If you drive through or live in an area with wind turbines and wind farms could your cell signal be affected? The answer is no and yes… but there’s a few things to understand before that conclusion is made.
Let’s start with
How Cell Towers and Signals Work:
When someone uses their cell phone, it emits/sends out electromagnetic radio waves called radiofrequency (RF) signals.
The nearest cell towers then transmit these RF signals between each other and take the text or call to your friend’s cell phone and local cell tower.
When you use your cell phone, the nearest cell tower sends your RF signals and acts as a two-way radio between your phone and whoever you’re contacting.
Now that we know how cell towers work, what about wind turbines?
How Wind Turbines Work:
A wind turbine (in its most simple form) is the exact opposite of a fan – instead of using electricity to spin, it spins to create electricity.
A wind turbine uses the natural force of wind energy to create electricity.
This happens because the turbine uses the aerodynamic force from the rotor blades, which work like an airplane wing or helicopter rotor blade.
(in case you forgot how an airplane works)
When the wind flows across the blade, the air pressure on one side of the blade decreases.
The difference in air pressure across the two sides of the blade creates both lift and drag.
The force of the lift is stronger than the drag and (and in the case of the wind turbine) this causes the rotor to spin.
The rotor blades connect to the generator and as the blades spin,there is a translation of aerodynamic force to rotation of a generator, which creates electricity.
Wind turbines can be built and used wherever there is enough wind energy to channel.
This happens on land with the right climate or offshore in large bodies of water like oceans and lakes.
Offshore turbines make use of the massive ocean winds that happen during storms and changes in currents.
Now that the basics have been covered,
Do Wind Turbines Affect Mobile Signal?
The main purpose of the Turbines is not to affect cell tower signals.
Still, the electromagnetic materials and nature of the turbines can affect other technologies – like radio and TV signals.
Wind turbines should not affect mobile phone services because cell signals are designed to locate and send through the easiest and fastest path.
Mobile phone conversations (texts or calls) are typically made up of packets of information that travel different routes and are assembled seamlessly at their destination.
If there were interference or interruption because of the turbines and their electromagnetic force, the cell signals ‘packaged’ information would reroute to another cell tower.
The great part about this is that a cell phone user is unaware of these cellular rerouting functions most of the time and does not need to do anything if their service is affected by a turbine.
So if the wind turbines don’t affect cell signals, why would someone think they would?
Wind Turbines Do Affect Radio and TV Signals
Because of a wind turbine’s electromagnetic nature, it affects the AM and FM radio wave transmissions.
A wind turbine too close to an AM transmitter antenna can alter the signal coverage. The minimum distance a turbine can be from an antenna without affecting the signal is called the ‘exclusion distance.’
The exclusion distance for an AM frequency depends on the antenna type and frequency.
On average, for an AM broadcast, the exclusion distance is 0.3 miles to 1.9 miles OR ½ kilometer to 3 kilometers
FM stations with a transmitting antenna more than 2.5 miles (or 4km) away from a wind turbine shouldn’t have an affected signal. If the turbine is closer than 2.5 miles to an FM transmitter, then the signal can be affected.
Similar to radio transmitters, TV signals can be affected by the electromagnetic nature of wind turbines.
This happens in three different ways.
1. Turbines block the signal – the wind turbine as a physical structure reduces the strength of the signals received behind it. Think of it as a building blocking the path between two walkie-talkies.
2. Turbines reflect the signal – the large surfaces of a wind turbine can redirect TV signals in other directions. Think of it as a fan blowing papers around a room.
3. Turbines could ‘Chop’ the signal – if the signal’s path from transmitter to a receiver passes through the spinning rotor, the received information level can be badly affected. Homes behind a turbine could be watching a movie with half the film frames cut off the reel.
So can mobile cell signals be affected by local wind turbines? No, but other signals can be affected, like radio and television, because they don’t act like a cell signal.
Cell phone signals are designed to optimize transmission and can reroute through other cell towers
Unaffected by the turbine’s electromagnetic field.