“It’s almost like a cult.”

Peter Sinclair, Yale Climate Connections, February 28, 2023

In small Michigan townships, local planning meetings have recently turned into shouting matches over wind and solar projects. Town supervisors report being harassed on Facebook and spit on in public. Often, the opposition comes from a small number of people who attend meetings in communities that are considering a renewable energy project — even if they don’t live there [like the developers? —Ed.]. And it’s not just happening in Michigan.

“If you look at the things that are being presented in our community, you’ll see the same exact tactics whether it’s in Ohio or Indiana or wherever you’re talking about,” said Ashlyn Newell, a teacher in Maple Valley Township, Michigan.

The anti-renewable opposition is seeing success. A report from Columbia University found that restrictions on renewable energy projects have popped up in 31 states. NPR reported recently on a proposed solar project that was shut down in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. And in 2022, activists in Montcalm County, Michigan, halted a 375-megawatt wind project.

Some of these protests appear to have ties to fossil fuel interests. A major player in the renewable energy opposition in rural Michigan is Kevon Martis, who works for E&E Legal, a D.C.-based lobbying firm that gets funding from the fossil fuel industry.


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US wind developers are losing the online battle against Nimby groups

There’s a growing concern within the wind industry that in communities considering hosting wind farms, the loud minority of opponents is increasingly trumping the silent majority of supporters who want the jobs and revenue that come with projects.

An analysis earlier this year validates those concerns. We tracked the online pushback faced by major wind developers from communities considering proposed wind farms. The findings showed that every developer is facing increasingly aggressive “Nimby” (not in my back yard) opposition, yet, few wind independent power producers (IPPs) are adopting the proactive digital strategies to meet or pre-empt local critics.

At best, Nimby pushback is raising costs through delays. At worse, half-a-billion-dollar wind farms are dying because 50 people shouted at their county commissioners during a public meeting.

This growing Nimby pushback against proposed wind farms is at odds with the strong support from communities with existing wind farms. A definitive 2018 study by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory of individuals living with five miles of US wind projects found “an overall positive attitude towards the nearby turbines, including for those living even as close as ½ mile”.
What’s behind the Nimby problem?

According to our analysis, five factors are driving Nimby problems for proposed wind farms:

  • Facebook is “the new town square” in rural areas, according to Avangrid Renewables’ director of communications, Paul Copleman, as it’s eclipsed traditional local newspapers, many of which are dying.
  • Most IPPs have restrictive social media policies in place, based on understandable global brand concerns about the messiness, emotion and time commitments that come with social media engagement.
  • Nimby groups organise online, then they show up in the room. The wind IPPs have ceded the digital ground to such an extent that “the opposition is eating our lunch”, according to Matt Wagner, manager of renewable energy development at Detroit-based DTE.
  • Projects are being built in communities that see undeveloped land as something to be conserved, rather than a resource to be used.
  • Nimbys are being helped with outside organisers and money, much of it from incumbent energy sources.

Time to raise our game

The good news? Among the IPP staff on the front lines of community engagement, there is a growing consensus that the industry must up its digital game by more proactively meeting community members where they are — online, not just across the table at the diner.
Wind and solar subsidies under attack in Texas
Read more

In a series of interviews with IPP staff, we found widespread agreement on the advantages of increased digital engagement, as well as basic best practices.

They shared nearly a dozen benefits the industry is missing due to digital constraints, including insulating persuadable community members against the predictable arguments of critics; profiling and amplifying supporters’ stories, and creating a credible alternative information source to Nimby Facebook groups.

Interviewees also collectively produced a list of digital best practices for their executive teams to consider, which included starting communicating early, before opposition groups form and gain momentum — it’s a race to define; showing wind farm benefits through supporters’ stories, captured on camera; and showing people the experience of those currently living near existing wind farms.

As Apex Clean Energy vice-president for public affairs, Dahvi Wilson said: “Opponents of one company’s projects can encourage and strengthen opponents to another company’s projects. Like it or not, we’re in the digital boat together. We need more companies to increase their investment in digital community engagement.”

At the staff level, the consensus for upping the industry’s digital game is solid and growing because, as Adam Renz, manager of business development for Pattern Energy, said: “Social media can de-risk projects.”

IPPs now have to first decide how they can de-risk social media from their global brands’ perspective. It’s a balancing act, for sure. But social media avoidance for wind farms is becoming more and more expensive. 

Mike Casey is president of Washington DC-based clean-tech communications agency Tigercomm.

