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What are the Best Wind Farm Locations?

By James Gapinski
Updated May 17, 2024
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Wind farms can provide clean, renewable energy to homes and businesses. They are only effective, however, if placed in proper locations. Whereas a single wind turbine, also called a windmill or wind generator, may be effective for personal electricity usage, constructing a farm of several large turbines for regional power requires specific geographic and atmospheric conditions.

The topography of a wind farm should be flat, yet elevated. Bumpy, uneven terrain creates potential wind-blockage, slowing airspeed through the farm. Wind-speed increases at higher altitudes, however so it is important that the entire flat area is also elevated. For this reason, many wind farms are located on hilltops, but the hilltops themselves may be flattened if they are not naturally leveled.

Wind farm locations should also be large enough to accommodate the wind turbines with the greatest possible distance between the generators. The exact necessary distance necessary varies based on the size of the windmills. If wind generators are too close together, the windmills may interfere with each other, slowing down wind-speeds as the air passes through the farm. This interference, often called the "wind park effect," is usually avoidable if large locations are plotted for the wind farm.

In addition to topographical concerns, the atmospheric conditions of potential wind farm locations must also be taken into consideration. Even though a hilly location produces faster wind, regular weather patterns may still show that the area is not windy enough. It is important to accurately measure the area’s wind, making sure that the location has a consistent speed of at least 10 miles per hour (16.1 km per hour). Additionally, the wind speed should be fairly stable. Stormy weather can create bursts of intense wind leading to turbine damage or substation power surges.

Environmentally, wind farms must also consider area wildlife. Bird and bat deaths have been attributed to wind farms when turbines are placed near large animal populations. Some experts also argue that ground-dwelling animals, while not killed by the turbines, may face migratory or mating disruptions from the presence and noise of windmills. Domesticated animals, like cows, do not seem to be disrupted by wind turbines, so, many wind farms are deliberately placed near land that has already been converted into grazing area for cattle.

Unconventional wind farm locations are becoming increasingly popular in the face of growing concern for bird and bat habitats. Furthermore, some cities and towns with adjacent wind farms have complained about the negative aesthetic appearance of the turbines. Newer, unconventional wind farms are placed out at sea. While hilltop elevation is impossible for oceanic wind farms, engineers can build the farms along areas of steady seaborne winds for impressive wind speeds. While effective, offshore wind farm locations are considerably more expensive because of difficult installation logistics.

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Discussion Comments

By parmnparsley — On Oct 30, 2010

@ GiraffeEars- I say give it some time, and people will eventually accept the inevitable. My grandparents live in Palm Springs, and they were some of the people opposed to the wind farm development that was built in the valley. Eventually though all those that were opposed to the project ended up appreciating the project. If you have ever driven through Palm Springs, you would notice that the City has built its identity partly on the wind turbines in the valley. They have become iconic to the area, and they are actually helping to generate tourist revenue. Like I said, give it a little time, and they will come around. It will likely happen when their energy prices skyrocket and wind becomes a much more attractive alternative.

By GiraffeEars — On Oct 30, 2010

@ Chcada- I have heard about the wind farm that you are talking about. I too believe it would be a great idea. The jobs that this wind power project would bring to the state would be great. The jobs would all be local too since the project is commissioned in part by the developers who put together the Hull Wind project. These would be skilled technician and engineering jobs that would remain in the region for the lifetime of the project. There would also be a ton of jobs in construction, welding, and ferrying of goods and supplies to the site created during the construction phase of the project. This is something that would be welcomed in a region that is seeing a decline in Seafood production due to overfishing. It's too bad a bunch of rich residents of the cape feel so strongly about their view and how it would interfere with their yachting scenery.

By chicada — On Oct 30, 2010

I was in Massachusetts with my school and I toured the wind generation plant in Hull called Hull Wind. The site is about 20 miles from the airport, and it picks up great wind from the North Atlantic. I have always thought that coastal wind sites would be some of the best since they seem to have great wind resources. The developers of Hull Wind are trying to get approval for an off shore plant that would be located in the Nantucket sound between Nantucket Island, Martha's Vineyard, and Cape Cod.

I think it would be a great idea, but the plans are seeing opposition because people feel that it would ruin their view. What baffles me is the fact that the windmills would only be about a half inch all on the horizon. That is the equivalent of looking at a well-trimmed thumbnail held at arm’s length from your face. While it may affect the view, it will produce green energy, it will not interfere with local wildlife, and it will not cause noise pollution.

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