Our money just blowing in the wind turbines

• Guest post •

Wind energy produces costly, intermittent, unpredictable electricity. But Government subsidies and mandates have encouraged a massive gamble on wind investments in Australia — over $7 billion has already been spent and another $30 billion is proposed. This expenditure is justified by the claim that by using wind energy there will be less carbon dioxide emitted to the atmosphere which will help to prevent dangerous global warming.

Incredibly, this claim is not supported by any credible cost-benefit analysis — a searching enquiry is well overdue. Here is a summary of things that should be included in the analysis.

Firstly, no one knows how much global warming is related to carbon dioxide and how much is due to natural variability. However, the historical record shows that carbon dioxide is not the most important factor, and no one knows whether climate feedbacks are positive or negative. Also, in many ways, the biosphere and humanity would benefit from more warmth, carbon dioxide and moisture in the atmosphere.

However, let’s assume that reducing man’s production of carbon dioxide is a sensible goal and consider whether wind power is likely to achieve it. To do this we need to look at the whole lifetime of a wind tower.

Wind turbines are not just big simple windmills – they are massive, complex machines whose manufacture and construction consume much energy and many expensive materials. These include steel for the tower, concrete for the footings, fibreglass for the nacelle, rare metals for the electro-magnets, steel and copper for the machinery, high quality lubricating oils for the gears, fibreglass or aluminium for the blades, titanium and other materials for weather-proof paints, copper, aluminium and steel for the transmission lines and support towers, and gravel for the access roads.

There is a long production chain for each of these materials. Mining and mineral extraction rely on diesel power for mobile equipment and electrical power for hauling, hoisting, crushing, grinding, milling, smelting and refining. These processes need reliable electric power 24/7 which, in Australia, is most likely to come from coal.

These raw materials then have to be transported to many specialised manufacturing plants, again using large quantities of energy, generating more carbon dioxide.

Then comes the construction phase, starting with building a network of access roads, clearing transmission routes and excavating the massive footings for the towers. Almost all of this energy will come from diesel fuel, with increased production of carbon dioxide. Moreover, every bit of land cleared results in the production of carbon dioxide as the plant material dozed out of the way rots or is burnt, and the exposed soil loses its humus to oxidation.

Once the turbine starts operating, the many towers, transmission lines and access roads need more maintenance and repair than a traditional power plant that produces concentrated energy from one small plot of land using a small number of huge, well-tested, well-protected machines. Turbines operate in exposed, isolated locations exposed (needless to say) to the full force of everything the weather can throw at them. Blades need to be cleaned using large specialised cranes, towers and machinery need regular inspection and maintenance, and mobile equipment and manpower needs to be on standby for lightning strikes, fires or accidents. All of these activities require diesel-powered equipment which produces more carbon dioxide.

Even when they do produce energy, wind towers often produce it when demand is low — at night, for example. There is no benefit in this unwanted production, but it is usually counted as saving carbon fuels.

Every wind farm also needs backup power to cover the 65% of wind generating capacity that is lost because the wind is not blowing, or blowing such a gale that the turbines have to shut down.

In Australia, most backup is provided by coal or gas plants which are forced to operate intermittently to offset the erratic winds. Coal plants and many gas plants cannot switch on and off quickly but must maintain steam pressure by idling constantly as “spinning reserve” in order to ramp up quickly when the fickle wind drops or squalls. This causes grid instability and increases the carbon dioxide produced per unit of electricity. This waste should be debited to the wind farm that caused it.

Wind turbines also consume energy from the grid when they are idle — for lubrication, heating, cooling, lights, metering, hydraulic brakes, energising the electro-magnets, even to keep the blades turning lazily (to prevent warping) and to maintain line voltage when there is no wind. A one-month study of the Wonthaggi wind farm in Australia found that the facility consumed more electricity than it produced for 16% of the period studied. A detailed study in USA showed that 8.3% of total wind energy produced was consumed by the towers themselves. This is not usually counted in the carbon equation.

The service life of wind towers is far shorter than traditional power plants. Already many European wind farms have reached the end of their life and contractors are now gearing up for a new boom in the wind farm demolition and scrap removal business. This phase is likely to pose dangers for the environment and require much diesel-powered equipment producing yet more carbon dioxide.

Most estimates of carbon dioxide “saved” by using wind power look solely at the carbon dioxide that would be produced by a coal-fired station producing the rated capacity of the wind turbine. They generally ignore all the other ways in which wind power increases carbon energy usage, and they ignore the fact that wind farms seldom produce name-plate capacity.

