WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump has made no secret about his disdain of wind energy.
In 2012, he complained that Scotland was “hell-bent on destroying (its) coastline” with proposed wind turbines to be built offshore near the site of Trump’s luxury golf resort in Aberdeenshire.
In 2016, he ran for the White House on a pledge to bring back coal and expand development of other fossil fuels.
And in March, the president mocked the industry during a speech to a conservative organization in Washington.
While wind makes up less than 7% of the power generated in the U.S., development of renewable energy sources is a key plank of the Green New Deal being pushed by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and other progressive democrats in Congress.
Speaking at a National Republican Congressional Committee dinner Tuesday, Trump brought up some of his familiar attacks on the industry but also a new one: Wind farms cause cancer.
USA TODAY looked at what Trump said about wind energy and how much of it is true:
What Trump said about wind and cancer
“And they say the noise causes cancer. You tell me that one (makes whirring noise mimicking a turbine).”
There’s no evidence to suggest cancer and wind farms are linked.
Critics have linked wind turbine operations to electromagnetic fields (EMF), shadow flicker, audible noise, low-frequency noise and infrasound, annoyances that could disrupt sleep, induce headaches or even cause mild nausea.
But researchers who examined a number of health studies related to wind farms concluded in a 2014 report posted on the National Institutes of Health website that they pose no threat beyond that. And they said those problems could be remedied by placing turbines in a way that minimizes exposure to surrounding homes.
“The weight of evidence suggests that when sited properly, wind turbines are not related to adverse health,” the researchers wrote.
University of Iowa researchers arrived at a similar conclusion in a study issued in January.
What Trump said about about bird kills
“And of course it’s like a graveyard for birds. If you love birds, you’d never want to walk under a windmill ‘cause it’s a very sad, sad sight. It’s like a cemetery. We put a little statue for the poor birds. You know in California if you shoot a bald eagle, they put you in jail for five years. And yet the windmills wipe ‘em all out. It’s true. They wipe ‘em out. It’s terrible.”
The number of bird fatalities as a direct result of collisions with turbines has been hard to pin down. But government researchers in 2013 estimated that 140,000 to 328,000 birds are killed annually by collisions with monopole land-based turbines in the contiguous United States.
More than 200 species of bird have been documented as killed by collision with wind turbines, with Passerines (songbirds) most commonly reported, followed by raptors that hunt by day such as hawks, eagles and falcons, according to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.
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Researchers also said the risk to birds is growing as industry shifts to taller wind turbines.
So how does that risk compare to other forms of energy? A Stanford University researcher concluded that wind farms kill birds at a rate of 0.28 bird deaths per gigawatt-hour (GWh) of energy produced – lower than nuclear power stations (0.41) but higher than fossil fuel generators (0.17). Researchers noted those rates do not take the impact climate change has on bird habitats into account.
Information on mortality rates with offshore turbines is incomplete.
What Trump said about wind turbines and property values
“If you have a windmill anywhere near your house, congratulations. Your house just went down 75% in value.”
The findings here are mixed.
Researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) were unable to uncover any impacts to home values after analyzing more than 50,000 home sales near 67 wind facilities in 27 counties across nine states, according to a 2013 study.
The lab, which conducted a 2009 study that reached a similar conclusion, is supported by the U.S. Department of Energy.
But several studies highlighted by the National Association of Realtors show turbines had a negative effect on property values, including a 2012 study tracking more than 11,000 real estate transactions over nine years in northern New York that found nearby wind facilities “significantly reduced property values in two of the three counties studied.”
What Trump said about the unreliability of wind power
“I told the story at CPAC about the woman, she wants to watch television, and she says to her husband: ‘Is the wind blowing? I’d love to watch a show tonight, darling. The wind hasn’t blown for three days. I can’t watch television. Darling, please tell the wind to blow.’ No. Wind’s not so good.”
The nation’s power grid consists of a huge number of interconnected transmission lines that connect a variety of energy sources.
Translation: When the wind’s not blowing (or when the sun’s not shining), power from nonrenewable sources keeps the grid going.
“Adding variable renewable power to the grid does not inherently change how this process of balancing electricity supply and demand works,” according to the Energy Department. “Studies have shown that the grid can accommodate large penetrations of variable renewable power without sacrificing reliability, and without the need for ‘backup’ generation.”
What Trump said about where wind turbines are made
“And you know how expensive it is to make those things (turbines, etc). They’re all made in China and Germany, by the way. We don’t make them here, essentially. We don’t make them here.”
As of the end of 2015, three manufacturers – General Electric (GE), Denmark-based Vestas, and Germany-based Siemens – accounted for 55 gigawatts (GW), or 76% of the wind generating capacity installed in the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
A spokesperson for GE did not immediately return a request for information on how many of its turbines are made in the U.S.
But the American Wind Energy Association said that some 500 U.S. factories and nearly 25,000 American workers build or assemble many of the components needed for a modern wind turbine.