WINDFARMS DO NOT SAVE ON GREENHOUSE GASES.
INTERMITTENT ENERGY, IMPREDICTABLE AND VARIABLE OUTPUT.
WINDFARMS MUST BE BACKED-UP BY CONVENTIONAL POWER PLANTS WHICH PRODUCE EXTRA CO2 IN THAT FUNCTION, NEGATING THE SAVINGS FROM WINDPOWER.
We have seen* how the public is being misled regarding the impact of windfarms on birds. Now let´s look at the claim that wind-produced electricity is "clean" and renewable. * see Birds and windfarms - Bird Genocide at windfarm sites
I - HOW CLEAN IS THE ELECTRICITY PRODUCED BY WINDFARMS?
Demand for electricity fluctuates in accordance with the time of the day, the day of the week, seasons, vacations, etc. But the power that lights our streets cannot be stored for a reasonable cost: it must be produced at the time it is used.
A country must have generators able to deliver enough to supply demand at its highest peak, plus enough in reserve to allow for maintenance, breakdowns and other emergencies, as well as record-breaking peaks (generally, a 20% reserve capacity is regarded to be a minimum). Windfarms on the production line cannot be counted as reserve, for the wind may not be blowing when the emergency arises. Indeed, there are days in the year when a country, or even half a continent is without wind.
The consequence is that we must build more conventional power plants regardless of the number of wind turbines we may have, and regardless of their installed capacity. Talking in terms of security of supply, it is as if they did not exist. As consumption grows, as peaks in demand break new records, reserve capacity must be increased to always provide an adequate safety margin over and above the new peaks. And that new capacity must consist of dispatchable generating units, i.e. reliable demand-driven power plants, capable of producing at will.
Investing in wind energy generation is therefore made over and above dispatchable generation – not in lieu of it. This has important cost implications that are rarely reflected in official documents; but they will, in the end, be passed-on to the consumer, just like the high price of wind energy itself is passed on to the taxpayer. To date, windpower has been "piggybacking" on the existing reserve of conventional power, but the decision to build back-up units cannot be withheld any longer, unless we are prepared to accept long blackouts.
Someone will have to pay for this doubling of the investment required to produce an equal quantity of electricity. Denmark, which has the highest percentage of wind-produced electricity in the world, also has electricity prices nearly 100% higher than those of Britain, France, Spain etc. This, in addition to problems to do with the unreliability of wind, grid management, and a lack of reduction in CO2 emissions, prompted the Danes to overhaul their windpower policy.
In short: because of intermittency, windpower will not permit to close a single nuclear or conventional plant. On the contrary, those will have to continue being built as if windfarms did not exist. Failing to do so would forebode disaster, in the form of blackouts lasting several days.
It is clear that intermittent wind energy cannot replace conventional power: it only displaces part of its production from time to time, when it pleases the wind.
Now, wind-plant promoters say to us: when the wind is blowing, power produced by the mills displaces a like quantity of conventional-plant-produced-electricity; we are then saving the greenhouse gases that would otherwise be emitted by those power stations. But this claim is equally false:
- fossil fuel generating units must be used 24h a day to backup the intermittent, erratic output of the wind turbines. To do so they must be running at less than full capacity, or in spinning reserve mode (producing no electricity, only CO2), ready to be ramped up every time the wind slacks or dies down completely. They must complement the production of the windfarms, adjusting their production up and down constantly, following the vagaries of the wind - for frequency and voltage must be kept steady on the grid. Operating "in parallel", they consume fossil fuels for nothing.
This also means that more greenhouse gases are being emitted, because they are burning their fuel less efficiently in this part-load mode. To use an analogy: a car idling at a red light, or used in city traffic conditions, emits more harmful gases than on the highway at a reasonable and constant speed.
In short, the electricity produced by the windfarms is NOT "green": for every "clean" Kwh produced by a wind turbine, we have to take into consideration the increased emissions of the backup plants running at reduced load, or in spinning reserve.
It may be argued that the demand for electricity is also variable. But there is a fundamental difference: it can be predicted with a reasonable degree of accuracy. Grid operators know that demand invariably declines after 9 PM along a well-known curve which starts to move up again around 5.30 AM etc. So they can "manage" supply accordingly.
Sometimes an attempt is made to predict the windpower production, and conventional plants are shut down hoping that the wind will follow the script. But it is a gamble. In the US, a windpower operator was fined $1.9 million because he erroneously predicted the amount of electricity he was going to inject into the grid at the predicted time (press article available on demand). This erring caused havoc in the distribution network and headaches for the grid manager who had to request the start-up from cold of gas-fired plants that were not supposed to be running at that particular time based on the predictions from the wind operator.
