The dangerous winds of trying to prevent climate change

Inconvenient facts show why wind energy is not renewable, sustainable or climate-friendly

Duggan Flanakin

Wind turbines continue to be the most controversial of so-called “renewable” energy sources worldwide. But, you say, wind is surely renewable. It blows intermittently, but it’s natural, free, renewable and climate-friendly.

That’s certainly what we hear, almost constantly. However, while the wind itself may be “renewable,” the turbines, the raw materials that go into making them, and the lands they impact certainly are not. And a new report says harnessing wind to generate electricity actually contributes to global warming!

Arcadia Power reports that the widely used GE 1.5-megawatt (MW) turbine is a 164-ton mini-monster with 116-foot blades on a 212-foot tower that weighs another 71 tons. The Vestas V90 2.0-MW has 148-foot blades on a 262-foot tower, and a total weight of about 267 tons. The concrete and steel rebar foundations that they sit on weigh up to 800 tons, or more. And the newer 3.0-MW and even more powerful turbines and foundations weigh a lot more than that.

Citing National Renewable Energy Laboratory data, the U.S. Geological Survey notes that wind turbines are predominantly made of steel (which comprises 71-79% of total turbine mass), fiberglass and resin composites in the blades (11-16%), iron or cast iron (5-17%), copper (1%), aluminum (0-2%), rare earth elements (1-3%) and other materials. Plus the concrete and rebar that anchor the turbines in the earth.

It takes enormous amounts of energy (virtually all of it fossil fuels) to remove the overlying rock to get to the ores and limestone, refine and process the materials into usable metals and concrete, fabricate them into all the turbine components, and ship everything to their ultimate locations. Petroleum for the resins and composites – and all that energy – must also be extracted from the earth, by drilling and fracking, followed by refining and manufacturing, again with fossil fuel energy.

Wind turbine transportation logistics can be a deciding factor in scheduling, costing and locating a project, Wind Power Monthly admits. The challenge of moving equipment from factories to ports to ultimate industrial wind power generation sites has become more formidable almost by the year, as the industry has shifted to larger and larger turbines. Offshore turbine sizes (up to 10 megawatts and 650 feet in height) present even more daunting logistical, maintenance and removal challenges.

Back in 2010, transportation costs totaled an average 10% of the upfront capital cost of a wind project. Transporting the nacelles (housings for the energy-generating components, including the shaft, generator and gearing, to which the rotor and blades are attached) typically required a 19-axle truck and trailer that cannot operate using renewable energy and which a decade ago cost about $1.5 million apiece. Those costs have continued to escalate.

Highways and city streets must often be closed down during transport to wind farm sites hundreds, even thousands, of miles away – to allow nacelles, 100-foot tower sections and 150-foot blades to pass through.

Transmission lines and transformers add still more to the costs, and the need for non-renewable materials – including more steel, copper, aluminum and concrete. To get wind-generated energy from largely remote locations to cities that need electricity and are eager to cash in on the 2.3 cent per kilowatt-hour production tax credit, the U.S. is spending $47.9 billion to construct transmission lines through 2025.

Of that, $22.1 billion will be spent on transmission projects aimed at integrating renewable energy into the existing power grid, without making it so unstable that we get repeated blackouts.

On top of all that, wind turbines only last maybe 20 years – about half the life spans of coal, gas and nuclear power plants. Offshore turbines last maybe 12-15 years, due to constant corrosion from constant salt spray. Then they have to be decommissioned and removed. According to Isaac Orr, policy fellow at the Center of the American Experiment, the cost of decommissioning a single turbine can reach half a million dollars. Then the old ones have to be replaced – with more raw materials, mining and smelting.

Recycling these materials also consumes considerable energy, when they can be recycled. Turbine blades are extremely hard, if not impossible to recycle, because they are complex composites that are extremely strong and hard to break apart. A lot of times, the blades just get cut up in large segments and dumped in landfills – if they can find landfills that want them. The massive concrete bases often just get left behind.

All these activities require incredible amounts of fossil fuel energy, raw materials, mining lands and waste products (overburden, mined-out rock and processed ores). How much, exactly? The wind energy industry certainly isn’t telling, wind energy promoters and environmentalist groups certainly don’t want to discuss it, and even government agencies haven’t bothered to calculate the amounts.

But shouldn’t those kinds of data be presented front and center during any discussion of what is – or is not – clean, green, free, renewable, sustainable, eco-friendly energy?

We constantly see and hear reports that the cost of wind energy per kilowatt-hour delivered to homes and businesses are becoming competitive with coal, gas, nuclear and hydroelectric alternatives. But if that is the case, why do we still need all the mandates, feed-in tariffs and other subsidies? And do those reports factor in the huge costs and environmental impacts presented here?

Amid all these terribly inconvenient facts about wind energy, it shouldn’t be too surprising that a new study destroys the industry’s fundamental claim: that wind energy helps prevent global warming. Harvard professor of applied physics and public policy David Keith and his postdoctoral researcher, Lee Miller, recently found that heavy reliance on wind energy actually increases climate warming! If this is so, it raises serious questions about just how much the U.S. or other nations should rely on wind power.

As the authors explain, the warming is produced because wind turbines generate electricity by extracting energy out of the air, slowing down wind and otherwise altering “the exchange of heat, moisture, and momentum between the surface and the atmosphere.” The impact of wind on warming in the studied scenario was 10 times greater than the climate effect from solar farms, which can also have a warming impact, the two scientists said.

The study, published in the journal Joule, found that if wind power supplied all U.S. electricity demands, it would warm the surface of the continental United States by 0.24 degree C (0.43 Fahrenheit). That is far more than any reduction in warming achieved by totally decarbonizing the nation’s electricity sector (around 0.1 C or 0.2 F)) during the 21st century – assuming climate models are correct about the amount of warming that carbon dioxide emissions are allegedly causing.

