Large scale wind power would actually INCREASE global warming

“You’ve heard it before: There is no way wind energy (or solar power) is clean, green, renewable or sustainable,” writes Paul Driessen. “But here my CFACT colleague Duggan Flanakin provides some very interesting new information about the eco-fraud that is wind power. Most fascinating is the new Harvard U study he discusses: the one that says large scale wind power would actually INCREASE global warming. You read that right.

“As you read his article, you are likely to wonder, as I did: Is there any conceivable reason why US taxpayers and energy consumers should continue subsidizing and mandating increasingly gigantic, bird and bat killing, habitat and scenery destroying, raw materials gobbling wind turbines that provide electricity only 25-30% of the year, even in windy locations – at the whim of local weather, but probably not when we need electricity the most … on the hottest and coldest days?”

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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)

 


14 thoughts on “Large scale wind power would actually INCREASE global warming”

  1. I would love to see a country say that yes of course you can build windmills but they must be fossil fuel free all the way from the mined ore to commissioning.

  2. I reckon the heat generated BY solar farms also would be pretty large and affect the area around it
    we will see proof in Aus as the idiot victorian govt has allowed huge solar farms rightnext to orchards and housing estates.

  3. The CO2 Global Warming mania and the wind turbine industry may be compared to the ad campaigns that targeted women in the 1920s and 30s to convince them that they should shave their legs and take up smoking cigarettes. There are huge profits to be made by promoting and selling products which are useless or even detrimental.

  4. Unfortunately, the article is headlined “…..would actually increase global warming.”

    I thinks this is, essentialy, an admission of a belief in the theory that increasing/contributing to atmospheric C02 does (significantly) contribute to GW.

    My son (whom I’ll call “Rooster Little”) frequently calls my attention to this after reading similar rebuttals I send him on a regular basis.

  5. I think that when you are driving around the country where most windmills might be seen, the natural thing is to think how nice that is, seeing the blades moving ever so slightly in the kinda not so windy air….yes, ever so slightly, way out in the middle of the rolling hills in the southern tier of NYS. Some of them move, but so slowly. Others, nearby, sit idle. Some, in other places, aren’t really moving at all. And this is on a perfectly normal day. They are all over the place. I often wonder just how much effort and time was used to install them (I live about an hour or so north, underneath Lake Ontario). I wonder also just how much electricity they are producing, not moving, or moving so slowly. My thoughts always tend towards the negative on this frankly. The monumental amt. of someone’s tax dollars that went into these, and the obviously low production of energy — its such an obvious lose/lose scenario. But they are a feel good thing, seeing them sprouting up around the foothills, doing so very little, but looking so eco-friendly while do so. The interesting thing is that when the wind is moving at much higher speeds, they don’t seem to move at all. It must be a safety issue — to shut them down when they could be most productive.

  6. In the cooler and temperate regions of the planet, these monuments to stupidity will not see out the next 10 years.

    As the solar minimum bites ever harder the weather will become more erratic, some regional hot summers, but overall colder, longer winters.
    Many of these windmills will not in, westernized nations, survive, consequently a return to proper energy production of fossil fuels and nuclear power will happen.

  7. The white elephant in the room is that fossil fuels – oil, gas, coal – are finite resources, they won’t power the world forever, BP has estimated that current oil production is sustainable only until circa 2050 – that’s British Petroleum.

    So, if we don’t go to renewables, what happens when the energy demand exceeds the energy supply from fossils?

    Economic catastrophe.

    I don’t think “going green” will have any identifiable effect on climate change (the climate has been changing constantly for hundreds of millions of years).

    But the “Anti-Greens” are in total denial of the fact that fossil fuels are finite depleting resources that won’t power the world forever, maybe only a few more decades, and then?

    Seems to me the obvious solution is a mix of solar, wind, nuclear, and hydrogen from sea water (the hydrolisis will have to be powered by solar, wind, nuclear).

  8. Well, I can’t see Americans quietly going to their deaths from the cold the way the Brits seem content to do.

    If people cannot afford the electricity to heat their homes, we’re going to see environmentalists burned in effigy (at least!) on the White House lawn.

