America’s Wind Turbines Increase Energy Cost and Endanger Us All

by | Jan 26, 2022 |

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Nations across the developed world have spent hundreds of billions of dollars hoping to replace coal and natural gas with so-called renewable energy to no avail. Australians and Germans have suffered the most from misguided government decisions. They now have sky-high energy costs and frequent blackouts. Both are returning to coal with as little fanfare as possible.

The reason is the little-known and even less-understood Ciccone/Lehr Electric Power Rule of Thumb which states, 

“All solar and wind power on an electric grid must be backed up with an equal or greater amount of fossil fuel power running on standby 100% of the time.”

The cost of wind and solar power can never be competitive with coal and natural gas. Indeed, the large-scale wind and solar power industry only exist due to huge government subsidies that keep wind and solar companies rich and the public poor.

Let’s examine wind power in particular. This is particularly relevant since politicians everywhere think that wind power is clean, efficient, reliable, safe, and affordable. It is none of those things, yet governments like that of the City of Ottawa, Canada, where the junior author of this article currently lives, are committed to erecting huge industrial “wind farms.”

In Ottawa’s case, they plan to install no less than 710 industrial wind turbines, each about 100 meters high in the city as part of their $60 billion climate change plan. In “A CAUTIONARY TALE FOR GOVERNMENTS AROUND THE WORLD,” the not-for-profit International Climate Science Coalition – Canada thoroughly deconstructs Ottawa’s dangerous plan.  

Governments seem to not understand that the wind is intermittent; it is not reliable. No electric grid can afford to be unreliable. America’s three electric grids—East, West, and Texas—all operate at 60 hertz of electric power. A hertz is a single electric cycle of alternating current per second. No grid can vary by more than half a hertz for any period, meaning 60.5 hertz or 59.5 hertz are its limits of variability. Beyond these limits, the system will crash, which means that all down the line, equipment will shut off or, at times, even explode.

Wind is even more intermittent than you could imagine, abruptly varying its energy output. Every turbine has a range of wind speeds, usually between 30 miles per hour (mph) and 55 mph, in which it will produce its maximum rated electric output. At lower speeds, the production falls off considerably. At wind speeds above the maximum rate for a turbine, the blades must be feathered or the turbine will fly apart. Physics tells us that when you double wind speed, the power of the wind increases eight-fold. Conversely, when the wind speed is halved, the wind turbine output power declines by the same amount.

A poorly understood aspect of wind turbines is their size. Wind output is essentially limited by the land area used to harness it. You can have very large turbines with very long blades in small numbers, which will not interfere with each other if they are spaced far apart. Or you can have smaller turbines in larger numbers and get the same kilowatt-hours of energy from the land. 

To give a sense of scale, to replace the energy from one average natural gas power plant sitting on four acres of land would require 2,500 acres of large wind turbines. Each turbine has a rated capacity of the number of megawatts (million watts) of electricity (commonly 2.5 megawatts) that they could produce if they operated 24/7 at the most optimum revolutions per minute. Experience from the past decade indicates that annual outputs are only between 15 and 30% of their capacity. When the wind industry describes its total capacity, it adds up the plated power capacities in megawatts of all existing turbines. This is highly misleading since, if a natural gas station and a wind farm have the same power capacity, the natural gas station will deliver far more actual energy than the wind farm. 

A lesser-known fact about windmills is the human health impacts created by the throbbing noise for anyone within 1,500 feet of these behemoths. Blades flying off turbines have also killed more than 100 people around the world in the past decade. In addition, nearly 1,500 wind towers have collapsed for unexplained reasons. As a result, Finland, Bavaria, and Scotland have limited wind turbines to no closer than 1.2 miles from homes. 

Another little-known deficit of wind turbines is that, at wind speeds that yield less than 20% of rated capacity, the turbines actually are net consumers of electricity. They are actually consuming energy from the grid. This occurs because, when the decision is made to activate the wind turbine, all the oil pumps and hydraulic controls and accessories must be turned on. Typically, this drawdown is 12-13% of the capacity rating of the windmill. Therefore, if the wind turbine is not turning optimally, it draws electricity from the grid.

