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Wind Energy Myths


How can anyone be anti-wind? The wind is free!
Wind energy is green energy.
Wind energy doesn't release any carbon so it's not contributing to global warming.
Wind Energy is reliable.
Maine has an obligation to 'get clean'.
Maine has so much wind that we're going to be 'the Saudi Arabia of Wind'!
Maine needs to generate more electricity.
Maine has to do its fair share to save the planet.
Investing in wind energy will reduce our dependence on foreign oil.
Once a windmill is built, it just keeps delivering energy forever.
Using wind energy will reduce my electric bill.
An industrial wind project will create much needed jobs for Mainers.
Europe is generating most of its electricity from wind.
Wind projects use existing logging roads.
There are no studies indicating that wind turbines drive tourists away.
There is no evidence that wind turbines harm property values.

 

 



How can anyone be anti-wind? The wind is free!

That may be true. The wind itself IS free. However capturing wind's energy and converting it to electricity is expensive. Said another way, the fuel is free but the capital costs are enormous.

Many claims are made about the cost per kilowatt-hour of electricity produced from wind but, in fact, no one really knows the true cost. To calculate a meaningful cost of per kWh of electricity produced by wind turbines requires data that can be known only after the facility is built and has run its entire useful life.

Claims that have been made about costs per kWh of electricity from wind turbines are nothing more than rough estimates based on assumptions (guesses) and often do not include all elements of cost.

Critical cost components that cannot be known in advance include at least the following:

  • •  Total operating and maintenance (O&M) and replacement costs during the
    assumed life of the turbines.
  • •  The useful, productive life of the turbine(s).
  • •  The amount of electricity that will be produced during the useful life, taking into account
    turbine and equipment out of service time, and deterioration in output as turbines,
    blades and other equipment age.
  • •  The cost of decommissioning at the end of its useful life.

None of the wind turbines of the type now being installed in the US have operating histories long enough to provide valid, reliable estimates for these factors. Still, USA Today recently estimated that wind-generated electricity costs 30% more than natural gas generated electricity. What’s more, electricity consumers frequently have to pick up the tab for increased transmission capacity and new transmission corridors to carry wind-generated electricity from its remote source of generation. In Maine, consumers are about to pay $1.5 Billion to provide such a transmission upgrade.

For an excellent discussion about the costs associated with wind generated electricity, see: The True Cost of Electricity from Wind is Always Underestimated and its Value is Always Overestimated by Glenn R. Schleede, 02/04/10.





Wind energy is green energy.

The essence of "green" technology is that it strives to leave no trace. But wind energy is not a “leave no trace” technology. The premise behind the idea of whether we should have wind installations instead of conventional generation is badly skewed. Wind energy may someday become a useful contributor to our overall energy production, but it will never displace reliable sources. Wind is being developed because the Windustry's propaganda flatters the gullible and exploits the well intentioned. The public is being "greenwashed". This is only possible because there's no penalty for lying in the energy marketplace.

Comparing the value of one megawatt of electricity produced by burning fossil fuel and one generated by a wind turbine is comparing apples and oranges. The wind does not always blow. When it doesn't, no electricity is produced. This makes wind unreliable. It's as if your power company told you you would have electricity only from 7am to noon and from 4pm to 9pm. Even though it would be a major inconvenience you could eventually organize your life around that schedule. But even worse than being unreliable, wind generated energy is unpredictable. Now your power company tells you you will have an average of 10 hours of electricity daily but they won't tell you which days or which hours and it will change every day!

It would be wonderful if wind energy could be stored in reserve and dispensed as needed but it can't. Engineers say that wind power has no 'capacity value'. That is why a megawatt of wind energy can not be compared to a megawatt from a reliable, predictable and manageable source. The power companies must still build new traditional capacity to meet increase power demand. Wind projects will not displace traditional energy sources and a megawatt of wind generated electricity is not worth as much as a megawatt of traditionally generated electricity.

Even if we just look at the construction of an industrial scale wind facility, we can't say it is a green technology. For example, each of the 22 Siemens turbines proposed by Angus King for his Record Hill Wind project weighs 304 tons. More than 6,600 tons of steel must be smelted and forged to build the turbines for that 50-megawatt wind project, which will actually produce about 12.5 megawatts at the 25 percent capacity factor achieved by land-based wind turbines in Maine.

To make 6,600 tons of steel would require about 3,000 tons of “coking” coal and 9,000 tons of iron ore. Coke is a byproduct of pulverized bituminous coal. Coke production is a major source of pollution in the production of steel. Air emissions such as coke-oven gases, naphthalene, ammonium compounds, crude light oil, sulfur and coke dust are released from coke ovens. Steel production is a major user of coal, the very villain polluter that wind energy is supposed to suppress. You can't call that 'green'.





