Root Force: Why Wind Power is a Sham

EP-121019985

By Root Force

A series of recently released studies make it clear that wind power is not going to save us—not from global warming, not from high extinction rates, and not from the system of high-energy-consumption industrial exploitation that is killing the planet.

Let’s start with the most damning findings: even the most large-scale shift to wind power cannot slow greenhouse gas emissions enough to have any positive effect on the climate, although it may manage to make things worse. Why?

A study published in Nature Climate Change in September found that although hypothetically there is enough power in the earth’s winds to sustain current levels of energy consumption, in practice you could never harvest enough energy from wind to affect the climate:

Turbines create drag, or resistance, which removes momentum from the winds and tends to slow them. As the number of wind turbines increases, the amount of energy that is generated increases. But at some point, the winds would be slowed so much that adding more turbines will not generate more electricity. …

[T]he study found that the climate effects of extracting wind energy at the level of current global demand would be small, as long as the turbines were spread out and not clustered in just a few regions. At the level of global energy demand, wind turbines might affect surface temperatures by about 0.2 degrees Fahrenheit and affect precipitation by about 1 percent. Overall, the environmental impacts would not be substantial. (emphasis added)

Another study, published in Nature last month, found that wind farms being constructed in Scotland actually lead to a net increase in carbon dioxide emissions:

Wind farms are typically built on upland sites, where peat soil is common. In Scotland alone, two thirds of all planned onshore wind development is on peatland. England and Wales also have large numbers of current or proposed peatland wind farms.

But peat is also a massive store of carbon, described as Europe’s equivalent of the tropical rainforest. Peat bogs contain and absorb carbon in the same way as trees and plants — but in much higher quantities.

British peatland stores at least 3.2 billion tons of carbon, making it by far the country’s most important carbon sink and among the most important in the world.

Wind farms, and the miles of new roads and tracks needed to service them, damage or destroy the peat and cause significant loss of carbon to the atmosphere, where it contributes to climate change. …

Richard Lindsay of the University of East London, said … “The world’s peatlands have four times the amount of carbon than all the world’s rainforests. But they are a Cinderella habitat, completely invisible to decision- makers.”

Finally, a study published last month in the journal Environmental Research Letters conducted a further analysis on the effects of wind turbine drag:

Each wind turbine creates behind it a “wind shadow” in which the air has been slowed down by drag on the turbine’s blades. The ideal wind farm strikes a balance, packing as many turbines onto the land as possible, while also spacing them enough to reduce the impact of these wind shadows. But as wind farms grow larger, they start to interact, and the regional-scale wind patterns matter more.

Keith’s research has shown that the generating capacity of very large wind power installations (larger than 100 square kilometers) may peak at between 0.5 and 1 watts per square meter. Previous estimates, which ignored the turbines’ slowing effect on the wind, had put that figure at between 2 and 7 watts per square meter.

In short, we may not have access to as much wind power as scientists thought.

“If wind power’s going to make a contribution to global energy requirements that’s serious, 10 or 20 percent or more, then it really has to contribute on the scale of terawatts in the next half-century or less,” says Keith.

If we were to cover the entire Earth with wind farms, he notes, “the system could potentially generate enormous amounts of power, well in excess of 100 terawatts, but at that point my guess, based on our climate modeling, is that the effect of that on global winds, and therefore on climate, would be severe — perhaps bigger than the impact of doubling CO2.” (emphasis added)

As if that weren’t enough, another study has just concluded that large wind turbines constructed offshore may snap like matches when hit by medium-size waves:

“If we do not take ringing into consideration, offshore wind turbine parks can lead to financial ruin,” warns John Grue to the research magazine Apollon at University of Oslo. …

Ringing does not just harm wind turbines. Ringing has already been a great problem for the oil industry. The designers of the YME platform did not tak ringing into account, and lost NOK 12 billion.

“It is possible to build your way out of the ringing problem by strengthening the oil rigs. However, it is not financially profitable to do the same with wind turbines,” says John Grue.

