Questions & Answers
The most frequent questions
In May 2021, the Ministry for a Green Transition published an executive summary providing some objective answers to the main questions on wind power.
Download it here: [in French]
On 30 March 2017, ANSES (the French food, environmental and employment safety agency), which had been commissioned by the Ministry for the environment, energy and the sea (its Directorate General for risk prevention), and the Directorate General for Health, published its advice concerning the effects on health of low sound frequencies (20 Hz to 200 Hz) and infrasonic frequencies (under 20 Hz) emitted by wind farms. In its conclusions the Agency stressed that “current knowledge with regard to the potential health effects of exposure to infrasonic and low sound frequencies does not warrant modifying the current sound threshold limit values or setting specific thresholds for infrasonic and low sound frequencies”.
We should point out that already in 2013, confirming the conclusions of its 2008 report, ANSES had stated that “the noise emissions of wind turbines do not have direct health consequences, either for hearing aids or any effects due to exposure to low sound and infrasonic frequencies”.
The persons most exposed to infrasound are maintenance technicians, who work on a daily basis in the immediate vicinity of wind turbines. To date, no health problems or occupational illnesses have been recorded in the world in connection with infrasound.
ANSES’s March 2017 report (280 pages) is available for download: [in French]
Wind turbines are governed by legislation on facilities classified for environmental protection (ICPE in French), which lays down specific measures for preventing impacts on the environment and the neighbourhood: a general obligation to site wind turbines more than 500 metres from residential areas, incident noise level fixed by prefectoral approval order (+3dB at night and +5dB during the day in relation to background noise – in the absence of wind turbine noise).
If these levels are exceeded, corrective action is required: occasional shutdown or braking of the machines.
Technical improvements are constantly being made to wind generators: reduction in the rotation speed of the blade, silent precision gear pairs, drive shafts mounted on shock absorbers, padding the nacelle…
It is difficult to determine the cause of depreciation of a property. This depends on a number of factors: town councils’ planning projects, new types of infrastructure, real-estate projects, closure of a business, etc.
A number of studies and court rulings have demonstrated that the presence of wind turbines has no significant impact on the property market in nearby council areas. A 2010 study in the Nord Pas-de-Calais with the backing of the Regional Council and ADEME (the French Environment and Energy Management Agency) concludes that, in the areas where two wind farms are sited, “the volume of transactions for building land has increased without any significant decline in the value per square metre and [that] the number of authorized homes is also rising”.
A ruling of the Court of Appeal of Angers nonetheless requires the seller of a property to inform the buyer of any wind project in the vicinity of the property (within a 1.1 km radius for instance).
On the other hand, councils benefit from economic rewards that enable them to create or develop collective services and improve local living conditions (day nurseries and sundry services, refurbishment projects, etc.), which can lead to an increase, at times very significant, in property values. This revitalization phenomenon, which is also boosted by the creation of sustainable local jobs in wind farms, is seen in particular in small rural communities.
A field survey conducted by polling organization BVA in May 2015 with 900 people living within a radius of 600 to 1,000 metres of wind farms reveals that the local residents, when asked about any negative aspects of a wind farm, never mention the risk of their homes depreciating in value.
In 2017, the feed-in tariff for wind power was 72 euros per megawatt-hour (plus a management premium of €2.8 per MWh) for an initial period of 20 years, for wind farms with fewer than 6 wind turbines. Wind farms with more than 6 wind turbines have to undergo a tendering process, and the price is currently capped at 71 euros per megawatt-hour (plus a management premium of €2.8 per MWh).
The weighted average price of the first invitation to tender for wind farms was €65.4 per MWh. In February 2021, the seventh invitation to tender process selected projects with an average price of €59.5 per MWh.
This value is admittedly higher than the commonly accepted historical cost of nuclear energy (49 euros*), but it should be compared with the future megawatt-hour cost of the Hinkley Point (UK) reactors, estimated at €116.
Wind turbines run on average 85% of the time, at variable capacity depending on wind speed.
Below 11 kph (3 metres per second), the wind is too weak; above 90 kph (25 m/s) the wind is too strong and the blades are feathered and stopped.
Wind turbines also undergo maintenance work and repairs, which require the machine to be shut down for a few hours or days every year.
Wind turbines may also be shut down due to local environmental measures. Depending on bird and bat activity on the site, wind turbines can be temporarily feathered in periods identified as being the most sensitive.” at the yellow point below.
Lastly, grid operator RTE can also at times prohibit producers from feeding in their power, regardless of the source of energy, for grid maintenance or failure reasons.
The effects of wind turbines on tourism are hard to quantify, as they are often specific to the site in question. To try and assess any impact on tourism, we will endeavour to correlate the impressions of local residents with those of the tourists themselves.
A 2002 study by the Conseil d’Architecture, d’Urbanisme et de l’Environnement of the Aude department (1) states that “the main feelings of tourists with regard to wind turbines are approval and indifference”. The study points out that tourists do not come to the area to see the wind turbines, but their presence is of concern to them and they want to find out more about the wind farm. Furthermore, the report reveals that time and again those questioned regretted the lack of guides for the wind farm.
The study mentions two “categories” of tourists: those who regularly come to a site, and those who discover it for the first time. The assessment tends to diverge between these two groups: regular visitors sometimes have the impression of losing the “return-to-nature” feeling in the landscapes they came for, whereas new visitors see wind turbines in the landscape as if they had always been there.
In response to the influx of inquisitive people, more and more local councils are showcasing their wind farm for tourists, organizing walks, tours, festivals, etc.
For instance, the Eoh! festival Links, organized on the Millevaches plateau in Peyrelevade, attracted more than 4000 people for its first edition in 2009; the wind farm of Saint-Georges-sur-Arnon has attracted over 3000 visitors since its commissioning in 2009.
In 2003, a Synovate (3) poll published by ADEME highlighted the fact that the inhabitants of areas equipped with wind turbines – like those of the Aude and Finistère departments – have a better picture of wind turbines than the average French person. They mostly find that neither tourism nor the landscape are spoiled by wind farms. The poll’s findings go even further: over 60% of those polled in Finistère consider that they play a part in the region’s appeal for tourists. The poll’s findings in Aude are similar.
More recently, a 2009 poll (4) of local residents near 5 wind farms focused on the social acceptability of wind projects. It points up fairly divided opinions: “one third of those polled take the view that wind turbines boost tourist attendance, one third have the opposite opinion, and one third have no opinion”. So roughly 60% of those polled believe that the presence of wind turbines has a positive impact or no impact at all on their area.
1. Poll concerning the economic impact of wind turbines in Aude and their perception by tourists – 2002. [MORE]
2. Event organized by the Energies pour demain association [MORE]
3. Poll on the perception of wind energy in France – Ademe – Synovate 2003. [MORE]
4. The social acceptability of wind turbines: local residents ready to pay to keep their wind turbines [MORE]
Radars, which use radio-frequency waves to detect a variety of objects (aircraft, drops of water for meteorological radars), can be disrupted by wind turbines.
Accordingly, there are regulations that specify prohibition and coordination distances (which require the grid operator’s approval).
The Plourac’h wind project is situated far beyond the coordination perimeters for the nearest meteorological and military radars.
Wind turbines are currently designed to have a useful life of at least 20 to 25 years. Depending on wind conditions, it is believed that some wind farms could be operated for up to 30 years.