Wind energy doesn't release any carbon so it's not contributing to global warming.

Professor Michael J. Trebilcock, Chair in Law & Economics at the University of Toronto writes in The Financial Post, “There is no evidence that industrial wind power is likely to have a significant impact on carbon emissions. The European experience is instructive. Denmark, the world’s most wind-intensive nation, with more than 6,000 turbines generating 19% of its electricity, has yet to close a single fossil-fuel plant. It requires 50% more coal-generated electricity to cover wind power’s unpredictability, and pollution and carbon dioxide emissions have risen (by 36% in 2006 alone).”

“In order for wind power to reduce emissions, it must displace the operation of fossil-fueled plants. Most of the electricity generated in the United States is from such plants, which operate at high temperatures. It takes many hours to start up or shut down (or "cycle") these plants. The Energy Information Administration has stated that it is unaware of any program which shuts down fossil-fueled plants during wind power production. The EIA says all its CO2 reduction numbers attributable to wind are based upon "forecasts using theoretical models." In the absence of real data, reductions attributable to wind power are a myth.”   Portland Press Herald, William L. Downes, Oct. 19, 2009

Let's consider the effect of cutting trees. Everyone is anxious to save the rainforest because it consumes so much carbon and gives off oxygen. The respiration of trees and plants is good for the environment. A 50 year old forest absorbs .80 tons of carbon per acre per year.

According to Sargent Corporation, and the First Wind's LURC application, the earthwork contractor for the Stetson I industrial wind project, the Stetson project required the clearing of 128 acres of forest for the turbines. They also had to cut 10 miles of 36' wide roads which amounts to another 44 acres, bringing us to a total of 172 acres of forest cleared. By eliminating 172 acres of forest, First Wind has reduced the forest's carbon absorption capacity. Considering only loss of trees, The Stetson project is creating a net gain of 137.6 tons of carbon annually (.80 x 172).

And what about those massive concrete foundations that are required to hold the massive turbines? Concrete is extremely energy intensive to make and transport, and produces a significant amount of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.

The size of a given foundation depends on the turbine size, meteorological factors and subterranean composition and characteristics. In the case of Stetson I, the permit describes foundation pads that measure 24' in diameter. It seems reasonable, given the height, weight and stresses of the complete turbine tower, nacelle and blades, that a depth of 30' would be reasonable. A cylinder 24' in diameter and 30' deep has a volume of 13,573 cubic feet or 502 cubic yards. With 38 turbines that would come to just over 19,000 cubic yards of concrete.

Manufacturing a cubic yard of concrete emits 400 lbs of CO2 (see Portland Cement Association). Multiply that by 19,000 cubic yards and we see that the construction of just Stetson I's turbine pads releases 7.6 million lb or 3,800 tons of CO2. That's the equivalent of burning over 8000 gallons of gasoline in a car! And that does not include the concrete used in the massive crane assembly pad or ancillary buildings or even transporting the concrete to site.

Peter Lang is a retired engineer with 40 years experience on a wide range of energy projects throughout the world, including managing energy R&D and providing policy advice for government and opposition. In 2009 he published a study entitled "Cost and Quantity of Greenhouse Gas Emissions Avoided by Wind Generation". If you're fascinated with numbers, you'll enjoy reading his analysis.





Wind Energy is reliable.

Wind energy is neither reliable nor predictable. For this reason a megawatt of wind-generated electricity is not worth as much as a megawatt of conventionally generated electricity. The wind does not always blow. In Maine, the wind typically blows hardest at times of lowest demand and blows least during times of highest demand.

Moreover, even when a turbine is producing power, it is never certain what the power level will be, since it’s continuously changing. A wind turbine’s output varies continuously between zero and 100% of its nameplate capacity, extremely sensitive to small changes in wind speed. If the wind is too high, it presents a danger to the equipment and it is supposed to shut down. Temperature also affects output. The ideal operating conditions for the GE 1.5MW turbine are between -22°F and 104°F with a wind speed of between 8mph and 45mph. This fluctuating output, averaged annually, produces a capacity factor of between 18% and 35% for industrial wind projects.

See: Wind power exposed: The Renewable Energy Source is Expensive, Unreliable and Won’t Save Natural Gas. Energy Tribune, 11/25/08





Maine has an obligation to 'get clean'.

Wind Developer Angus King, in his essay entitled “A Dangerous Dependence”, claims that Maine is “dangerously dependent upon fossil fuels” claiming that 55 percent of its electricity comes from oil and gas with 100 percent imported “often from people who don’t like us.” In another speech he asked "Why should we depend on nations that fund terrorists who want to kill us?" Shame on him for lying. And shame on him for using scare tactics to get the public behind his projects.

