Climate Craziness of the Week: lighting up your windmill

I was in Newcastle, NSW AU on Wednesday night to give another lecture as part of the Australian speaking tour I’m doing. I had the pleasure of following David Stockwell in a presentation, and David Archibald followed me.

We were a bit late getting there due to airplane scheduling snafus, and as we rushed from the airport at 6:15 pm we passed the coal loading terminal at Newcastle. There, as if there was some madcap attempt at sustainability, was one of those huge wind turbines like I’ve seen on the US plains. I attempted to get a  photo, but my camera misfired with bad focus due to the car window, and I missed the shot.

The next morning, on the way to the airport again at 6AM, the windmill was still there, just like it was before. My driver (Anthony#2 of Team Anthony) gladly pulled over to allow me to get this shot as dawn crept in. I was incredulous that the shot hadn’t changed.

Ummm. I thought windmills were all about generating electricity, not using it. So why put torches on it that run all night? Want to bet the lighting power is coming from coal? While the turbine probably generates more power than it uses most nights, it sure seems odd.

Of course, maybe the people that run it really didn’t want a wind turbine in their coal town, and this torch lighting is their form of silent protest. Or, maybe they are proud of it and felt it needed to be illuminated all hours of the night. Maybe the lights are to warn off birds and small planes. Nobody seemed to know. Whatever the reason, I couldn’t help but be amused.

I don’t wish to demean the proud hard working people in Newcastle in any way, I just thought this was very odd and worth noting. Thanks to everyone who attended our talk. A special thank you to the two protesters handing out flyers at the city hall telling everyone how wrong we are.

Too bad you didn’t stick around to see what you were protesting about, you might have found it interesting. The flyers handed out were obviously written without the benefit of knowing what was being presented that night. Kids, do your homework.

Here is what the Newcastle wind turbine looks like during the day, note the coal terminal in the background.

From the Newcastle City Photos Blog:

Newcastle’s only big wind turbine seems to be reaching up to the sky for the breezes to keep the city running during the approaching night! Is this the future of energy, ‘free’ renewable and non polluting. For a city which has been based on technology we are slow to move on from the old coal based power structure. People want their power but what is the cost? Later generations will have to put up with the results of our excessive use and pollution it causes.

Background on Newcastle from Hunter Valley Eguide:

Newcastle lies approximately 160 kilometres north of Sydney. Newcastle is the seventh largest city in Australia and is the largest city which is not a state or federal capital. It has a population of approximately 300,000. Newcastle was founded on 30th March 1804 as a penal settlement, so has a selection of buildings old by Australian standards, as well as beaches, surf, impressive coastal scenery, bushland and a well-known lake. It is also an important port, especially for the export of coal, of which resource some 70 million tonnes passes through the city annually.

Thanks to Anthony, Sue and many others who helped out in Newcastle. On behalf of David Stockwell, David Archibald, and myself, I thank you for your hospitality and efforts.


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Anthony, I hope you are enjoying your tour of Australia and finding a little time for sightseeing as well as speaking. It’s a place I’d love to make an extended trip to. You noted you had just two protesters handing out leaflets. What was the mood of the audience in the Q&A?

dave Harrison

Well spotted Anthony. Isn’t it a wonderful system: they make you feel guilty about enjoying all that wealth the country is getting from coal (did you see the long line of coal container ships queueing for miles down the coast waiting to transport coal China?) then they assuage that guilt with a token windmill. Of course they have to light it up so everyone can feel shriven 24/7.


Nice to see that the coal terminal doesn’t seem to have changed much since I used to load coal there in the mid 1960s to take to Japan. The plant used then, though, lifted the coal wagons over the hold and a man with a hammer knocked out a pin, opening the bottom of the truck causing the coal to fall. Very dusty. The last time I was there this had been replaced by state-of-the-art dust-free conveyor belts.
The illuminated windmill will make a good night mark for the Newcastle Pilots I guess.

Keith Minto

That turbine is pure tokenism. Newcastle is trying to find its place in the world after the loss of BHP’s steelworks.
The real economic engine is a little more old fashioned, to be found, waiting, queuing out at sea to load coal.