“If your perspective is the next ten years, wind power actually has – in some respects – more climate impact than coal or gas,” says Keith, a huge wind power supporter. But, he added, “If your perspective is the next thousand years, then wind power is enormously cleaner than coal or gas.”

Of course, his analysis assumes significant warming that has yet to occur, despite increasing use of fossil fuels by China, India, Indonesia and other countries. It also assumes the world will still be using increasing amounts of coal and natural gas 100 to 1,000 years from now – a highly dubious proposition. And it ignores every point made in this article, which clearly explains why wind energy is not really cleaner than coal or gas.

Maybe, my friends, the answer is not blowing in the wind.

Duggan Flanakin is Director of Policy Research at the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow (www.CFACT.org)

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119 thoughts on “The dangerous winds of trying to prevent climate change

  1. Doesn’t matter. The money train has left the station. Everyone involved is making tons of cash and will do most anything to keep it rolling.

    • Exactly. But at least GE pays so much in taxes that we hardly have a budget deficit any more. Oh wait, is that right?

    • Indeed , this article is still harping on the mantra of responsibility for changing the climate .
      Who cares what a windmill or solar panel costs or how long it will last .The govt pays , not us LoL
      Windmills and solar will not ever affect the climate ,only the wallet .
      Cheap energy has brought prosperity to world and is still doing so today , making other people rich selling wind and solar stuff to the gullible .

    • I’ve got two alternative energy inventions that completely eliminate the intermittent energy output issues with windmills and solar panels.

      Climate skeptics attack those minor issues like junkyard dogs who have not been fed in three days.

      If they had just put on their thinking caps, like I did, the solutions would be obvious.

      In fact, I hope to make my first million dollars with my plans, although I’d settle for $10,000:

      (1) Nuclear powered fans to get those windmills moving when there’s no wind,

      (2) Nuclear powered LED spotlights that deploy over the solar panels at night.

    • Duggan, you seem to be turned inside out. What possible inconsistency of logic can beset you that you use anthropogenic climate change principles to make your case that anthropogenic climate change promoters are hypocrites and faulty in their arguments. So you want wind energy to contribute to global warming to prove your point that wind energy does not reduce global warming. We’ll show those stupid AGW lefties, duh!
      That’s brilliant.

    • Go back on this very site and read about Poland Bans Wind Turbines in 17 years.
      Now we have the nation of Poland examining the health damages of Wind turbines. They have discovered that the low frequency noise given off by wind turbines, affects cellular development and mimics heart problems.
      And don’t think you can block these low frequency vibrations with a normal sound barrier. The lower the frequency, the thicker the barrier needs to be. For these very low frequencies, the barrier NEEDS to be 17 meters THICK! The lady who did the study says she wouldn’t live within 17 kilometer’s of a wind turbine!
      They are going to force REMOVAL of ALL wind turbines in 17 years! Check this out, https://wattsupwiththat.com/?s=poland+%2Cwind+turbines and read to the end and check the comments of Sommer, and watch the YouTube video for a real education in the subject

  2. Neither wind nor solar are “renewable”. Once the wind has blown or the sun shone, that’s it. It is not possible for the same wind to blow or bit of sun to shine again. Sure, there’s more where that came from but that’s not what renewable means.

      • (sorry if this is a duplicate)
        Actually, he’s right, in the same sense that you can’t walk in the same stream twice. If you want to be really pedantic, you can point out that the sun will go out in a few billion years. Even solar isn’t really renewable. 😉 LOL

        • Geothermal energy is the biggest non-renewable “renewable” energy fraud.

          Like oil, it appears as a result of what happened many millions of years ago.

          Like oil, it is wide spread but only economically recoverable in a few locations.

          Like oil, once you have economically exhausted it at that location it is effectively gone for ever.

          If it’s there, and economically available, the sure, go ahead and use it. But please spare us all the renewable energy twaddle. Average geothermal heat flux is about 0.1 watts per square meter. Effectively zero.

      • David Chappell December 14, 2019 at 6:28 am
        Neither wind nor solar are “renewable”. Once the wind has blown or the sun shone, that’s it. It is not possible for the same wind to blow or bit of sun to shine again. Sure, there’s more where that came from but that’s not what renewable means.

        Reply
        Duane December 14, 2019 at 6:58 am
        Uhh, that’s exactly what “renewable” means. Sorry, you don’t get to redefine the English language.

        Thank Goodness, per Duane Oil and Coal is now renewable…There’s more where that came from for Oil and Gas and Coal as well.

        • Jevons covered the reality that coal(and we now know, other fossil fuels) are effectively inexhaustible (there’s more, farther down or in thinner seams) and that wind was intermittent, in “The Coal Question”.

          Wind power is similarly inexhaustible, in that while the best sites are taken first, there are always more places to put turbines, and as I’m sure you already understand, also renewable because there isn’t any possibility of stopping the wind with any Human effort, on a human time scale.

          So wind turbines may have a barely measurable but not noticeable mixing effect on the air moving past them, that might slightly disrupt the heat pump effect that dissipates surface heating to space. To the author: yes, I knew that, anyone thinking about it for a few minutes would guess that it might, and now I know that you know too.

          • Wind will always blow. Collecting and transmitting in a form useful for humans it is a whole other story, and that bit of the puzzle isn’t free.

          • No, collecting energy never has been free. Finding places where it’s all nicely packed together underground will last a long time, but it’s eventually going to get scarce.

