Wednesday, June 29th, 2011
In an age when people fit subwoofers into their Honda civics, buy pickup trucks with ‘tuned exhaust’ noise and watch movies with ear crushing seven-speaker surround sound, one has to admit that our society isn’t exactly aiming for quiet.
Wind energy is now the fastest growing source of electricity worldwide. However, in some places where new windmills are being proposed, people are worried that they might be bothered by the sounds they make. In Ontario especially, folks are increasingly uneasy about how loud new windmills might be. For better or for worse, we have adapted to a life of auditory extremes. Whether you live in the country or in the city, chances are you have adapted to some kind of noise every day. Tires on a road, two-stroke whines from snowmobiles, motorcycles and jet-skis, diesel trucks, barking dogs, neighbours, airplanes, trains, music, construction, air conditioners, refrigerators, dishwashers, power tools — the list of human created sounds is endless. It’s a bit confusing then that one of quieter things we build — windmills — are said to be the subject of great handwringing and upset. When you step back and think about it, renewable energy is actually one of the more benign things in our society. It doesn’t pollute our air, it doesn’t poison our water, and compared to pretty much everything else, let’s be honest — it’s not very loud either. New designs of windmill blades are getting quieter all the time, and will continue to improve. Plus, there are minimum setbacks in place which set the distance that windmills must be built from the nearest home or workplace to ensure that noise isn’t an issue. In the difficult task of protecting the environment and our health for current and future generations, windmills are an important tool. Sited appropriately while ensuring real involvement for local communities, they will help protect both. Put in perspective, windmills aren’t one of our problems, but are in fact an important solution. And, as you’ll see in this video we made, life is loud… windmills, not so much. Adam Scott Environmental Defence