Small typo. “…handing out flyers at the city hall telling everyone who [sic] wrong we are.”

Johnny Honda

I have an idea, why not light up the solar panels? So the panels could produce energy 24h a day!
Oh wait, they already had that idea (remember that story in Spain)….

They have one of these on the top of Grouse Mountain in Vancouver. Haven’t turned it on yet. It even has an observation level for the public!

Dispute keeps Grouse Mountain’s wind turbine from turning.
BC Hydro not satisfied with project so it won’t sign off to allow electricity production on the ski hill.

Mike McMillan

Might be lit up so that folks not only have the whooshing noise at night, they can also have the flickering shadows on the bedroom curtains.
Aussi, (French for Aussie), “…telling everyone who wrong we are.” should be “…telling everyone who right we are.”


It was a pleasure having you in Newcastle Anthony.
Newcastle is a schizophrenic town; on the one hand it is the world’s largest coal port; on the other it is a hub of ‘renewable’ energy expenditure [development of renewables is still an oxymoron given the manifest failures of renewable energy everywhere, so expenditure is a better description].
Coal is still the only energy game in town with nuclear blocked, but coal is also still its own worst enemy with constant failures to deal with real pollution issues such as particulate matter from mining and transport.
The ‘debate’ about AGW is well symbolised by the photo of the illuminated windmill; surreal.

The light is from coal, at least when the wind does not blow…

Martin Brumby

Newcastle is a nice town and the coal export facility is impressive. Nice to see Big Coal in action rather than little tiny coal which is all we have left in the UK.
Perhaps the wind generator is there to demonstrate to those in the know how infrequently and unreliably these things actually generate electricity.
Again in the UK, after the three months December to February 2010 where Big Wind generated 0.8% of our national electricity needs, the following three months showed improvement, with a stonking 0.83%.
Meanwhile, I am absolutely humiliated to reveal that my own Professional Institution, the once proud Institution of Civil Engineers has fully signed up to the AGW scam:-
When Civil Engineers get into bed with WWF, National Geographic, The Carbon Trust, Internalional Emissions Trading Association and all the rest, I think it’s maybe time to hang my boots up.
Note that one of the speakers is from Shell. That reminds me, Big Oil still haven’t sent me my cheque…..
We are doomed. And not by Global Warming.


Only two protesters? But you had five or six in Brisbane! Time to use Mike’s Nature trick to hide the decline 🙂

Dr A Burns

Electricity prices are to rise down under by up to 64% because of power companies subsidising “free” energy from the sun. This is in the form of domestic solar collectors that can feed back into the grid and earn the consumer income at a much higher rate than the cost of power from the grid.


The new statues to Green have been erected and lit.
Do they collect tithes yet, or is that where you buy your carbon credits?


I expect they were using low-energy bulbs.
In the Antipodes the Ozzies get easily get confused on account of being upside down – all the blood rushing into their heads… poor things. The scam, as perfected in Spain, is supposed to be shining lights at night on solar arrays, not windmills, to generate power which can be sold at a higher price than that consumed to produce it.

I live near a sizeable windfarm on top of one of the tallest hills in the Pennines. Unlike radio masts around the area, this windfarm doesn’t have any mounted aircraft warning lights. Two things struck me.. one, that the windfarm SHOULD have aircraft warning lights and two, that it would be impossible to get them “signed off” by the Health and Safety Executive if they were expected to be powered by the windmills they’re mounted on.


Anthony – it’s a shame you can’t make it down to NZ whilst on your trip
Our “all sectors, all gases” ETS is about to start in two weeks.
If you do ever get a chance to drop by, you are most welcome here.

Anthony, are you planning any tours elsewhere in the Anglosphere?

Bruce Cobb

“People want their power but what is the cost?” Good question. Exactly what does that power generated by that token turbine cost? Be sure to include all of the costs, from production, installation, operation, and decommissioning. Dollars to donuts it’s a lot more than people would like.
“Later generations will have to put up with the results of our excessive use and pollution it causes” climate hysteria, and misguided and costly energy policies. There, fixed.
The two “protesters” were probably just paid lackeys of Big Wind.


