“The more we want it to be true, the more careful we have to be.” Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark.
This web site is in the unenviable position of being a messenger of bad news about wind energy. And wind energy was, at least intuitively, so promising! Most of us know we can’t keep doing what we’re doing – burning through all the fossil fuels we can find – and wind seems to promise a carbon-free, inexhaustible and benign source that doesn’t send money overseas.
As much as all of us, including myself, would want this rosy picture to be true, the actual evidence so far paints a far different picture. I understand that many people will resist hearing this bad news, preferring to label me a NIMBY, a Luddite, unscientific, oil-industry-loving, climate-change-denying, jealous – anything to dismiss me. I’m sorry to disappoint, but I’m simply someone who thinks evidence is a better guide to reality than wishful thinking. And the existing evidence says to me that wind energy has no redeeming value while its downsides are substantial.
The first indication that I had of the failings of wind energy was when I had the temerity to actually read the references that the wind industry used to “prove” how beneficial and benign wind was. As an example, if you read AWEA’s “Fact Sheet” on 20% by 2030, it claims a savings of 825 million tons of CO2. But if you follow the references to find out how they got that number, you find out that AWEA itself was ultimately responsible for it. Worse, that number was not based on any actual measurements – they simply assumed any energy created by wind automatically lessened emissions by an equal amount, an assumption we know is untrue.
One of my more depressing observations is that the wind energy movement has acquired almost a religious following, where faith is more important than real-world facts. But while our souls’ origin and destiny may not be knowable, surely the effects of wind turbines on our power grid and environment are. In almost every aspect of wind energy the serious (dare I say, scientific) studies that would be needed to settle these issues have simply not been done (or at least, not published). I’ve been looking on an almost daily basis for several years, I’ve asked the local universities, I’ve been in contact with interested people all around North America, and I cannot find any of the following:
- A study that confirms the carbon dioxide savings advertised by the wind energy industry, based on real measurements on a real grid. You’d think that at least in Germany or Denmark, and maybe Texas or Spain, such figures would be available, but they aren’t. And the more you look into the details and the actual evidence, the more you suspect there’s no savings at all.
- A study that shows wind turbine noise levels actually conform to the models that are used to place them. There are several studies that show that too often they don’t, and the complaints from neighbors are growing.
- An epidemiological (aka a serious, scientific) study of any potential health effects from wind turbines. The evidence from actual neighbors is pretty strong that there’s a problem.
- A study that shows how wildlife adjusts (or doesn’t) to wind turbines. As more (and no longer just anecdotal) reports come in, the effects continue to look worse and worse.
The fact that we are spending billions of dollars without any empirical indication it will do anything but further destroy our environment is a problem in itself, indicating a real lack of scientific proficiency. In spite of conclusive studies not being available, I have found enough evidence to form solid opinions on the various issues relating to the wind energy industry, and as much as I might wish that wind turbines were truly effective and benign, the evidence points differently.
Quite a bit of this evidence is fairly technical and in places pretty detailed, and I won’t apologize for that. If I knew how to accurately describe reality without getting technical and detailed I would. I have tried to provide enough references so that anyone could dig as deeply as they wished into the material. I’ve also tried to provide enough introductory material so any reader can at least be exposed to the basics behind all these issues. To the extent I’ve failed with this, I do apologize. Please feel free to ask or comment about any aspect of this site, and thanks for looking.
I’ve taken down my amherstislandwindinfo.com site. The wind turbine project there is now operational and there’s not much more to say about it.