02.08.2013
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Wind power

Impact of wind turbines on tourism

Two recent German studies looked into whether wind turbines scare off tourists, as some detractors claim. The findings are clear both for onshore and offshore wind.

Jürgen Peters, Professor of Sustainable Development at Eberswalde College in Germany, found (PDF) that 32 percent of tourists and locals do not mind wind turbines at all, while only 9.2 percent do. His findings are in line with a study for the Eifel region in Germany, where 59% of those surveyed (PDF) said they did not mind the turbines, while 28% said they were “acceptable”; in contrast, only 12% said they did not like the turbines.

Mainly, Peters questions the very idea of “cultural landscapes” as something immutable, pointing out that they constantly change. He argues that “only the Alps” can be considered “pristine” these days. And while he says that wind turbines hardly change the esthetics of “cultural landscapes” (Kulturlandschaften), he argues that pristine landscape should be left undeveloped.

 - Don't like the look of that wind mill -- no, not the historic one in the foreground, but Portugal's first offshore turbine in the background. Like the old wind mill, our wind turbines will one day be considered part of our cultural landscape. (Click to enlarge)
Don't like the look of that wind mill -- no, not the historic one in the foreground, but Portugal's first offshore turbine in the background. Like the old wind mill, our wind turbines will one day be considered part of our cultural landscape. (Click to enlarge)
Craig Morris

In similar news, a study was conducted as a part of the EU’s South Baltic OFF.E.R. project, and the results were published in April in English (PDF). The impact of the barely visible (see this video) Baltic 1 offshore wind farm was found to be negligible; local concerns about the impact on tourism have died down over the years as tourists prove to be unaffected by the wind farm.

At the same time, the wind farm has failed to become a tourist attraction, partly because it is hard to see – and partly because a helicopter ride out to the wind farm can cost 100 euros or more per person.

The findings are unlikely to change everyone’s mind, however, as a fringe minority of wind proponents continue to misrepresent facts. This website, for instance, claims that one wind farm is 120 decibels loud – the level of a rock concert according to this list, and pain starts at 125 decibels. For an actual recording of decibel levels of such “noise” (closer to 50 decibels just 100 meters from the rotor hub – and hence quieter than on a normal street), see this video. (Craig Morris)

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