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What Is Wind Turbine Syndrome?

What Is Wind Turbine Syndrome?

When I was reading about wind turbines on the internet recently, I came across something called the wind turbine syndrome. Curious to find out what that meant, I did some deeper research to get some more information on the topic. 

What is wind turbine syndrome? Wind turbine syndrome is a term that describes the negative affects that occur among animals and humans within the vicinity of wind turbines and farms. It is also important to note that these affects were not present before the appearance of the new wind turbines, this is why the machines are likely to blame for changes in normal behavior. 

For years it has been rumored that wind turbines can cause negative effects on the living things that reside around them, so much that the epidemic has earned the nickname of “wind turbine syndrome”. So, what does this syndrome consist of exactly?

Related: How Do Wind Turbines Affect Wildlife?

Wind Turbines and Farm Animals

The industry of wind energy has become increasingly popular over the years, which has directly translated to a large amount of wind turbine machines being installed globally.

Over the many years that more wind turbines have shown up in various regions across the world, there have been almost an equal amount of reports that the animals in nearby farms and ecosystems have suffered major damages from the new machines.

It is a very common occurrence for wind turbines to end up in the same fields as local cows due to the fact that the owners of the farms will commonly rent out their land for local wind turbine owners to use.

This can generate a substantial yearly income for the landowner by just simply allowing someone else to build a machine on their property while paying a set monthly rent payment while it is in use.

Despite the consistent flow of positive income for the farmer, are the effects on the farm animals that have been rumored to come from these new wind turbine machines worth it?

Although there are certain distance requirements between the wind turbines and any kind of building or another machine around them, there is no limit to where the cattle and farm animals can roam across the fields.

In fact, the animals will often graze in the grass right at the bottom of the wind turbines with no interference at all. There has been no scientific evidence or regulations directly in connection with farm animals being physically harmed by wind turbines, so it is a common practice for farmers to host wind turbines in rural areas.

On top of that, there can be as many wind turbines on the same land as the farm animals with no proven adverse effects. In fact, an entire wind farm can be combined with a cattle farms and neither the machines or the animals will suffer direct physical harm. 

However, there have been numerous reports of these newly placed wind turbines causing negative effects on the animals around them that were not present before they appeared. These effects are commonly regarded under the term “the wind turbine syndrome”.

Some of these reports have been appalling, telling stories of the wind machines causing a staggeringly high death toll among livestock on existing farms that host the turbines within the proximity of the animals that live there.

This supposed syndrome has been linked to the sounds that are given off by the spinning wind turbine machines that could possibly be giving off infrasound rays that are directly affecting the animals. 

This has been a very common belief for decades, basically ever since the concept of wind turbines became popular. There are countless stories that can be found on the internet that depict scenarios of farm animals behaving strangely or even dying after wind turbines arrived on the scene.

The farmers and landowners could not put their fingers on the exact cause of death, so the blame fell on the only thing that changed in the environment: the wind turbines. 

There are certain functions that a wind turbine must do daily to generate electricity from the wind, which include spinning their blades, sometimes at very high speeds. It is necessary for the turbines to be constantly spinning as frequently as they can or else they will not be able to produce an adequate amount of energy.

So, in order for wind turbines to produce energy from the wind, there are a variety of processes that they will go through on a daily basis in order to carry out this task.

The main function of a wind turbine is to spin its blades in a circular motion while collecting the wind’s kinetic energy and taking it in to convert it into electricity, which can potentially produce a lot of noise as the speeds increase. 

This process can also be disturbing to any cattle and livestock that might share the field with one or more large wind turbine machines. However, farms with smaller or less wind turbines are not exempt from these effects. In fact, even residential-size wind turbines that are significantly smaller than larger utility-grade machines with much higher energy capacities will stand very tall in the air and have extremely heavy rotor blades.

Each rotor blade on the average wind turbine will have an approximate length of 40 to 50 feet on its own. As a result, the turbines will often make loud buzzing noises as they spin throughout the air due to their large weight and high power.

Think of the sound that occurs when a car drives past you on the freeway going several miles per hour due to the fast driving speed. This is very similar to the sound that will be made by a wind turbine in motion because the spinning speeds are also very fast as the blades move through the air. 

On average, a smaller-scale wind turbine can turn its blades at speeds to up to 100 miles per hour. For larger turbines with several megawatts of energy capacity can reach close to 200 miles per house while rotating.

When the blades are gliding through the air at rapid speeds and creating a turbulence in the air, these actions will more than likely be accompanied by a loud sweeping noise throughout the atmosphere. The blades are like the machine’s arms, and with a longer reach, they are able to harness more of the wind’s energy with each rotation.

