With Donald Trump grudgingly leaving office, we’ve lost one of the few major politicians willing to criticize the crass blight of industrial wind turbines. Though he was crass himself and fabricated certain details, he was morally right on this issue. Wind turbines may not directly cause cancer, but they’re like a cancerous growth on nature, taking over too much horizontal and vertical space in areas untouched by older energy projects. Even 22 years ago, their sprawl could no longer be described as novel and welcome. Nothing so blatantly ugly, noisy, lethal and futile has been marketed as “green” with such blind ambition. Relatively few environmentalists bother to ask if wind power meaningfully reduces carbon, or whether other footprints still matter. They assume anything beats smokestacks, even if it resembles hordes of them, minus blades.
A greenly zealous President Biden plans to carry on with Obama’s PTC wind power legacy after a notable construction lapse during Trump’s term. In his 2020 campaign, Biden spoke of building 60,000 more wind turbines on top of the 65,548 already spiking America (as of this posting-date). If funding is secured, this politically-correct and bipartisan destruction of nature will resume unless rural landowners and honest environmentalists put up roadblocks. But where would all these new eyesores be built? Offshore ocean sites promise more consistent wind and less visibility, but theory & reality have clashed and permitting is slow. It’s been unrealistic to put turbines far enough offshore and keep them affordable, including maintenance at sea.
This means Biden’s Departments of Interior & Energy are likely to target pragmatic onshore locations, including besieged mountaintops where wind can be most effectively “harvested” (a term also applied to anthropocentric hunting). Since wind “farms” unavoidably destroy scenery and bird & bat habitat, big environmental groups have responded to the encroachment with denial, covered at length here and here. They downplay the visceral impact of giant machines and replace it with shill-terms like “installed capacity.” To be green now, you must itemize nature as a product and wrap it around metrics.
There’s been a misleading controversy over Biden’s plan to “replace” fossil fuels with quasi-renewables, upsetting the livelihoods of traditional energy workers. It’s based on a widespread misunderstanding of energy scale and the dependency of most infrastructure on fossil fuels for construction and maintenance. The laws of physics will not allow wind or solar to actually replace oil, gas and coal. Once one understands the scale problem, nuclear power becomes our best hope in the electricity sector, though it can’t replace what fossil fuels do best. Recent urgency in approving molten salt SMRs, and fast-tracking fusion, shows that scientists understand the limits of wind & solar. Both Democrats and Republicans are too vague about our energy predicament, compounded by general denial of scarcity.
We can hope that Biden’s “500 million” new solar panels are only built on roofs and parking lots, but wind turbines can’t be “carefully sited” much longer, if it was ever true. We’re stuck with the same dilemma of sacrificing open space for the growing demands of people. With Trump, this took the form of shrinking national monuments and more oil & gas drilling, which at least didn’t pretend to be green. Biden will be compelled to spoil nature in “smarter” ways, rationalizing huge structures that wreck the facade of wilderness faster than anything else.
And, just as Trump weakened hunting regulations to appease right-wingers, Biden will be forced to weaken protections for anything that flies in the path of wind turbine gauntlets, e.g. more eagle-take permits. When America’s national bird and scenic heritage are threatened by “clean energy,” you wonder what qualifies as dirty these days. If Joe Biden really thinks Big Wind is green, one needs to say “Come on, man!”
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Actually, I’d like to see you reprise in detail — ShareLaTex is fine if you want to get mathy — how you came up with the number of 60,000 in your wind turbine count. Vineyard Wind just switched to the GE Haliade X which allowed them to shrink the number of their wind turbines from 84 to 62.
And, on nuclear, while small modular reactors might work some day if they are carbon copy replicas which can be ganged together — as nuclear should have done at the outset — until they are proven, y’need to convince people that the negative learning curve will stop. No evidence yet. Even NuScale Power just shifted their initial build right 3 years and increased their price 50%.
I have chronicled nuclear, which is what New England, if it keeps its environmental hypocrisy up, may end up with. If they do, serves ’em right. And modular would be cool. But I don’t believe it yet for a second. And there is a way forward with wind, water, solar, and storage.
I think nuclear’s gonna be starved for cash, because wind, water, solar, and storage will just eat up all the investment and be built everywhere, whether people like it or not.
I personally love wind turbines. But solar is better.
And this stuff about wanting to preserve open space and forest is disingenuous.
“Vineyard Wind just switched to the GE Haliade X which allowed them to shrink the number of their wind turbines from 84 to 62.”
That’s just one small sample in a much larger scheme. Bigger wind turbines just means more space between them and seeing them further away. And the Jevons effect takes over. There’s nothing green about that to aesthetically-driven environmentalists. I see the same pro arguments over and over, covered at length here: https://falseprogress.home.blog/2016/08/29/windturbineslandscapes/
You must have seen Mark Jacobson’s paper calling for “3.8 million large wind turbines” around the globe, which became a major part of the Green New Deal. He even sued critics for $10 million, which is not something normally done by critical thinkers. Biden’s “60,000” comment was mentioned on the campaign trail: https://www.google.com/search?&q=Biden+60%2C000+wind+plan
I’ve seen ultimate figures for 500,000 wind Goliaths for just America. The world already has over 360,000 and CO2 is still rising. Germany made the mindless decision to phase out its nuclear plants because Fukushima spooked it, even though it’s all about design and location.
