Uh oh, North sea wind power a hopeless quest – it's all about the foundations


Thanet wind farm in the North Sea

Bishop Hill points to an essay in the Spectator Matt Ridley: The Beginning Of The End Of Wind which is a summary of the arguments against wind power. He (and I) were not aware of this point:

Putting the things offshore may avoid objections from the neighbours, but (Chancellor, beware!) it makes even less sense, because it costs you and me — the taxpayers — double.

I have it on good authority from a marine engineer that keeping wind turbines upright in the gravel, tides and storms of the North Sea for 25 years is a near hopeless quest, so the repair bill is going to be horrific and the output disappointing. Already the grouting in the foundations of hundreds of turbines off Kent, Denmark and the Dogger Bank has failed, necessitating costly repairs.

So even if you accept the most alarming predictions of climate change, those turbines that have ruined your favourite view are doing nothing to help. The shale gas revolution has not only shamed the wind industry by showing how to decarbonise for real, but has blown away its last feeble argument — that diminishing supplies of fossil fuels will cause their prices to rise so high that wind eventually becomes competitive even without a subsidy. Even if oil stays dear, cheap gas is now likely to last many decades.

Though they may not admit it for a while, most ministers have realised that the sums for wind power just don’t add up and never will. The discovery of shale gas near Blackpool has profound implications for the future of British energy supply, which the government has seemed sheepishly reluctant to explore. It has a massive subsidy programme in place for wind farms, which now seem obsolete both as a means of energy production and decarbonisation. It is almost impossible to see what function they serve, other than making a fortune from those who profit from the subsidy scam.

Even in a boom, wind farms would have been unaffordable — with their economic and ecological rationale blown away. In an era of austerity, the policy is doomed, though so many contracts have been signed that the expansion of wind farms may continue, for a while. But the scam has ended. And as we survey the economic and environmental damage, the obvious question is how the delusion was maintained for so long. There has been no mystery about wind’s futility as a source of affordable and abundant electricity — so how did the wind-farm scam fool so many policymakers?


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amicus curiae

Let’s Compare Power Generation Costs
Here are the statistics on the cost of power generation in 2010 from the Australian Government’s own Productivity Commission:
Coal fired power station $79 per kw/h (kilowatt/hour)
Gas fired power station $97 per kw/h – or 1.2 times the cost of coal power
Wind farm power $1502 per kw/h – or 19 (nineteen) times the cost of coal power
Solar power $4004 per kw/h – or 50 (fifty) times the cost of coal power
I wonder why these stats are not in the recent Carbon Tax Government brochure; they are certain to warm the hearts of those who pay the electricity bills.
sent to me by a friend today:-)

We in the engineering sector have known about this ‘pile’ problem for years, for YEARS. Why did no-one listen?
Just wait. They’ll try to sell you seabed suction-cup technology next.
Nice work if you can get it.

“it makes even less sense, because it costs you and me — the taxpayers — double.”
It’s been well known from day one that all things “green” cost more then real, proven and cheaper energy sources.
So just bringing up the fact that it’s going to cost more won’t make anyone reconsider the project !!

Ian W

And as we survey the economic and environmental damage, the obvious question is how the delusion was maintained for so long. There has been no mystery about wind’s futility as a source of affordable and abundant electricity — so how did the wind-farm scam fool so many policymakers?
Whatever makes people think the policy makers were fooled? Windfarms in the UK – like ‘green power’ projects in the US – are money laundering schemes for politicians to repay favors. Is it a coincidence that family members of both the UK prime minister and deputy prime minister make money from wind power?

Lemonade from lemons: Turn each offshore windmill into a power source for a drilling rig next to its foundation. When the windmill finally comes loose and pops out, GUSHER!

Roger Knights

“… how did the wind-farm scam fool so many policymakers?”

They held their fingers to the wind.
(Asked focus groups what they thought of it.)


Are there any reliable sources to back this up other than “I have it on good authority from a marine engineer…”?


“so how did the wind-farm scam fool so many policymakers?”
The scam didn’t fool the policymakers since they [ or their families ] are the major stakeholders and benefactors.

