American Elephants


Misconceptions About Wind: Basic Arithmetic by The Elephant's Child

Here’s the headline from an article in the Spectator, dated May 13: “Wind turbines are neither clean nor green and they provide zero global energy” with the subhead “We urgently need to stop the ecological posturing and invest in gas and nuclear.” The post is from Matt Ridley.

The Global Wind Energy Council recently released its latest report, excitedly boasting that ‘the proliferation of wind energy into the global power market continues at a furious pace, after it was revealed that more than 54 gigawatts of clean renewable wind power was installed across the global market last year’.

You may have got the impression from announcements like that, and from the obligatory pictures of wind turbines in any BBC story or airport advert about energy, that wind power is making a big contribution to world energy today. You would be wrong. Its contribution is still, after decades — nay centuries — of development, trivial to the point of irrelevance.

Here’s a quiz; no conferring. To the nearest whole number, what percentage of the world’s energy consumption was supplied by wind power in 2014, the last year for which there are reliable figures? Was it 20 per cent, 10 per cent or 5 per cent? None of the above: it was 0 per cent. That is to say, to the nearest whole number, there is still no wind power on Earth.

Basic math. World energy demand has been growing about two percent a year for nearly 40 years. Between 2012 and 2014 it grew, according to International Energy agency data, just under 2,000 terawatt-hours. If all that had to be supplied by wind turbines—just that and no more—how many new turbines would have to be built? Nearly 350,000. A two-megawatt turbine can produce about 0.005 terawatt-hours per annum. That’s 1½ times as many as have been built in the world since governments first started subsidizing them with taxpayer money.

Wind farms typically have a density of about 50 acres per megawatt, at that density, that many turbines would need a land area larger than the entire British Isles. In 50 years, if we kept this up, we would have covered a land area the size of Russia. But there’s more, hidden pollution, rare earths, the materials required, how turbines are made. Do read the whole article.  Matt Ridley is always worth our attention.

It just turns out to be that wind and solar are essentially very costly and extremely useless pursuits. Aside from the intermittency problem, the arithmetic just doesn’t work. Lot of people  have made some big money on the subsidies though.

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I don’t care if there are 10 or 10 million wind generators. Their numbers don’t create an argument in favor or against their use. It matters not if they instantaneously produce 1 kw or a gigabyte.

The issues are manifold: Environmental, they kill birds and bats and that is bad for the ecology of the planet. Energy production, they are non constant sources, therefore unreliable producers of electricity. Fuel wasters, running conventional power plants at low output levels (idling) to mitigate or make up for non producing wind generators requires those plants to run at less than optimal efficiencies.

The only function of a wind generator is to get a guaranteed profit margin from the government, for both installation and operation. It is the poster child of cronyism.

President Madison warned us of the Sagacious in Federalist Paper # 62.

The Democrat Party is the same today as when it first was founded, a group of politicians who advocate a position expressly for the purpose of economically advancing their campaign donors. E.g. Slavery, the business owners of slaves bought and paid for the Democrat Party, who then advanced their interests and then advocated “Rights” as the spin or talking points. The Whigs were ambivalent about “Rights”, that is why we have the Republican Party.

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