Then there's the well-chewed chestnut about wind power being cheaper than coal or gas fired power along with claims that wind power is actually 'competing' with conventional generation sources.

Issues With Wind Farms

By —— Bio and Archives--March 1, 2019

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Issues With Wind FarmsThe International Energy Agency released data that revealed the percentage of total global primary energy demand provided by wind and solar is 1.1 percent. 1 Hardly the kind of number derived from wind and solar lobbies.

Another report confirms what should have been obvious from the start: the more ‘variable’ wind and solar are introduced into any electricity system, the more they make it both more expensive and less reliable.


World energy demand has been growing at about 2 percent a year for nearly 40 years. Between 2013 and 2014, using International Energy Agency data, it grew just under 2,000 terawatt-hours. If wind turbines were to supply all of that growth but no more, how many would need to be built each year asks Matt Ridley. The answer is nearly 350,000, since a two-megwatt turbine can produce about 0.005 terawatt-hours per annum. That’s one-and-a-half times as many as have been built in the world since governments started pouring consumer funds in this industry in the early 2000s. Ridley adds, “At a density of, very roughly, 50 acres per megawatt, typical for wind farms, that many turbines would require a land area greater than the British Isles, including Ireland, every year. If we kept this up for 50 years, we would have covered every square mile of a land area the size of Russia with wind farms. Remember, this would be just to fulfill the new demand for energy, not to displace the vast existing supply of energy from fossil fuels, which currently supply 80 percent of global energy needs.” 2

David MacKay has another calculation. He compares the estimate of British wind potential with current installed wind power worldwide. The windmills that would be required to provide the UK with 20kWh/d per person amount to 50 times the entire wind hardware of Denmark; 7 times all the wind farms of Germany; and double the entire fleet of all wind turbines in the world.3

Also worth considering are offshore wind farms which are exposed to the corrosive effects of sea water. At the big Danish wind farm, Horns Reef, all 80 turbines had to be dismantled and repaired after only 18 months’ exposure to the sea air. The Kentish Flats turbines off the coast of Kent England seem to be having similar problems with their gear boxes, one-third needing replacement during the first 18 months.3

Offshore wind is extremely expensive. The first US offshore wind farm went online off Rhode Island in 2017, at $150,000 per household powered. The newest US nuclear reactor cost $4.6 billion but powers 4.5 million homes at $1040 per household. That’s a $149,000 per family difference.4

An offshore wind project in Virginia carries a likely under estimated cost of $300 million. Virginians will pay 25 times the US market price for the turbines, and they pay 78 cents/kilowatt-hour for their intermittent electricity. That’s 26 times the 3 cents/kilowatt-hour wholesale price for coal, gas, hydroelectric or nuclear electricity in Virginia, almost nine times the normal household price. 4

Then there’s the well-chewed chestnut about wind power being cheaper than coal or gas fired power along with claims that wind power is actually ‘competing’ with conventional generation sources. The best scenario for wind plants is the figure quoted at most wind plant informational sites, where they give a life expectancy of 25 years, but the real truth could be closer to only 20 years, and some might only reach a life expectancy of 15 years. A new coal fired plant has a life expectancy of 50 years. 5


  1. Peter Foster, “Another report reluctantly admits that ‘green’ energy is a disastrous flop,” business.financialpost.com, November 22, 2018
  2. Matt Ridley, “Wind turbines are neither clean nor green and they provide zero global energy,” spectator.co.uk, May 13, 2017
  3. David J. C., MacKay, Sustainable Energy—Without the Hot Air, February 20, 2009
  4. Paul Driessen and Roger Bezdek, “A 2019 resolution: honesty in energy policy,” townhall.com, December 22, 2018
  5. “No contest: wind power can’t compete with coal fired power on cost, or at all,” stopthesethings.com, January 3, 2019



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Jack Dini -- Bio and Archives | Comments

Jack Dini is author of Challenging Environmental Mythology.  He has also written for American Council on Science and Health, Environment & Climate News, and Hawaii Reporter.

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