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Wind farm syndrome in non–English-speaking countries

‘Chapman told The Australian Financial Review wind farm syndrome is almost exclusively confined to English-speaking countries.

‘”If it was real we would see it in Germany, Denmark, Spain, Portugal, Italy and France, but we tend not to.”

‘”I’ve checked with colleagues in Europe and they have never heard of it. They agree people have aesthetic objections but none object on health grounds.”

‘”The most telling example is in Canada where the province of Ontario is a hotbed of wind farm syndrome in certain areas, and in the neighbouring province of Quebec, where mainly French is spoken, it is almost unknown.”’

A quick look at National Wind Watch, however, shows quite otherwise.


France, Germany, Netherlands, Denmark and Sweden:

U.K., Denmark and Sweden:



The Netherlands:













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Despite the Need for Renewables, Opposition to Wind Farms Seems Here to Stay

One only needs to visit wind-watch.org or other anti-wind farm websites to see that opposition to wind farm projects, whether organic or not, isn’t going away anytime soon. Wind watch posts hundreds of articles per month, sometimes as many as twenty a day on wind projects across the globe. Just a quick internet search of projects gives us such news headlines such as “Giant wind farm bid near Hawick slammed as worst yet drawn up” or “Wind farms in Ohio pit environmentalists against some neighbors…” or “Savoy voters reject bylaw allowing taller wind turbines” as just a few quick examples of recent headlines.

What wind farm projects often need is a cohesive public affairs strategy that takes into consideration that invariably, some level of opposition will likely occur to a project, and waiting for that moment to act is already putting your project one step behind. Wind farm projects are not defeated because they are bad projects. They are defeated for a myriad of other reason, often led by fear tactics of the opposition, lack of public outreach by the developer, and project approval being stalled so long, that projects become financially not viable. Every month that goes by when approval of a project is “expected” but then delayed, results in numerous fees and costs that continue for the wind farm developers. Many opponents of projects know that “slowing is as good as stopping” in some cases.

Townships, counties and municipalities are also getting into the “slowing” movement of wind farm growth – with moratoriums. Moratoriums often allow communities to pause the development of wind farms while local zoning ordinances are rewritten or adjusted. The problem for wind farm developers is that these adjustments are almost always detrimental to siting wind projects. So now you need two public relations campaigns – one to educate the public on your actual project, and one to educate the public on the pitfalls of a moratorium. In my two decades of working on development projects, I have never seen a moratorium come “out of the blue”. There is always a reason for such actions. So what are the best tools to promote your project, build support and avoid political defeat or stalling of a project?

GET DIGITAL – Use digital and grassroots campaign tactics to build support amongst members of the community and public officials. To kick off any digital campaign, prepare a thorough website that regularly updates residents, dispels new myths and disseminates new information. Website content should allow the audience to obtain key ideas on project details and benefits without having to do too much reading. Visuals and well-organized content are key to ensuring your message gets across. This website should also include a link that allows people to submit letters of support directly to public officials and elected leaders as well as provide downloadable fact sheets, and any other resources that may help advocates build support.

GET SOCIAL – Social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter have grown into powerful campaigning tools. Facebook and Twitter accounts dedicated to the renewable proposal offer enormous opportunity to reach community members organically through peer-to-peer information sharing. Any content posted should be bolstered as needed by social media marketing, which is both cost efficient and effective to introduce the proposal to new audiences. These ads will increase awareness and drive website traffic to continuously reach new segments of the population.

With an effective digital strategy, supporters can be educated and harnessed to action. Citizen support makes a huge difference at public hearings, and key advocates can write letters, provide media quotes, offer testimonials, display lawn signs and more to show support throughout the approval process. Digital platforms allow supporters to stay updated on the most important times to take action as well as the most effective means to ensure their voices are heard.

GET TO THE STAKEHOLDERS – Contacting stakeholder groups both locally and regionally to coordinate grassroots efforts can amplify messaging through newsletters, email blasts, presentations to the organization’s members. Coordinating a call to action with stakeholders can greatly enhance support in a meaningful way.

Don’t let your wind farm project succumb to delays, moratoriums and zoning defeat. Wind farm developers have many options, and a great story to tell.

