Log In | Subscribe | | |

Wind Turbines: really green?

Editorial Staff

They were claimed to be the solution to fossil fuels. Acres of land and sea have been devoted to the alien structures that make even power-grid towers seem inconspicuous. Now about two decades into what was the future, has the promise of Wind Turbines turned into reality? Are there unintended consequences and are they good or bad?

It would be easy to see the wind turbine industry as a failure. For example, in 2013, the New American (widely disparaged as a "far-right print magazine") introduced a counterpoint to the seemingly inexorable progress of wind farms. " It said "When Element Power announced on April 10 the closing of a deal to build wind turbines for Blackrock in Ireland, ...Nothing was said about Element’s recent termination of another deal to build 40 wind turbines over 4,000 acres on top of Black Lava Butte and Flat Top Mesa in California, citing in its “request to relinquish” that there were “insufficient wind resources” to make that project viable." The New American's stance was not what might be expected of the "far right." It pointed out that wind turbines succeed only because governments pour taxpayers' funds into them. The Irish deal, the newspaper said quoting BlackRock's MD, Jim Barry, "This welcomed recovery of the Irish economy is further evidenced by the fact that this long term non-recourse project finance was secured [by loans] from the Bank of Ireland … [and from two other British banks under] an Export Guarantee Scheme of the Federal Republic of Germany." The phrase "non-recourse project financing, according to Investopedia is "a type of loan secured by collateral, which is usually property. If the borrower defaults, the issuer can seize the collateral but cannot seek out the borrower for any further compensation, even if the collateral does not cover the full value of the defaulted amount." In short, if the project fails and repayment of the loans demanded, BlackRock has to surrender the assets (by then worth whatever a second-hand windmill is worth) and walk away without any additional liability for, for example, depreciation or interest accrued in the interim. Moreover, once the wind farms come out of public funding and must make a profit to stay in business " the real economics of maintaining these expensive monstrosities are so overpoweringly negative that they are left to rot," according to New American. While the article then spins into the rhetoric that gives the magazine its reputation, its facts are undeniable.

What is deniable are the astonishing claims by US President Donald Trump last month. He's on the campaign trail and spewing presidential BS at an alarming rate. He said "they say the noise causes cancer. You tell me that one, okay?" Who "they" is is, as always, unclear. He went on "Windmills. Weeeee. And if it doesn’t blow, you can forget about television for that night." Actually, that's not entirely BS as the Telegraph article points out: you only get electricity from turbines when they spin and the shafts rotate and the turbine operates. Trump, incidentally, calls them "windmills" and while there are those that use that as a point of criticism, it's only the pedant that would point out that the devices don't grind - unless, that is, their bearings wear out but that''s not the same at all. The claim that wind farms cause cancer is plain stupid and so is the notion that noise causes cancer. Buzzfeed response to Trump's comments produced some information on the claim that the blades kill birds: being from the opposite end of the political spectrum to both New American and PoTUS, Buzzfeed put the death of "about half-a-million birds a year" in the USA and Canada: less than 0.25% as many as cats do." It's still half-a- million creatures each year. However, there is evidence that wind farms have a negative effect on the environment by scaring away birds at the top of the food chain, having the same effect (headline grabbers say) of being a top "predator." Recent research showed that, in an area that UNESCO has dedicated as an a "hotspot" of biodiversity, the number of predatory raptor birds was only a quarter of that in similar areas with no windmills. A report in Phys.Org explains that there was no evidence that the birds were being killed, merely that they weren't there. That, in turn, led to changes in both behaviour and characteristics of other creatures - a remarkable evolution in just 20 years since the turbines were installed. Maria Thaker, assistant professor at the Indian Institute of Science's Centre for Ecological Sciences and lead author of the paper published in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution (nature.com), reportedly told news agency AFP that the wind farms "trigger changes to the balance of animals in an ecosystem as if they were top predators. They are the 'predators' of raptors—not in the sense of killing them, but by reducing the presence of raptors in those areas."

The figure of 14,000 idle wind turbines was quoted by Jonathan Benson, writing in Natural News in 2011 who in turn quoted Andrew Walden writing in The American Thinker: he said "In the best wind spots on earth, over 14,000 turbines were simply abandoned. Spinning, post-industrial junk which generates nothing but bird kills." Benson then says "Walden speaks, of course, about the birds, bats, and other air creatures that routinely get tangled in and killed by wind turbine propellers. " Benson goes on "his whole wind energy mess just further illustrates how the American people have been played by their elected officials who bought into the "global warming" hysteria that spawned the push for wind energy in the first place. And now that the renewable energy tax subsidies are gradually coming to an end in some places, the true financial and economic viability, or lack of wind energy, is on display for the world to see." Sadly, he's using the second sentence as a justification for the first. The second sentence is demonstrably true; the first sentence is true only for climate-change deniers. The story was taken up (or prefaced, it's difficult to say which) by The Tory Ardvaark which said something very different "The United States is Littered With More than 14,000 Abandoned Wind Turbines." The content is unadulterated climate change denier rhetoric - except that it contained comments that the Indian Institute of Science, some seven years later, found to be true: "Kern County picked out an area of 225,000 acres slightly north of Los Angeles due to its wind resources. Sadly, this same area is a hunting ground for birds of prey as well as a migratory path for birds that travel from Canada to Mexico with the change of seasons. The correlation between hunting grounds and wind farms seems to be the updrafts that are produced in the areas. This means that birds of prey will most likely be put to the side in favour of wind farms." The article also points out the serious criminal penalties applied for interfering with birds of prey whilst wind-farms do it with impunity.