            I think the place of alternative energy sources and conservation is to more gradually prepare other options for a future time when the pickings get scarce.

            Rooftop solar PV will already give a better return on $30,000 invested than will the local utility’s stock, even before tax.

            I’m honestly still not sure about wind power, the wind turbine money seems to be all private, no small investors allowed, no public stock and no public accounting of the costs and benefits, feed-in tariffs, any subsidies, the carbon tax magical cap and trade shenaniganations, or the rest of the contract terms like who pays for decommissioning and new power lines.

            The scam-o-meter for the Ontario wind farms was off the scale on the feed-in tariffs. Someone got a sweet deal, and it wasn’t Ontario Hydro customers.

            So I’ll pose you a question: Why, do you think, would Trans Alta have done a hostile takeover of Canadian Hydro Developers to acquire a few wind turbines and aome run-of-river hydro, if it was unprofitable?

            And a supplementary: once they had it, why keep it going 23 years until they couldn’t scrounge, weld, file, and rebuild the parts to keep the units running? Why not sell it for 680 tonnes’ scrap value right away?

          • “Randy Wester December 15, 2019 at 12:47 am”

            Australia alone has, at the very least, 500 years of known, discovered, reserves of coal at CURRENT extraction rates. That does not include gas or uranium or estimated reserves.

          • “Randy Wester December 15, 2019 at 12:47 am

            Rooftop solar PV will already give a better return on $30,000 invested than will the local utility’s stock, even before tax.”

            You had CA$30,000 to “invest” in rooftop solar? You have your own rooftop? Well, that’s two things I don’t have.

          • Well, like the guy explains in ‘Gran Torino’, one accumulates these things over a number of years.

            If you’re careful, hardworking, diligent, disciplined and lucky. I have to go now, I need a roof rake to try scrape some of the snow off those solar panels.

      • So how are all of the materials used to build the turbines “renewable” ?
        “Renewable generators” constanstly need to bnereplaced, at very frequent intervals.
        Even Gen 3 nuclear plants can operate 4 to 6 times longer than wind turbines and solar panels and the Gen 4 molten salt reactors essentially have no lifespan limit. They also have an environmental footprint that is practically irrelevant compared o wind and solar.
        Renewable as a characteristic is meaningless and irrelevant – uranium and Thorium will last far,far,far longer than required (to achieve fusion) and is immensely cheaper than wind/solar. So will fossil fuels, for that matter. So what possible gain can there be using primitive “renewables”that require non-renewable back up. And batteries only store energy and are therefore incapableof providing meaninful back up of wind/solar .Face it, folks, wind/solar sucks.
        The issue is whether the power producers generate carbon emissions, not whether they are ,in some meaningless sense, “renewable”.

        • The nuclear units at Turkey Point in Florida have just been approved for operating licenses that will make them 80 years old at decommissioning. Most of the coal units in my state are from 30 to 50 years old. I don’t think the wind turbines will last that long…….

      • Yes, wind and solar energy are renewable , but not the resources that go into the construction and installation of these rapidly becoming obsolete scourges on the environment.

    • Everything except nuclear, geothermal and tidal are “solar powered” as it is the sun’s energy alone which drives all other sources of mechanical and chemical energy here on Earth.
      The sun heats our planet atmosphere and oceans which all the great circulations Earth, wind and sea alike.
      It drives the hydrological cycle which lifts water to elevations for hydro-power.
      The sun provides radiant energy for plants to convert and store chemical energy.
      The Sun is not renewable it will not last forever.
      Nuclear, as best we know, came with the formation of Earth. We will get no more fissionable material, but there is always the future promise of fusion.
      Geothermal is due to the gravitational forces squeezing our planet.
      Tidal comes from the Moon’s orbit, which too is drifting further away until it ebbs into immeasurable values.
      So, what does renewable mean to you?

    • Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these shysters from the swift collection of their subsidized pounds£.

    • Salute!

      What happens when we have so many windmills that the “natural” atmospheric flow is changed, causing weird climate patterns?

      We can see the effects of the “renewable” hydro sources, and eco-groups have whined for years about loss of fish and oyster breeding grounds and….

      In short, the term “renewable” is not a good term to describe something we may ought to term “sustainable”.

      Thoughts?

      Gums asks…..

      • And something about his “body will blacken and turn into coal” ?

        That’s renewable right there. Clearly.

  3. I agree with the premise of this article but think more emphasis would be well placed on the rare earth elements, without which renewable energy is inoperable.

    Currently, China has a stranglehold on the rare earths due mainly to political issues in our country that inhibit utilizing our own resources. We would be in the same position we found ourselves in with OPEC in the 70’s by placing any amount of our energy needs with wind and solar without addressing this issue.

    Up to about 10 years ago, I never dreamed the USA would ever attain anything close to energy independence, yet here we are. Ceding this security to the Chinese would be a mistake of epic proportions.

    • usa HAD its own RE setup but it got shut down late 70s? and the p[lant n equipment went to china like a lot of your other “polluting” industries

      aus and some of your mobs(lynas) are planning to reopen and get setup again asap.
      as well as ONshore processing mining in WA instead of using the costly Malaysian plant tht the greenies got shut down for some yrs

  4. I don’t get it. If wind power has “more climate impact” over the next 10 years than oil or gas, how could it be “enormously cleaner” (presumably meaning far less climate impact) over a time period 100 x as long? Why isn’t it just “more climate impact” x 100?

    • Imagine what it would be like replacing thousands of windmills every year for the next 1,000 years.

      Windmills are a crazy idea whose time will never come. We are reaching its limits now. A long way from powering the world.

      Nuclear is about the only long-term alternative to what we have now. Windmills are a bad, expensive joke. A Fool’s Errand.