John Marshall

The problem in the UK is that a succession government ministers put in charge of energy have no grounding in science or engineering. Most are lawyers, PR, or media lovies whose training is in wishfull thinking not reality. Huhne was a case in point. He failed to listen to anyone but his closest ministry civil servants telling him what he wanted to hear rather than what the problems are. It is plainly obvious to even the dimmest that using wind was not a good idea let alone putting them into the North Sea one of the roughest seas on earth with no infrastructure for the transmission of any power to the coast. Cost of North Sea wind generation £100Bs, cost of the infrastructure £100Bs. A double whammy.
Dreamers have no place in government.


Did it fool them?
They are politicians you know.


Seems to be a shallow water problem from this article on scouring:
“A question mark hangs over the long-term stability of Europe’s shallow-water turbines, after research linked to the Horns Rev 1 wind farm found that high-powered currents were causing the stone “armour” around the base of monopile foundations to collapse.”


Sorry OT. The BBC had a programme on last night called Orbit in which they discuss how the orbit and rotation of the earth affects climate. A bit Blue Peterish in parts but very interesting even morte interesting the word climate cropped up numerous times but no mention of Global Warming or Climate Change? It is a series so I won’t hold my breath.
The scenario I hope doesn’t occur in later programmes is, if we change the earth’s climate then we may affect the earth’s rotation and orbit 🙂


“There has been no mystery about wind’s futility as a source of affordable and abundant electricity — so how did the wind-farm scam fool so many policymakers?”
Simple – they had to appear to be ‘doing something’ about AGW. You recall the mantra – “We have only (fill in the blank) years to keep the planet from overheating!” And windmills were supposed to provide ‘carbon free’ power.
Never mind the energy or materials necessary to construct them, or whether the power they’d make would EVER equal or surpass the energy needed to construct them, or whether they were even a good idea – the policymakers were caught with their nuts in a vise.
If they waited, and didn’t do anything – they’d get hammered in elections by their opponents who WOULD promise what was needed.
I give the whole AGW scam about another year, then it’s going to implode and the folks who have been profiting from it big time are going to find some very persistent people looking to see where all the money went.

Money offered! It is not a Big Oil payout but worth a go if you are interested.

It does not just flow to your home you know, it has to be pushed.
The electron flow meets resistance.
From the top of the windmill out at sea to your homes wires, resistance.
Transmission has issues.


I live in north east Norfolk, England. There is a wind farm offshore of Great Yarmouth at Scroby Sands and a huge new development, Sheringham Shoal, further north round our coast, yet to come on stream.
The Scroby Sands development was implemented against expert recommendation that the site was not suitable. Ignoring the usual problems such as intermittency, a bigger one for offshore sites is that the bearing tolerances for the blade mechanisms of these beasts allow a SOA of +/- 3 degrees off the perpendicular. As predicted, many of these turbines have failed prematurely because of bearing burnout caused by running outside of their SOA – the darned things are tilting!
A hopeless technology and testimony to the monumental stupidity of the (oxy)moronic green economy taken on board so quickly by our blind and non expert politicians in their fight for votes.
SOA = Safe Operating Area

A fundamental cost that is also excluded from the cost of off shore turbines is bringing their power to where it is needed. This not only means bringing it onshore-which is ferociously expesive- but then gerting it from where it lands to the consumer. There will like as not be a transmission line system in place as the existng power stations and their tranmission lines are generally in a different place to the onshore terminal of the wind power.
We had several interesting days in the UK last weel where there was no wind and no sunshine thereby knocking out the two prime means of renewables.
The only way forward (assuming we don’t see sense with shale gas) is to use the ocean via waves/tidal power.

Rick Bradford

Well, if the Green/Left was interested in reality, instead of their feel-good eco-fantasies, they would have given up on wind power years ago.
The trouble is, and will continue to be, that they prefer moralistic solutions (those that sound nice and feel good) to moral solutions (those that actually benefit people and the environment).


….so how did the wind-farm scam fool so many policymakers?

Did it? Some of them may have been on the scam. How many are landowners / spousal land owners with windmills? How many with wind / carbon investments?


If I’m not mistaken, EU lowered the life expectancy of wind mills to 20 years due to so few of them being economical after 15 years and some such.


