Sorting fact from renewable fiction: Handy resources for debunking solar and wind myths 

Thousands of local residents attend a rally at Flagstaff Point protesting against a proposed offshore wind turbine farm to be located 10km off the Illawarra coast, Wollongong, Sunday, October 29, 2023. (AAP Image/Dean Lewins) NO ARCHIVING

Some statements you hear about solar and wind energy are just plain false. Some are a little bit true but so unbalanced, incomplete, and out of context that they might as well be false. And some tap into genuine complexities.

When the facts are complicated, nuanced, mutable, or otherwise hard to pin down, statements may mislead (both deliberately and accidentally) by oversimplification. 

The links below are primarily about the first two categories, that is, wholly or mostly false statements. 

Myths about wind and solar

Do wind turbines kill birds? Are solar panels toxic? The truth behind green-energy debates.” Elizabeth Weise, USA Today. A good, brief introduction to a handful of common myths, not just the two in the headline, and a story about how they play out in a community debate.

We fact-checked President Trump’s dubious claims on the perils of wind power.” Brad Plumer, New York Times. Excellent overview of myths about whales, cancer, other health issues, property values, and power outages.

‘“Wind energy myths.” U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). Another good overview, including several more complex questions. ‘“Wind energy myths.” U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). Another good overview, including several more complex questions. 

No, wind turbines aren’t noisy

How loud is a wind turbine?” General Electric graphic.

What noises cause hearing loss?” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. For comparing sources of noise. 

Wind turbine sound.” U.S. Department of Energy. Longer and more thorough.

No, wind turbines aren’t major bird killers

How many birds do wind farms kill?” Hannah Ritchie, Sustainability by Numbers. Statistics guru Ritchie explains how hard it is to get good numbers for this question, points out that we can reduce these deaths, and concludes that since 1970, wind turbines have caused just a tenth as many bird deaths as have communication towers — and far, far fewer than buildings or (staggeringly lethal) cats.

Painting wind turbine blades to prevent bird collisions.” Will Walkey, Wyoming Public Media and Science Friday. Text and audio.

A summary and comparison of bird mortality from anthropogenic causes with an emphasis on collisions.” Wallace P. Erickson, Gregory D. Johnson, and David P. Young, Jr., U.S. Forest Service. This detailed scientific overview concludes that wind turbines cause less than one-hundredth of 1% of these deaths; see the last page for an illuminating table.

Impact scorecard 2021.” American Bird Conservancy. See page 14 for numbers and comparisons.

No, wind turbines don’t kill whales

Wind opponents spread myth about dead whales.” Pearl Marvell, Yale Climate Connections. Very thorough. 

No, wind turbines don’t cause cancer

Here’s why scientists are so confident wind turbines don’t cause cancer.” Michelle Starr, Science Alert. 

Q: How destructive is mining for solar panel components? A: Significantly less destructive than mining for fossil fuels

Mining quantities for low-carbon energy is hundreds to thousands of times lower than mining for fossil fuels.” Hanna Ritchie, Sustainability by Numbers.

And a follow-up piece from the same source: “The low-carbon energy transition will need less mining than fossil fuels, even when adjusted for waste rock.” (Similar comparisons apply to concerns about human conditions connected to both kinds of mining.)

No, solar panels don’t cause cancer

Health and safety impacts of solar photovoltaics,” Tommy Cleveland, North Carolina Clean Energy Technology Center, North Carolina State University. Very thorough, with extensive footnotes and sources. “These risks are extremely small, far less than those associated with common activities such as driving a car, and vastly outweighed by health benefits of the generation of clean electricity.” 

Can having solar panels or living near a solar farm increase your cancer risk?” Cancer Net.

Radiation: electromagnetic fields.” World Health Organization, questions and answers. See the sections on “Biological effects or health effects? What is a health hazard?” and “What are typical exposure levels at home and in the environment?”

No, ordinary hail won’t destroy your solar panels (Really big hail — more than two inches across — might) 

Can hail damage solar panels?” Brian Church, Consumer Affairs.

No, solar farms aren’t destroying the best agricultural lands

Factcheck: Is solar power a ‘threat’ to UK farmland?” Carbon Brief. (Much the same could be said about U.S. farmland.)


On waste from wind and solar power — compared to (much more, and more toxic) waste from fossil fuel power

Wind energy has a massive waste problem. New technologies may be a step closer to solving it.” Laura Paddison, CNN.

Debunking solar energy fears.” Heather Mirletz (from NREL), interviewed on Living on Earth. Audio and transcript.

Fact sheet: climate, environmental, and health impacts of fossil fuels.” Savannah Bertrand, Environmental and Energy Study Institute. 

What are the safest and cleanest sources of energy?” Hannah Ritchie, Our World in Data. 

The hidden costs of fossil fuels.” Union of Concerned Scientists. 

Solid waste/byproducts of gasification: background.” U.S. Department of Energy.

“Hazardous Waste: Management of oil and gas exploration and production waste.” U.S. Environmental Production Agency.

Finally, a concise but comprehensive note on intermittency (What happens when there’s no wind and no sun?), a topic too big to cover here: “Three myths about renewable energy and the grid, debunked.” Amory B. Lovins and M. V. Ramana, Yale Environment 360.

This article was originally published by Yale Climate Connections. Republished here under a Creative Commons licence. Read the original version here.

Perhaps because rooftop solar panels are now so widespread, there are fewer myths about this kind of energy. Typically ignoring comparative contexts, they lean toward anxiety about large solar arrays and other large-scale effects. For instance:

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