      • “Tom Abbott December 14, 2019 at 7:48 am

        Windmills are a crazy idea whose time will never come. We are reaching its limits now. A long way from powering the world.”

        Using wind to do work, in this case making electricity, is 4th to 6th century technology and that isn’t good. It does have its place however, for pumping small volumes of water for instance.

        • I would agree that expecting 100% electrical power from wind (and solar) is absurd.

          But the wind turbines do produce more than just enough to water a few cows. At the moment, the AESO current supply website shows 770 MW wind power, 79 MW hydro ( + 146 MW reserve available on demand) and 275 ‘other’ (mostly sawmill waste)

          And 2967 MW coal + 5677 MW gas. So about 8% wind, probably 5% annually is more than nothing, yet probably not a lot more than efficiency gains possible by upgrading the older combustion power plants.

          And solar? Our snow covered rooftop panels have produced about the same in half of December as in one cloudy day in July. So wind is looking like the better winter assist to coal/gas, but not nearly a replacement.

    • Wind and Solar power “extraction” for large scale use is not “sustainable” with our current methods and efficiencies.

      Engineering is not usually large scale trial and error. We do small tests and try to make it fail, until it won’t easily. Then we see if its capable of scaling up without additional encumbrances.
      This renewable energy issue with wholesale failure after failure is politically driven. The only viable business model to be made is in the subsidies.

      We will drive ourselves to ruin “trying to do it the hard way”.

  5. I’m fed up with reports that indicate these outrageously expensive and NOT renewable wind turbine systems are destroying wild critters that we NEED, and that smaller nuke power stations are blown off as a viable option.

    • The Energy Return on Energy Invested (EROI) of a nuclear plant is something like 100. The EROI for wind is usually less than 10. link

      The newer nuclear technologies are much safer in every way and have a much smaller environmental impact. Nuclear is the only viable way to reduce CO2 emissions (if you really think you have to).

      • But how to make steel and concrete without coal?
        In case of windmills, EROI should include cost of producing synthetic diesel to dig up iron ore and synthetic coal (charcoal?) to make steel.
        Then make more synthetic diesel to power demolishing equipment that must be produced first with synthetic coal.
        Then account energy surplus needed for producing humans over-eployed in those employment-generators. Of course, they all must be feed and serviced by vehicles powered by synthetic diesel produced with ‘wind energy’.

        In that case EROI would plummet towards 1.

    • No argument from me, commieBob, and if placed in the correct spots, i.e., near a lake that is stocked with fish, the ponds will attract fishing birds and fishing people. The howling about ‘radiation!!!!!! da horreur!!!”‘ is getting an eyeful of mud after the Fukushima reactor poisoned only that one poor soul, and the simple fact that wildlife is thriving in and near the Chernobyl disaster zone and now people are moving back, whether the Ukraine government likes it or not.

      NO ONE was hurt over Three Mile Island. It was bunkum.

      Nothing wrong with precautions, but nukes will have to replace gas and coal some day, so now is the time to develop that industry properly.

      On a side note, I can see turning those stupid windmill towers into nesting places for raptors, once the crap turbine parts are removed. The turkey buzzards around here like to nest in the tops of highway off ramp lights when they aren’t chased out by repairmen.

      • The problem is the Linear No Threshold (LNT) model. That theory states that any radiation is bad and that radiation damage is cumulative. In other words, every tiny bit of radiation increases the likelihood of adverse health effects.

        … the LNT theory may be out of date, and low-dose radiation may have beneficial effects depending on the conditions; otherwise, it may have no effects. link

        There are plenty of examples of populations receiving steady small doses of radiation and experiencing lower than average cancer rates. Many scientists discount that evidence because of possible confounding factors. The evidence is piling up and even very conservative researchers, like the ones linked above, are finding it hard to ignore.

        At worst, low dose radiation has no effect. At best, low dose radiation is protective.

        • Low dose radiation? The planet’s magnetic field is weakening, a sign that the North magnetic pole will some day swap position with the South. Meantime, deep space/cosmic radiation levels will be slowly creeping upward. If that isn’t low dose radiation bombardment, then what is it? What will cancer rates be like in the near future, in regard to that?

          Are you saying that placement of a reactor and proper shielding are NOT factors? I have yet to find any complaints about cancer rates for the Clinton, IL reactor, which was completed some time back. At some point, we either bite the bullet and start building better reactors, or we go right into decline.

          • Are you saying that placement of a reactor and proper shielding are NOT factors?

            High dose radiation is, for sure, bad for you.

            On the other hand, low doses are another kettle of fish. Some of my students were in Europe after the accident at Chernobyl. They told me that they couldn’t drink the milk for a long time. I’m beginning to wonder if that was necessary. Similarly I wonder if the authorities over-reacted to other nuclear accidents. There is even evidence for radiation hormesis among atomic bomb survivors. link

            We have ever more stringent pollution regulations. I wonder if there is a point, like there appears to be for radiation, where extra protection is counterproductive.

      • At this juncture in history it would be wise to move on from technology that can do this (that’s not solely a hydrogen explosion, btw)

        https://radchickblog.files.wordpress.com/2014/01/fukushima_explosion-adj.jpg

        Causing this

        http://files.abovetopsecret.com/images/member/8d0991bd2bb4.jpg

        The red zone on the left is as high as nearly 800 mSv/yr, which is 16 times greater than what is permissible per year for those who work around ionizing radiation. Would you really want that in your neighborhood, day after day, year after year? That is an aerial survey; I can assure you that hotspots measured on the ground were/are much hotter. The base of the exhaust stack between reactors 1 and 2 currently measures 10 Sv.

