I love the *idea* of wind power. It sounds natural. Clean. Moral. But in reality, wind power harms the environment & people—especially low-income people. The myths about wind power are fueling bad energy policies & poor investments. The facts make it all look ridiculous.
2/ MYTH: wind power helps the environment.
Wind power requires excessive mining & land use. It industrializes coastline & kills wildlife.
Nuclear & natural gas power plants reduce CO₂ emissions more effectively.
3/ Wind turbines are made from minerals, petrochemicals, & fossil fuels.
Building a single 2 MW windmill uses 187 tons of coal—the equivalent of 125 pickup trucks full of coal.
4/ Building a 100 MW wind farm requires 30,000 tons of iron ore, 50,000 tons of concrete & 900 tons of non-recyclable plastics for the blades—all mined, transported & produced with hydrocarbons.
5/ Wind farms need 360× more land to produce the same amount of energy as a nuclear power plant.
A 200 MW wind farm spans 13+ sq miles (36 sq km). A natural-gas power plant with the same generating capacity could fit onto a single city block.
6/ Wind turbines threaten endangered whales & fisheries, & kill hundreds of thousands of birds every year.
7/ Each wind turbine blade is over 165 feet (50 meters) long & is made from toxic materials that can’t be recycled & that are getting dumped in landfills.
Tens of thousands of these blades will eventually enter the waste stream.
8/ There are better ways of reducing climate risk.
The carbon footprint of an offshore wind farm is 3 times larger than the carbon footprint of a nuclear plant.
Building wind farms channels resources away from better ways of reducing climate risk like nuclear power.
9/ MYTH: Wind power helps people.
Households pay more for electricity where there are wind & solar mandates:
German households saw their energy bills increase by 34% between 2010-2020.
American households in CA pay 80% more, & 11% more in 28 other states with mandates.
10/ Lower-income people subsidize wind-power tax credits for the wealthy.
“We get a tax credit if we build a lot of wind farms. That’s the only reason to build them. They don’t make sense without the tax credit.” —Warren Buffett
11/ The wind industry still needs subsidies even after billions in public handouts.
The US Treasury estimates the wind production tax credit will cost taxpayers ~$34 billion from 2020 to 2029. It’s by far the most expensive energy subsidy.
12/ People who live near wind farms report sleep disturbances, headaches, dizziness, vertigo, nausea, blurry vision, irritability, & problems with concentration & memory.
13/ China takes up 7 spots among the world’s top 10 wind turbine manufacturers—where weak environmental regulations prevail & lower production costs are fueled by coal & cheap labor.
14/ Goldwind (2nd largest wind manufacturer in the world) has factories in China’s Xinjiang province, where hundreds of thousands of Uyghurs are working in slave labor conditions.
15/ MYTH – We can build enough wind farms to meet our energy needs.
People hate living near wind farms.
The farms are loud & large (each is 400-700 ft tall (122-213 m).
They destroy views & hurt property values.
16/ Public backlash against wind farms is growing in the US & Europe.
Local governments have rejected over 317 US wind projects since 2015.
17/ Offshore wind farms sidestep some community conflicts but have other problems.
Building offshore farms is 3× more expensive than onshore.
They threaten endangered whales, fisheries, ocean views & industrialize the coastline.
18/ Wind turbines generate electricity only ~30% of the time because the wind doesn’t always blow.
Every megawatt of wind needs a megawatt of fossil fuel power (usually natural gas) as a backup.
19/ MYTH – Better tech will solve problems with wind power.
The Betz limit in physics caps the maximum efficiency for a wind turbine. At most, only 60% of the kinetic energy from wind can be used to spin the turbine & generate electricity.
20/ Not all tech innovation makes things cheaper.
Offshore wind is getting more expensive. The cost has been increasing by 15% whenever capacity doubles.
21/ Some people think we’ll be able to store surplus wind energy in batteries. But the world’s largest battery factory (Tesla’s Gigafactory) would need 1,000 years to make enough batteries for 2 days’ worth of US electricity demand. And batteries cost 200× more than natural gas.
22/ Wind farms break down often & don’t last long.
Equipment failures & declining performance make the cost of operating a 16+ yr old wind turbine prohibitive.
Onshore turbines lose 37% output & offshore turbines lose 50% output at 16 yrs.
23/ Myths about wind power are driving bad investments & policy decisions.
Dollars spent on them cause harm & suffering to the poorest among us–a high cost for false moral comfort.
Let’s build an energy system that maximizes human flourishing & minimizes environmental harm.
24/ What We Need To Do:
End subsidies & incentives for wind & solar.
Retire the dirtiest coal power plants.
Build new efficient natural gas power plants (and hydro and geothermal where possible).
Reform regulations & build nuclear power plants.
Invest in energy R&D.
Feb 15, 2022, Twitter (@BrianGitt)
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