Dear Anthony
Are you tilting at windmills 🙂

Brent Hargreaves

It’s pretty clear now that the politicians will only abandon their carbon obsession when the general public become hugely sceptical of the Gore hypothesis.
Here’s an idea for a poll: Question: “In comparing the energy produced by Newcastle’s windmill to the energy content of the coal passing through, which of these statements is most accurate: The windmill produces (a) More energy than the coal (b) half as much (c) one percent (d) a thousandth of one percent.
Would anybody like to estimate the actual figure? I would guess that (d) is wildly overoptimistic. The educational value of such a survey would come when publishing the results: I reckon many a citizen of Australia, having plumped for (b) or (c), would be glad to discover just how trivial a contribution wind generation makes to energy supplies. “Every little helps,” they say. Well, actually no. Doesn’t help. Such tokenism actually hinders the energy security planning process.

John Innes

Obstruction lighting for the windfarms is an interesting challenge. In any radio antenna array consisting of more than one mast, when the masts are tall enough that regulations require them to use strobe warning lights, the lights must be synchronized to all flash simultaneously, to be less confusing for aircraft. This could be a challenge for a multi-turbine wind farm. The best answer to date is to put GPS-referenced clocks on them, and set them to all flash at the same time of day, correct to the millisecond. I think it is symbolic – all individuals must toe the line.

Christopher Hanley
paulo arruda

World Cup, South Africa, Mexico x France game, -10.3 C, coldest of all time.

Richard S Courtney

It makes perfect sense to illuminate wind turbines at night. Indeed, the illumination helps them to fulfil their true purpose.
With respect, you are mistaken when you when you say;
“I thought windmills were all about generating electricity, not using it.”
That is not the purpose of wind turbines which supply to an electricity grid. If it were their purpose then they would not be built because no wind turbine provides any useful electricity to a grid at any time.
Wind turbines operate intermittently: they only generate electricity when the wind is sufficiently strong but not too strong. So, they do not supply continuously available power to the grid. And thermal power stations take days to start up so they cannot be started and stopped so they have to keep operating during the times when wind turbines supply electricity. Hence, when wind turbines supply electricity to a grid they merely displace a thermal power station on to spinning standby (so the power station continues to operate with little if any reduction to its fuel consumption and emissions) or to operate at reduced output (so the power station operates at reduced efficiency that may increase – yes, INCREASE – its fuel consumption and emissions). I provide a more full explanation of this at
Wind turbines supplying to an electricity grid have the same primary purpose as the Great Walls of China.
The Great Walls had a tertiary purpose of military defence, but they were grossly excessive for that.
The Great Walls had a seondary purpose of military deterence: people approaching them would fear what they would confront if they attacked those with the power to build, maintain and man such structures. But the Ming Wall near Beijing is in the wrong place for that purpose.
The primary purpose of the Great Walls was political propoganda.
The Great Walls were large, covered the tops of hills over large distances, and so could be seen for miles. Subjects of China’s Emperor would see the Great Walls whenever they saw the hills. Thus, they were reminded that the Emperor was so powerful he build, maintain and man such structures, and the Emperor had the power to take taxes from his subjects to pay for all that.
Wind farms are large, cover the tops of hills over large distances, and so can be seen for miles. Citizens of a country that builds wind turbines can see the wind turbines whenever they see the hills. Thus, they are reminded that their government is so ‘green’ that it can build, maintain and man such structures, and the government has the power to take taxes from its citizens to pay for all that.
No more powerful method of political statement has been discovered for two millenia. And governments will continue to subsidise wind turbines that supply to an electricity grid until either the governments no longer feel a need to proclaim ‘green’ credentials or an equally effective method for the proclamation is devised.
But wind turbines cannot be seen in the dark. Hence, they do not fulfil their function at night unless illuminated. So, illuminating wind turbines makes perfect sense.

Richard S Courtney

A post script to my previous message.
Three Chinese dynasties – the Xing, Han and Ming – built Great Walls. They each collapsed because they were bankrupted by the costs of maintaing the Walls.
History has lessons that can be learned.

Joe Lalonde

Our provincial government is pulling a fast one yet the media never reports any of this garbage???
Paying 2 and 3 times the going rate for wind power and solar power and every 3 months our price of electricity keeps rising on our bills. Have to pay for this subsity somehow.