        Gen 4 technologies apparently don’t have this problem. Plus they can consume existing spent fuel. So that seems like the prudent path to follow. Out with the old and in with the new.

        • The premiers of three Canadian provinces have signed a memorandum of understanding to develop Small Modular Reactors. This would be their contribution to reducing CO2 emissions. It’s part of their fight with the federal government over carbon (sic) taxes.

          Normally, I wouldn’t give them much of a chance fighting Ottawa. In the current minority government situation, all bets are off. The gambit might just work.

        • You cannot afford nuclear-fueled electricity production, where MSR’s, SMR’s and 4th generation Bill Gatesian reactors are based on technologies rejected decades ago. There was a reason then; what changed?

          Nuclear electricity’s cost per watt is prohibitive and is too dense and risky a technology to be competitive unless you live in a corporate welfare state (i.e. subsidized). Why do you think US SMR developers like NuScale have come to Canada? It’s not for the climate. Its for the climate change $.

          And why would Canada invest in an entirely new technology (no experience with it at the NRC and only failed experience with it at CNL)? Why SMR pressurized light water reactors when the CANDU is the safest and most efficient breeder reactor in history (1700 times more efficient)? That’s an idiot’s business development principle. Never leverage your strengths, eh?

          It will take 25,000 mid-sized reactors to meet world 2050 electricity targets; if you want SMR’s then you need 75,000 or more. Do you actually like the idea of 75,000 integrated, light water, pressurized nuclear reactors of untested technology sited next door? Need a job? That means building several every day for 30 years.

          Yeh, lets put a nuclear reactor on a train, or a tractor-trailer, on or barge and take it to Fort Mc. You can run the tar sand facility with an SMR. What a great idea.

          Canada could have gone to natural gas. Instead, it bet its economy on heavy crude; a failed national energy and national economic strategy. Now you want to do it with nuclear reactors? No one at all in any country is building nuclear reactors elsewhere unless government pays for it using your and my tax dollars. There is a reason for that.

          • The Oak Ridge MSR was successful. The reason it was abandoned is because of the development of in-flight fueling for long range bombers. The only reason it got funding in the first place was to explore the possibility of nuclear-fueled bombers.

    • Sara, small natural gas plants are another option we don’t hear much of. There is one in my area that is basically shut down, while thousands of solar panels are covering up hundreds of acres of land wind turbines are also polluting the skyline and even more farmland. By the way the gas plant is capable of producing more power than all the solar panels and wind turbines within a hundred miles.

      • Is it permanently shut down and decommissioned?

        Or maintained ready, and available to run as a backup to other, cheaper-to-fuel sources aren’t enough to carry the load?

        Ontario is 60% nuclear, most of the rest is hydro. And their intermittent wind power still needs a fair bit of natural gas, too.

  6. The green energy thing is nothing more than a government/privet work program with very poor results. Just like any other government backed work program the bobble will burs and us hard working tax payers will be left holding the “bag”.

    • It’s relatively easy to count the new green energy jobs. It’s much harder to count the lost jobs and the jobs that never happened due to higher energy costs.

      • The same is true of almost every action by government.
        The benefits are localized and easy to count. The cost are dispersed and hidden.

  7. One can apply the same tortured logic that the author does here to the mere existence of human beings, who consume energy, food, space, transportation, steel, rare earths, etc. etc.

    The production of oil and gas requires massive expenditures of .. oil and gas, and steel, and rare earths, space, etc. etc.

    Unless the author is recommending that humans undergo a massive reduction of population and living standards, reverting to hunting and gathering and living very short and brutal lives, then the consumption of resources he moans about wind turbines using is just flat out ridiculous. There is no shortage of any of the resources humans now use, and therefore use of resources has nothing to do with any discussion of the optimum means of energy production considering all factors – economic, social, technical, environmental, political, etc. etc.

    And as to the ridiculous notion that wind turbines cause surface warming, that’s just plain BS, ridiculous, fails the smile test, and is nothing but a big joke. The readers of WUWT, above all others, must understand that any idiot can produce a paper or a research project that conclusively proves anything they want to say .. no matter how ridiculous. GIGO reigns. There are studies that conclusively prove that reality is unreal .. that up is down, that left is right, that black is white, and that Trump is a sane individual. They’re all BS.

    • Trump may be the most sane of us all. Having a gruff, blunt manner doesn’t mean you are insane. 🙂

    • … massive reduction of population …

      The UN’s Agenda 21 explicitly calls for that.

      Some conspiracy sites on the web refer to a 95% reduction in population by 2030. That ain’t gonna happen.

      The most plausible way to reduce the human population is to do nothing. We’re approaching peak population. After that, we won’t be breeding fast enough to replace ourselves. Even the UN agrees that’s happening. link The cause is prosperity and urbanization. It’s happening all over the world.

      If you want the population to decrease faster, get more cheap energy to more of the world. If you think population is a problem, you should support fossil fuels.

    • Notice how Duane doesn’t even attempt to refute anything, he just ridicules it and generates bizarre and unsupportable analogies.

      The issue here is whether wind mills live up to the standards set for them.
      For anyone who cares to think and has sufficient wit to actually examine the evidence, the answer is clear that they do not.

    • Duane: Don’t know too much about thermodynamics, huh? The maximum amount of energy that can be extracted from a moving fluid is equal to two-thirds of the kinetic energy associated with the movement. The remaining third is dissipated in a constant pressure mixing process with the surrounding airstream – a process that only increases entropy. Depending on the actual efficiency of the energy extraction process, it is entirely possible that the air downstream of the turbine has a temperature higher than that upstream…

    • The readers of WUWT, above all others, must understand that any idiot can produce a paper or a research project that conclusively proves anything they want to say .. no matter how ridiculous. GIGO

      Of this fact you are most certainly correct
      Michael Mann et.al., Stephen Lewandowsky, John Cook, and a host of others have certainly proven your hypothesis

      • Indeed. It is said that an expert can produce facts to bolster almost any position. A good example of that is with expert witnesses.