Al Maiorino
President, Public Strategy Group
Thursday, 05 October 2017

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Sample Zoning for Wind Energy Systems

This flyer presents a sample zoning ordinance for utility scale wind energy systems and smaller wind electric generation systems for an individual business or home. These guidelines were originally developed in April 2008 by the Energy Office, Michigan Dept. of Labor and Economic Growth (DLEG) (now the MIEnergy, Michigan Agency for Energy, http://www.michigan.gov/energy/) to assist local governments to develop siting requirements for wind energy systems. The 2008 sample zoning is still DLEG’s sample zoning for this topic. The material presented here is not intended to apply in urban areas. It has been developed with the intention of striking an appropriate balance between the need for clean, renewable energy and the necessity to protect the public health, safety, and welfare. The guidelines represent recommended zoning language for local governments to use in rural areas if they amend their zoning ordinance to address wind energy systems. …

Court and case law
Cautions and commentary
Noise issues
Not all wind farms are controversial
Sample zoning amendments for wind energy systems
General provisions

Add to Article 10 subpart 107 (a part of the general provisions of the zoning ordinance dealing with structures and accessory structures) the following provisions for small wind energy systems with short towers as a use by right. …

Designed to primarily serve the needs of a home, agriculture, or small business.

Shall have a tower height of 20 meters (65.6 feet) or less. …

On-site Use wind energy systems shall not exceed 40 dB(A) at the property line closest to the wind energy system. This sound pressure level may be exceeded during short-term events such as utility outages and/or severe wind storms. If the ambient sound pressure level exceeds 40 dB(A), the standard shall be ambient dB(A) plus 5 dB(A).

Special Use Standards

Add a section to Article 16 (the part of the zoning ordinance for specific special use permit standards). …

A Utility Grid Wind Energy System, On-site Use Wind Energy System over 20 meters (65.6 feet) high, and Anemometer Towers over 20 meters (65.6 feet) high shall meet the following standards in addition to the general special use standards: …

Utility Grid Wind Energy System setback shall be the greater distance of the following: … A distance of 2,500 feet from the property line of any parcel which is not receiving compensation for the Utility Grid Wind Energy System or On-site Use Wind Energy System.

The sound pressure level shall not exceed 40 dB(A) measured at the property lines or the lease unit boundary, whichever is farther from the source of the noise. This sound pressure level shall not be exceeded for more than three minutes in any hour of the day. If the ambient sound pressure level exceeds 40 dB(A), the standard shall be ambient dB(A) plus 5 dB(A). …

Site plan and other documents and drawings shall show mitigation measures to minimize potential impacts from shadow flicker, as identified in the Shadow Flicker Impact Analysis. Utility Grid Wind Energy System shall be:

a. A minimum of 5,400 feet or 20 times the rotor diameter, whichever is less, from a structure designed for human occupancy; or

b. Turned off (so the rotor(s) are not moving) during the period of time the structure designed for human occupancy experiences shadow flicker; or

c. Screened (forest, other building(s), topography) to shield the structure designed for human occupancy from a direct line of sight to the rotors causing shadow flicker.

Zoning districts
Site plan review
A summary of wind energy research and information

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Vermont Political Observer remains blinkered

John Walters, a so-called “liberal”, has recently taken issue with people getting sick – to the degree that they are forced to abandon their homes – from wind turbine noise. How dare they! And how dare the phenomenon continue to be documented and studied! By acoustic engineers and physicians instead of social scientists and wind energy PR departments, no less! Your purslane’s helpful comments on Walters’s blog to provide the information that Walters is (or pretends to be? prefers to be?) unaware of, particularly in reply to his unfounded dismissals, were rejected. Here they are.

State hires fox to guard henhouse


Mark Trigo
August 29, 2016 at 8:51 pm

The reality is that there are only a couple of people that have raised a substantive complaint to the towers that have already been built. If the anti-wind crowd was correct, we should have seen hundreds of people sick by now. But that hasn’t happened.

There are plenty of studies to suggest that this is a largely psychological phenomenon. Our experience in Vermont seems to back this up. A couple of people believe that they are sick, and 99% are just fine.

John S. Walters (Post author)
August 29, 2016 at 11:59 pm

THere was a study done in Australia that showed a strong correlation between cases of “wind turbine syndrome” and similar maladies on one hand, and anti-wind protests on the other. If a wind farm did not spark protest before its construction, nobody reported any ill effects. If there were protests, then there were complaints.

That strongly suggests a psychological dimension.

