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The Best Place For Wind Isn’t Where The Wind Blows The Most

The Best Place For Wind Isn’t Where The Wind Blows The Most

When I was reading an article about wind turbines and farms recently, I wondered where some of the best places to build wind turbines are located. So, I did some research to find out where these machines should be built for maximum efficiency. 

What is the best place for wind turbines? The best places for wind farms and turbines are in places where levels of wind are strong and consistent. These areas can be anywhere from hilltops to mountain regions as well as on coastlines in the ocean. The ideal average wind speeds in the location where a series of wind turbines will be placed should be approximately 15 miles per hour or higher. 

Wind energy is a growing concept that is constantly developing and improving all across the globe. Additionally, it is becoming more widely accepted as a primary source of electricity for multiple countries and regions all around the world.

As a result, tons of wind farms and individual turbines are being developed and constructed everywhere. Let’s take a look at some of the best places to collect energy from the wind and what some of the requirements are for these locations that are considered ideal. 

Related: How Far Apart Do Wind Turbines Have To Be?

The Most Ideal Locations for Wind Turbines and Farms

The factors that determine the best places for wind turbines to be built in order to collect as much wind energy as possible include the wind speeds and consistency thereof as well as access to power grids and the wildlife and residents in the area.

The basic function of a wind turbine is to rotate its blades along with the wind to generate electricity from the kinetic energy it provides. As a result, the wind speeds in the area must reach at least 15 miles per hour most of the time.

In addition to the minimum wind speeds that are required, the wind must also be consistent enough to where the wind turbines can produce an adequate amount of electricity from it.

Considering the fact that the wind and weather patterns are relatively inconsistent and unpredictable, the climate of the area in which the wind turbines are built should be consistently windy more often than not, or else the machines will not be able to fully carry out their functions. 

The most ideal locations in the United States for wind turbines and farms include the West Coast near the ocean, with some of the largest wind farms located in California and Oregon. In fact, the biggest wind farm in the entire world is located in California, also known as the Alta Wind Energy Centre.

This wind farm has a total energy capacity of over one thousand megawatts. Another desirable location for wind energy projects in the United States is in the Midwest region of the country, home to flat terrain and windy plains. One of the most notable wind farm projects in the midwestern states is the Fowler Ridge Wind Farm located in the state of Indiana.

Nestled close to the state’s capital of Indianapolis, the project has almost 300 total wind turbines. The same company that built the Fowler Ridge Wind Farm went on to develop several other wind projects including the Benton County Wind Farm and Camp Grove Wind Farm within the same area. 

Since there is little to no wind in the Eastern portion of the United States, you will find most large wind farms within the region that is between the Midwest and West Coast. 

In addition to the wind farms that are scattered across the United States, there are just as many wind energy projects located all around the world. Some of the largest offshore wind farms are located in the United Kingdom. The biggest offshore wind project is located in the Irish Sea in England.

Also known as Walney Wind Farms, it is a collection of hundreds of wind turbines just off the coast that generates several hundred megawatts of energy every year. Not too far from Walney Wind Farms is the London Array Offshore Wind Farm, which comes in second place for the title of the largest offshore wind farm in the world. 

Where Wind Turbines Can Be Placed Within a Wind Farm 

With the increasing amount of wind turbines and farms that are appearing almost everywhere around the world, there are certain regulations that should be followed in the planning stages of any wind project. One of the most important regulations is the minimum space that is required between each wind turbine machine.

These minimum space requirements will help the turbines function to the best of their abilities and achieve their maximum levels of energy output every year. These limits will vary depending on the size and reach of each turbine’s blades.

Wind turbines that are larger than residential machines on a utility-scale will require much more room in between them than a smaller machine that might be placed in the backyard of a farmhouse. Some turbines have the energy capacity to create several megawatts of energy, which translate to one million watts each.

As a general reference, the rule for calculating the minimum distance that should be placed in between each wind turbine is the measurement of 7 rotor diameters of the specific blades of that turbine. The diameter of a wind turbine’s reach can be calculated by measuring the length of one of the rotor blades extending outward from the center of the rotor hub.

This calculation of the rotor blade’s diameter will then be multiplied by the number 7 to determine how much of a distance should be established between each turbine before they are installed into the ground. 

If these regulations are not adhered to when a wind energy project is planned and built, there will be severe consequences when the wind speeds begin to activate the functions of each wind turbine.

These rules are required due to the fact that there are certainly logical reasons that motivate the space limitations that should be placed between each functioning wind turbine.

The most important reason for these general rules is so the turbines do not run into each other while they are spinning with the wind. Wind turbines possess very long rotor blades that spin with the wind and work to harness its kinetic energy in order to take it in and convert it to usable electricity using a variety of components within itself.

In the event of a severe storm or other extreme weather conditions, any damage inflicted on the outside of a single turbine will transfer to the other nearby machines. This would severely limit the efficiency of all the machines and cause unnecessary wear and tear to the equipment. 

Along with the physical reasons for these minimum space regulations, there is a scientific theory that supports them. This theory is known as the “wake effect”. It concludes that some wind turbines are able to take more energy than others if they are in certain locations.