The arguments just get louder and more intense – when WILL our (UK) politicians start to listen..?
As a retired mechanical engineer who spent much of his career trying to keep production machinery working under one roof – never mind dotted over our (once) picturesque upland landscapes, or, worse still – way out in the North and Irish Seas – I have no doubt whatsoever that expecting these monstrosities to last twentyfive years is just laughable.
At a fundamental level, our politicians are entrusting a large part of our electricity generating capacity to – the weather. Are they under some illusion that The Climate Change Act is just that – and includes a clause that will cause the wind to blow steadily at 25mph over the whole United Kingdom..? When will ‘groupthink’ eventually fail – or is the ‘Robin Hood in reverse’ arrangement SOOOOO attractive to the Exchequer that to question it amounts to heresy..?

North Sea? That’s a pretty calm place that never has any really bad storms, right?

Vince Causey

The linked article is well worth a read. Further down, there is mention of a Matt Ridley prize, to be awarded for the best essay that uses actual empirical facts to show the short-comings of wind power.


At some point this scandal is going turn from the poor science to the rampant stock manipulation conducted by those with close links to politicians. That’s when it will really hit the fan.

Paul Bahlin

It often occurs to me that, in today’s world, our tottering governments are still conduits for oceans of money. In such an environment, even a small ‘leak’ at the bottom creates innumerable opportunities for politicians, hangers on, and rent seekers to tap these streams with little straws, for a tasty drink.
Every program you consider that just makes no sense at all is far better understood by the realization that a ‘program’ is a leak. It’s a way to make legal, covert theft from the public treasury. Better yet, done correctly, it not only creates new places to drink, it also makes the folks filling the ocean fall in love with the concept. In their rapture they continue to re-elect the ‘drillers’.
Wind turbines are about money, period. In the U.S. they’re about General Electric. They’re about all the money it takes to get them put up. They’re about all the money given to farmers to place them in their fields. The very last consideration to them is energy.
This is why we pay for scientific studies to validate things that everybody over the age of 5 knows in their gut. This is why countries create carbon trading in the vain promise to reduce pollutants in quantities amounting to a stream of pee in a tropical storm. This is why we pay for models dominated by tuning wheels. None of it is what you think.
All of it is theft by people who have discovered the enormous advantages of a law degree and suit, over a gun and mask. And oh, by the way, don’t forget all the ‘scientists’ driving the getaway cars either.


wind has been declared dead many times before. it has nine lives.
“decarbonisation” is a joke. How about all those gas-fired power plants that need to stay running in case the wind stops?? Are you telling me installing pillars under the marine gravel is energy-efficient, along with the continual repairs?? I think the people who claim wind reduces carbon are from the big-bank scoll of accounting.

The Tyndall Centre have made it crystal clear why shale gas is being put on the back burner.
“large scale extraction of shale gas cannot be reconciled with the climate change commitments enshrined in the Copenhagen Accord (2009)”


Isn’t making it cost double the entire goal?

View from the Solent

Jimbo says:
March 5, 2012 at 5:34 am
….so how did the wind-farm scam fool so many policymakers?
Did it? Some of them may have been on the scam. How many are landowners / spousal land owners with windmills? How many with wind / carbon investments?
In the UK, there’s a noteable one. The father in law of our prime minister trousers 1000 UK pounds per day from his subsidy farm http://windfarmaction.wordpress.com/2011/08/21/david-camerons-father-in-laws-350000-annual-bung/

Vince Causey

Also on wind farms, the link below to a new scotsman article, talks about the growing opposition to the scottish parliaments insane infatuation with wind power, the subtext being that this is something the Conservative party could capitalise on – if they were smart enough.

amicus curiae says:
March 5, 2012 at 4:38 am
Let’s Compare Power Generation Costs . . .

Did your friend send a link to the source of those figures?
/Mr Lynn


5MW at 50 % efficiency is 10MW, converted to Kg force and multiplied by tower height gives a torque figure of around 80,000,000 Kg metres or 579,000,000 lb ft in old money. Plant your turbine in wet sand and gravel, add in tidal scoring, what can possibly go wrong?


The Arctic is currently behaving badly with runaway melt.

bob sykes

amicus curiae
Did your friend supply a reference for the cost data? I would like to use the data in class.


Amicus Curiae says coal burning power is $79 per kWh. I think he meant MWh.

Einstein: “Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I’m not sure about the former.”

The future of offshore wind: artificial reefs.