NuScale in Oregon had their SMR approved by the NRC and it’s mainly a matter of getting enough environmentalists to face evidence and scale factors. Behind the scenes, scientists know wind (and solar) are futile at the global economy scale, so you see more urgent stories about fusion tokamaks.
Feel free to live right among wind turbines if you love them (https://youtu.be/LenMX5Nad9E) but you’ve no right to force others to put up with this sprawling assault on nature, any more than fracking near someone’s water supply – often for natural gas backup at wind farms! See “fossil fuel extenders.”
I sort of understand some people’s objections to wind turbines — although I personally do not mind them at all, and would love to fall asleep at night listening to their sounds — but, then, they should support big solar farms and storage and the digital technology that overcomes intermittency. They don’t.
And people object to turbines and solar when this is what they’ve done with suburban development?
I don’t really care what you or anyone thinks … Wind Water Solar and Storage will win purely on cost, and it won’t be the government driving this through some Green New Deal thing, it’ll be big multinational corporations. And, while they will use them to dress themselves up in green, the motivation will be pure cost savings. In 2030, the cost of construction of wind and solar per kWh will be one sixth of the cost of transmission per kWh from the grid. (That’s independently found from four studies, RethinkX, MIT, NREL, and LBNL.) Intermittency is solved by overbuilding wind and solar to 4X what max daily requirements are, and then adding 90 hours of storage, whatever form, plus dumping in digital improvements to the existing grid for auxiliary services, reliability and management. This is a disruption which is now unstoppable.
Don’t think you want to tread onto Mark’s lawsuit land. I’m teaching a course next Summer based upon his book. Do you even know the details of what it says?
Oh, and by the way, I never post comments without saving a copy. Because if a moderator decides to disapprove or elide them, I can just post them at my own blog.
“I don’t really care what you or anyone thinks … Wind Water Solar and Storage will win purely on cost…”
But you don’t own the planet. Nobody has a birthright to force people to see and hear landscapes full of 500-foot machines, or chide them as NIMBYs for respecting historical sense of place. One of the worst examples is this guy: https://www.thestranger.com/seattle/windfall-blowhards-pray-for-time-gone-by/Content?oid=12849338
You don’t understand energy SCALE if you really believe that about cost. Big Wind only exists in the shelter of steady fossil fuel supplies. Witness a diesel truck trip for just one blade. Things like the Tesla semi truck could be vastly over-hyped for serious loads, especially on long hills w/o regenerative braking, since batteries have far less energy density than liquid fuels. There are limits to battery density because the material itself isn’t combusting and occupies space. Nuclear is the main thing that defies size vs. energy, you know.
I have the lowdown on Jacobson: https://www.technologyreview.com/2017/06/19/151141/in-sharp-rebuttal-scientists-squash-hopes-for-100-percent-renewables/ (he’s kind of like the AntiTrump; everyone else must be wrong)
Sure, rock yourself to sleep with infrasound and jet-plane noises: https://youtu.be/ywWNx3OJyuo Those complaints are dismissed as fake by an industry notorious for funding its own studies. Environmentalists usually decry self-policing, but as long as you don’t call yourself one, I’ll file you with drillers & miners who see nature as a warehouse.
I commented on your own blog about those aerials of housing development compared to solar. You ignore the cumulative impact of development on a finite planet. It’s not one thing vs. the other, it’s ALL of it, and it’s all built with fossil fuels.
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Environmentalists usually decry self-policing, but as long as you don’t call yourself one, I’ll file you with drillers & miners who see nature as a warehouse.
Do so. I called myself that from 1971. But, now, including your ilk, I see you are not up to the challenge of dealing with mitigating climate disruption, for, like many, you want to throw arbitrary constraints on the project, whether they be “climate justice”, “environmental justice”, or “preserving open spaces”. Facts are we no longer have the luxury of those constraints.
I am, along with Stewart Brand and others an ecomodernist and ecopragmatist. This is a problem to be solved, engineered, and managed. The outcome is more important than the means. There was once a choice of means, back in the 1990s, but that was blown. We no longer haven the luxury, per the Stockner curves.
Call me a liar all you want. It no longer matters. The economic forces pushing this solution are way bigger than any little environmental movement, which is too naive to understand that the mysterious donations they are receiving through second and third parties are coming from people like the Koch Brothers.
This is not about Nature or any mystical connection to it. Nature and its inhabitants will adapt, as they always have. There will be species extinction and rotation, but there is always a baseline of that. And rigidities which many so-called naturalists have embraced, like abhoring invasive species, will fall away. Some of these so-called invasives are some of the best adapted to climate disruption that we’ve got.
What will be impacted is humanity and civilization, both because of direct effects, and also because the ecosystem services which were provided under a previous climate will not longer be provided. It’s not like the creatures and flora there will go away — the idea of insects going extinct is considered laughable by most ecologists and entemologists, despite its popularity in some circles — but that they will pursue life paths which won’t include providing those services.
