A Free-Market Energy Blog

“The Utter Complete Total Fraud of Wind Power’ (Matt Ridley presents the facts)

By Robert Bradley Jr. -- September 19, 2017

“[I]t is utterly futile, on a priori grounds, even to think that wind power can make any significant contribution to world energy supply, let alone to emissions reductions, without ruining the planet. As the extraordinary polymath Sir David MacKay pointed out, the arithmetic is against such unreliable renewables.”

– Matt Ridley, “Wind is an Irrelevance to the Energy and Climate Debate“(May 15, 2017)

An op-ed and blog post several months ago by Matt Ridley is still making the rounds. A great thinker, Ridley gets to the essence of things. He is hard to ignore, even by his critics. Ridley’s book The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves (2010), is a seminal contribution in the Julian Simon tradition. (His other work can be found here.)

Here are some salient excerpts from his op-ed/post:

“[Wind power’s] contribution is still, after decades — nay centuries — of development, trivial to the point of irrelevance. Even after 30 years of huge subsidies, wind power provides only slightly more than zero energy to the world. Even put together, wind and photovoltaic solar are supplying less than 1 per cent of global energy demand.”

“From the International Energy Agency’s 2016 Key Renewables Trends, … wind energy is 3.3% of the 13.8% of the renewable fuel share. 13.8% x 3.3% = 0.46%”

“Such numbers are not hard to find, but they don’t figure prominently in reports on energy derived from the Unreliables Lobby (solar and wind). Their trick is to hide behind the statement that close to 14 per cent of the world’s energy is renewable, with the implication that this is wind and solar.”

” … world energy demand has been growing at about 2 per cent a year for nearly 40 years. If wind turbines were to supply [one year’s growth], how many would need to be built each year? The answer is nearly 350,000, since a two-megawatt turbine can produce about 0.005 terawatt-hours per annum. That’s one-and-a-half times as many as have been built in the world since governments started pouring taxpayer money into this so-called industry in the early 2000s.”

“At a density of, very roughly, 50 acres per megawatt, typical for wind farms, that many turbines would require a land area half the size of the British Isles, including Ireland (61,000 sq mi). Every year. If we kept this up for 50 years, we would have covered every square mile of a land area half the size of Russia with wind farms (3.05 million sq mi).”

” … the Unreliables Lobby cannot take refuge in the idea that wind turbines could become more efficient. There is a limit to how much energy you can extract from a moving fluid, the Betz limit, and wind turbines are already close to it.”

“As machines, wind turbines are pretty good already; the problem is the wind resource itself, and we cannot change that. It’s a fluctuating stream of low-density energy.”

Environmental Issues

” … 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 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 greenie politicians should be ashamed every time it passes their lips.”

“Wind turbines, apart from the fiberglass blades, are made mostly of steel, with concrete bases. They need about 200 times as much material per unit of capacity as a modern combined cycle gas turbine. Steel is made with coal, not just to provide the heat for smelting ore, but to supply the carbon in the alloy. Cement is also often made using coal. The machinery of ‘clean’ renewables is the output of the fossil fuel economy, and largely the coal economy.”

“A two-megawatt wind turbine weighs about 250 metric tons, including the tower, nacelle, rotor and blades. Globally, it takes about half a ton of coal to make a ton of steel. Add another 25 tons of coal for making the cement and you’re talking 150 metric tons of coal per turbine.”

“Now if we are to build 350,000 wind turbines a year (or a smaller number of bigger ones), just to keep up with increasing energy demand, that will require 50 million metric tons of coal a year more than being mined now. That’s about half the EU’s hard coal–mining output.”

Conclusion

” … it is utterly futile, on a priori grounds, even to think that wind power can make any significant contribution to world energy supply, let alone to emissions reductions, without ruining the planet. As the extraordinary polymath Sir David MacKay pointed out, the arithmetic is against such unreliable renewables.

“The truth is, if you want to power civilization with fewer greenhouse gas emissions, then you should focus on shifting power generation, heat and transport to natural gas, the economically recoverable reserves of which — thanks to horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing — are much more abundant than we dreamed they ever could be.”

Such insight and facts leaves the question: when will Big Media catch on the poor-to-rich wealth redistribution imbedded in the climate agenda. And when will grassroot environmentalists overtake their Washington, DC counterparts?

11 Comments


  1. Tom O  

    I won’t pretend this position isn’t right. The so called “renewable energies” are not going to be the future. What we need is RESEARCH, not building wind towers and solar panels. At some point in time, coal, natural gas, and petroleum ARE going to hit the wall. They WILL run down to the point where getting more won’t be possible. We need to not just be looking for a replacement at that time, we have to HAVE a replacement BEFORE that time. There is too little apparent funding for the research that will deliver that. I can not understand what is so hard for governments to not see that unless they can’t see a world where man is in it.

    Reply

  2. Jon Boone  

    I have great respect for Matt Ridley’s work. His 2015 book, “The Evolution of Everything,” is a must read for inquiring minds (the chapter on public education is an eye-opening classic). His longstanding literate critique of climate jihadism took off where Michael Crichton ended a decade ago (Oh, how I miss Crichton).

    Ridley’s op ed piece for The Spectator last May, excerpted here, appropriately calls out wind technology for the fraud it is relative to its promises and the consequent expectations of the public. However, the situation is worse than he implies. The millions of wind turbines he posits that would be necessary over the next decade to meet annual electricity demand growth represent a mathematical fiction. In reality, no amount of hit or miss, highly fluctuating wind energy can functionally replace conventional electricity generation. Even if this ancient technology ever achieved anything close to its Betz Limit, the unlucky grid deploying those wind machines would be swamped trying to compensate for the volatility.

