5. The wind turbine - Green Musketeer blog

5. The wind turbine

Fifth blog, February 8, 2019

The windmill is an invention of the Middle Ages. Are we going to solve our 21st-century energy problem with that invention? Let's do some research.

The largest wind turbine of the Netherlands is located in Rotterdam. It has a capacity of 10 MW. Whenever wind turbines are installed in the Netherlands, to impress us the developers always mention how many households it can power. The truth, however, is less impressive. When the wind turbine moves, it produces a little energy. But when it is stationary it does not produce anything. 

This largest turbine of the Netherlands produces – if it turns – energy for to power approximately 8,000 households. That sounds like a lot, but by putting it in a proper perspective we discover a shocking truth. This largest wind turbine in the Netherlands, which costs around EUR 8 million to install, produces just enough energy to power 20 trucks. Let’s calculate.

In the Netherlands there are 150,000 trucks and buses, large and small. In 2017, the amount of energy produced by all 2,041 wind turbines in The Netherlands was 6,869 GWh. This is equal to the average annual consumption of 6,800 trucks / buses. If the average energy production of the windmills in the Netherlands remains the same, we would need another 42,981 windmills to power the remaining 143,200 lorries, trucks and buses. The wind turbine in Rotterdam costs 8 million euros, so this represents is approximately 400,000 euros per truck. For all 150,000 trucks and buses, our country needs to invest over 60 billion (!) Euros. The cost of wind energy is huge, while the energy generated is far from sufficient for our current needs. And if we want to meet all of our current needs for trucks and buses, then where are we going to place these additional 42,981 wind turbines?

We shouldn’t forget that it’s not only the trucks and buses that consume energy. We also have factories, airplanes, ships, households, 7 million electric cars (if the Dutch Climate Agreement is to become a reality) and so on, which consume energy. In order to have the fossil fuels replaced by wind turbines so we reduce our CO₂ emissions, at least hundreds of thousands of windmills have to be added. Do we really want to put one wind turbine on every 5 acres of our country? Is this what we want, the industrialization of the countryside, seeing turning wind turbines everywhere you look, killing all our birds?

Finally, we shouldn’t forget that we cannot yet store the energy in an affordable and scalable way. That means that we need gas-fired power stations on stand-by - with the same capacity - for when there is no wind. We therefore double the costs.

Because wind turbines produce hardly any energy, they are very expensive per kWh of energy produced - and because we also have to maintain back-up power plants our energy prices go up enormously, while the reduction of CO₂ emissions per invested euro is virtually nil. I even wonder whether wind turbines produce enough energy to reproduce themselves CO₂ neutrally if you include the energy balance of the mining industry, the melting of iron ore, all transport, production, installation, maintenance, et cetera. This is called the 'full cycle life cycle emissions' analysis. Perhaps there is a reader who can calculate this and can reassure me?

Does the wind turbine therefore prevent climate change? Or are we fooling ourselves with this medieval technology? Is there no other way? 

Yes, follow my blogs to learn how, and spread this message. The title of the next blog is 'Carbon Capture and Storage'.

Pieter Hoff
Green Musketeer

Background information

On 8 October 2018, the IPCC (UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) issued an emergency call to all countries to reduce their CO₂ emissions by at least 50% by 2030. The Netherlands wants to comply with this by means of a Climate Agreement. Pieter Hoff is of the opinion that the Climate Agreement needs additional policies to achieve 0% net CO₂ emissions by 2030 and that this supporting policy can be implemented much more efficiently, quicker and less costly than the current proposals that are included in the proposed Dutch Climate Agreement.