More specifically, the wind’s kinetic energy can be slowed down or completely taken away by a wind turbine that is too close to the same area as another group of turbines. As a result, wind turbines should be properly spaced out in order to avoid any issues including exterior damage and loss of efficiency. 

There are other factors that motivate these regulations among wind turbines besides the safety of the machine parts, including the actual efficiency potential of the machines. On average, it has been reported that each wind turbine currently requires a distance of approximately 300 feet between them.

This is equal to the estimated total of 7 complete rotor diameters for the averagely sized wind turbine as discussed earlier. In addition, recent research has provided the conclusion that wind turbines might require even more space between them, exceeding previous limits for minimum spacing requirements that are abided by all over the world today. 

This specific research was conducted at Johns Hopkins University to prove the statement that for maximum efficiency, each wind turbine will require much more space to collect and convert energy as comfortably and frequently as possible.

The total space required should be calculated among a variety of factors, including efficient space for the concrete foundation underneath the towers that work to keep them standing upright into the wind.

This should be a stage in the initial planning of the wind project, and the foundations of each turbine should not interfere with any others to create adequate space. The distance between the field of wind turbines and nearby power substations should be properly measured and planned out as well.

The final results of the research confirmed that there should be an average of 4 megawatts per square kilometer accounted for when planning out the construction of multiple wind turbines in the same area. 

Why Wind Turbines Shouldn’t Be Placed Just Anywhere 

While it is true that wind turbines can be built almost anywhere in the world as long as they have adequate space in between them, there are additional factors that should be considered before each wind energy project is carried out.

Within recent years, wind turbines have been proven to have adverse effects on various ecosystems across the world, including endangered species of wildlife. The largest percentage of animal deaths caused by wind turbines by far involve flying species of animals like birds and bats.

There have been numerous studies performed on this subject in order to highlight the connection between wind turbines and bird and bat fatalities. Bats, however, suffer many more yearly deaths by wind turbines than birds do by far. 

It has been concluded by scientific research that millions of bats suffer deaths from the spinning blades of wind turbines or the intense pressure they create in the atmosphere every single year. Furthermore, the blades of wind turbines account for over three-fourths of all bat deaths across the entire world.

These statistics were proven by the results of a study that was completed in recent years in the Appalachian Mountain region. A group of scientists tracked and studied the flying patterns of bats and calculated the fatalities that occurred when the animals came in contact with the machines.

Similar to the bat deaths that are caused by wind turbines, hundreds of thousands of bird deaths have been recorded as each year goes by that were caused by the blades of spinning wind turbines. 

To be exact, wind turbines actually account for a total of 300,000 annual bird deaths. However, most people that are involved in the wind energy industry have failed to acknowledge this issue, due to the fact that the turbines do not account for nearly as large of a percentage of bird deaths will all other causes considered.

In fact, it has been proven scientifically that birds are hundreds of times more likely to be killed between the paws of a common house cat than the blades of a wind turbine.

As a general guideline, it would be a good idea for wind energy project developers to avoid certain areas that are home to endangered species in order to protect wildlife as much as possible, even though there are little to no physical limitations that are involved in the planning of wind turbines and farms

In addition to the physical harm that is inflicted on flying animals that live in the area in which new wind turbines are built, there have been multiple rumors over the years of an epidemic nicknamed the “wind turbine syndrome”.

This syndrome began when farmers across the world began to report strange behavior exhibited by their animals after the appearance of new wind farms. Some of these stories even ended in deaths of the animals, including the claims of a goat farmer in Taiwan.

To summarize the story, there was a wind farm that was built adjacent to the existing goat farm. Shortly after the wind turbines began spinning and carrying out their daily functions, the goats were not behaving normally.

Within a very short amount of time that the goats were experiencing these effects, almost all of them were found dead in the field at the exact same time. In fact, the farmer reported that a total of 400 goats were lying in the field dead due to these new wind turbines across the way from the field they walked around and grazed on. 

There were several other reports made by multiple farmers all across the world following this one, reporting that their animals were behaving very strangely in response to their new environments.

The only thing that was different in each of these situations was the implementation of new wind turbines at a very close distance to where the animals ate, slept, and walked around.

These animals had suffered altered sleeping patterns and showed little desire to eat or drink water which, in return, affected their overall growth and development. Additionally, they were unable to effectively reproduce, with multiple miscarriages and stillbirths among many different species of animals all across the globe. 

There was also a detailed study that was completed during this time following the large influx of claims that were flooding the internet in regards to the effects that wind turbines have on cattle and other farm animals.

A doctor named Nina Pierpont wrote and published an entire book titled Wind Turbine Syndrome, that summarized the events that were happening on different wind farms in various locations across the world.

More specifically, she studied the effects that wind turbines had on the reproductive systems of various different types of animals to assess the connection of wind farms and livestock fatalities. 

Among all of the specific cases that were outlined in the book, one of the most compelling studies followed horses on a farm that was frequently miscarrying their children. The farmer that took care of the horses had never seen anything like it, at least not as often as it was happening since the wind turbines had been built in the distance.