The consumer will be asked to pay for these errors: it is the case already in California, where a scheme has been put in place to minimize the paying of such fines by wind operators, through the netting-out of errors in predictions: Problems in forecasting (http://www.iberica2000.org/documents/EOLICA/Errors_in_forecast.pdf)
Conveniently, it is near impossible to estimate the quantity of CO2 and other gases emitted in order to back-up intermittent windpower: there are too many variables involved. So the wind industry has an easy job dismissing the critics. But the fact remains that CO2 emissions are increased, possibly to the point where they fully compensate the savings realized by windpower. The example of Denmark seems to confirm this: producing 15 to 20% of its electricity from the wind, this most windpowerized country in the world has failed to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. And California, Germany, Spain are building more fossil-fuel power plants in spite of their massive investments in windfarms. This, better than anything else, proves the point that windfarm opponents across the world are trying to make.
And then we have the gases emitted during the construction phase of the windfarms, and during their maintenance thereafter. These must be counted over and above everything else, as an overall excess, because the country´s electricity production is not increased by the wind turbines: it is just temporarily displaced. For the same amount of electricity produced in a given country, we are now duplicating some production facilities in the form of ten or more thousands of wind turbines, some of them costing £ 1 million each, plus an enormous infrastructure of access roads and new power lines stretching over once pristine landscapes.
What quantity of greenhouse gases will be produced during the construction of, say, 200 windfarms averaging 50 giant turbines each? Much data would have to be fed into a computer in order to get the beginning of an answer. Here are the things to be considered:
- manufacture of the wind turbines themselves.
- manufacture of electrical sub-station equipments, pylons and tension lines needed to connect the normally remotely located windfarms to the national grid.
- production of asphalt for most of the access roads to these remote locations.
- production of cement ("dirtiest" process of all) for 10.000 large concrete bases for the turbines (about 500 tons each).
- opening of new quarries close to windfarm sites.
- building of the access roads, including topsoil removal.
- excavations for the concrete bases.
- transportation of cement, gravel, sand, windturbines, pylons, tension lines, sub-station equipment and more.
- installation of all this.
- manufacture and replacement of defective, broken or obsolete turbines and related equipment.
- maintenance for centuries (1) to come, including transportation of people and material, control of fires caused by shorts in the turbines or by lightning, gasoline burned by vehicles transporting hunters, botanists, ornithologists etc. using the new roads, etc. etc. etc.
(1) after the costly infrastructure has been paid-for using taxpayer´s money, replacing the obsolete turbines with new ones may turnout to be a profitable operation for the wind industry. So windfarms, once built, may be there forever, even if they do not save on CO2.
All this activity, and the gases emitted as a result of it, are for no gain in overall electricity production, since it is only there to "displace" fossil-fuel electricity when the wind blows. And if, as we have seen above, backup does negate CO2 savings from wind-produced electricity, these "construction and maintenance gases" are emitted for nothing, and windpower may have the net perverse effect of increasing CO2 emissions overall - they certainly do during the construction phase, and they may still do it during the life of the windfarms, as maintenance is forever (an example: the 80 wind turbines of the Horns Rev windfarm in Denmark had to be dismantled, brought to shore, repaired, and re-fitted at their offshore location - saltwater, it seems, was the problem).
II - HOW RENEWABLE IS THE ELECTRICITY PRODUCED BY THE WIND?
Wind is renewable, but landscapes are not. A permanent loss will be suffered by residents in terms of noise, stress, quality of life, property value, safety, horse riding and rambling possibilities, quality of grazing and groundwater (projection of lubricating liquid by the rotors), wildlife habitat fragmentation (access roads) etc. In dry places (parts of California, New Mexico, Spain, Morocco, Israel, Egypt etc.) soil erosion and fires will be an added negative effect, increasing desertification. And tourism-associated jobs will be lost in the areas affected by the visual impact, if not the noise.
Bird species are not renewable either, for if they may be brought back from near extinction levels by costly reintroduction programs, no such reintroduction is possible in an environment occupied by bird-killing machines thrashing the air at speeds up to 250 Kmh - see The negative effects of windfarms: links to papers published by Mark Duchamp and select the article on birds and bats. You may find the other articles to be of interest as well.
more information on our webpage:
The negative effects of windfarms: links to papers published by Mark Duchamp
Supporting documents and photos:
Related información on Internet: click
(19.000 scientists speak-up against the theory of anthropogenic global warming)
(web page on CO2)
(web page on Kyoto)
(Harvard scientists speak-up against the theory of anthropogenic global warming)
(Declaration of Leipzig against the theory of anthropogenic global warming)
>> Autor: Mark Duchamp (05/12/2003)
>> Fuente: Mark Duchamp
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