Phillip Bratby

Windmills consume a lot of electricity when the wind is blowing below the cut-in wind speed, which is typically 4m/s.

Maybe it’s their version of the old Indiana Flambeau.

From the WSJ, May 7th:

Cape Wind to Sell 50% of Offshore Output to National Grid
NEW YORK—National Grid PLC plans to buy half of the power from what would be the nation’s first offshore wind farm, a key step in the development of the long-planned project off the Massachusetts coast. . .
. . .Under the terms of the deal, National Grid would buy output from the project starting in 2013 at 20.7 cents a kilowatt-hour to deliver to its customers. The price would increase 3.5% a year over the 15-year life of the contract. National
Grid estimates the agreement will increase the bill of a typical residential customer by roughly 2%, or $1.59, a month. “If we keep stalling on advancing forward because of the existing pricing scenario, we will never (move) forward in the United States” with renewable energy development, said National Grid President Tom King during a conference call.
The cost of power under the contract is more than double the 8-10 cents a kilowatt-hour state residents currently pay. Electricity prices in the Northeast are among the highest in the nation, though a slump in demand and a drop in prices for natural gas has driven a sharp decline over the last two years.
King said the agreed-to pricing is adjusted for inflation and includes the environmental benefits of wind generation, while locking in stable prices in the often volatile energy markets. The Northeast U.S. already requires generators to pay a price to emit greenhouse-gas emissions linked to climate change, a program that’s being debated on the national level. . .

So we in Massachusetts will pay more than double our current electricity cost for the privilege of using ‘free’, ‘green’ wind power. And we’re already being taxed for using ‘greenhouse’ electricity. Where’s that money going—to buy carbon credits from the Goracle?
And don’t tell me to write my congressman; his name is Ed Markey.
/Mr Lynn

Craig Goodrich

One windmill in a coal town may be just loony. A forest of the useless monstrosities is criminal insanity.

Patrick Davis

“Dr A Burns says:
June 18, 2010 at 2:05 am
Electricity prices are to rise down under by up to 64% because of power companies subsidising “free” energy from the sun. This is in the form of domestic solar collectors that can feed back into the grid and earn the consumer income at a much higher rate than the cost of power from the grid.”
The up to 64% uplift in prices over 3 years was on the basis of the establishment of the CPRS. As that is not happening, rises won’t be as much, but prices will still rise. Excuse? Infrastructure upgrade costs. I guess that’s what happens when a state utility, all paid for by the taxpayer, get’s privatised. Look to Thames Water in the UK as a recent example of privatising a public utility allowing the comany to “asset strip” to pay debt in favour of it’s shareholders. No investment in repairs, no investment in infrastructure leading to consumer paying ever higher prices.
As for the solar thing here in Australia, well, if you own your roof you can install such systems however, as more and more Australians rent, and rent an apartment, that option is unavailable. So, how benefits? The businesses who make the panels and Govn’t, all at taxpayers expense.
Still in NZ, they pay GST (12.5) on their power. They pay some of the most expensive power too even considering much of their power is renewable (Geothermal and hydro). Their GST has just gone up to 15%, so even before any ETS, they already have had a 2.5% GST increase in power costs. And, going on commenst here i this thread, NZ is 2 weeks away from destrying it’s economy.

Richard S Courtney

Several here have commented that wind and solar energies are said to be “free”. And they are “free” because all sources of energy – coal, oil, gas, nuclear, etc. – are “free”.
But collecting the energy so it can be used has costs.
The costs of collecting wind and solar energies are exhorbitantly high when compared to the costs of collecting energy from coal, oil and natural gas.


The wind turbine operator in Newcastle can easily afford to light up the tower. He gets three times the rate for power produced by the turbine over the rate he pays for the lights. Like the turbine in my local town, the operator can probably afford to motor the turbine during periods of no wind and still make a profit.

Ozzie John

Maybe they could mount a solar panel on the wind turbine facing towards the light source ?