What he's not telling you is that Maine exports a large percentage of its energy to other states in the region. As with most of New England, natural gas — imported mostly from friendly Canada — accounts for around 40 percent of generation. And renewable sources, mainly wood and hydroelectric, account for almost half of Maine’s net electricity generation. In fact, nonhydroelectric renewable energy sources make up a larger share of net electricity generation in Maine than in any other State.

Maine is hardly the poster-state for dirty electricity!





Maine has so much wind that we're going to be 'the Saudi Arabia of Wind'!

That's what the Windustry claims. It's a myth that has been eagerly accepted and promoted by the politicians in Augusta and others who have a stake in wind's success. The fact is that when it comes to land-based wind, Maine is a very poor choice for an industrial scale wind energy facility. In 2007 the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Lab conducted a study of wind speed and density at elevations 50 meters above ground. After verifying and reviewing the results, the Dept. of Energy rated the Bowers Mountain area as having Poor to Marginal Wind Resource Potential. Click here to see the results.


When the Windustry needs to get people excited about their projects, they say that "(insert name) will become the Saudi Arabia of Wind". They love making that promise. It conjures up an image of vast and endless wealth. It's a very simple expression designed to con the masses and advance their agenda. In fact, a quick Google search shows that they've used that phrase in at least 20 States. Other Saudi Arabias of Wind include England, Scotland, Quebec, New Zealand and Mongolia!

It's interesting to note that when President Obama announced federal funding to increase biomass production, Governor Baldacci actually said "We are the Saudi Arabia of Woodlands!". Maine seems to be 'the Saudi Arabia of hot air'!





Maine needs to generate more electricity.

Wrong. New England currently has the capacity to generate 33 gigawatts(GW). Our average daily use is 16 GW and the peak daily use is 28GW. That means we have an oversupply of 15% to 20% and experts predict a slow growth rate of only 0.8% to 1.0% for the next 10 years.

Maine alone currently has three times the supply of electric power it needs and is an exporter of electricity.





Maine has to do its fair share to save the planet.

We already do. With forest covering 95% of the state, we are removing carbon and adding oxygen to the atmosphere every minute, every hour, every day of the year. This is something that very few states in the U.S. and very few places in the world can offer. It makes absolutely no environmental sense to cut extensive networks of 60' wide roads in the forests, clear-cut mountaintops and ridgelines, allow silt and herbicides to destroy our delicate bodies of water. That’s not exactly saving the planet.

According to the Energy Information Administration, renewable sources, mainly wood and wood waste and hydroelectric, account for almost half of Maine’s net electricity generation. Maine is one of the top U.S. producers of electricity from wood and wood waste. Nonhydroelectric renewable energy sources (including wood and wood waste) account for a larger share of net electricity generation in Maine than in any other State. In fact, nonhydroelectric renewable energy sources make up a larger share of net electricity generation in Maine than in any other State.





Investing in wind energy will reduce our dependence on foreign oil.

Industrial wind developer and fortmer Governor Angus King has said: “Why should we depend on nations that fund terrorists that (sic) want to kill us?”

When you hear this argument, you should disregard everything else this person says because he is nothing short of a liar who thinks you are stupid:

  • •  Industrial Wind complexes will NOT reduce our dependence on foreign oil. Oil represents
    petroleum products like diesel, gasoline and lubricants. Wind generates electricity.
    Apples and oranges.

  • •  According to the DOE's Energy Information Administration, petroleum accounted for only
    1.1% of all the electricity generated in the US in 2008.

  • •  The common belief that wind-generated electricity will get us off foreign oil and offset costs
    associated with our military involvement in the Middle East is not supported by the facts.
    If we're serious about reducing our dependence on foreign oil, we need to increase our
    domestic supply through drilling, we need to weatherize our homes and drive less.
    Alternative or renewable energy sources will certainly be a component in an overall solution,
    but erecting thousands of wind turbines will have very little, if any, impact.

  • •  Angus King knows better than to say we 'depend' on nations that fund terrorists. To whom
    is he refering? Our primary oil source, Canada? Our next largest supplier, Mexico? The fact is
    that we get only a small fraction of our oil imports from nations that might be considered
    to be dangerous.

 

 





Once a windmill is built, it just keeps delivering energy forever.