When all the above factors are taken into account over the life of the wind turbine, only a very few turbines in good wind locations are likely to save any carbon dioxide. Most will be either break-even or carbon-negative — the massive investment in wind will achieve zero climate “benefits” at great cost.

Entrepreneurs or consumers who choose wind power should be free to do so but taxpayers and electricity consumers should not be forced to subsidise their ideological choices for questionable, highly controversial reasons. There are people who claim climate sainthood for wind energy and thereby earn legislative support and subsidies to save the earth.

We should require them to provide persuasive evidence with detailed cost-benefit analyses covering the whole life of these behemoths.

Until then our money’s blowin’ in the wind.

Viv Forbes,

Rosewood Qld Australia

Viv Forbes has a degree in applied science and long experience in the resource, energy and investment industries at senior levels. He is Chairman of the Carbon Sense Coalition and a non-executive director and small shareholder in a small Australian coal explorer.For those who wish to read more:

UK Wind farms will create more carbon dioxide than they save:

Wind energy does little to reduce carbon dioxide emissions:

The High Cost of reducing carbon dioxide using wind energy:

Wind power does not avoid significant amounts of greenhouse gas emissions:

Wind Power may not reduce emissions as much as expected:

Why Wind Won’t Work:

Energy Consumption in Wind Facilities:

Growing Problem of Grid Instability:

Contractors prepare for US81M boom in decommissioning North Sea wind farms:

Time to End Wind Power Corporate Welfare:

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Peter Yates

Great article. … There seems to be similar problems with solar panels, as described here :-
“Ferrucio Ferroni writes … how China is the number 1 manufacturer of solar panels globally and that the production of solar panels there requires immense amounts of electricity, which in China is mainly produced by coal power plants. Moreover the manufacture of solar panels also involves substantial amounts of potent greenhouse gases that leak out into the atmosphere.”

Richard C (NZ)

>”Already many European wind farms have reached the end of their life and contractors are now gearing up for a new boom in the wind farm demolition and scrap removal business” Already. At least those are being removed – maybe. Hasn’t been the norm for first gen US windfarms: ‘Wind Energy’s Ghosts’ By Andrew Walden, February 15, 2010 Bankrupt Europe has a lesson for Congress about wind power. Wiwo…wiwo…wiwo. […] The mysterious sounds are “Na leo o Kamaoa”– the disembodied voices of 37 skeletal wind turbines abandoned to rust on the hundred-acre site of the former Kamaoa Wind Farm. The ghosts of Kamaoa are not alone in warning us. Five other abandoned wind sites dot the Hawaiian Isles — but it is in California where the impact of past mandates and subsidies is felt most strongly. Thousands of abandoned wind turbines littered the landscape of wind energy’s California “big three” locations — Altamont Pass, Tehachapi, and San Gorgonio — considered among the world’s best wind sites. […] The turbines installed in the first wind rush were not very reliable. Some never worked at all. As the years passed and the elements took their… Read more »


Recently sacked UK environment minister Owen Paterson writes a good piece about The Green Blob


And Booker laments his passing and wonders what happened to the UK conservative party


stan stendera

Hopefully the loon who conjured up the wind turbine nonsense died in wind turbine blades

I don’t know if there are avian loons in NZ, but loons are a widespread water bird in Canada and the northern part of the USA. There are lots of climate loons in all three countries.


If you want to enjoy an unbiased discussion on the topic, my charming friends at Hot Topic are very quick to jump to the defence of the Obama administration to grant exemption to wind turbine operators to kill Bald Eagles with full legal exemption for 30 years.

yet, at the same time, the seismic surveying that *might* upset dolphins and whales is completely unacceptable

Richard C (NZ)

An odd set of ground rules there. Same for Marcott discussions I see.


Yes, the Marcott discussion was interesting. Everyone thought the methodology was OK even though the authors of the paper thought otherwise

The reason that Marcott et al is wrong (as far as the Hockey Stick is concerned) seems glaringly obvious to me.

If you filter out the high frequency signal from a waveform, and don’t do the same for the last part of the waveform, you get a Hockey Stick.

Mike Jowsey

A good article by Booker – thanks Andy. I found this link in the comments – a Dutch analysis of wind farm economics:

First we describe the models presently used by others to calculate fuel saving and reduction of CO2 emission through wind developments. These models are incomplete. Neglected factors diminish the calculated savings.
Using wind data from a normal windy day in the Netherlands it will be shown that wind developments of various sizes cause extra fuel consumption instead of fuel saving, when compared to electricity production with modern high-efficiency gas turbines only. We demonstrate that such losses occur.
Factors taken into account are: low thermal efficiency at low power; cycling of back up generators; energy needed to build and to install wind turbines; energy needed for cabling and net adaptation; increase of fuel consumption through partial replacement of efficient generators by low-efficiency, fast reacting OCGTs.