I thought wind and solar were supposed to be “free.”

amicus curiae says:
March 5, 2012 at 4:38 am
“….Power Generation Costs….Australian…..
Coal fired power station $79 per kw/h (kilowatt/hour)…”
I think you are out 3 orders of magnitude. In Canada I pay $0.10 / kw-hr. Perhaps your units should be MW-hr. The relative costs seem about right though.

cui bono

wws says (March 5, 2012 at 5:37 am)
North Sea? That’s a pretty calm place that never has any really bad storms, right?
The Spanish Armada came through it totally unscathed. Oh, hang on a min….


“amicus curiae says:
March 5, 2012 at 4:38 am
Let’s Compare Power Generation Costs”
The rates quoted may or may not be correct, but let’s get the units right,
The rates are intended to be $/MWh (dollars per Megawatt.hour)

I added a comment on Christopher Booker’s recent article http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/columnists/christopherbooker/9120756/How-much-profit-will-a-turbine-turn.html with a tongue-in-cheek link to a “scheme” for getting continuous electricity out of wind turbines, even if there is no wind.
One response lambasted the suggestion (apparently failing to recognize satire and not reading the entire linked article). The respondent suggested “Try working out the sums.”
Had me laughing and chuckling for half an hour.
The ubiquity of the patently-absurd schemes promoted and built by governments (and carpet-baggers) is wreaking havoc with people’s ability to recognize and enjoy a joke. Or to perceive the deeper message.

James Bull

It is very windy today in the UK and the total usage on the grid is 44,585MW and wind is producing 1069MW of that (dropping from a peek of 1500MW at 07.30 this morning). I dread to think how much it is costing per MW to produce but the power companies are required to buy it in preference to power produced by other means.
You can see the graph at http://www.geog.ox.ac.uk/~dcurtis/NETA.html
Unfortunately I have not been able to find a site showing the comparative costs.
James Bull


case study on US shale gas just for some perspective


jlc says: March 5, 2012 at 6:42 am
[The rates are intended to be $/MWh (dollars per Megawatt.hour)]
Iin Europe it is M$/Whr.
(the metric system eh)


In Ontario, the current globally adjusted rate for wholesale power is CDN$0.485 per kWh. The actual price thanks to almost 0% contribution from wind today is $0.22 / kWh

Vince Causey

Amicus Curiae,
Perhaps you meant megawatt hour? My domestic tariff, as high as it seems to me, is only around 15pence per kilowatt hour.


I don’t think I’d mind so much if the energy to maintain and repair the offshore windmills came from … the windmills.
Why do I find it amusing that the so-called “renewable” energy sources rely, each and every one, on fossil fuels for their support?
How many windmills does it take to make a windmill? ( we already know how much ethanol it takes to make a gallon of ethanol..)


Here is sunny and rainless North Carolina, a solar power station is being built under 10 miles from me. Of course, I’m being facetious when calling North Carolina sunny and dry. This is not even close to a desert here. So solar power does not make much sense here. The company building this (thanks to tax dollars subsidization) is taking 11 acres to build this. And this is the bad part, under ideal circumstances, it will only power 200 homes. There are over 200 homes in a 1 mile radius around the solar power plant! And the local paper acted like this was a good thing!
All of this “green” energy does not make sense! The only thing keeping it alive is taxpayer subsidization due to government policies. Wind and solar does not make sense for large scale deployment. Now I will admit that if solar becomes more efficient, as in greater than 50% efficient, then it would be viable for small scale deployment, such as on top of buildings and homes. But when are a long long ways before solar gets even 30% efficient, much less 50%+. And the more I see, the worse wind power becomes.
Why is it so hard to get people to think! Why can’t people see the obviousness of the truth! Green energy is a money pit. It cannot meet our energy needs.

More Soylent Green!

Politicians love to give the public what the public wants — or what they believe the public wants. When a vocal minority controls the discussion and yells loudest, it’s no surprise they are the squeaky wheel that gets the grease, to use mixed metaphors. This problem is compounded when access to those in power is limited to only a few.
These things constantly remind me why the USA was founded on the principle of limited government. It’s an idea whose time has come again. When government is limited in scope and doesn’t attempt to control our lives or provide for all our various wants, corruption and waste are restrained.