Jason Calley

Richard Courtney, pretty much yes, to all you have said. It may or may not be true that “the rich are not like you and me” but it is for certain true that the politicial class is not like us. We poor beknighted souls look to pragmatism for basing our decisions, but to those whose lives are dedicated to seeking and maintaining political power every decision is based on political considerations. EVERY decision. Should we promulgate support for wind generators? For belief in AGW? For war? Or peace? Human lives and human labor do not enter into the equation. The only consideration is “does this action allow us to retain power?”


typo: telling everyone who wrong we are.
the windmill is perhaps lighted at night for safety reasons.


During thunderstorms windmills can be lighten up (or rather down)….suddenly.



Patrick Davis

“Richard S Courtney says:
June 18, 2010 at 5:07 am
Several here have commented that wind and solar energies are said to be “free”. And they are “free” because all sources of energy – coal, oil, gas, nuclear, etc. – are “free”.
But collecting the energy so it can be used has costs.
The costs of collecting wind and solar energies are exhorbitantly high when compared to the costs of collecting energy from coal, oil and natural gas.
One reason why the steam engine is more “efficient” than the IC engine, it costs more to extract fuels suitable (Oil) and then refine them (So that once burnt, emit “cleaner” emissions). Mind you, the term “fossil fuel” always has bugged me. I mean, wood, peat, oil and coal are THE original bio-fuels, right?


That windmill is for carrying wind to Newcastle

el gordo

Just a guess – the single large wind turbine in Newcastle is run by the CSIRO. It’s tokenism at its worst and will undoubtedly be left in place as a work of art, when global cooling takes hold.


There is an old phrase to describe sending resources to a place where they are manifestly unneeded: “…coals to Newcastle.”


From the exposure of 1/30 of a second and the amount of blurring of the blade I have calculated that a blade was taking just over two seconds to go right around. That’s fast enough to generate more than enough power to run the lights.
They look like at least 33,000 volt insulators on the poles:


How high is that windmill? If it works at all I’d expect it to be above all surrounding objects. That would make it an air navigation hazard which should require some lighting for avoidance. A spot light seems a bit much though.


Bottled wind could be as constant as coal (I’m just quoting wired here!)
(my remark: if they manage to solve the technical probs: collapsing structures causing earthquakes, temperature differences during compression and decompression, efficiency, absence of suitable underground structures.)

I’ll preface my comment by saying that I am neither a scientist nr an engineer, although I do have a fondness for tinkering with mechanical devices, and I spent almost a quarter century on active flying status with the Air Force, and have many of the rudimentary principles of aerodynamics ingrained in the noggin quite deeply, as my life directly depended upon their application. . .
It has always struck me about the design that seems most favored for ‘wind turbines’ – that just as I can look at the basic design of various aircraft and ascertain poor designs from rather good ones simply by nothing more than the aesthetics – these things just look “wrong” to me. True, the conclusion that they are butt ugly is by no means supportable with facts and figures rendered on a mountain of paper or gigabytes of electronic spreadsheet – but these damned things just LOOK horribly inefficient and poorly designed to my eyes, only partially engaging or exploiting the total of the wind energy passing by their spindly constructs. As I said, I’m not a professionally trained engineer, but if I were to use the analogy of automobiles, it’s like looking at a Ford Fiesta when you instinctively know that a Porsche is quite possible. Not because you’ve ever actually seen a Porsche, but that you perceive the inherent limitations of the Fiesta, even if you can’t articulate them.
My sense is that they’re doing it wrong. And making a boatload of money (as well as killing quite a lot of birds) in the process.
What sort of design ‘looks’ right to me? Tesla had some good ideas, I think. Efficient enough to make the economic equation work out? No idea. But probably better than the crap their tossing up all over the place, would be my sense of it.

Bruce Cobb

Energy-wise, one could say that wind turbine is like carrying coal to Newcastle.


I’d like to write a guest post about my new “green” flashlight. It’s solar powered!

Gary P

Just wait until some genius decides the aircraft warning lights need to be at the highest point of the windmill. The three lights whirling at the tips of the blades should make everybody dizzy. Small planes will be falling out of the sky like flies as the pilots succumb to vertigo. Now add that to a massive wind farm where there always seems to be one windmill rotating in the the opposite direction……