Norwegian news source Nettavisen reports a myth about wind turbines is spreading across social media sites. The myth suggests it takes more energy to create a wind turbine installation than it will produce in its lifetime. Just as Elon Musk disparages hydrogen fuel cells as “fool cells,” the creators of this disinformation campaign refer to electricity from wind as “idiot power.”
How extraordinary that so many wind turbines would be bought and paid for by industry if they actually consume more energy than they produce! Could there be a connection between that claim and the similar statement by fossil fuel advocates that an electric car has to be driven more than 100,000 miles before it can offset the emissions created by making it?
Nettavisen did a little digging into this topic and found — surprise! surprise! — yes indeed, some energy is consumed in manufacturing a wind turbine and in constructing the pylon that supports it. It also found the typical wind turbine will generate enough electricity to offset the energy consumed to create it in about 7.5 months or less.
Best of all, the analyses it found all include an accounting of the energy needed to dismantle the turbine at the end of its useful life, something that is almost never included in computing the cost of a coal, natural gas, or nuclear generating plant.
In a 2013 study by the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, researchers found that about 0.06 kWh of energy were used for every kWh of energy produced by a typical wind turbine. Average carbon emissions per kWh were less than 20 grams, compared to 550 grams for natural gas and up to 1,300 grams for coal.
Another study from 2014 looked at the life cycle numbers for two 2 MW turbines. It found one of the turbines needed 5.2 months of operation to offset its energy usage. The second turbine needed 6.4 months to accomplish the same thing.
Statkraft is one of Norway’s largest electricity generators. Torbjørn Steen, a spokeperson for the company, tells Nettevisen, “The myth you refer to is stubborn, but is repeatedly documented as a myth.” His company is directly involved in the construction of a new wind farm in Fosen, which will be the largest in Europe when it is completed. The company’s life cycle analysis shows each turbine will offset the energy needed to build it in an average of 7.5 months.
What can we learn from this? Simply this. Fossil fuel companies will lie through their teeth to protect their investment. It is one thing for Ford and Chevy to go back and forth about which pickup trucks last longer or have the most cup holders. It is quite another thing for global companies to deliberately lie about their activities — which expose every living person to health risks and contribute to warming global temperatures.
The element missing from the capitalist model is any concept of ethics. Anything and everything is fair game in the pursuit of profits. That belief is accepted by many political leaders around the world and endangers us all. Until we learn to filter the information we get from social media to eliminate obvious lies, we are risking our lives and those who follow in our footsteps.
Hat tip to Leif Hansen.