    Alas, too many people remain undeterred by the specter of ubiquitous of wind turbines looming up over the land and across the seas. They think such a sight represents progress in the form of a “backing down” of the evil fossil fuel juggernaut. Ridley’s mathematics, rather than squelching the wind idea, actually reinforce it, much in the way gargantuan cathedrals and great pyramids have done for religion. Faith in the power of displacement behavior like wind (I’ve called it “foot pecking”) is very strong.

    To erode that faith more effectively, Ridley and others who have access to larger media outlets must expose the wind mess’s core problem, which is: the more wind generation, the more need for fossil fuels. Even with wind’s miniscule fraction of a fraction of worldwide output, there exists no correlation with decreased fossil fuel output. There is not a scintilla of empirical evidence showing that wind generation has decreased CO2 emissions in the production of electricity–and a lot of indirect evidence that it has generally increased CO2 emissions.

    There should be no succor given any longer to those promoting the wind mess in the name of civility. At this point, they should be relentlessly ridiculed as epistemic pariahs, particularly in light of the misery they’ve inflicted on so many people and the blight they continue to bring upon our public discourse.

    Reply

  3. Valerie Clark  

    The best option for power is nuclear. I know that drives people nuts, but done properly and placed in stable areas (NOT places that get lots of earthquakes) it’s reliable and clean energy.

    Reply

    • American Guy  

      It is extraordinarily reliable. A 2-unit nuclear plant on the gulf coast of Texas continued to operate a full power all during the hurricane Harvey incident.
      The State of Florida ordered the two nuclear plants in southern Florida to shut down.
      Its the licensing that makes it so hard to construct new plants.

      Reply

  4. BillD  

    Ridley does not understand exponential growth. Wind power is growing with a doubling time of 3 or 4 years. At the same time prices/costs keep going down and efficiency keeps going up. Renewable energy, including wind and solar are now unstoppable.

    Reply

  5. Pieter  

    Bill D
    Even with the increase in efficiency and growth at 0.46 percent of the worlds energy and the Betz Limit, you should really revisit your statement.
    Go back into your moms basement

    Reply

    • Jon Boone  

      Amen. This guy doesn’t understand “exponential growth.” A “doubling” every three years is not exponential growth. For example, with doubling, if one starts with 100,000 wind machines, in 12 years, that total would be only 1,600,000. If there was exponential growth every three years, those initial 100,000 wind turbines would, in only 6 years, reach 100,000,000. In 100 years, they would achieve a number virtually equal to all the grains of sand on the earth.

      And they still wouldn’t do the job tasked for them….

      Reply

  6. Gerry Rachar  

    Every time someone goes after wind and solar as an unreliable, unsustainable, source, they usually leave out the parts that are needed to make these technologies viable, mainly blade design and battery design.
    Current blade design only works in moderate wind, if it’s too low wind our too high wind they don’t work. This may be true, but it won’t always be the case.
    They have blades that power high speed wind tunnels, why not blades that will work in a hurricane?
    Going after what is now and saying it never will be, is like going after Henry Ford and saying your cars will never work, what you need is a faster horse.
    What we need is a consensus from all the smart people that carbon based fuel has a limited life left and it’s time to move to the next level.
    If you can’t help move forward, then please get out of the way of those that are.

    Reply

    • Jon Boone  

      There is no evidence that “carbon based fuel” has “a limited time left.” This concept reminds of religious shibboleths of yore–faith based and “self evident” but not empirically demonstrated. The concept itself, as applied to fossil fuels, has been around for nearly 150 years and is now canonized in the idea of Peak Oil (made infamous over the last 50 years because of its relentless cascade of failed predictions). Its continuous cantatory repetition, as is the case here, represents superstition, not science. Even if somehow over the next millennium all the substrate carbon detritus were mined and extracted from the earth, there is a probability that technology would emerge to make more of it in future caldrons of super heat and pressure (or its opposite: Bose-Einstein condensates anyone?). Of course, it is even more probable that fossil fuels will in the foreseeable future go the way of whale oil, replaced by nuclear technologies that produce millions of times more bang for the power buck than fossil fuels do.

      What is sure is that wind and grid solar technologies, once their government support becomes extinct, will go the way of the dinosaurs (speaking punningly of fossils), since their problem resides in the nature of their sources of energy–which are so dilute that it’s physically impossible to convert those energies to the modern power enabling modernity. They will in future perform with the same constipated and unpredictable flux as they do now, bringing much dysfunction to the production and transmission of electricity.

      I’m delighted to join with Matt Ridley and thousands of others standing in the way of energy delusion and crude uncivil public policy.

      Reply

  7. R. Violet  

    After more than a hundred years of man being able to more effectively use the stored solar energy over hundreds of millions on years by plants in the fossil fuels, we must become honest enough to admit that no form of real time solar energy in all its various forms including wind cannot deliver the amount of power we are now used to having. The answer certainly for the electrical grid is starting nuclear research and development, even though Three Mile killed it, with the goal of fusion power production. The french have messed around with that ITER project forever but if American genius including our millenials was unleashed on that quest I think it could be accomplished. More power than fission and much safer but we won’t figure it out if we don’t try!

    Reply

  8. Brian Johnston  

    Matt, good article are you seated?
    There is one aspect that everyone fails to mention.
    Power generation is 50/60Hz synchronous generation.
    Wind turbines are asynchronous and totally useless.
    They are a massive scam/fraud/con.
    They do however produce a heap of harmonics none of which are useful.
    The harmonics through smart meters are fraudulently added to consumers power bills.
    Hence the reason many consumers complain of an increase in their power bill after a smart meter is installed.
    A wind turbine cannot boil a jug.
    A wind farm cannot power a city.
    And Prince Charles should not be receiving an income from his turbines.
    Wind turbines are a massive fraud and only got off the ground because of subsidies.
    You have my email address.

    Reply

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