Wind Farms: Are they destroying the environment? Part 1

Renewables Graph
Source: UK energy in brief 2014, Table 23, DECC






How large a wind farm do you think would be needed to keep up with New York’s annual energy budget? According to Paul Sclavounos[1], Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Naval Architecture at MIT, 4,000 turbines of 5 mega watt power output would be needed on average.  This wind farm would occupy an area of land roughly half the size of Yellowstone national park – that’s over 4,000 square kilometres reserved for one city alone.

With the recent landmark Paris climate agreement branded a success for the very fact there was an agreement at all, the fossil fuel express train is grinding to an inevitable halt. Out of its ashes must rise viable and working successors; those known by many only as ‘renewable energy sources’.

While many ‘fossil-fuel-free’ protestors can rattle off figures backing up their view that the world needs to radically switch to renewable energy sources, they often become vague when posed the question ‘But which renewables should be used?’. A go-to option for panicking politicians when faced with the question above is ‘wind-energy’.

CO2 Emissions

Even before a wind turbine is in operation, some estimate its CO2 contribution to the atmosphere stands at over 240 tons[2], which doesn’t include the emissions during transportation. And during its use, further energy from the grid will be extracted to power everything from keeping the blades spinning and locking them in high winds to keeping them perpendicular to the wind[3].

How long do they last? 

At the very slow an inefficient rate they produce energy, it is unlikely they will be fully carbon neutral for more than an iota of their short life time, if any. A report commissioned by the Renewable Energy Foundation further solidifies this by finding it is uneconomic to operate wind-farms for more than 12-15 years, as their efficiency decreases by a third after 10 years[4].

To add yet more sorrow to the tale of these structures, they must be decommissioned after their pitiful existence of 15 years, resulting in yet more carbon being released into the atmosphere (dismantling, transportation of materials and recycling). All at a cost that can extend beyond £25,000 per turbine[5].

So I say divest in wind energy and invest hundreds of millions, if not billions, if not trillions, of pounds in researching nuclear fusion and solar energy.

To be continued…

Agree or disagree? Read more about energy in our ‘Liberal Awakening’ manifesto here.


[1] ‘How many wind turbines would it take to power all of New York city?’

[2] ‘How much CO2 gets emitted to build a wind turbine?’

[3] ‘Energy consumption in wind facilities.’

[4] ‘Wind turbines’ lifespan far shorter than believed, study suggests.’

[5] ‘Germany now faced with thousands of ageing wind farms.’

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