Accordingly, if you actually believe in climate disruption — which I am not really sure you do, as I am not sure those who draw the mantle of “environmentalism” upon themselves do — you understand the urgency, and understand that doing something about it is needed quickly and essentially. And you also understand conditional probability. That says that the probability of achieving a solution to climate disruption given any other constraint is less than the probability of achieving it without additional constraint. Are you a climate denier or luckwarmer? Do you think we can afford these additional constraints? Where’s your calculation that we can? Are you one of the people who thinks we can plant forests anew with fertilizer, changing N2O output (a centennial greenhouse gas) and albedo, and that will fix things? It will help, but only for 60 years.
If you or anyone things we can afford the delay to getting this correct, you are wrong. We cannot. A +3C world is a different world, with all kinds of changes everywhere, especially for the ecosystems you claim to want to protect. That’s where we are headed if we don’t get things together. Human energy systems take a long time to transform. We should have started in the noughts. We didn’t.
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“This is not about Nature or any mystical connection to it. Nature and its inhabitants will adapt, as they always have.”
Actually, they tend to die when people require it for expediency! That very attitude has caused global warming, as explained in depth here: https://youtu.be/Q_s8Vo00Xug (wind farm segment covers your casual “adapt” comment)
Note that pro-nuclear ecomodernist Michael Shellenberger gets the wind power scale problem that you keep dodging, but he’s also become a strange climate/extinction denier, always downplaying the impacts. “Doomers” like me have no problem seeing that it might not get solved. The species that caused it is poorly equipped to not repeat similar blunders.
I’ll have to block more comments if you keep repeating anthropocentric arrogance (3-strikes rule) but thanks for taking the time.
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“Accordingly, if you actually believe in climate disruption — which I am not really sure you do, as I am not sure those who draw the mantle of “environmentalism” upon themselves do — you understand the urgency, and understand that doing something about it is needed quickly and essentially. And you also understand conditional probability. That says that the probability of achieving a solution to climate disruption given any other constraint is less than the probability of achieving it without additional constraint. Are you a climate denier or luckwarmer? Do you think we can afford these additional constraints? Where’s your calculation that we can? Are you one of the people who thinks we can plant forests anew with fertilizer, changing N2O output (a centennial greenhouse gas) and albedo, and that will fix things? It will help, but only for 60 years.”
I have no argument with climate science, just the build, build, build reaction to it vs. any concerted effort to limit population/economic growth, or even talk about it candidly. A lot of your angles can be found in critics of Paul Ehrlich, et al. Overpopulation of giant machines is now adding to the human type.
I don’t think people have a right to engineer the Earth for one species’ sake until they commit to shrinking the economy & population. I posted in 2018 about why that ain’t gonna happen.
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Personal experience with wind turbines in Michigan:
Notice that he has money to gain from the industry by saying that, and impacts are highly dependent on topography. Bought town officials are the least reliable sources for objective info. Gag orders are common in wind contracts.
https://www.mlive.com/news/saginaw/2017/06/what_wind_energy_means_for_mic.html (plenty of complaints in Michigan)
YouTube is full of people who stand right under wind turbines and claim to be measuring the horizontally broadcast sounds. It’s an endless game of dueling information, and unless you can prove all the complainers are lying, you have to use common sense. A 20″ box fan is plenty loud to mask outside sounds, so why would something orders of magnitude larger be barely audible inside?
The industry at least admits they can be as loud as a refrigerator (from inside), and it’s not easy to sleep with one in a hotel room. Plus, the pulsing of the sound is a big irritant. People do much better with steady droning noises like rivers, or fans spinning fast enough to not have a tower pulse effect. Animals can’t complain and are surely affected, with their acute hearing, if not knocked out of the sky altogether.
My biggest goal is for people to stop desecrating mountaintops, noted by opposition in Maine, Vermont, etc. Farmland is relatively benign as a location but still opposed by many. Since their visibility isn’t limited to actual sites, and farms or flat lands border many mountains, ruined scenery from various angles is a chronic threat. The Spring Valley project near Great Basin park, Nevada is an example. It’s also killed too many bats; they knew a roost was relatively close.,
I’m stopping short of calling you a liar/shill out of politeness. I’ve been at this debate for a long time. Take it easy.
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@ecoquant. You said “and would love to fall asleep at night listening to their sounds”. from that I assume you don’t live near a wind farm. Perhaps you should try it for 6 months of so to see how you get on.
Has anyone done a study on the long term, i.e. in excess of say 40 years, cost of various power supply installations? It is my (perhaps limited) understanding that wind turbines need blade replacements from time to time and permanent magnets are not actually permanent requiring the replacement of the turbine itself – at varying periods.
Large, ungainly wind turbine nacelles and blades need regular maintenance, including gearbox oil changes, all typically done via fossil fuels. Blade graveyards, e.g. Wyoming, make it clear that lifespans are limited, though they claim to be making them recyclable. We’ll see if those can be strong enough. I doubt they’ll ever contain 100% reused materials. Just wordplay to make Big Wind seem pro-environment.
But that’s not the biggest issue to me; it’s the ever-growing eyesore factor and green hypocrisy it entails.