Compared to the production of energy from fossil fuels and hydroelectric (and its associated fuel procurement and delivery infrastructure, wastes, and dams), a properly located wind project can easily coexist with the community with minimal intrusion. The primary issues of potential concern include sound; shadow flicker; and radar, TV, and radio signal interference. These are examples of real impacts that can be mitigated most readily by increasing the distance between proposed projects and abutters, although achieving setbacks sufficient to completely mitigate all impacts is not always possible. These issues are typically addressed during the planning and development process of the wind project, during which the developer uses computerized tools and specialized consultants to evaluate impacts relative to the site and the surrounding community and determines whether measures are needed to minimize or mitigate any problems identified.
Wind turbines produce audible sound, a fact that must be considered in selecting project locations. Well-sited wind farms employ appropriate setbacks between the turbine and nearby residences to reduce or eliminate potential problems with sound from the turbines. Wind farms are typically required to address potential sound issues in the permitting process and need to demonstrate that the project will comply with the applicable sound-level regulations. In most cases, acoustic modeling is performed before and after a wind project is constructed to ensure that sound to residents in proximity of a wind turbine is below the appropriate thresholds. Read more information about wind turbine sound.
Shadow flicker is the effect of the sun (low on the horizon) shining through the rotating blades of the turbine and casting a moving shadow on a nearby residence. The shadow will be perceived as a "flicker" due to the repeated shadow being cast by the rotating blades. This can potentially create a nuisance to affected homeowners, though in most cases flicker occurs only a few hours in a year. Similar to sound, this impact is most easily mitigated during the site selection process. Computer models can accurately predict when, where, and to what degree this problem will occur, and in most cases the developer can modify the site plan to avoid this potential problem.
Wind turbines, like all structures, can create interference with communication or radar signals when these signals are interrupted by the turbine's tower or blades. Companies with expertise in modeling these signals are retained by wind developers during the development phase to assess and mitigate potential problems. Relocating the planned turbines is one approach to mitigating signal interference. TV/radio interference can be addressed by providing affected customers with satellite or wireless cable TV. Radar interference can often be mitigated by working with the Department of Defense and the Federal Aviation Administration to determine how to change turbine heights, location, or sizes, or alternatively, to make hardware or software alterations to radar stations. Read more information about radar, tv, and radio signal interference.