A new poll conducted by Stanford University gauges public perception about the vertical axis wind turbines.
Vertical axis wind turbines are smaller and quieter than more broadly used horizontal energy producing windmills. Image Credit: Anders Sandberg via flickr.
As you likely already know, competing forces within environmental activist communities often complicate the work of environmental engineers and consultants. When it comes to wind energy, the tension between advocates and the opponents of wind energy is particularly evident. While proponents of wind farms point to the fact that wind is a clean, renewable means of generating electricity, those who argue against the use of wind turbines cite concerns about visual and noise pollution, as well as the potential detrimental effects on wildlife.
The Need for Wind Energy
As the projections about global warming become reality, the public is putting pressure on industry and politicians to find viable solutions to combat climate change. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons
While political groups bicker about whether carbon-based energy sources truly impact the environment, the public is starting to feel the heat of global climate change. For example, some of the key facts cited in the latest assessment of the effects of global climate change published by NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information include the following:
- The global average temperature during October 2017 tied with that recorded in 2003, which was the hottest on record. NOAA began tracking global average temperatures in 1880.
- In the United States, during October 2017, the states along the Eastern Seaboard experienced record breaking warmth. During the same period, the Southwest, Plains, and Southeastern regions experienced new or worsening drought conditions, which accounts for 12 percent of the lower 48 US land mass.
- During October 2017, the extent of sea ice coverage in the Arctic region reached its smallest area since NOAA started keeping records in 1979. The sea ice coverage in the Antarctic reached was the fifth smallest on record.
- Portugal had the highest temperature ever recorded.
- Australia experienced its tenth warmest October and Queensland had its third wettest October.
As temperatures and sea levels rise, the scientific community and the public are looking for clean and renewable energy alternatives to greenhouse gas producing carbon-based methods. Wind turbines and windmills, first used in China and Persia in 2,000 BC, are such a resource. Furthermore, wind energy already has a proven track-record in the United States as 20 states produce at least five percent of their power through wind and the total US wind power generating capacity is 84,143 MW. In fact, in 2016, Iowa became the first state in the United States to generate over 30 percent of their power from wind.
Vertical Axis Turbines May Overcome Negative Public Opinions about Wind Energy
Vertical wind turbines have small footprints that allow their integration into urban environments. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons
During the past decade, those who want to develop wind farms have faced significant headwinds as communities have opposed them. These activist groups complain about the noise and aesthetic pollution produced by horizontal wind turbines, as well as their negative impact on birds, bats, and other wildlife. A recent survey of public opinion conducted by environmental engineers at Stanford University and published in the journal Energy Policy shows that educating the public about the benefits of vertical axis wind turbines may lessen their concern.
According to one of the principal investigators of this study, John O. Dabari, the advantages of vertical axis wind turbines when compared to the more broadly used horizontal axis wind turbines include:
- Vertical axis wind turbines operate at lower speeds than horizontal axis wind turbines, thus making them quieter and less of a hazard to wildlife.
- Since the vertical axis wind turbines are smaller than their horizontal axis counterparts, they have less of a visual impact since they are more difficult to see from a distance.
- Due to the nature of their design, vertical axis wind turbines do not have to be oriented to wind direction, making them easier to integrate into urban built-environments when compared to horizontal axis wind turbines.
In a web and mobile device survey that included 2,000 residents of California aged 18 and older, the Stanford research team noted the following findings:
- The respondents thought the greatest benefit of vertical wind turbines is the reduction in bird, bat, and other wildlife deaths.
- As long as vertical axis turbine wind farms are located 50 miles away from their homes, 75 percent of those who took the survey expressed favor for building new wind farms.
- Respondents who completed high education and held concerns about climate change were most likely to approve of the integration of vertical axis wind turbines into urban environments.
To learn more about recent research involving vertical axis wind turbines, take time to watch the following video:
What is your opinion about vertical axis wind turbines? Do you think they would be accepted in your community? Why or why not?