Lisa Linowes, Executive Director of Industrial Wind Action, states that turbines have been plagued by performance issues and blade failures for some time, citing specific incidents. Weather conditions and climate are taking a toll on wind turbines all over the country and reports of failures are increasing, including blade throws, oil leaks, fires and collapse.
wind
It should be noted that their touted life expectancy is speculative and not substantiated since so very few have been operating for even 10 years. Moreover, information on the number and types of failures is sparse and poorly reported, making estimates of longevity unreliable. Apparently, of the approximately 75 wind farm operators in this country, some 60 percent are significantly behind in their maintenance procedures.

Business Week (08/07) reported, "The facilities may not be as reliable and durable as producers claim. Indeed, with thousands of mishaps, breakdowns and accidents having been reported in recent years, the difficulties seem to be mounting."

Joe Ameye is Global Sales and Marketing Manager of Fluitec International, a company which supplies lubricants to the wind project operators. He reports that "to date, we have seen very poor maintenance procedures in the field. This will have to change dramatically, especially for the larger sizes of wind turbines and gearboxes where exposure to higher oxidative and wear stresses will occur quickly.”





Using wind energy will reduce my electric bill.

Not true. Connecticut's electric rates are much higher than the national average. According to a legislative report, in 1999 electric rates in Connecticut were 50 percent above the national average. In 2000 renewable energy purchases were mandated and rates have climbed ever since. By 2009 electric rates were 80 percent above national average.

Some wind projects are set up specifically to serve the needs of a community and they often do help reduce electric bills. But for projects like First Wind’s that are built to be funneled onto the grid and shipped out of state, it’s a different story. Ratepayers often see increased rates as they end up paying for an upgrade in transmission capacity to carry wind generated electricity to the grid. Central Maine Power recently signed an agreement with the Public Utilities Commission for the $1.4 billion Maine Power Reliability Project. It is the largest transmission project ever in Maine. A portion of that cost will be passed through to ratepayers.

Denmark has more wind turbines installed than any other country in the world. It also has the world's highest cost electricity: $.34 per kilowatt hour! That's nearly five times what Eastern Maine Electric Coop charges.

Robert L. Bradley Jr. is president of the Institute for Energy Research and an adjunct scholar of the Cato Institute. In RENEWABLE ENERGY Not Cheap, Not "Green" he provides the documentation to support the following:

“Ratepayers typically pay three times more for wind power than they would pay for electricity in today's spot market, and the premium could be higher. A conservative estimate of the total U.S. government (i.e., taxpayer) subsidy to wind power totals over $1,200 per installed kilowatt, even greater than the direct capital cost of wind under advanced technology of around $860 per kilowatt and certainly more than the installed capacity cost of gas-fired combined-cycle plants of approximately $580 per kilowatt. On a dependable capacity or capacity factor basis, the subsidy cost and capital cost premium to market is several fold greater.” Bradley’s conclusion: “Only a sizable taxpayer or ratepayer bailout will prevent the large majority of the state's heavily indebted wind-power capacity from going the way of synthetic oil and gas production.”

According to The American Thinker, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power is about to institute the first of four rate increases for electric power planned to take effect within the next year. The increases are expected to increase power costs for businesses by 21% to 22%. Residential customers will see increases ranging from 8.8% to 28.4%. Read the entire article here.





An industrial wind project will create much needed jobs for Mainers.

This is a cruel untruth, especially in economically depressed areas. Very few permanent jobs will be created—perhaps a couple of low wage maintenance jobs. According to a report by the National Renewable Energy Lab on wind plant jobs, the national average is one maintenance employee for every 12-15 turbines. For two windplants proposed for Western Maryland, the developers have pledged to pay each of their maintenance employees slightly more than $18,000 annually, less than a living wage for a family of four in this country.

During windplant construction, there will be some construction jobs available but most of these go to specialized workers who are brought in from away. Locals are sometimes hired as security guards. Unfortunately these are not permanent jobs. A recent study by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources on the "Top of Iowa" windplant showed that, of the 200 total construction jobs, only 20 were local—and every one of them disappeared within six months.

First Wind is very clever. Prior to permitting they work very hard to convince local business owners that their businesses will boom because of the wind project. While it's true that during construction there will be an up tick in business for local hardware stores, restaurants etc. this is only temporary and disappears once construction is complete. If you were to interview the store owners around Mars Hill and Danforth today you would find that the additional business was short-lived.

Now consider what will happen to jobs when electricity rates begin to soar. Some economic activity and jobs will be lost because of the wind project. Any industry that is a large consumer of electricity will be forced to cut costs wherever possible. Especially vulnerable will be the paper and forest products industry and manufacturing... critical industries in Maine.

For a thorough explanation of the jobs myth, see the article False Claims That 'Wind Farms' Provide Large Economic and Job Benefits by Glenn R. Schleede, a respected analyst and energy and policy consultant.