        An expert witness has a problem that most scientists do not have. She can be examined under oath. If she is found to be lying, she risks a perjury conviction.

        Given the dangers, it might seem surprising that expert witnesses are less than honest. Even so, it happens all the time. link It is very common to find experts producing reports that contain crackpot theories and outright whoppers. If that happens when the experts know they will be closely scrutinized, just imagine what happens with scientists who don’t feel the risk.

        Given Dr. Mann’s loss in his Tim Ball lawsuit, I’m not sure why he shouldn’t face fraud charges, be convicted, and go to jail. But then, IANAL.

    • Duane,
      Why don’t you show the numbers for how much energy is produced net of what is required in the life cycle of the typical wind turbine? Then others can discuss whether your assumptions are reasonable.

      There is absolutely no reason to tolerate wind turbines despoiling the landscape except if the sustained process of manufacture, deployment, operation, decommissioning, remanufacture, etc. will produce a net reduction in fossil fuel consumption relative to the energy produced. That of course is also taking as given that any such reduction in the “carbon intensity” has a beneficial impact on the climate. Presuming that we accept that religious nonsense, we should still then ask the question, which low-carbon energy system delivers the lowest cost energy for the same religious benefit? And that ain’t wind turbines.

      • Over their lifetimes, well-sited wind turbines probably generate more power than it takes to build, emplace and decommission them. But we’ll soon run out of good sites in the US. Off shore comes with the cost of transmission, and attendant losses of efficiency.

        Even covering North America with wind turbine and solar farms can’t replace fossil fuel electric power generation and transportation energy. Most sites would be net consumers of energy. The windiest locales have already been developed. Covering deserts with solar arrays would be another evironmental disaster, as have been bird- and bat-massacring turbines.

    • ‘massive reduction of population and living standards,’: That has been the goal the of the “Club of Rome” all along.

  8. In other news, New York climate warlord Andrew Cuomo forces utility National Grid to supply infinite natural gas out of thin air.

    https://www.google.co.uk/amp/s/www.nytimes.com/2019/11/25/nyregion/national-grid-cuomo-ny.amp.html

    The New York warlord has shaken down the gas utility National Grid. He has blocked the gas pipelines needed to supply New York with gas and at the same time forced NG to provide an infinite amount of gas to an unlimited number of present and future customers.

    In biblical Egypt, the pharaoh withdrew supplies of plant fiber from the workers but forced them to make the same quota of bricks.

    A few centuries later Alexander the “terrible” or Grozny (the 4th), in Russia, used to have a favourite punishment for political opponents. He would require them to give him a jar of fleas. A large glass jar filled with hundreds of thousands of fleas. The impossibility of this task guaranteed that he then had all the pretext he needed for future actions against the Boyars in question, such as imprisonment, torture and theft of lands and property.

    The motivation is exactly the same for New York warlord Cuomo as for the Czar-psychopath in, effectively, demanding a jar of fleas from National Grid.

    • Unfortunately I live in Westchester county N.Y. with con Edison as supplier. Service has always been great and in 50 years have only had three blackouts of consequence and that includes superstorm Sandy. I fear for the future with this s-head in power. How will they replace the energy from Indian Point when they close it down. Gas isn’t going to do it, not with a moratorium on fracking our abundant shale deposits. These people have no clue what it takes to run modern society.

  9. From the article: “But shouldn’t those kinds of data be presented front and center during any discussion of what is – or is not – clean, green, free, renewable, sustainable, eco-friendly energy?”

    Yes, the costs and difficulties of building millions of windmills to power the world definitely should be one of the first things people discuss about this concept.

    The promoters of Windmills don’t want to discuss this subject because it would show that Windmills are not a viable alternative for powering the Earth.

    The CO2 Charlatans have driven a large portion of Western politicians CO2 crazy. But the People aren’t buying it. In fact, the resistance to Windmills is increasing. That is the insurmountable problem for the Windmill promoters. Talking about costs would just be another nail in their coffin.

  10. I’m not under any illusion that wind energy is carbon neutral or that it doesn’t have impacts, or that there aren’t real issues with end of life and decommissioning issues with wind power.

    That said, I don’t understand the nonsense being spewed to pretend that turbines are somehow as bad as coal.

    And the “it warms the planet” angle is asinine.

    I would love to see a level-headed CO2 per megawatt hour estimate for the life of a turbine.

    • How much power a turbine can produce depends upon local weather at its site.

      In the Pacific NW, wind turbines interfere with optimal use of renewable hydropower. They also require fossil fuel backup.

      Wind turbines can’t compete with natural gas economically, without subsidies, and shouldn’t be built until they can. The shortage of good sites means that they’ll never be able to replace fossil fuels.

      • Sorry but I didn’t see an answer there. An average offshore site in America. Average life of a wind turbine. Ignore the backup power and assume it’s covered by nuclear or elf power— I honestly don’t care which. What does the carbon profile per megawatt hour look like compared with the same for oil or coal or natural gas?

        • Of course you dont care if the backup is elves or pixie dust or unicorn farts, anything to support your presupposition. And what offshore windmills? We keep hearing about them, and the rich people with expensive beachfront property keep preventing them. The further out you put them (to keep them out of sight of those rich people) the worse the economics and (to the extent you care) CO2 efficiency become.