This is most similar to a large fan moving air around and changing its direction.  As a result, it is ideal for wind turbines to have extended blades and most of them will be constructed in this way for maximum efficiency. 

Luckily, wind turbines do go through certain periods where their blades are not spinning at all, therefore giving off no noise or sound waves to the environment around it. This is due to the fact that the blades spin according to the speeds of the wind, so during times with little to no wind, the blades will not rotate nearly as quickly as they would with fast wind speeds. 

Although wind turbines are not constantly spinning at such rapidly fast speeds during their entire lifetime, the machines still have a relatively high-efficiency rate. It is estimated that the average wind turbine will spin and create energy from the wind up to 85 percent of its entire lifetime.

This is bad news for the nearby wildlife because the more efficient that the wind turbines are able to generate translates to more spinning time as well as more frequent noises. 

Reports of the Damage Done to Animals by Wind Turbines

Wind turbines consist of multiple different components within them that allow the blades to spin and generate electricity from the wind. The size of the blades is often massive, relative to the length of the turbine towers themselves, which can add up to hundreds of feet.

Since the turbine’s blades are so large, they often make loud buzzing noises while reacting to the wind and rotating about their towers, very similar to the sound of a helicopter as the closest comparison. 

These buzzing noises have been reported to transmit harmful infrasound rays to the nearby animals, causing negative effects on the way they behave throughout the day overall. There was a hugely popular story that emerged several years ago as told by a goat farmer in Taiwan.

The farmer claimed that shortly after a series of wind turbines were installed adjacent to his fields of goats, four hundred of them suddenly died all at the same time. He had discovered the hundreds of dead animals laid out on the grass on their sides when they had been walking around carrying out their normal functions just the day before the incident. 

However, the same farmer revealed within the same report that his goats had not been displaying normal behavior in the time leading up to the events. Ever since the new wind farm had been built across the field, the goats had not been following their usual routines.

This included their sleeping, eating, drinking patterns, all of which affected their growth patterns over a longer period of time.  The farmer swore that the wind turbines were to blame for the strange activity that ended with fatal consequences, causing him to lose hundreds of his animals in just one short period after they began their functions in the nearby area. 

Similarly, there was a French farmer that ended up filing a lawsuit against a local wind energy company following the damage that was inflicted onto his fields of cows. He claimed that his animals had become sick from the sounds that were let out by the nearby wind turbines, which affected their production of milk.

They had lost the desire to drink as much water as they needed on a daily basis in order to generate the same amount of milk as they usually did, so the dairy farm’s overall milk output dropped significantly.

Due to the financial losses that the farmer suffered that were assumed to be caused by the wind turbines, he decided to take legal action against those who placed the machines within the vicinity of his animals. 

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 a study that was completed during this time where an influx of claims were flooding the internet of the effect that wind turbines have on cattle and other farm animals. A scientist named Nina Pierpont wrote 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. 

One of the specific cases that was outlined in the book followed horses on a farm that were 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. 

Most landowners and farmers that offer some of their lands up for rent to wind turbine owners already have an existing farm with animals. Although there is no direct research that has focused on this topic and come up with anything solid to support these claims, there have been stories over the years that cattle and livestock have suffered negative side effects when wind turbines were newly built on the same farm they lived on.

It has been reported that, along with the loud sound effects that occur when the turbines’ blades begin to spin at rapid speeds, the turbines can produce infrasound rays that transfer to the animals on the farm and cause them to display changes in behavior.

These changes include eating, sleeping, and reproductive patterns that they normally followed before the appearance of the wind turbines. Countless farmers all over the world have told stories about their animals suffering injuries or even deaths in large quantities shortly after wind turbines were built in the area.

Overall, the animals were just reported to have behaved very strangely after the wind turbines were installed and began generating electricity from the wind. It has even been reported that some house pets suffered negative effects due to nearby wind turbines that were never experienced before they were added to the equation.

There was even a book that was written by an esteemed doctor to tell these individual stories in more detail and asses them from a scientific standpoint. The book is titled Wind Turbine Syndrome and was written by Nina Pierpont. 

The “wind turbine syndrome” has been a huge epidemic in various locations all around the world for several years, with no specific rhyme or reason for the frequent and scattered claims. There have been signs of adverse effects of wind turbines on nearby farm animals from Taiwan all the way to France, with all different species of animals in between.

With no common denominator in hundreds of separate cases, many people have jumped to the conclusion that the wind turbines must have caused these sudden injuries and deaths. 