 

 





Europe is generating most of its electricity from wind.

Not true. The European Wind Energy Association reports that by year-end 2009 only 4.8% of the European Union’s electricity will have come from windpower.

In Denmark, with over 6,000 turbines in place, wind meets only 1.7% of total demand for electricity. In fact, Denmark is just dependent enough on wind power that when the wind is not blowing they must import electricity. Danish electricity costs for the consumer are the highest in Europe and the Danes have not closed one single conventional power plant. In fact, in order to have a reliable power source they continue to build them. The Danish government has cancelled plans for offshore wind farms and has withdrawn of subsidies from existing sites. Development of onshore wind plants in Denmark has effectively stopped.

Spain saw how inefficient and expensive wind power was years ago. They began withdrawing taxpayer subsidies as far back as 2002. Since 2005 they have not allowed any new projects to connect to the grid. In 2006, the Spanish government ended—by emergency decree—its subsidies and price supports for wind power. Spanish wind developers, like Iberdrola, began a desperate crusade to exploit wind power in other countries. Our gullible Governor has welcomed them with open arms (and wallet).

Germany reduced the tax breaks provided to wind developers. As a result domestic construction of windpower facilities has drastically slowed since 2004.

Switzerland also is cutting subsidies to wind projects. They have decided that the subsidies are too expensive for the lack of significant benefit.

The Netherlands found it too expensive to continue pumping taxpayer money into wind energy developments. They started decommissioning turbines in 2004.

Ireland halted all new wind-power connections to the national grid because they de-stabilize the grid and create a net gain in greenhouse gas emissions. They are considering ending state support entirely.





Wind projects use existing logging roads.

Theh Windustry would love for us to believe that. Unfortunately it is not true. Logging roads are not adequate for wind turbines. The truth is that logging roads and skidder trails are nothing like the roads that are being built to haul each turbine (nearly 390 tons of metal) to the mountaintop — or what is left of the mountaintop.

These roads are not like narrow skidder trails, where protective organics are left in place and no fill is required. A road to support loaded turbine transport trucks needs to be designed and built to support at least 90 tons of weight and is typically wider than 50 feet (width of two lanes of I-95).

The network of roads associated with a typical industrial wind development in Maine may be 15-20 miles long and requires hundreds of thousands of yards of aggregate material to be installed on the mountainside in order to conquer the 30 percent to 50 percent slopes and switchbacks. Where the slopes are too steep, the mountain is blasted away. For the Mars Hill Project, Sargent Corporation drilled, blasted, excavated and filled nearly 500,000 cubic yards of rock and earth.





There are no studies indicating that wind turbines drive tourists away.

Sure there are; just not American studies. Once again, let's look to Europe and learn from the experience of countries that have been developing wind longer than we have.

Like Maine, Scotland is a country whose pristine countryside and unspoiled vistas attract visitors from around the world.  A study by Views of Scotland found that:

  • •  80% of visitors came to the area for its ‘beautiful scenery
  • •  almost all said they valued the chance to see unspoiled nature
  • •  more than half agreed that wind-power sites spoiled the look of the countryside
  • •  more than 25% said they would avoid parts of the countryside with wind developments
  • •  following a visit to a region with wind turbines, 15% said they ‘definitely’ would not return.
  • •  over 90% of those operating tourism-related businesses are against the
    wind power developments

The construction of industrial scale wind energy facilities has caused a decline in Scotland's tourism and that in turn has resulted in lost jobs in the tourism sector.

Like Scotland, 'Quality of Place' is Maine’s most powerful magnet for visitors to the State. In March 2010, Martha Freeman, Director of the State Planning Office put it this way:

“Quality of place is really about jobs. Maine’s quality of place has always been the foundation for jobs in Maine. A major objective of (Maine’s Quality of Place Council) is to maintain our quality of place for jobs now, and in the future.”

If maintaining Quality of Place is important to Maine as a whole, it is absolutely critical to the Downeast Lakes Watershed. Our area enjoys a very unique quality of place: people come here specifically to get away from manmade intrusions on nature. The Downeast Lakes area has worked hard to market itself as one of the last unspoiled lake and forested regions in the U.S. Allowing an industrial wind project on our mountain tops, on our ridgelines, on our horizon, will certainly result in lost tourism jobs. Just like they have in Scotland.





There is no evidence that wind turbines harm
property values.

This may be the most outrageous lie yet. It's hard to imagine that the PR suits in the Windustry can say this with a straight face. It simply flies in the face of common sense and is an insult to our intelligence. It is so blatantly false that we have devoted an entire page to it here.