    • “Captain Climate December 14, 2019 at 8:52 am

      I would love to see a level-headed CO2 per megawatt hour estimate for the life of a turbine.”

      I would love to see how ~3% of CO2 at ~410ppm/v is driving climate change because without it, all this bullpuckey about climate change is as pure as is pissing against the wind. If you don’t do it right you will only get splashback.

  11. It contributes to CO2 emissions, not to ‘global warming’. CO2 is not an important player in the temperature balance of the planet.

  12. Does “energy” in the US-China trade agreement mean that we’re going to export our clean, high BTU coal?

  13. Geez, this is helpful article. Oregon state idealists in the legislature want to adopt the California Cap & Trade program this next year…I testified against it earlier this year, and the legislation just barely failed to pass.

    I plan to testify against this next year, and this article might be a good basis for my testimony…I might use it at my own City Hall meeting as the City wastes considerable amounts of money and intrusive regulations on a global issue.

    • Bob
      Before you do, be sure to read the counter arguments. See the link to a post by Cliff Mass directly above.

  14. Add to all the excellent objections to Wind Turbines in the article above, the deaths of millions of birds and bats flying into or near those monstrosities as well as the destruction of vast landscape areas of natural beauty.

  15. I recently drive past a windfarm south of Ballarat in Victoria, Australia. Twice last month about 6am.

    The second trip had a decent wind blowing. Not gale force but enough to make me wonder again when summer would arrive (this week, apparently, but its being touted as something unusual, again. 3 days over 40C so I’m guessing 3 days of 40.0C). Still all of the bird choppers were feathered (as in not tilted so as to turn) bar one spinning away a decent rate if knots.

    I know that 6 am is not a huge time for power consumption but solar is not contributing at that time. So its not just they are useless when the wind is not blowing and when the wind us blowing too hard, but when the minimum from fossil fuelled base power is enough.

  16. “Wind energy is free”. Wonderful. It’s almost equally true to say that the energy in a barrel of oil, or a ton of coal, or a pound of yellow-cake is free. It just costs to capture the energy, in terms of labour, materials and (lest we forget) energy to find them, get them out of the ground, refine them and get them to their market. It’s no different with wind power, and this post does a good job of highlighting those costs. The only advantage that wind power can claim is that it’s renewable, a characteristic it does share with hydro power.

    Wind power has been a useful source of energy for human development for hundreds, possibly thousands of years. Mainly, it was used for grinding grains to make flour, and its other big use was for keeping the polders pumped out in the Netherlands. Both of these functions could handle intermittency without causing major problems. The miller could wait for a few days to grind his customers’ corn or wheat, and the polders wouldn’t be under water if the wind didn’t blow for a week.

    But running a modern industrial society requires a much more consistent energy supply to keep everything we use electricity for, running smoothly. Our modern societies have dramatically variable demands on the electric grid, depending on the weather, the day of the week and the time of day. And unfortunately for wind power, which also varies dramatically over time, its variations are not synchronised with the demands of the users. If you’re stuck in an elevator between the 86th and 87th floors of an office building, you won’t feel like waiting for the wind to start blowing again.

    So until grid-scale batteries are available, and cheap, and reliable, wind power is only ever going to be a small component of a modern electricity-reliant society. Window dressing, virtue-signalling (and a few other names that might get moderated out).

    Also, thinking about how variable the demands for electricity are (diurnally, seasonally, day-of-the-week etc.) I’m not sure that “all nuclear all the time” is a viable solution. High-proportion nuclear power works in Lithuania, France, Ontario and presumably in other highly nuclear jurisdictions, because they can sell surplus power to other, less nuclearized places cheaply, even if it’s below the cost of production. But if everywhere on earth is nuclear-powered, there won’t be anywhere to dump surplus power. Unless 4th-generation or 5th-generation nuclear plants can be made with scalable output, this could put limits on the
    level of nuclear penetration in the electric-utility environment. And scalable nuclear power is at least as likely to be developed as grid-scale batteries that don’t require all the cobalt ever mined.

    IMHO the “Chinese rare earth monopoly and environmental disaster” is a bit of a red herring. Rare earths aren’t that rare. Separating them from the host rock and separating them from each other is difficult, but the main obstacle to rare-earth production is the lack of will on the part of miners and regulators (and in the case of miners, finding investment to fund the process will be an issue too).

    Also IMHO the “synchronization” issue is probably another red herring. Not being an electrical engineering specialist, I can’t visualise exactly how it could be solved, but if anywhere is wacky enough to try ” all wind all the time” (hello California, hello Scotland) I can imagine a solution being found, possibly based on DC-to-AC conversion synchronised to a 50 Hz or 60 Hz signal that is transmitted independently of the grid (e.g. by telephone). A technology like that would make “spinning reserve” unnecessary.

    The real objections to very high levels of wind power penetration of electrical grids are well known. Cost (when adding the cost of backup), reliability, lack of longevity, and the really big ones – intermittency and the effects on wildlife – birds, bats, insects (and marine mammals in the case of offshore wind farms). Activists who object to nuclear power on environmental grounds are deliberately blinding themselves to the negative effects of wind farms (possibly because they mostly live in cities and don’t have to look at the bloody things).

    • The green zealots here in Scotland can get away with their “wind is wonderful” claims, mainly because our grid is still interconnected with England’s. Surplus power goes south, and when we’re short it flows back again. Imports increased markedly when the last coal plant at Longannet was turned off. For some reason they still haven’t demolished it. The Scottish National Party, who are in hock (politically) to the Green Party, want to de-commission and not replace our two remaining nuclear plants. I dread that, and am tempted to move to the south of England when I retire. England isn’t much better policy-wise, it’s just that the proportion of wind is much smaller, there are fewer good wind power sites and more people, and politically it isn’t a one-party state in the way Scotland is, so there’s a better chance of a policy change. However our new (conservative !?) PM did re-state the net-zero by 2050 thing, so all hope may in fact be lost.
      I have been tempted in the past by the idea of building a house out of town , with a large coal bunker, LPG tank and generator.
      Maybe now’s the time.

