How in the world can this be? How can wind mills be bad for the environment? Why are they bad for the environment? Are wind mills supposed to be good for the environment? Four questions seldom, if ever, looked into. However, we are going to explore them with facts that few ever mention when they say wind mills are good for the environment.
Let us look at just a basic part of wind mills first and from there, we are going to expand and show many reasons why wind mills are bad for the environment. First, let us use a 5-megawatt wind mill as an example. This wind mill takes some 260 tons of steel that is made from around 300 tons of iron ore and it takes some 170 tons of coking coal to remove the impurities from the iron ore. All that is mined from mostly open pits using huge trucks to move the ore to the mills which use electricity to light up the mills and run the mills to reduce the ore to be handled. All this takes many times more energy than the one wind mill could ever produce in its lifetime. Here we clearly see that already we have wasted a lot of energy to produce just one wind mill that during its entire lifetime will never be able to generate as much energy as it took to build it. This does not include the amount of land to build the wind mill on.
The amount of land needed is yet another factor that is not discussed because just this one 5-megawatt wind mill takes nearly 2 acres of land. This is just for one 5-megawatt generator wind mill. Now, compare the difference to let’s say one natural gas fired generator which can produce 500 megawatts of power. Like the one gas fired turbine on 10 acres of land, it will take 100 wind mills on some 200 acres of land to produce the same amount of power. This shows very clearly that wind mills cannot produce an equal amount of energy as one natural gas fired generator which by the way runs 24 hours a day 7 days a week no matter if wind is blowing or not.
Now let’s take into account the amount of steel, and what it takes to make it for 100 wind mills.
One hundred wind mills will use 26,000 tons of steel, this will require some 30,000 tons of iron ore, and 17,000 tons of coke to make the steel. Not to mention the tons of fuel for the transportation to the mills or the electricity needed for the equipment needed to move the steel and other materials around. This does not include the concrete needed for the 100 wind mills. That is an additional 618,800 tons of concrete. Now, the other materials amount to a huge amount also. That would take some 11,900 tons of fiberglass, 1,904 tons of copper, 1,904 tons of neodymium, and 30.94 tons of dysprosium. All these materials have to be refined, dug out of the ground and melted by natural gas, Coal and oil to reach the end product and most wind mills last for about 25 years, then they have to be torn down and rebuilt using the same energy to process new ones. It has to be mentioned that as of right now Wyoming is burying the fiberglass blades that either broke or have worn out. Fiberglass cannot be recycled so that is another huge environmental problem since it is going to take centuries for that fiberglass to dissolve, if at all.
Given these facts, it seems wind mills cannot ever produce even enough energy to replace the ones now in service.
Wind turbine efficiency comparison
Let’s conclude the wind turbine efficiency here. The wind turbine efficiency is tabulated below.
|Horizontal axis wind turbine||30-45|
|Vertical axis wind turbine||10-40|
|Darrius wind turbine||30-40|
|Savonius wind turbine||10-17|
|bladeless wind turbines||Very less|
Factors affecting wind turbine efficiency
The efficiency of wind turbines are already discussed above, from that the factors affecting turbine efficiency are,
- The wind speed.
- The air density.
- Blade radius.
- Type of wind turbine
Let us look at some very interesting information shown at the following web site.
Maximum efficiency of wind turbine
The maximum possible efficiency of the wind turbine is proposed by Albert Betz, a German physicist, in 1919. It provides insight into the maximum possible turbine efficiency.
The Betz’s limit shows that 59.3% is the maximum possible efficiency of a wind turbine. Hence, the turbine efficiency never exceeds 59%, including all other losses it comes to 35-45% value in practical cases.
Let’s assume that the efficiency of a wind turbine is 100% that means the turbine consumes all the air energy. If it happens, the velocity of air after passing the turbine becomes zero. That means the air is not flowing, which hinders the further flow of air. Thus, this is an impossible situation.
Now, if the inlet and exit air velocity are the same, that means no energy is extracted, which gives 0% efficiency to the turbine. Hence the maximum possible turbine efficiency is somewhere between 0 and 100%, excluding these limits.
Betz proved that the maximum possible efficiency is 59.3% for a wind turbine with math and solid physics.
Here we can see that no matter how one does it wind mills cannot ever produce more than 45% of electricity at a perfect performance. Natural Gas can run 24 hours a day 7 days a week and the production is close to 60% during the entire time. Wind mills on the other hand can generate only 35 to 45% efficiency meaning they have to have wind blowing all the time to produce that and even that becomes questionable if winds die down or exceeds its maximum rating of wind speed of 50 miles per hour which would make wind mills in areas of Hurricanes be a serious problem due to the blades and structures being broken apart or destroyed under very high winds.
If we check out the capacity factors of wind mills it shows they are not that good.
