Issues to be Aware of
- Safety. Modern wind turbines are very safe and can operate for many years without any problems. However, it is critical that safety precautions be taken when installing and operating a small wind turbine. One issue to consider in northern climates is ice accumulation on the blades. Hydrogen venting from batteries is another potential issue. Climbing of towers by the owner or maintenance persons is a potential liability. Special safety precautions are required if children have access to the system.
- Extreme weather. In some parts of the country, the environment is very hard on equipment and can cause operational and durability problems for the wind energy system and batteries. Special turbine components, lubricants, and maintenance schedules may be required to keep the turbine in optimal generating condition. Corrosion of system parts at locations close to the ocean can also be a problem.
- Neighbours. The proximity of a wind turbine to a neighbour's property should be discussed with the neighbour before proceeding with a wind energy system purchase. Some particularly concerned neighbours may also call for a public hearing seeking a conditional use permit or variance, where you would need to answer questions about your project. As a rule of thumb, a turbine should be sited at least one or two times the tower height from any property lines.
- Aesthetics. The visibility of a particular wind system will depend on many factors, including tower height, proximity to neighbors and roadways, local terrain, and tree coverage. A wind turbine can affect your view or that of your neighbours, and it might block or change an historic landscape. In most areas of Canada, wind turbines are also an uncommon sight so it is natural to expect some local reservations about their introduction. Objections are more likely to occur in populated and tourist areas. Opposition is least likely to surface in rural settings.
- Noise. The noise level of a turbine depends on several factors, including local wind characteristics (i.e. gusting and rapid changes in direction), terrain (flat v. hilly) and the design of the turbine itself. Most modern turbines are not disruptive as long as they are properly sited. For more details, see our Social, Environmental, and Other Considerations page.
- Zoning and Other Legal Issues. Local municipal offices should have information on restrictions with respect to acceptable noise levels and permissible tower height. See our Legal & Regulatory pages for more information.
- Local wildlife. Small wind turbines can pose a danger to birds in certain conditions. However, as shown in the graph at right (Source: Erickson, et.al, 2002. "Summary of Anthropogenic Causes of Bird Mortality"), wind turbines are far less of a danger to birds than buildings or household cats. To minimize any potential problems, avoid siting a wind energy system on a migration route or where many birds nest and feed. The system should also be designed to reduce perching and nesting opportunities. This is typically not a problem with smaller systems. See our Social, Environmental, and Other Considerations page for more on wildlife issues.
- Electromagnetic interference (EMI). Small wind turbines, such as those sized for residential and farm use, have not been found to create interference with television signals. In fact, small wind systems are commonly used today to power remote telecommunication stations for both military and commercial uses. Most wind turbines use blades made of wood, fiberglass or composite materials that don't cause reception problems. Many years ago, a few wind turbines equipped with long, metallic blades did cause some localized problems, but they are no longer commonly used.