Richard C (NZ)

Michaels and Knappenberger pulled out a quote that applies particularly to the current climate science paradigm, but I think also to the expectations of wind power versus actual performance:

“In science,…novelty emerges only with difficulty, manifested by resistance, against a background provided by expectation. Initially, only the anticipated and usual are experienced even under circumstances where the anomaly is later to be observed.”

–Thomas Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962)

“Later to be observed” in regard to wind energy, is now.

The Thomas Kuhn quote is applied to Antarctic sea ice by Michaels and Knappenberger:

‘Molehill of Antarctic Ice Becomes a Mountain’

One of global warming’s “novelties” is that satellite measurements show the extent of ice surrounding Antarctica is growing significantly, something not anticipated by our vaunted climate models.

Thomas Kuhn would predict “resistance”, and today we see yet another verification of how stubborn science can be in the face of results don’t comport with the reigning paradigm. The paradigm, in this case, is that our climate models are always right and any counterfactuals are because something is wrong with the data, rather than with the predictions.



Richard C (NZ)

>”One of global warming’s “novelties”…..[Antarctic SIE]” Another being “the pause” in GAT. Hence, Lovejoy (2014): ‘Return periods of global climate fluctuations and the pause’ [global warming ‘masked’ apparently] http://wattsupwiththat.com/2014/07/21/claim-natural-variation-masked-global-warming-creating-the-pause/ Risbey et al. (2014): ‘Well-estimated global surface warming in climate projections selected for ENSO phase’ [cherry-pick 4 ‘good’ models and don’t tell anyone which ones] http://wattsupwiththat.com/2014/07/20/lewandowsky-and-oreskes-are-co-authors-of-a-paper-about-enso-climate-models-and-sea-surface-temperature-trends-go-figure/#more-113224 Fly in the ointment, Wunsch and Heimbach (2014): ‘Bidecadal Thermal Changes in the Abyssal Ocean’ [deep ocean cooling] http://wattsupwiththat.com/2014/07/21/deep-oceans-are-cooling-amidst-a-sea-of-modeling-uncertainty-new-research-on-ocean-heat-content/ http://judithcurry.com/2014/07/22/are-the-deep-oceans-cooling/ # # # Re Risbey et al, they’re a bit late on this. Sceptics have known for a while that all but 4 models (at the most) are total garbage and should be discarded. I contacted Dr John Christy on Oct 17, 2012 asking: “I notice that in Fig 2.1 [http://curryja.files.wordpress.com/2012/07/christy-fig.jpg?w=500] of your statement to the House Energy and Power Subcommittee, one simulation (blue line) that mimics absolute temperature and trajectory this century. I am unable to discern the ID# from the colour coding to identify it specifically however. Can you reveal for me which modeling group ran this simulation please (no rush)?” His reply, “This model labeled 27 should be inmcm4 (Russia)” http://www.springerlink.com/content/x6647x575g82734j/ John C. inmcm4 is… Read more »

Richard C (NZ)

>”Fig 2.1 [http://curryja.files.wordpress.com/2012/07/christy-fig.jpg?w=500] of your statement to the House Energy and Power Subcommittee”

The curryja.files graph is not the Fig 2.1 that appeared in the EPS statement which is here:


Fig 2.1 is on page 19. The blue line on the same trajectory as RSS/UAH is inmcm4.

Richard C (NZ)

>”Risbey et al. (2014): ‘Well-estimated global surface warming in climate projections selected for ENSO phase’ [cherry-pick 4 ‘good’ models and don’t tell anyone which ones]” Turns out they didn’t pick 4 model simulations that were most in phase with ENSO and stick with them, they picked 4 ‘good’ simulations for each of multiple 15 yr “windows” i.e. a run from one model might be ‘good’ in one window but not in another. The identities of each model/simulation combo are not divulged for each window however. Apparently (see link below) that’s not necessary because the data is available for the exercise to be replicated (what an insipid cop-out – why not just list a table of windows and the ‘good’ in-phase model/simulation combos for all to see?) Sou (a.k.a. Miriam O’Brien) at HotWhopper makes a desperate case to justify Risbey et al’s rationale: “Risbey14 looked at individual model runs and compared them with observations. For each fifteen year period they selected the model runs that were in phase with real world observations in relation to ENSO. They started with 1950 to 1964, then 1951 to 1965, then 1952 to 1966 etc. After selecting the… Read more »

Mike Jowsey

Killer wind turbines decimating bats claim

WIND turbines could be killing tens of thousands of bats — by giving them “the bends”.