  17. Turbines would make sense in certain high wind areas. The big problem is that wind does not always blow so backup nuclear or carbon based generation is needed. China has put in fair bit of wind power, but they are also making coal fired plants as well. Natural Gas is so cheap in USA wind doesn’t make much sense except it n certain high wind areas. Wind at the end of the day is not a solution. In my opinion the best solution is geo engineering if in fact co2 leads to out of control temps. That of course is a big IF. Geo engineering is not that expensive and not risky for many types of geo engineering. Volcanoes already so a natural geo engineering.

    • “Stevek December 14, 2019 at 2:14 pm

      Turbines would make sense in certain high wind areas.”

      Not really because too much wind burns them out rather quickly. Also, there is the matter of, IIRC, “Betz” law which states that you can only ever recover up to ~60% of the kinetic energy from the input wind source. Anyone claiming more than that is talking rubbish.

      • They recently decomissioned the Cowley Ridge wind farm near Pincher Creek. It was about 25 years old, still working after exceeding a design life of 20 years. It outlasted the company that built the turbines and switchgear, did not “burn out early” but rather became obsolete.

        The turbines replacing them are going to be 10 to 20 times larger, but fewer.

        • I was responding to;

          “Stevek December 14, 2019 at 2:14 pm

          Turbines would make sense in certain high wind areas.”

          Wind turbines in “high wind” areas do burn out early. I don’t know where “Cowley Ridge wind farm near Pincher Creek” is however (Found it. A very large area of relatively flat land in south west Canada suggests to me fairly regular, steady, wind patterns), I can draw on some personal experience in a place called Wellington, New Zealand. When a Nor/Wester blows windmills can’t handle that “high wind”, even the steady flow, let alone gusts! It simply blows too hard and burns them out.

          • I think only a realtor would describe the winds in the area that way, but it’s well above sea level’ 1000 metres or so, so the forces are lower.

            It might uproot trees if any survived the winters. The variable pitch blades can feather and shut down.

            Regardless, wind turbines wotk well in the area, as of now there are 1700 mw of them, about twice the amount of hydro capacity and similar capacity factor. I’ve not heard of any overspeed or storm damage.

          • “Randy Wester December 14, 2019 at 10:25 pm”

            With the scare of sea level rise, very old naval ports, Portsmouth, Gosport, Exeter etc in the UK are still not showing any significant sea level rise after hundreds of years.

          • Interesting random fact bak atcha, I live in the bottom of a riverr valley 675 metres above sea level. Surrounded by fossil beds because the land was once sea bed. Notbecause the sea was higher, but because the crust has since lifted and moved north.

            Another one : the BC shoreline moves up and down more than the sea level does, on a 300 is year cycle, as the rock flexes above the coastal subduction zone. One day it’s going to drop several metres. Probably som going to blame Alberta.

            There is no fixed global ‘sea level’ because the continents are floating on liquid rock.

            But I do wish Texas would cut down on flaring because one day it’s going to be freaking cold and we’ll want it.

        • You also need to look up Betz law. A turbine that is 10 – 20 times larger (Thank what?) will still convert only UP TO ~60% of the kinetic energy in the wind in to useful mechanical output, and then there are mechanical and electrical losses. Bigger isn’t always better.

          • Yes, they are larger but fewer. So the swept area is both wider and taller. There is downwind turbulence but the windy area extends several hundred miles to the east of the Rockies so there is a lot of room for more. Not much need, but plenty of room.

          • No, Trans Alta didn’t publish them. They did have to cannibalize aanother decomissioned site to keep this one going, as the manufacturer had gone away.

            There are some interesting articles on how the company had shut down plants seemingly to manipulate power prices, and tried to shut down a plant claiming prematire boiler failure as Force Majeur, but lost that in court. They did partake of the billions of buyout to shut down coal plants early, but aren’t shuttung them down. So if they were to publish on the wind turbines I would not trust it as much more than “based on real events.”

            The fact is that they bought out the original builder of the wind farms and owned them at shutdown, 23 years after startup.

            They’re waiting on a subsidy to rebuild, (Calgaru Herald, April 2016) I hope they get nothing, ever.

          • “Randy Wester December 14, 2019 at 11:13 pm

            They’re waiting on a subsidy…”

            Nothing more need be said.

  18. On top of all that, wind turbines only last maybe 20 years – about half the life spans of coal, gas and nuclear power plants.

    The plant I worked at had 2 pulverized-coal fired units, one built in 1944 & the other in 1957. Both operated w/only typical maintenance & additions like precipitators until shut down in 2016 due to regulations & the resulting economics (they could have kept running otherwise). So, lasted 72 & 59 yrs respectively.

  19. All of the energy and resources used to produce a wind turbine is reflected in its cost, just as a coal or gas powered generating station. The best way to compare them is via actual (not subsidized) cost to develop per megawatt-hour of output. the cost of backup has to be included as well. Coal-fired power plants have a backup for maintenance and repairs. Since they have a service factor of about 0.95, twenty-one plants can produce 20 plants-worth of power reliably. Many coal-fired power plants keep a few months’ supply of coal on hand, so short-term interruptions in fuel supply do not cause a black-out. Wind farms cannot keep any fuel in reserve and need a much higher level of back-up. The cost of this has to be included in the cost of wind power. Then we can see which one is best to use.

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