September 2, 2016 at 2:29 pm

[comment rejected (update: comment published Sept. 6 after Walters was ready with his inane dismissal)]

The “nocebo” theory to discredit victims was first promulgated by Simon Chapman of the University of Sydney (Australia) School of Public Health. It is easily dismissed itself. For example:


Shrine of the Holy Vortex Martyrs


September 2, 2016 at 1:32 pm

From 2013: List of non-industry non-government published reviews regarding wind turbines and health – http://wndfo.net/revs

From last Friday: Noise & Health 2016;18(83):194-205 – ‘Before–after field study of effects of wind turbine noise on polysomnographic sleep parameters’:

‘Fragmented and insufficient sleep can adversely affect general health impacting daytime alertness and performance, quality of life, and health, and potentially lead to serious long-term health effects. …

‘[R]eported quality of sleep significantly declined after exposure (P = 0.008). Participants also reported higher levels of stress before bedtime (P = 0.039) and in the morning (P = 0.064), and also reported feeling more sleepy (P = 0.013) in the morning and throughout the day (P = 0.014) after exposure. …

‘Noise difference [between preoperation and operation of turbines] correlated with the difference in the number of awakenings (r = 0.605, P = 0.001), SSC [sleep stage changes to a lighter stage] difference (r = 0.600, P = 0.001), arousal difference (r = 0.551, P = 0.004), and percentage of S2 [stage 2 sleep] difference (r = −0.499, P = 0.009).’

John S. Walters (Post author)
September 2, 2016 at 1:36 pm

Lovely. Numbers and fractions and multiple decimal places and everything. Just one question: If all this is true, how come the overwhelming majority of those who live near turbines report no ill effects?

September 2, 2016 at 1:59 pm

[comment rejected (update: comments published Sept. 6 after Walters was ready with his non sequitur dismissals)]

Yes, lower quality of sleep and disruption have been documented for more than a decade. In fact, before commercial turbines reached such large size around 2000, the ill effects on neighbors of a large research turbine were studied and reported by NASA in 1982. See: https://docs.wind-watch.org/NASA-bibliography-annotation-Wind-turbine-acoustics-Hubbard-Shepherd-Jan-1988.pdf

What is the basis of the claim that “the overwhelming majority of those who live near turbines report no ill effects”?

September 2, 2016 at 5:59 pm

[comment rejected]

Speaking of “holy places”, here’s Garret Keizer in the June 2007 Harper’s Magazine:

‘Apparently, this place that has never had much use to the larger world beyond that of hosting a new prison or a solid-waste dump turns out to be an ideal location for an industrial “wind farm,” ideal mostly because the people are too few and too poor to offer much in the way of resistance. So far only one of the towns affected has “volunteered” — in much the same way and for most of the same reasons as our children volunteer for service in Iraq — to be the site of what might be described as a vast environmentalist grotto of 400-foot-high spinning “crosses” before which the state’s green progressives will be able to genuflect and receive absolution before zooming back to their prodigiously wired lives.’

September 2, 2016 at 7:57 pm

[comment rejected]

The Maori in New Zealand and Aboriginal peoples of Australia also know about holy places, and they too must continually fight to protect them from the heedless zealotry of industrial wind development.

[[[[ | ]]]]

This just in from Northern Ireland, for but one more example of the problem:
Court Order Stops Noisy Wind Turbine

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VCE’s Investigation into the Environmental Health of the Lowell Mountains with Industrial Wind Turbines – July 2016

Vermonters for a Clean Environment's Blog


Screen Shot 2016-01-08 at 7.43.21 PM

1.  The “wet” ponds are predominantly dry or are not holding the volume of water necessary to provide water quality treatment as required by the VT Stormwater Management Manual.  Further, it is highly probable that instead of flowing through the outlet structure, stormwater is simply passing through the rock berms bypassing the water quality and peak flow attenuation necessary.  This seepage is also highly likely causing the iron seeps to form (see below).



Stormwater ponds and level spreaders receive sedimentation that is regularly cleaned out and deposited uphill and seeded.


Screen Shot 2016-03-04 at 12.57.26 PM

2.  The iron seeps that are being found at the project perimeter, and specifically downslope of stormwater management features is being caused by stormwater or intercepted groundwater flowing over sulfide bearing rock and leaching out metals, and in particular iron. 