While the number of wind turbines are an increasingly common sight in the South West, dead bats are being found at the base of the giant machines.

And rather than being killed by flying into the blades, new research has claimed that bats suffer from an airborne version of the diver’s condition known as “the bends” when they fly too near wind turbines — making their lungs burst.

(Of course, it isn’t the bends (nitrogen narcosis), but pneumothorax. Hard to find journalists with an education.)



Torquay Herald Express eh?
As it happens, I am heading over that way next week for my Mum’s 80th

Might be able to do a bit of sightseeing for bird-munching bat-chopping eco-crucifixes while I am over.

“I am heading over that way next week for my Mum’s 80th”

Nice. Wire us pictures.


OK, I will be “our man in Torquay”

Visions of Basil Fawlty …


I see there is a possibility that UNESCO will withdraw the “word heritage site” from the UK Jurassic coast should the proposed offshore windfarms go ahead.

Nice work, “environmentalists”.

Richard C (NZ)

>Nice work, “environmentalists”

The Chain of Environmental Command: How a Club of Billionaires and Their Foundations Control the Environmental Movement and Obama’s EPA

United States Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works
Minority Staff Report, July 30, 2014




“Professor Henrik Moller is one of the world’s leading authorities on infra-sound, and can boast of 38 years of service at Aalborg University. He has also been a regular thorn in the side of the wind power industry, as he has repeatedly pointed out the dangers of low frequency noise from turbines”

Yes. Hard to know why those managing Aalborg and other managers around the world have so let standards slide — nay, plummet.


With all the stuff going on elsewhere we certainly have been a quite on this site.

Just anecdotal but I an told that some gas fire generation plants been closed down as a result of the new geothermal plant coming on stream. We are so blessed in this country with cheap not renewal but perpetual energy that we don’t even need to use the gas we have on tap.

Now essentially all the energy companies are 50% owned in public listed vehicles those companies are required by the Companies Act to act responsibly for the benefit of shareholders. That has to mean that there will be no new wind farms built and the existing ones retired. The directors can not pay investors in carbon credits.

Does anyone have any info on the total supply demand position?

Hi Hemi. It’s my fault it’s been so quiet, as I’ve been distracted. It’s taken a few months, but Ann and I have bought a new house. We’re packing for the move which is in a week’s time. Once we’re installed I’ll be able to spend more time on the good fight.


Hi Richard, I have been through that a few times. Having made a couple of moves over the last few years, here is my suggestion.

Chuck out the obvious stuff that has to go to the tip but don’t stress about it – if in doubt pack it. But as you pack up boxes mark them as “needed immediately” in your new house and “not needed immediately”. Don’t open the “not needed immediately” when you get there. If they are still not open in 12 months time throw them out.

Best of luck.

Heh, heh. Thanks. Good suggestion.


I just took this screenshot from EM6Live.co.nz which shows today’s energy mix in NZ

Looks like Wind dropped to zero at around 3pm
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Not surprising Andy. There was a nippy south-easterly in the morning up at Turoa but by lunchtime it was dead calm. Heaps of snow up here. Lake Taupo was a millpond.
The great thing about having multiple generation options is that they minimise the risk and smooth the cost of generation. Waikato flows are poor but the Southern lakes are full, a shiny new geothermal station is now on-stream, with a side-buffet of wind ticking along. I’m picking a windy spring but it wouldn’t surprise me if summer is blocking highs on a wonky jet -stream.
Power prices should be coming down with diminishing demand and extra generation. Best to shop around. I managed to get a free installation of a smart-meter with a 30% off-peak (11pm-6am) discount to recharge the hybrid. Coasting down Ruapehu on regenerative braking gave 25 km of extra battery today. Technology is rendering fossil fuels almost obsolete 🙂


Given that geothermal is cheaper than wind, provides more reliable energy and is fairly “sustainable”, what actually is the point of these useless machines,?

Richard C (NZ)

>”what actually is the point of these useless machines,?”

In NZ, greenwashing by dispatch priority and punitive taxes on competition — makes the populace feel good about “clean green”. But little more than a novelty, or, as Simon puts it, “a side-buffet”.

