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The Truth About Wind Farms

The Truth About Windfarms

By Colin Davidson

"Windmills don't run on wind, they run on subsidies. Solar Panels are not powered by sunlight, but by taxpayers. Without subsidies and renewable mandates they don't operate.The green energy sector takes $2 worth of inputs and procures $1 worth of energy. This is not wealth creation, it is wealth destruction. It is not job creation since even more jobs have to be destroyed to fund the subsidies." ( )

Cost of Construction When you add in the necessary additional transmission lines and back-up generators, they are much more expensive than it first appears. On a per kWh basis Windfarms are one of the most expensive generating plants.

Footprint Wind turbines require 1 square metre for every 2W of peak power ("Sustainable Energy Without The Hot Air", Cambridge 2009, p263ff, by David MacKay,, PLUS the physical safety perimeter, which should be about 2km.

Back-up Because wind is so intermittent and gusty, and because power providers must supply power on demand, back-up generators are required to fill in the gaps when the wind gusts or fails. Hydro power is best for this, but in Australia that resource is already mostly developed, so any large expansion of windfarm capacity will require the building of additional back-up generators. In practice the solution is either to add a gas turbine generator of almost the same capacity as the windfarm, or to decrease the margin for flexibility in the grid system. At some point building a windfarm will require the building of a back-up as well.

Network Stability Even with back-up generators the very rapid fluctuations in delivered power due to gusty wind mean that there is a limit to the amount of windfarm power that can be tolerated before the power system becomes unacceptably prone to unscheduled blackouts. See the discussion at

Carbon Emissions Reduction Recent evidence suggests that wind energy saves little if any carbon dioxide emissions:

Physical Safety The cited videos show what happens when a turbine blade flies off ( ), and also a fire in a turbine ( ).

Birds The cited video ( ) shows a raptor being felled by a turbine blade. This is a very common occurrence. ( )

Blade Noise Pollution Many reports from around the world detail the human distress and ill-health caused by low frequency blade noise. (eg ) This appears to peak around 1-2km from the border of a windfarm, and is worse at night. ( ) The NSW Government, for reasons of its own, decided that having Wind Power was more important than properly compensating for the damage it causes, when it explicitly removed noise generation from oversight by the Department of the Environment. (Report in The Australian, 27-28 November 2010, Inquirer page 1)

Animal Health If humans are badly affected by low frequency blade noise, what about animals, particularly livestock? It is not known if there have been published studies or what the position of the RSPCA is on this issue. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the effects are the same as on humans - a deterioration in health brought about by lack of sleep.

Sovereign Risk In the last year, the alleged threat from CO2 has become much less certain. There is now considerable scientific uncertainty. (Professor Judith Curry's blog and von Storch, H., 2009: Climate Research and Policy Advice: Scientific and Cultural Constructions of Knowledge. Env. Science Pol. 12, 741-747 ) The public's view is also changing. A recent poll of Scientific American readers elicited 6479 responses as of 10th November 2010. 83% thought that the IPCC (UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) is a corrupt organisation, and 77% thought that recent climate change is caused by natural processes.( ) As the facts on windpower become more widely known to the majority who are paying the landowners and windfarm operators large amounts of money for the expensive but less reliable and less usable power they provide, we can expect governments to be pressured into reducing commitments to buy windpower.

Summary Windfarms produce small amounts of electricity, not on demand but unreliably. They are expensive to build per unit of power generated, and may require an additional fossil fuel back-up generator of similar rating to be built at the same time. The combined generators cost much more than the fossil fuel generator on its own, but produce about the same amount of carbon dioxide and electricity, begging the question: "Why do we need the windfarm at all?" Windfarms and additional transmission lines need huge amounts of land, are environmentally unfriendly, killing large numbers of birds and bats, and cause human, and (as yet unproven) animal health problems. Windfarms are visually polluting to many people.

Most of the overseas countries with large scale wind installations are having second thoughts. As ABC Chairman Maurice Newman recently said: "There is a view that wind power will turn out to be for electricity generation what the Zeppelin was for air transportation. It looked promising but was not the answer." (The Australian, 27/28 November 2010, front page).

More recently Barry Brook, Tom Biegler and Martin Nicholson (all academics working in engineering or climate change fields) wrote: "It might come as a surprise to some that wind, solar and engineered geothermal systems (ESG), also known as hot rocks, did not qualify to be fit-for-service for baseload. Wind and Solar PV need either extensive gas back-up or large-scale energy storage for baseload operation." ("Emission Reductions are not Blowin' in the Wind", The Australian, 29th November 2010, see also .)

Further Reading "The Windfarm Scam", London 2009, John Etherington

About the Author Colin Davidson is a retired radar systems engineer.