In Which I Visit A Wind Farm and Alex Rolls His Eyes Repeatedly


What shall I say about wind turbines?

Wind Farm Solo

The way Alex geeks out about Percy Jackson and Star Wars is the way I geek out about wind farms. I think they are really cool.

(Alex says I do not, by any stretch of the imagination, geek out about wind farms. He says I don’t know anything about them.)

But that is not entirely for lack of trying. I did, after all, spend four weeks before we went to Omaha, poring over maps, trying to find the name and contact info for a wind farm in the hopes that we could wrangle a tour.

Okay. So Alex says he knows almost every single freaking Greek myth, and I know nothing about wind farms. Therefore, this is a poor comparison.

But he’s laughing. And so am I. So we’re going to just go with it. And no, Alex, we are not going to look up Greek myths to prove your point. I got it. I’m ignoring it.

The point is, we stopped for gas in a tiny little town in the far northwest corner of Missouri, and almost as soon as we topped the rise, there they were: a whole landscape of wind turbines. And, unlike the one we saw in Perry, Iowa over Memorial Day—these were RUNNING.

I have wanted for several years to know what these things sound like. One of the big arguments against wind farms is the noise, after all. So I was very curious to know exactly what kind of noise level we’re talking about here. But I live in, hmmm, a state that is, by and large, unconvinced of the desirability of alternative energy. And although locally we are starting to have a middlingly-decent amount of solar, there’s only one wind turbine in my town, and it’s not one of those big suckers with the blades as long as two semi tractor beds.

Wind Farm Blade

So after we filled up the van, I asked the young woman at the counter where there was a road that would take us out among them, very close to them, without trespassing.

She looked at me like I was crazy, and she said: “Um, I don’t know? I live here, but I don’t really know anything about it.”

Well, then. There you go.

So we wandered east out of town for about two or three miles until we hit the jackpot: a gravel road bisecting two enormous soybean fields, with a dozen or so wind turbines scattered around them.

Wind Farm Landscape

We pulled into the driveway, stopping shy of the (open) gate that said “authorized personnel only,” and got out.

(How about that shadow?)

(How about that shadow?)

Wind Farm base

So what does a wind farm sound like? Alex says: “They didn’t sound like ANYTHING! They sounded like WIND BLOWING!”

I’d hoped to share a video, because I can’t be the only one who’s curious about this, right? (Right????) But it was incredibly windy that day, so the video I took with the DSLR came out with nothing but, well, wind noise. But the answer to my long-burning question about a) how much noise does a wind farm make, and b) what kind of noise, exactly, is: there’s a low hum that I can’t describe very well because it was buried under the noise of the wind blowing across the ridges. And then there’s the slow, lazy pulse of the blades: sssshhhhSHOOPsssshhhhSHOOPsssshhhhSHOOP.

It’s not silent by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s not as loud as I-70 from my backyard, which is a mile from the highway. So anyone who fusses about noise pollution needs to just calm down, because people are always building monstrosities of homes twelve feet from eight-lane freeways, so the whole noise pollution argument doesn’t hold water.

And I got to stand at the base of a running wind turbine. Check that one off the bucket list.

10 thoughts on “In Which I Visit A Wind Farm and Alex Rolls His Eyes Repeatedly

  1. ProfeJMarie (Janet Rundquist)

    I couldn’t remember what it was that opponents (read: locals) had against wind farms – and the noise issue is interesting. I suppose going from true quiet to even the whoosh whoosh of the blades can be a jump. I think the other argument might have been the view? ie: wrecking the horizon with big old metal things. I don’t know – those seem like kind of weak arguments over all for a pretty clean energy source. (Then again, I don’t think I know any more about them than you do, so maybe I should just stop talking now. Ha.)

  2. I LOVE wind turbines! When I used to go up to Conception Abbey (same part of the state) I always hoped I’d get a room overlooking the turbines. There’s something very peaceful about their movement against a beautifully blue sky. It’s always a thrill when they first come into view…

  3. Katherine LeDuc

    We have a wind farm in our county. There is considerable debate about the noise level. I drove out there one day and turned off my radio and rolled down the windows of the car. I heard nothing out of the ordinary. However, I don’t live in the immediate area and there could be a cumulative effect of that “Low hum’ you described. The other big complaint is that the turbines are killing the migratory birds in the area. I don’t know how true that is (Haven’t seen any bird carcasses or other convincing evidence of that problem. ) I personally think the windmills have a certain elegance about them.

  4. Nice Kate! Yes, I too have heard the arguments against wind power to be mainly noise, spoiled view (the argument Trump used in blocking offshore wind turbines because they were visible from his golf course in Scotland), and bird kill (an issue, but it should be noted bird mortality from collisions with wind turbines is less than for other man-made structures). Overall, it should also be noted that any adverse effects on human or animal health pale in comparison to the health effects of coal fired power plants – I know which one I would rather live near (and I do). Someday you should come geek out in Scandinavia! We have a lot of wind turbines here – both on the land and the sea. In Malmö the town’s abandoned shipbuilding yards have now been turned in to wind turbine manufacturing. Very cool!

  5. I hate them. I think they’re an eyesore… especially behind the Abbey. And yes they kill birds. And like anything mechanical, they have a lifespan. The older they get, the uglier they get. I fear the old ones will not be replaced or removed but will stand rusty and broken for years and years… reminders of a past era.

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