Windmills of old have one thing in common with the unsightly, noisy, wasteful, toxic, short-lived, fire-prone gigantic industrial wind turbines of today: they are just as unreliable. This report isn’t about small personal wind energy towers that have an important place on farms and ranches. This article concerns the monstrous 500-850 feet towers that pollute the viewshed from 36 miles away. Recently, proponents of large-scale corporate wind energy started issuing reports that such massive projects are good for rural America. This investigation takes a look at the environmental and economic truths behind their major selling points.
First, do we desperately need the power they produce? Opponents against new projects cite reports that show the best wind locations are already occupied, and that lesser locations exhibit diminishing returns. Why do proponents keep building them? A widely quoted line from Warren Buffet, owner of Nevada Energy, was very revealing, “…on wind energy, 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.” Opponents of wind energy point out that industrial wind turbines don’t run on air, they run on subsidies.
The mantra of wind energy corporations is “clean, green, pollution-free.” Despite this “feel good” alternative to burning coal, the reality is that modern wind turbines are so gigantic, they require massive amounts of coal to smelt the raw materials from which they are built, consisting of iron, cast iron, steel, copper, aluminum, plastics, fiberglass, reinforced polyester, wood epoxy, and concrete; not to mention the fossil fuel energy consumed to erect, transport, install and maintain them. Calculations show that more energy may be consumed during their creation, transportation, installation and maintenance that can ever be reaped during their mediocre 12-15 years of use.
Their weight indicates how much each fossil fuels their construction requires. The nacelle of the widely used GE 1.5-megawatt model weighs 56 tons, blades weigh in excess of 36 tons, and the tower weighs roughly 71 tons, for a total of 164 tons… and 1.5 megawatts is small. GE is now producing a 12-megawatt version. Estimates have shown that 150-500 tons of coal are burnt to manufacture one modern wind turbine. Erroneously classified as “renewable energy,” none of the ingredients required to make them are renewable.
A shocking truth kept quiet by wind energy proponents is that modern wind turbines require massive amounts of neodymium and dysprosium to create the supermagnets for generators. The mining of those rare earth minerals produces major quantities of uranium and thorium as byproducts, making the wind energy industry responsible for producing more radioactive waste each year than the nuclear energy industry.
Industrial wind turbines kill astronomical numbers of insect-eating bats. The USDA estimates the economic value of bats in U.S. pest control to be worth up to $23 billion dollars annually. The problem with industrial wind turbines and bats has to do with the massive size of the blades (new ones are over 720 feet), which cut a swath of several acres through the air. Bats need not be struck by blades to die. When blades are spinning, they produce a lower pressure area behind the turbines. Because bats are light enough to fly, they have delicate internal organs. When a cloud of bats fly behind the spinning blades, they instantly succumb to barotrauma (their lungs explode) and they drop dead in masses.
Untold numbers of ground-burrowing animals are victims, too. New industrial wind turbines, requiring foundations to be blasted 50 feet wide and 30 feet deep. This construction can produce devastating effects on natural springs, seeps, wells, and other water sources, not to mention immense amounts of lime and other chemicals that leach into nearby groundwater sources.
Scientists in Germany and Finland recently published papers that demonstrate how dangerous wind turbine-produced infrasound is to people living close by, and that the harmful energy from infrasound doesn’t begin to diminish in intensity until one is at least 15 kilometers from the source. In Germany, a study showed that it is impossible to monitor Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty equipment if a solitary wind turbine is less than 20 kilometers away.
Economically speaking, wind energy is as economically advantageous as COVID-19. In California, where massive wind energy schemes were forced on citizens, electricity prices went up five times higher than the national average. It costs three times as much money to produce electricity from wind as it does from clean-burning natural gas. Plus wind energy can have devastating effects on tourism, hunting, and fishing, and real estate values that drop by 40% in the vicinity of “wind farms.”
The short-lived mammoth blades are so toxic, no safe way has been found to dispose of them. “Environmentally-minded” Europe is looking to send their mountains of broken blades to African villages, whose unsuspecting inhabitants will be paid to burn them, out of sight and out of mind. Industrial wind turbine nacelles contain 50 gallons of oil, which leaks into the ground and results in wildfires. In England, the number of fire outbreaks from wind energy facilities was found to be ten times greater than the industry reported.
What about climate change? Doesn’t wind energy help cool the Earth? Not according to NASA. In Texas, temperatures around euphemistically-named “wind farms” keep rising at 0.72 centigrade per decade. NASA scientists determined they pull warmer air back down from the atmosphere at night, contributing to global warming. The infrastructure for modern wind energy facilities can require bulldozing 100 miles of dirt roads through virgin wildlands. Towers like the Vestas V90 require denuding 111 acres for one tower. Removing vast acres of native vegetation contributes to global warming, since denuded areas are hotter, plus the mountains of plants removed no longer convert carbon dioxide to plant food. Truly, a more appropriate title for the “Opinion” letter that inspired this report would be, “Wind energy continues to benefit schemers, while rural America pays a high price.”