The same horses that were actually able to give birth to their children were not able to feed them properly. Similarly, there was another story that Pierpont reported on involving chickens on an entirely separate farm.

These chickens were suffering a different type of reproductive issue. They did not miscarry or fail to carry out a healthy pregnancy, but they actually began laying eggs with no shells around them, which was something that had never been seen before in past years. 

Wind turbines have not only been known to have negative effects on animals but humans that live in the area as well. There is a theory known as the Shadow Flicker Effect that has plagued hundreds of communities that are located within the shadows of the towering wind turbines. “Shadow Flicker” is something that is caused by wind turbine machines when they produce shadows that enter through windows and nearby barns.

This can become a nuisance to people who live in homes that are directly next to the wind turbine because they will frequently experience the flicker of shadows through their windows at various times of the day. This can become very tiresome because the shadow flicker can cause strains in vision or even headaches to the people who are directly affected by it. 

Although shadow flicker can potentially occur at any time, it becomes increasingly severe in certain times of the day and of the year. For example, when it gets closer to the early morning or late afternoon, the sun is usually placed at a very low position in the sky and gives off minimum light as a result.

Usually, these times have a much higher volume of wind and will cause the wind turbines to spin even more than usual, letting off a shadow flicker into the windows of nearby homes. In addition, the wind speeds can pick up or become more frequent during the winter months when it is colder outside.

The shadow flicker effect has been rumored to have caused several negative effects on the nearby people and farm animals or pets that regularly experience the flashes. One of the most common complaints that have to do with the shadow flicker given off by a lot of wind turbines is the stress that it causes to the people who have to deal with it within their homes constantly.

Since wind turbines move with the speeds of the wind, there is no way to control them or turn them off when they become annoying. Additionally, the weather forecast is often unpredictable with no way of knowing exactly when the wind will be blowing.

Therefore, there is also no way to prepare for the effects that might come with the wind for those who live in the shadows of the enormous wind turbine machines. 

The widespread effect of shadow flicker has also been reported to have various negative effects on nearby farm animals like cattle and horses that might be in the path of the bright lights between the blades of the towering turbines.

More specifically, many owners of horses have claimed that the flickering lights can scare their horses and prevent them from grazing in the fields they call home.  

In addition to the high-stress levels and headaches that can come from the constant flickering lights being cast out by wind turbines, they can also cause depression in some people. In fact, it has been scientifically proven to increase the average risk of becoming depressed.

The World Health Organization conducted research on this specific topic and concluded that the average risk for depression will be increased by a rate of forty percent in those who are affected by the shadow flicker of wind turbines. This is due to the visual disturbance that is frequently caused by the unusual lighting within nearby homes and facilities. 

The people who suffer from the shadow flicker effect do not have a good view outside of the window due to the annoyance of the constant shadow flicker. These effects will cause most people to keep their curtains closed at some point when the effects of the lighting become too much to bear.

It has been proven in scientific studies in the past that a deficiency of sunlight is directly linked to a higher risk of depression.

As a result, if those who experience the flickers caused by wind turbines are constantly keeping their windows closed tightly to avoid the nuisance that comes with the unstable lighting, they become more at risk for depression than they would be in most other living situations, which can be potentially dangerous.

To add to the list of negative effects caused by shadow flicker, there is an even more dangerous risk that comes with the shadow flicker effect, which is the heightened risk for epilepsy seizures.

If the flashes that come through the window exceed three per second, the turbine could be contributing to the risk of seizure. However, if these limits are programmed into the turbine by the wind energy developer, this effect can potentially be avoided in a lot of communities. 

In conclusion, the growth of the wind energy industry across the world is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, the installation of wind turbines everywhere has helped the environment substantially, limiting levels of global warming and getting rid of the emissions of greenhouse gases that cause damage to nearby people and animals.

However, there are certain limitations that should be followed when planning out any kind of wind energy project, taking into consideration how much electricity the turbines will be able to generate in that specific location, as well as what kind of effects they will cause in that area. 

Related Questions

How Can Wind Turbines Become Less Harmful to Wildlife and Flying Animals Such as Birds and Bats?

Several scientific studies have been done to examine how wildlife can be better protected from deaths caused by wind turbines, more specifically the flying species of animals that frequently get caught in the blades. Since a large number of bugs usually fly toward the reflective surface of the bright white turbines, birds and bats are usually not far behind them, which puts them more at risk for injury. Many scientists have proposed that wind turbines be painted purple instead, which is more likely to keep all of the bugs and birds away from the machines as often as possible.

How Have Wind Turbines Been Helpful to the Environment in Recent Years?

The wind is a clean, natural, and renewable source of energy that benefits the environment in more ways than one. It does not produce or release any harmful emissions of toxic carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. As a result, the use of wind energy has lowered air pollution significantly as well as water waste. Wind turbines also do not rely on large amounts of water in order to function properly and produce usable energy like other forms of electricity. It is among one of the most environmentally friendly, efficient, and sustainable forms of energy to this day. 

Learn More

If you’re serious about learning more about wind energy, I recommend the Wind Energy Handbook on Amazon. This book is great for both students and professionals, and it holds invaluable information on the subject of wind power.