Windmills Literally Blowing in the Wind

Many say “What can possibly be wrong with windmills to generate electrical power?” But it doesn't seem to be a thinking solution to perceived energy problems for the US. A few suggestions for the non-thinker: 1) What is the actual cost? 2) How much land or water will actually be needed?, 3) What has been the result of previous windmills built? And the coup-de-gras, 4) How much of US energy concerns can it displace?

In Power Hungry: The Myths of “Green” Energy and the Real Fuels of …the Future, Robert Bryce shows how wind turbines can only produce a small amount of the world's energy needs. He points out wind won't run America anytime soon. If one checks the math, answers leap into your face.

Stephen Lovejoy [Economist: Wind farm profits wouldn't be a breeze for Hoosiers] says, “Are you willing to put up with noise? You've got to remember that if you've got several dozen turbine rotors going around in the wind, they make noise.”

Although wind energy is clean, this technology has environmental pitfalls. There is always a fair amount of maintenance involved. With wind turbines, engineering tolerances are so close that just a few bird strikes or extra-heavy winds can throw them out of alignment, reducing the efficiency of the wind-to-energy ratio. An attorney is currently representing 12 residents in Tippecanoe County who are asking for 1,000 feet set back from their property lines. For safety reasons, if one of those towers collapse; or if a blade detaches, breaks, or flies off, it does not seem a 1,000 feet buffer is unreasonable.

It seems high start-up costs, broken inverters, and intermittent sources of energy (wind doesn't always blow and sun doesn't always shine), can be negative factors. Wind requires huge amounts of land to produce and transport energy, requiring land 30x amount needed for fission energy (US NatureConservancy).

Bats are the most important predator of night-flying insects and consume vast numbers of pests. The 20 million Mexican free-tail bats in Bracken Cave, Texas, eat 250 tons of insects nightly. And that's only one state, and one location. Bat Fatalities at Wind Turbines: Investigating the Causes and …consequences, shows that dead bats are turning up dead beneath wind turbines worldwide. Many species of migratory bats can be killed by wind turbines. They fly at night eating thousands of insects, many of which are crop pests. Therefore, bat losses in one area could have very real effects on ecosystems along the bats' migration routes.

In Why Wind Turbines Can Mean Death For Bats, Science News thinks it knows why bats actually die in much greater numbers. The bats they examined after death showed signs of internal hemorrhaging consistent with trauma from the sudden drop in air pressure (barotrauma) from turbine blades. Only a portion of the bats showed any evidence of direct contact with the blades.

Bats normally detect objects with echolocation, and seldom collide with other structures. An atmospheric pressure drop at wind turbine blades is an undetectable hazard for bats, thus partially explaining the large number of bat fatalities. So far no one has found a way to reduce the pressure drop at wind turbines without severely limiting their use. Bats are more susceptible to barotrauma than birds (due to a totally different lung configuration), and bat fatalities at wind turbines far outnumber bird fatalities.

This administration knows wind produces only a modicum of electricity, and not the kind of fuel that oil produces for cars. In Peak oil & supplies – April 22 | Energy Bulletin, Steven Hayward (American Enterprise Institute/ AEI) says oil is here to stay, for at least decades. “The problem with oil' is that it's such a terrific fuel, it's hard to match its performance and cost with anything else.”

Townhall – David Kreutzer – Wind Power Addiction? explains how (the U.S. and the world's) current fossil-fuel production is not only sustainable, but will be around for quite a while. He understands how known reserves in the world are increasing every year because of ability to drill deeper with new available technology. Direct access of abiotic oil will become available to those going below 30,000 ft.

ITER – the way to new energy (“the way” in Latin), has started constructing a prototype fusion reactor in Cadarache, France. Fusion is the process by which every star (including the Sun), transmutes matter, transforming hydrogen into helium to release stupendous amounts of energy. Harness that release, and the world's energy needs can be met, with almost no harmful by-products.

If everything is successful, ITER at PPPL will pave the way for a demonstration power plant in the 2030s. That power plant will feed energy into the grid by the middle of this century. All the while, research will continue in tens of other installations. If the gamble pays off, the last quarter of this century will usher in a future of almost limitless energy.

Knowing these facts encourages one to go out and buy a wind turbine immediately. Right…


Kevin Roeten can be reached at