The point is more succinct in the US — tax credits. From CCD:

As Siemens’ tax-sheltering market dries up in Europe, its U.S. marketing efforts are clearly geared toward increasing its income and profits via wind’s tax sheltering schemes in the United States. The company stands to make millions, so Siemens ad campaign is obviously part of an overall pitch to persuade Congress to extend the hefty wind Production Tax Credit (PTC), more accurately called “Pork-To-Cronies.” As Warren Buffett recently admitted, “We get tax credits if we build lots of wind farms. That’s the only reason to build them. They don’t make sense without the tax credit.”



Tax credits. Makes sense
According to my Deloitte’s report on Wind in NZ, turbines have accelerated depreciation

Richard C (NZ)

>”Coasting down Ruapehu on regenerative braking” Did you pass any fossil fuel burning trucks taking commodities (logs, fruit etc) to port? At Port of Tauranga, kiwifruit are shipped by Seatrade (Belgium), “the world’s largest reefer operator” http://www.seatrade.com/fleet.html One of Seatrade’s specialised refrigerated vessels for the Zespri contact is the new ice-class Baltic Klipper, average sailing time to Europe an average of 27 days making it one of the fastest services on that particular route, considerably faster than container lines. From the index above: http://www.seatrade.com/fleet/detail/a-b-c-klipper-class/baltic-klipper.html The Baltic Klipper can carry around 5,500 pallets of fruit below deck, with additional capacity up on deck for some 450 containers. See fuel consumption and fuel tank capacity for primary propulsion (I assume, download specs for more info): M/E Consumption: 55.5 mt IFO380 (per day I assume, mt = metric tonnes). Tank capacity: 1980 mt IFO380 A 27 day voyage would consume 1500 mt of that fuel alone if my assumption is OK. RE M/E see: ‘Low Container Ship Speed Facilitated by Versatile ME/ME-C Engines’ http://www.mandieselturbo.com/files/news/filesof8410/5510-0038-04.pdf Zespri International, says each 1kg of its New Zealand-grown green crop eaten in Europe generates the equivalent of 1.74kg of carbon dioxide… Read more »


Today’s wind is even worse than yesterday.
“Becalmed” seems appropriate
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Major talk feast due to start in Auckland


They are not talking much about it in the early lead up but the elephant in the room is clearly climate change. These arbiters would need to have pretty strong moral courage to tell their government that

” Sorry I got it wrong, CO2 does not drive climate change. All that alternate energy stuff is redundant, you can now go back to cheap energy”

I think they are more likely to use the “I haven’t seen the cat for a while” technique to break in the bad news, rather than say the Cat is Dead.


At least the media will ignore the climate conference, unless it can be linked to Cameron Slater somehow.

Richard C (NZ)

>”I haven’t seen the cat for a while”



As we currently have every major scientific adviser to governments in the country at the moment, can we have a post directed at them? I can think of a number of questions we could put to them.

Richard C (NZ)

>”I can think of a number of questions we could put to them.”

1) Where’s the cat?

Richard C (NZ)

‘The crazy world of Renewable Energy Targets’

JoNova, August 18th, 2014

[…] The RET scheme in Australian pays a subsidy to wind farms and solar installations. Below, Tom Quirk shows that this is effectively a carbon tax (but a lousy one), and it shifts supply — perversely taxing brown coal at $27/ton, black coal at $40/ton and gas at up to $100/ton. Because it’s applied to renewables rather than CO2 directly, it’s effectively a higher tax rate for the non-renewable but lower CO2 emitters. […]

Renewable energy sources – Complications!

Guest post by Tom Quirk


Richard C (NZ)

>[Simon] ”Technology is rendering fossil fuels almost obsolete” ‘Climate Change And Carbon Emmissions: Existing Power Plants Will Churn Out 300 Billion Tons Of Climate Change Emissions Over Their Lifetime, Scientists Say’ By Maria Gallucci, IBT. on August 29 2014 Global leaders increasingly agree that man-made climate change is a serious threat to the planet. Yet many countries are still boosting investments in fossil fuel-fired power plants, a move that will “commit” the world to massive quantities of heat-trapping greenhouse gases, a new study says.[hotlink] Power plants are expected to pump out more than 300 billion tons of carbon dioxide over their expected lifetimes, creating a 4 percent jump in emissions each year over the next few decades, according to scientists from Princeton University and University of California at Irvine. Power plants built in 2012 alone will produce about 19 billion tons of CO2 over their lifetime, typically about 40 years. By contrast, all plants built before 2012 and operating today will produce 14 billion tons during their existence, the study said. […] The bulk of those committed emissions — 42 percent — will come from plants now operating in China, reflecting the massive… Read more »

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