For this reason, many farmers and landowners are hesitant to offer up their farmland for rent to wind turbine owners in fear of negative effects o their animals. Several years ago, one farmer even sued a wind energy company because the decrease in his cows’ milk production cost him tons of money and caused him to lose out on a large percentage of his expected profits.

Even landowners that do not have animals on a farm have shown hesitation to allow wind farms on their land or near their homes. Many people have concluded that if wind turbines can cause harm to farm animals and pets, they can definitely do the same thing to humans. This was especially a concern among pregnant women since most of these animals suffered various reproductive issues from miscarriages to infertility over time. 

How Wind Turbines Have Affected Other Animals Directly 

Although it has not been scientifically proven that wind turbines cause harm to farm animals and other wildlife, there have been numerous studies that have provided evidence that wind turbines do, in fact, cause a lot of yearly deaths of flying animals that come in contact with them.

One of the most popular rumors that have surrounded wind turbines for years is that they kill birds. This statement is true and has been brought to light in recent studies, but there are a lot more bat deaths each year that are caused by wind turbines than those of birds. 

In 2014, there was a study that looked further into the number of bird deaths that had been caused by wind turbines in the previous year. The study was called State of the Birds and set out to prove the popular position against wind turbines due to the harm they inflict on innocent birds yearly.

The scientists that completed this research took the time to study local birds and watch their patterns as they interacted with nearby wind turbines. The results of the research ended with a conclusive number of the average amount of birds that are killed by wind turbines annually. This number came out to approximately 300,000.

Although this is a very large number of unnecessary bird deaths that are knowingly caused by wind turbines, it is not as big of a number when you compare it to the total bird deaths each year among all other causes. It is much more common for birds to die closer to the more populated areas due to a variety of accidents that can happen on a daily basis.

For example, over one hundred million birds are killed every year by flying at rapid speeds into the city and smacking into the windows of large buildings. Since the windows on most buildings are nearly transparent, it can be difficult for the birds to differentiate between the air space and the beginning of the building, and by the time they realize it the impact of running into the glass in mid-air kills them instantly.

Even further, over 3 million birds are killed every year by the common house cat. That’s 3 million birds killed by small friendly cats in comparison to the slim 300 thousand that are killed by wind turbines in rural areas. Even though there is no reason for wind turbines to be killing off this many birds per year, it would be safe to say that house cats account for more yearly deaths of birds than wind turbines do. 

However, wind turbines did not have such a generous effect on bats in the Appalachian Mountain region. A previous study had tracked the patterns of a certain species of bat in this region that would likely come in contact with the local wind turbines.

When their flying patterns were followed by scientists, it was proven that the majority of bat deaths came directly from these specific turbines. When the bats would fly too close to the turbines’ spinning blades, the increased pressure in the air caused by the wind’s turbulence around the rotating motion would be too much for their lungs to handle.

The effect of the bats flying in this area was their entire bodies exploding from the inside in mid-air. The results of this study provide further evidence to back the claim that a large percentage of bat deaths across the entire world occur at the hands, or blades, of wind turbines. 

Related Questions

How Can Wind Turbines Be Changed to Better Protect Wildlife?

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 amount 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. 

Are Wind Turbines Linked to the Spread of Global Warming?

Although it has been rumored that wind turbines have an active role in spreading global warming regardless of the environmental benefits they are supposed to provide, these rumors have been proven to be false with scientific evidence.

A wind turbine study that was performed at Harvard University refuted this claims, with results that showed if wind turbines were to cover the entire surface area of the United States, it would still not be enough to have any permanent effect on the warming of the planet. 

How Have Wind Turbines Impacted the Environment?

Contrary to alternate methods of generating electricity such as fossil fuels, wind turbines do not cause any kind of pollution or release greenhouse gases into the environment. When greenhouse gases are present on the earth’s surface, they trap the heat from the sun that would otherwise escape into space and disappear.

As a result, this significantly warms the planet and permanently raises temperatures on the surface of the earth. With the recent increase in use of wind turbines all around the world, the levels of global warming have shown a significant increase.

Similarly, it has been hypothesized that the continued use of wind energy and wind turbines will continue to prevent global warming and reverse most of the damage that has already been done to the planet in past years. Additionally, since the wind is a clean and renewable energy source, it will never run out or become a depleted resource.

In other words, the earth has an infinite supply of wind so there will never be a need to physically replenish the resource. On top of that, the wind is free for everyone to use, so it can never be controlled or taken away. 

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.