somewhere between a quiet bedroom and a car at 40 mph. That almost sounds downright relaxing, but I will reserve judgement since the closest wind turbine to where I live is almost an hour away.

Wind Power Is Unreliable

Wind is like the sun, the ground and obnoxious teenagers on the internet; it’s always there, even if occasionally circumstances make it so that we can’t tell. While almost everywhere experiences some break in the wind (oh, grow up), wind farms are typically built in areas with a fairly constant windflow, so the amount of time it is viable on any given day is statistically about as good as solar power is on any given day.

The intermittency issue brings us to the fact that there will be times that the wind is simply not blowing, or perhaps not strong enough to move the turbines. This does not mean that the fossil fuel energy source must then kick in to provide backup, thereby generating more pollution. In reality, if the wind power is hooked into the same grid as, say, and natural gas plant, then they are both being used at the same time, all the time. With the current state of things, the fossil fuels aren’t providing a dirty helping hand to the wind turbines, the wind is alleviating the load from the fossil fuels.

Wind Turbines Are Ugly

This is mostly in the eye of the beholder, but it appears that most people find the new, sleek designs of windmills to be somewhat pleasing, if not downright pretty. Obviously I can’t speak for everyone, but surveys seem to imply that people on the whole find them to be acceptable, if not actually enjoying their presence.

Wind Power Is a Drain on the Local Economy

Pick your poison here; turbines drop property values, kill tourism, cost taxpayers more money than other types of energy, they are unsafe. For the first one, property values are determined by a great number of variables, and the numbers appear to support the “inexpensive, clean energy nearby” is only a turn-off to people who hate money and love pollution. This is not typically the demographic people want to live near, so it’s kind of a dead argument.

For tourism, it has been shown in the UK that wind farms are actually often a tourist attraction. My math may be off, but attracting tourists seems to be in the list of top 10 things that actually help the tourist trade. As far as costing taxpayers more, the government subsidizes all forms of energy, and wind power does not come with the requisite need to work on maintaining clean air (it causes no air pollution), nor does require the massive insurance needed for a nuclear plant. While nuclear is relatively safe, it only takes one mistake to make the surrounding area unlivable for a generation.

Lastly, wind turbines are safe. The blades do not spontaneously fly off, and ice buildup is not much of a concern because the engineers who designed them accounted for it when they made plans. As far as human fatalities are concerned, in the last 35 years, there have been 20 accidents that resulted in a human death related to wind energy — and most of them were people falling from the turbines because they did not take the necessary precautions when climbing a multi-story structure with moving parts. You are at more risk of being killed simply by being outside. Statistically, you could stand next to a turbine to increase your chances of living (I have nothing to back that up).

In the end, wind is safe and effective. Like any technology, it requires intelligent, consistent use and care when operating it. If you are worried about having a wind farm nearby, just remember: If you don’t jump off of it or fly into the blades, odds are pretty good all you will experience is cleaner air and a drop in your electric bill.

Main photo credit:

Avian death myth photo credit: Dirk Ingo Franke

Warming myth photo credit:  Evelyn Simak

Expensive myth photo credit: Winchell Joshua

Noisy myth photo credit: Davagh

Unreliable myth photo credit: Trent Brome

Ugly myth photo credit: John Wright

Economy drain myth photo credit: Winchell Joshua