And finally, let’s not forget what environmentalists have been warning about for decades: wind turbines murder birds.

ReWire has learned that the North Sky River Wind project, which attracted fierce opposition from environmental groups concerned about potential threat to eagles and California condors, was the site of a golden eagle death in January. …

The eagle kill apparently occurred on January 29, just a month after North Sky River started generating power.

So what’s the solution? Certainly not wind, solar, or any other industrial magic bullet. The solution is to dramatically scale back consumption and shift to local-based economies not dependent upon stealing resources from distant people and lands.

The solution is to demolish the global economic system.

Get started!

From Root Force: http://www.rootforce.org/2013/03/05/why-wind-power-is-a-sham/

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Categories: Bright Green, Essays, Organizations, Root Force, Science, Wind Power

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13 Comments on “Root Force: Why Wind Power is a Sham”

  1. March 21, 2013 at 11:09 am #

    As part of this solution, we need to decentralize energy. Small wind turbines on individual buildings are minimally destructive; giant industrial-scale wind “farms” are a slowly-unfolding disaster.

    • Bob Jones
      March 23, 2013 at 9:49 am #

      No, small turbines are the worst thing possible. They are very inefficient and require more energy to produce than they can ever generate.

  2. March 21, 2013 at 12:55 pm #

    When this culture started burning fossil fuel, it didn’t occur to anyone at the time that this would melt the Arctic, slow down the jet stream up there, and disrupt and stall out weather patterns. But now we know for sure that installing enough wind turbines to meet human energy wants to a significant extent, would not have any significant, let alone harmful, effects on surface wind patterns, except that it would act as such a brake on the surface winds that the turbines wouldn’t work very well any more.

    O.K.

  3. jenese
    March 21, 2013 at 5:28 pm #

    thank you so much for this – my wise woman knowing has been validated – i have always said that adding these – what i call – mechanical mans answer to -keep-the-system-going-at all-costs – would make it hotter and dryer apart from killing birds – so thank you

    the insanity of this culture – the obvious out of control consumption enforced if not created by the mantra of growth growth growth is being seen for what it is

    your right – the only solution is to dismantle the global economy – but we don’t really have to because its collapsing all by itself under its own unsustainability what is really needed is to demolish the political and public system of beliefs that keeps it propped up and this article helps

  4. March 21, 2013 at 6:04 pm #

    Reblogged this on There Are So Many Things Wrong With This and commented:
    This piece got me thinking of how we have messed up the polar jet stream by melting the Arctic. Wind has stuff to do, it’s not something one can casually “harvest” in any largescale manner without interfering with winds’ work.

  5. March 21, 2013 at 9:20 pm #

    No matter how you slice it, there is no free lunch. Trying to sustain the unsustainable will only waste more resources and end in tears. Downscale, localize and de-industrialize.

    • March 21, 2013 at 9:35 pm #

      Yes, exactly! The free lunch we have been dining on, as a culture, for the last several hundred years or so, is Ancient Sunlight, tied up in the bodies of the dead of those hundreds of millions of years. They are whom we are burning and turning into plastic.

      Humans have been humans for a couple-three millon years. And we only got started on agriculture around eight thousand years ago.

      It may, or may not, be possible anymore to turn ourselves into a sustainable direction. I think it’s hubris to assume we can, and hubris to assume we can’t.

  6. March 24, 2013 at 7:00 am #

    Reducing energy consumption is not so damned hard. We do not need mcmansions. we do not need hummers to commute to work. houses can insulated; also they can take advantage of the moderating temp of the ground about five feet below the surface.

  7. w/e
    April 5, 2013 at 8:17 am #

    Why extrapolate backwards from the hypothetical scenario of hypersaturation of windmills? You’re justifying an irrelevant conclusion based on the extreme scenario. Worst analysis ever. Combined with hydroelectricity and more efficient solar panels, there’s more than enough available renewable resources to disrupt the power generation industry.

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