The average unsubsidized cost of wind power and capacity factor (CF) in the following countries (please remember that it varies throughout each large country) is:
- Denmark: 8.2 cents or $0.082/kWh. CF: 31%.
- United States: 9 cents or $0.09/kWh. CF: 35%
- Sweden: 9 cents or $0.09/kWh. CF: 30%.
- Spain: 11 cents or $0.11/kWh. CF: 25%.
- Germany: ~11.9 cents or $0.119/kWh. CF: 26%.
- Netherlands: 13 cents or $0.13/kWh. CF: 25%.
- Switzerland: 16.7 cents or $0.167/kWh. CF: 20%.
As you can see above, there is a strong correlation between the capacity factor of wind turbines and the cost at which they generate electricity. However, it is not the sole dictator of the cost. Operating and maintenance (O&M) costs contribute moderately to this as well. The Netherlands and Switzerland have the highest operating and maintenance costs of the 7 countries by far.
Operating and Maintenance Costs of Wind Turbines
- Switzerland: 4.3 cents or $0.043/kWh.
- Netherlands: 3.9 cents or $0.039/kWh.
- Germany 2.9 cents or $0.029/kWh.
- Spain 2.8 cents or $0.028/kWh.
- Denmark: 1.7 cents or $0.017/kWh.
- Sweden: 1.5 cents or $0.015/kWh.
- United States: 1 cent or $0.01/kWh.
Operating and maintenance cost is affected by labor cost considerably.
- A wind powered economy is not susceptible to rising fuel prices, because wind turbines are not fossil-fuel powered. An economy with low-cost electricity would result in lower cost food than one with high fuel prices. Fossil fuel price increases drive up the cost of food, water, and everything else which is harvested, manufactured, or supplied using electricity.
- Wind farms are sometimes built on farm land and the owners/farmers benefit because they are paid for the use of that land, helping to sustain the agriculture industry. The farmers could even be supplied with electricity in the process, but that is dependent on the wind farm owner.
- The total number of jobs created by the manufacturers, deliverers, and assemblers of wind turbines has a positive economic impact. Example: Vestas opened a factory for wind turbine blades alone and said they would hire 600 people to work there: Vestas Opens Factory in Colorado
These numbers mean nothing when all the maintenance costs are factored into the mix due to the high cats of using helicopters to change and replace the blades and parts of the wind mills. Wind mills have a high malfunction rate due to blades flying apart, catching fire, transmission failures, just to mention a few of the problems that seldom gets mentioned.
Wind mills, for the most part, sound like a good alternative, but when it comes down to what and how they are made, oil, natural gas, and coal are needed every step of the way to make the wind mills. Even the space it takes to set them up is much more than just a single generator using natural gas generator. To produce 500 megawatts of power by windmills using the 5-megawatt wind mill, would take 100 to produce the same as one natural gas generator. That one 500-megawatt generator takes about 10 acres while it takes 100 wind mills on 200 acres of land minimum.
The wind mills are bad for the birds that fly past them as the wind mills have to be over 200 feet to allow the big blades to spin and any bird that is hit by the blades are killed. Wind mills kill more birds every year than all the hunters in the United States combined. Wind mills do not discriminate and they kill protected birds in numbers that cannot be given because the operators of wind mill farms tend to cover up those numbers. Our national bird, the American eagle, is killed in large numbers by wind mills and none of the operators of these wind mills are ever fined or charged with the killing of our national birds. Eagles are not the only protected species of birds that wind mills kill but, once again, numbers cannot be determined because the operators of wind mills do not give those numbers.
Noise is another huge factor of the wind mills since the blades generate a lot of noise while turning around and anyone within a certain distance can hear them. People who live within hearing distance of the wind mills have complained about the noise they generate.
In nearly all phases to look at wind mills, they are not good for the environment.
The blades of the wind mills are made of mostly fiberglass and that material cannot be recycled. The blades are shipped to Wyoming where they are buried in a land fill that when seen from above makes the huge bulldozer that buries the blades look like an ant from 5 feet above the ground. Those blades are not good for anything and the area where they are buried under mud but they will take many decades to decompose, if at all.
There are so many factors to consider about wind mills and even though they sound good for the environment, they do not stop the production of any environmental problems. Wind mills will never be able to pay back their cost of production and they will never be able to produce electricity as well as most forms of the so-called “fossil fuels”.
The United States has over 900 years supply of oil, natural gas, and coal but instead of obtaining that our leaders are set upon making people hurt financially just to force people into a bad if not terrible dependence of the “green” energy which is not green.
Before a wind mill farm is built in your area, ask questions and reasons why you should allow it while our nation has so much energy we are not even trying to use now. We have vast amounts of oil, natural gas, and coal, all can and does get used with very little problem to our environment, we should use that until the alternate source is brought to near perfection. We have more than 900 years to find the alternative so let us do that and develop what we can in the mean time that does not cause more problems in the long run.
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