We have long used the wind to power sailboats, grind grains, and pump water. Producing electricity, however, from such an intermittent and unreliable source of power is something few people understand. But wind power has a surprising ally in the electric utility industry which gets to buy and maintain all the wind equipment necessary as well as build 100% backup fossil fuel plants. 

According to the American Wind Association, at the end of 2021, there were about 60,000 wind turbines operating in 41 states and two territories. It is not hard to convince farmers to give up about 1.5 to 2 acres of their land to a wind turbine which will pay them a fee for many years. Large turbines can bring a landowner between $10,000 and $15,000 per year for the use of their land. County tax revenue from the turbines can also be significant. But make no mistake about who is really paying these excessive royalties. It is you the American taxpayer who covers, at the very least, half of all costs related to wind, without which the industry would immediately die.

What do we do when a wind turbine’s useful life ends, which is normally not at 20 years but, experience shows, is closer to 12 years. Do we tear it all down? Spend countless more dollars on fossil fuels to break down the tons of steel and concrete, meltdown the metals, recycle the plastics and carbon fiber material and carry it away? But to where? There are not many landfills prepared to take on such waste.

Although 85% of each turbine is composed of steel, copper wire, electronics, and gears that can be recycled, the huge blades made of fiberglass or carbon fiber cannot. Only three landfills in the U.S. will accept them, in Lake Mills, Iowa; Sioux Falls, South Dakota; and Casper, Wyoming. 

In January 2020 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published a damning report about our nation’s wind turbines. The agency described the many oils and lubricants that leak out of the machines and the confusion as to whose responsibility it is to clean them up and ultimately dismember them. Of course, it should be the wind company’s responsibility if they remain in business, but bankruptcy is an easy out. Take their money and run. It then becomes the landowner’s problem. Not many farmers are willing to pay tens of thousands of dollars to clean up the mess. 

EPA summed up the problem best when it stated:

“Until such time as wind turbines can be efficiently dismantled so that component elements are separated out into small enough units to enter the existing waste stream and reused or properly disposed of, each wind farm is a ‘towering promise of future wreckage.’”

Face it, America will one day become a gigantic sculpture garden.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, a strong friend of environmental groups, recently got into the anti-wind fray when they reported that between 140,000 and 500,000 birds of 200 different species are killed annually by wind turbines. At the present rate of turbine growth in the U.S., they predict total bird deaths could reach 1.4 million. And the situation is even worse with bats, which are killed by wind turbines twice as often as birds. Bats are killed, not only by being struck by a blade, but even by simply entering the low-pressure zone behind a moving blade where their lungs burst and they drown in their own blood.

It is not that our increasingly socialist leaders are dumb enough to think that the breezes can run the nation’s economy and maintain our standard of living. They, and most of their radical environmental supporters, know full well their plans cannot work. But success for them will be the need for government to ration energy to all its citizens. We must oppose them at every opportunity. For wind makes no net contribution to our nation’s energy supplies. Its only contribution is increasing the cost of energy we all must pay.

To discuss the wind energy hoax, our guest on THE OTHER SIDE OF THE STORY at 11 am and 8 pm ET this Saturday and Sunday will be wind energy expert Dr. Howard Hayden, Professor Emeritus of Physics from the University of Connecticut. Besides his in-depth knowledge of the field, Professor Hayden’s sense of humor will delight listeners.


Dr. Jay Lehr is a Senior Policy Analyst with the International Climate Science Coalition and former Science Director of The Heartland Institute. He is an internationally renowned scientist, author, and speaker who has testified before Congress on dozens of occasions on environmental issues and consulted with nearly every agency of the national government and many foreign countries. After graduating from Princeton University at the age of 20 with a degree in Geological Engineering, he received the nation’s first Ph.D. in Groundwater Hydrology from the University of Arizona. He later became executive director of the National Association of Groundwater Scientists and Engineers.

Tom Harris is Executive Director of the Ottawa, Canada-based International Climate Science Coalition, and a policy advisor to The Heartland Institute. He has 40 years experience as a mechanical engineer/project manager, science and technology communications professional, technical trainer, and S&T advisor to a former Opposition Senior Environment Critic in Canada’s Parliament.

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