    It’s too bad we do not know for sure who is behind the undermining of the West. All we will ever get our hands on will be the Useful Idiots.

  9. As the world cools into a probable “Little Ice Age”–or worse–I am not comforted by reliance on windmills. If airplane wings ice up in winter, what about the wings on these devices. How much energey can we get from solar panels covered in snow? It is possible that the downward warming trends could eventually trigger an ice age in the next 1000 years or so, IMO. Keep these gizmos in the tropics and let us northerners use dependable fuels. Ironically, will the day come when we actually thank China and India for their CO2 emission levels?

  10. Wind turbines generate very little electricity at wind speeds of 15 miles per hour and ZILCH in wind speeds not much below that. They often turn slowly at very low wind speeds because they have been “put out of gear”. So they are idling and not generating ANY electricity.I have often seen wind turbines in Wales UK turning VERY QUICKLY when there is NO wind.Therefore it is impossible that the wind is turning them.
    The TRUTH is that fossil fuel generated electricity from the UK National Grid is being used to turn those wind turbines on windless days. THEY ARE THEREFORE DEFEATING THEIR OBJECT !
    They are USING fossil fuel generated electricity to turn ,instead of generating non-fossil fuel electricity.
    IS THIS DONE TO DUPE NAIIVE PEOPLE INTO THINKING THEY GENERATE ELECTRICITY AT ALL TIMES?
    If so it means that people are being CONNED !
    There is no wind under a “High Pressure” or anticyclone. Therefore wind turbines are frequently on stop, so how can BACK-UP FOSSIL FUEL POWER STATIONS EVER BE CLOSED DOWN? They are needed for periods of low wind speeds.
    Not only that; because of the sporadic nature of the wind, I believe that fossil fuel power stations are often KEPT BURNING FOSSIL FUELS , whether the heat is converted to electricity or not. Because the wind is “up and down ” , wind turbine output is often ignored , and fossil fuels burnt, come what may.

    It must be remembered that in the UK, a 400 ft tall wind turbine with an installed capacity of 2 megawatts will only achieve an AVERAGE output of 25 pc of installed capacity. That is only 0.5 MW !
    So to MATCH a fossil fuel pwer station turning out 1000MW , requires 2000 wind turbines 400 feet tall.
    Wales is only 8015 square miles in area , and they are plasrtering Wales to supply England with its massive 56 million population.
    They won’t put wind turbines on the Cotswold, Malvern, Chiltern hills of England because RICH NIMBYS live there …..who support wind energy…….but not near their million pound houses !!
    Wales, with 3 million people , only needs 1850MW on avaerage.
    A new gas-fired power station at Pembroke , West Wales, generates 2200MW on its own…….SO IT CAN POWER WALES ON ITS OWN !! Yet wind turbines galore , plus huge fields of solar panels…….are DUMPED ON WALES……..TO SUPPLY ENGLAND TO ITS EAST !
    By the way, I have just come back from Israel which is EXACTLY the size of Wales………8015 sq miles. THERE ARE NO WIND FARMS THERE AND HARDLY ANY SOLAR FARMS EITHER………IN A SUNNY, HOT COUNTRY !

    Why is Wales being WRECKED to “save the planet” , whilst other countries with HUGE POPULATIONS hardly bother ??

    PS PUT “EXPLODING DANISH WIND TURBINE ” into Google. You will be SHOCKED !

  11. I acre of hemp will give you 8000L of ethanol. people really dotn get the magnificence of hemp

    Left over seeds from the ethanol is 3 times more nutritious than sorghum. Then the left over cellulose
    -Cures cancer and so many diseases as a distilled oil and cold low temp juicing ( next to know thc effects this way,just health)
    -Makes houses with that have super insulation.
    -Henry ford ran 40000 cars off it from 10,000 acres pre 1920’s
    -Hemp flour with no THC is so nutritious.
    -Every product on the earth we use cellulose, well this is super source. That’s over 10000 products need cellulose.
    -Better for paper than wood.

    – Plus it can give you a pleasant “high” as a sideline.

    This would make a huge difference.

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