The Trouble with Windmills……

14 Jun

‘Wind power is a multi-million dollar industry which claims to be part of the solution to global warming and CO2 emissions. But just how ‘green’ are the windmills that are popping up on land and sea……?’

Once installed, providing they are turning they generate ‘free’ electricity. It is hailed as a panacea in the CO2 debate but they have many drawbacks and cost a small fortune; heavily subsidised by you and me.

Wind_Farm_02

I read one article on the internet which claimed a wind turbine ‘repaid’ its Carbon footprint within one year of installation; although how they reached this startling claim is not clear; were they offsetting the initial cost against the retail price of the power generated? I think we can safely assume that the egg-heads will have worked on the assumption that it was in service 24-7/365. The industry claim that they are operational on average 66% of the time, but I feel that might be a bit generous. Wind turbines have a limited operating envelope. They need 7.82mph to turn, reaching maximum efficiency at 31.3mph and have to be stopped at 55mph. They also have a 20year operating lifetime before an expensive refit.

Wind_Farm_01The sums simply don’t add up. There are 6,262 around the UK, producing 12 gigawatts (GW). According to the National Grid website, the UK electricity demand is between 30 and 40GW, therefore, if the statistics are correct, wind-farms are producing                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             ½ to 1/3rd of demand. National Grid gives a figure of just 3%. The reason for these wildly differing amounts is good old fashioned bias. Accurate statistics are hard to find. I only trust published scientific papers which have been cited by a large number of qualified people. The internet is full of information, not knowledge. Obviously, the manufacturers, operators and the Government cherry pick the statistics that best suit their own ends……

Open_Cast_MineIn the real world governments and industry fail to include some of the most inefficient items on the list if you are trying to calculate CO2 footprints. For example; Copper is vital and the cheapest place to get it is in China where the concentration is around 0.5%. There are manmade craters resembling the Grand Canyon where gargantuan machines eat away at rocks day and night to extract 1/2kg of Copper per Ton of earth. I couldn’t find a comparable statistic for Neodymium or Dysprosium but they are not called rare-earth elements for nothing. Compared with Neodymium, Copper is like Cheddar Cheese. A wind turbine contains 326kg of Neodymium; imagine the spoil heap. And while I’m on the subject of spoil heaps; China is known for its lack of corporate responsibility when it comes to waste materials, many of which are toxic and even radioactive. With 95% of world Neodymium reserves in China virtually any electronics company is on shaky ground if they claim to act responsibly……

So, overall how do you rate wind-farms? Well in my opinion they are a White Elephant. Global Warming is an industry and has one aim, to make profits, which is not saving the planet. We have a Government which is not even close to reducing CO2 levels to the amounts agreed (and put into law). Whether you’re a fan of the aesthetics or not, wind-farms are not the answer, they barely scratch the surface.

And the final nail in the coffin? We still need the old power stations for when the wind doesn’t blow……

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