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[flagged] Wind turbines are neither clean nor green and they provide zero global energy (spectator.co.uk)
29 points by georgecmu 5 days ago | hide | past | web | 29 comments | favorite

TLDR: Editorialist in UK conservative political magazine[0] tilting at windmills as sources of clean energy. His hobby, apparently, or his job[1].

It's too easy to shoot holes in his "facts". I won't even try. He's deliberately being intelectually dishonest, coating his opinion in statistics carefully taken out of context.

Now for an interesting look at wind power technology, have a look at a list of the ten most powerful wind turbines[2].

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Spectator [1] https://www.spectator.co.uk/author/matt-ridley/ [2] http://www.windpowermonthly.com/10-biggest-turbines

Here's his logic, so you don't have to subject yourself to that "article" -> solar and wind contribute very little to global energy at the moment. Energy demand is growing at 2% per year. Therefore, wind and solar won't contribute a significant chunk of energy ever. Therefore, let's invest in gas.

Dumpster tier reporting. On a side note, does HN blacklist any sites for being chronically bad?

There was an estimate of the cost of keeping up with demand using wind - and the back-of-the-envelope numbers were discouraging. 2TW per year, and wind power takes a huge investment in the towers to produce relatively tiny amounts of watts.

They might also kill lots of birds, see: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/how-many-birds-do-w...

And they look ugly as well. Personally I hope we can get rid of wind turbines as soon as possible.

They kill one bird for every ten thousand killed by housecats.

When they're situated in mountain passes, they kill a lot of birds.

When they're situated in windswept plains, they do not.

FYI they kill a lot of bats too. Many of them are turned off at certain times so as to kill fewer (source - wife is a bat-ologist)

That is true, they do, but in the UK at least all new ones/sites do need full ecological impact assessments (there are various levels of assessment needed depending on habitat suitability) and hopefully there will be a lessening on the problem long-term - off-shore is the way to go, of course!

(I do/help with these assessments)

We already generate ~6% of all our power in the US by wind power, which is incredible considering that modern wind turbines installation really only hit its stride in 2010 or so. Of course much of the world is behind the US–we lead the world in a lot of things. This is a silly and unthoughtful hit piece. Advocating for natural gas as a cleaner source than wind power is borderline idiotic. Dumpster bin article.

Isn't that 'power capacity'? And since wind turbines don't often run at capacity, its a greatly inflated view of the situation.

No, according to Wikipedia that was actual generated power / all power used.


Did you not notice the distinction he made between electrical and all power? The Wikipedia article makes clear that number is only electricity generation.

His claim that wind turbines are useless because they take the effort of 150 tons of coal to produce the steel is interesting. He didn't follow it up with the obvious calculation of how long a wind turbine take a to get that energy back. I did a quick calculation, and it looks like you can recover that input coal energy in only a few months of operation.

I wonder how much coal it takes to produce a steel steam turbine...

I read the article and read the comments. The article had numbers, the comments have mostly invectives.

If he is wrong, could someone who is knowledgeable take his numbers and state why they are wrong?

This is a honest question. I would like to have energy, ideally clean energy, uber ideally lots of clean energy. He is telling that wind and photovoltaic are not enough, by large, to replace our energy use of today. Why is he wrong? If we wanted to completely switch to green energy, would this be technically possible? (let's put the political agendas aside, I want to take this opportunity to actually make up my mind)

I don't know, but the article's numbers are pretty convincing and not a single comment here addresses them. I'd say there is likely some truth somewhere in the article that the commenters here don't want to acknowledge. I completely agree with his conclusion about nuclear energy being the obvious way forward in the future.

Before you waste your precious time one should consider that the author has quite the history of writing contrarian articles related to climate change and renewable energy that are poorly researched and/or flat out wrong. The author also has no real experience in the field.

The author (Matt Ridley) has an interesting story actually. He because chairman of Northern Rock, following in daddy's footsteps and oversaw it as it went spectacularly bust - the first run on a UK bank in 150 years.

Now he appears to be cheerleading for another industry (fracking/oil) that is piled high with debt:


You could probably run a profitable hedge fund that simply bet against his predictions.

"As for resource consumption and environmental impacts, the direct effects of wind turbines — killing birds and bats, sinking concrete foundations deep into wild lands — is bad enough. But out of sight and out of mind is the dirty pollution generated in Inner Mongolia by the mining of rare-earth metals for the magnets in the turbines. This generates toxic and radioactive waste on an epic scale, which is why the phrase ‘clean energy’ is such a sick joke and ministers should be ashamed every time it passes their lips."

"Wind energy takes a lot of coal to setup, so we shouldn't even try" is this author's entire statement. He suggests we focus back on fossil fuels, i.e. natural gas and coal, which he admits he has a commercial interest in.

While I cannot discount his assertion of how much power it takes to build wind turbines, I can point out that using CURRENT fossil fuel power generation to bootstrap our renewables, even wind energy, is a good thing. We're not attempting to go from 0 - 60 by building an entirely separate power grid from scratch. We, as a species, are attempting to move from a harmful and eventually scarce set of fuels to clean energy. Not suddenly. Not quickly. And eventually, slow moving as it is, we will find ways to maximize renewable output. Look at how long it took to squeeze so much power from coal and oil. It didn't take 5 years, it took decades.

To decry renewables like wind because we RIGHT NOW need current coal and oil power to produce it, is worth mentioning but NOT a reason to discount such!

Wow, this got buried fast.

But it is worth considering. Hrm, Seems like Holland is known for its windmills.

Vast lands in the midwest that are unsuitable for farming are being turned into wind-farms. This is controversial because it is subsidized so it's difficult to do a cost-benefit analysis.

Finally, if climate-change is an issue, we should also consider that wind take energy out of the atmosphere whereas the proposed alternatives put waste energy into the atmosphere.

It might be worth considering if it wasn't written by someone who regularly writes inaccurate misleading articles about green energy.

Are you referring to the midwest of the United States? Where are these "vast lands" that are unsuitable to farming? The wind farms are being build right in the middle of what is arguably the best farm land on the planet.

Source: I live on that farm land, and I have a turbine ~3000' from my bedroom window.

I'm getting a vibe that many commenters skipped the first sentence of the final paragraph because they were too preoccupied being angry that someone dare insult the economic efficiency of green energy sources.

the author states:

>And let’s put some of that burgeoning wealth in nuclear, fission and fusion, so that it can take over from gas in the second half of this century.

He's advocating for nuclear power. From a pure numbers perspective it makes a lot of sense.

The UK has just building a nuclear plant that has a guaranteed strike price that is higher than what wind/solar gets. It also gets it for many years - it's a bad deal now and as the price of solar and wind comes down it will become even worse. The total subsidies for this plant are expected to be about 37 billion in total.

In return for paying more for Hinckley point the UK cedes sovereignty over its power generation to the Chinese and, of course, in case of disaster taxpayers are on the hook for almost all of the clean up costs.

What's not to like?


It's not like he crunched the numbers wrong.

Nuclear has massive bang for your buck (both figuratively and literally) but we ignore it in the first world because we cater to peoples' mostly irrational fear of it and there is no money to do it right in the third world.

No, he just crunched them utterly disingenuosly.

Infrastructure evolves very slowly, and he's using a true figure (wind is a small part of the grid) as an argument for keeping it a small part of the grid.

To be fair, we also chose the wrong way of doing nuclear. Because making bombs with it was easier (and people were already making money with it), the expensive and dangerous way is now the standard.

So the fears are not that irrational.

Beside having diversity when solving a problem is never a bad thing : Wind power does have its place.

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