When this occurs, the seep is comprised of a low pH (acid) floc that will both smother vegetation, wetlands…

View original post 983 more words

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The Arnstein ladder of citizen participation

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Circle jerks of peer review

Frontiers in Public Health helpfully publishes the review information of its articles:

Chapman S, Joshi K and Fry L (2014). Fomenting sickness: nocebo priming of residents about expected wind turbine health harms. Front. Public Health 2:279. doi: 10.3389/fpubh.2014.00279
Edited by:  Loren Knopper, Intrinsik Environmental Sciences, Canada [industry consultant, co-author of reviews denying health effects of wind turbine noise]
Reviewed by: 
Claire Lawrence, University of Nottingham, United Kingdom [co-author of papers blaming noise complaints from wind turbines on personality traits]
Jeffrey M. Ellenbogen, Johns Hopkins University, USA [co-author of Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection review that attempted to minimize and dismiss health effects from wind turbines]

(And let’s not overlook the Conflict of Interest Statement: Simon Chapman provided and was remunerated for expert advice on psychogenic aspects of wind farm health complaints by lawyers acting for Infigen Energy in the Cherry Tree VCAT case described in this paper. Ketan Joshi is employed by Infigen Energy.)

Crichton F, Chapman S, Cundy T and Petrie KJ (2014). The link between health complaints and wind turbines: support for the nocebo expectations hypothesis. Front. Public Health 2:220. doi: 10.3389/fpubh.2014.00220
Edited by:  Loren Knopper, Intrinsik Environmental Sciences Inc., Canada [industry consultant, co-author of reviews denying health effects of wind turbine noise and electromagnetic radiation]
Reviewed by: 
Robert G. Berger, Intrinsik Environmental Sciences Inc., Canada [industry consultant, co-author of review denying health effects of wind turbine noise]
James Rubin, King’s College London, UK [author of studies blaming electromagnetic sensitivity on psychological conditions]

(Conflict of Interest Statement: Simon Chapman has previously provided expert advice on psychogenic aspects of complaints about wind farm to lawyers acting for Infigen. Keith J. Petrie has previously provided expert evidence for the NZ Environment Court and the Canadian Environment Review Tribunal on psychological aspects of complaints about wind farm developments.)

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35 Reasons to Question Industrial Wind Power

Did you know or have you learned:

  1. that wind farms make people sick?
  2. that infrasound from wind farms makes people sick?
  3. that people living kilometres away from a wind farm are affected because of them?
  4. anything positive about Dr. Nina Pierpont’s wind-related work?
  5. that Wind Turbine Syndrome is a real medical condition?
  6. that wind turbines cause Vibroacoustic Disease (VAD)?
  7. that wind turbines are the same as military and police acoustic weapons?
  8. that shadow flicker causes epileptic seizures?
  9. that the World Health Organization has stated that wind turbines make people sick?
  10. anything positive about Australian Sarah Laurie’s or the Waubra Foundation’s wind-related efforts?
  11. that there are dozens or hundreds of ‘wind farm refugees’ who have had to leave their homes?
  12. that wind farms reduce property values?
  13. that wind farms require 100% backup?
  14. that the variability of the wind makes wind energy useless?
  15. that there are other wind generation technologies instead of the iconic three-blade turbines that are better and should be built instead?
  16. that wind turbines barely produce any electricity because they require so much to start, heat or cool?
  17. that wind energy shouldn’t be built at all, but one of nuclear energy, thorium nuclear energy, wave energy, tidal energy or geothermal should be built instead?
  18. that wind farms wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for subsidies?
  19. that wind energy is a scam or fraud?
  20. that wind farms actually contribute to global warming?
  21. that wind farms don’t reduce greenhouse gas emissions e.g. carbon dioxide?
  22. that wind farms damage ground water?
  23. that wind farms cause fires?
  24. that wind farms kill large numbers of birds?
  25. anything positive about Mark Duchamp’s or his various organizations’ — WCFN, STEI, EPAW — efforts related to wind energy?
  26. anything positive about Wind Concerns Ontario or Ontario Wind Resistance?
  27. anything positive about the Stop These Things site, Alan Jones’, Nick Xenophon’s or John Madigan’s efforts around wind energy?
  28. that wind turbines kill lots of bats?
  29. that wind turbines harm horses, cattle, goats, ostriches, mink or other farmed animals?
  30. that you should watch any of the documentaries Wind Fall, Con with the Wind or Wind Rush?
  31. that wind farms take up lots of land?
  32. that wind turbines are ugly?
  33. that wind farms don’t create rural and local jobs?
  34. that wind farm consultation processes were tightly controlled to eliminate any negative information?
  35. that there are gag orders in leasing contracts for land for wind turbines?

[source: Barnard on Wind]

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