Virtual reality depiction of wind turbines aims to dispel negative attitudes to huge, landscape-altering wind power generators. But noise is not included in the fantasy.
April 21, 2022
Academic researchers in environmental studies at Colby College in Maine, U.S.A, have paired up with visual arts specialists and a computer science major to “illustrate” what offshore wind turbines will really look and sound like.
The goal is to dispel negative attitudes and remove “NIMBY” objections, says the main researcher, Alison Bates, assistant professor at Colby College.
In a news story published by the College, Bates says the new research initiative was intended to “create a virtual reality environment of turbines in action so the people who are debating and deciding the future of offshore wind can do so based on knowledge instead of emotion and imagination.”
She worked with people with expertise in virtual reality and gaming technology to come up with “a VR environment” that would allow people to see how turbines look from the coast of Maine, and as if they were in a boat.
Why? They believe that renewable energy especially wind power is essential to action on climate change, but citizens are opposed to wind power developments near them. And yes, they used the NIMBY epithet.
“If we don’t have people on board with what we’re trying to do to address climate change, it’s not going to happen,” Bates said. “I think if we don’t include people into the design of what an energy transition can look like, we won’t end up with a result that’s just or equitable.”
The problem is, although the researchers claim they are creating a true experiential environment, it is likely nothing of the sort. The real problems that people have with gigantic wind turbines is that they alter the environment in significant ways, including the destruction of forests, hilltops and mountain ridges, and waterways, while introducing noise pollution to the environment, and killing wildlife.
Although the Colby College news story claims that the VR will include “sound” the description of the representation does not seem to include an audio.
It is truly disappointing that “social research” such as this demeans the reaction of ordinary citizens who have valid environmental concerns for their home communities as they face industrialization by wind turbines, and proposes that an elaborate 3-D virtual “reality” will calm them.
The premise is, once again, as employed by the wind power lobby for years, that people simply don’t like the “look” of wind turbines, and all they need is a little “education” to get over it.
In a decidedly self-congratulatory conclusion to the Colby College news item, the insult deepens:
“Creating an in-depth simulation like this one takes away the natural bias that comes from each individual’s imagination, so everyone can react to the exact same scenarios. It makes theoretical, socially driven research like this much more real…”.
Truly effective and meaningful “social research” might be better aimed at the genuine concerns people have.
In Ontario, Canada, there are more than 6,500 formal Incident Reports or Pollution Reports on record with the environment ministry, describing wind turbine noise emissions. People have left their homes; they experience adverse health effects and say their lives are a “nightmare”; wildlife is being killed and the environment altered in ways that can never be reversed.
Virtual reality scenarios cannot come close to the reality of life for hundreds of Ontario citizens forced to live inside inshore wind power projects.