Tilting toward windmills
In my graphic book Let’s Save the Planet, my young protagonists praise wind turbines, calling them “wind angels” and declaring, “We love you!” If I were writing it today, I would be less enthusiastic.
Wind turbines have become the poster child of “green” energy enthusiasts. Seeing them standing in a row like tall faithful soldiers on a hillside, we think, “There is clean energy for us!” And we know that dirty, greenhouse-gas emitting energy must be replaced, and quickly, if the world is to avoid climate catastrophe. Wind is a gift from nature, ever renewed. So we love windmills.
Or do we? Should we?
Wind farms radically alter our landscapes, impinge on our calm, depress property values, endanger flying wildlife and, if offshore, interfere with sea ecology. If onshore they require a lot of land, which will never return to its natural state. Nature is violated in the name of "ecology”. And when the turbines reach the end of their useful lives after some 25 years, the disposal of their remains is a serious technical and financial problem.
And for all we hear about wind energy getting cheaper, as consumers and taxpayers we pay more than most of us probably realise via taxes and subsidies.
If all this were a necessity for fighting climate change, we would have to accept it. But is it, really?
In France, electricity is already largely decarbonised thanks to nuclear (71%) and hydraulic (10%). We do not need wind turbines to decarbonise. Worse: wind is intermittent, so we have to compensate for the intermittency of wind turbines. It is not and will never be feasible to do this with batteries, because of their inherent physical limitations. If nuclear power is available, it does not make sense to use it to compensate for the intermittency instead of using it as the main power source, given its small footprint, reliability and energy density. In the absence of batteries or sufficient nuclear, the intermittency is compensated with carbon-emitting coal, gas or oil plants.
A French law provides for reducing the percent of nuclear to 50% by 2035. Increasing wind power to replace nuclear changes nothing at all regarding CO2 emissions.
The wind industry is profit driven and, unfortunately, supported by public policies which are heavily influenced by so-called “green” groups, which in turn influence voters via self-sustaining, myth-based propaganda.
An example of an expensive, useless project
Construction has just begun on 62 wind turbines in the bay of Saint-Brieuc in Brittany (France). Only 16 kilometres from the coast, the project has been called an economic and ecological aberration.
The bay of Saint-Brieuc is known for its shellfish and crustaceans. An ecological agreement was reached between fishermen and biologists to manage a sustainable rate of harvesting. The bay is rich in fish and provides a living for local fishermen. The superb views from the bay are a magnet for tourism.
The construction site will be technically challenging because under the surface layer of sand there is sandstone and then granite, difficult to excavate. Each turbine mast will be secured by three anchors. The electric cables will be laid on the sandstone layer and covered over in concrete. The marine fauna and flora, disturbed by the construction, will likely disappear. It is not known whether they will return when the construction is completed three years hence.
Widespread protests have gone unheeded. In June 2020 several heads of environmental institutions wrote an open letter to the French President, saying in part,
Dear Mr. President,
By underlining, last January 14, that "the consensus on wind energy is clearly weakening", that "the capacity to massively develop wind energy is reduced" and "that it cannot be imposed from above", while Mrs. Elisabeth Borne recognized the existence of "absolutely unbearable visual saturations", you gave hope to all those who fight against an environmental aggression unheard of by its extent and brutality. We would like to alert you to the urgency of translating this new orientation into action: Every week, new wind farm projects are authorized by the prefects in emblematic sites despite the opposition of local residents, mayors, investigating commissioners and architects of Bâtiments de France.
Getting rid of the waste
Wind turbines last an average of about 25 years. It is estimated that 14,000 wind turbine blades will be decommissioned over the next few years in Europe alone. About 85 percent of turbine component materials—such as steel, copper wire, electronics, and gearing—can be recycled or reused. But the blades are made up of fiberglass so as to be lightweight yet strong enough to withstand storms. The composite nature of the blade material makes it difficult to separate the plastics from the glass fibers for recycling. But burning fiberglass emits pollutants. While it is possible to cut the blades into a few pieces onsite during a decommissioning or repowering process, the pieces are still difficult and costly to transport for recycling or disposal. And the process of cutting the extremely strong blades requires enormous equipment and much energy. So the vast majority of used blades are simply stored in various places or taken to landfills.
Barbara Pompili, the French Minister of Ecological Transition and Solidarity, has admitted that renewable energy does not contribute to the reduction of greenhouse gases. The Deputy Marjolaine Meynier-Millefert, Rapporteur of the report of the Parliamentary Inquiry Commission on renewable energies, recognized that wind turbines are useless for the ecological transition at the National Wind Energy Symposium in 2019.
Ruinous intermittent renewable energies like wind and solar photovoltaic make no sense. They spring from an ideological populism and comfort an anti-nuclear electoral clientele.
Ecologically concerned citizens will surely realise eventually that implanting thousands of wind turbines is not a solution. Until then, we’ll be bearing unnecessary costs, and more crucially, wasting precious time.
Friends against Wind
European Platform Against Windfarms
North American Platform Against Windpower
Wind Turbine Blades Can’t Be Recycled, So They’re Piling Up in Landfills
Wind Turbine Blades Don’t Have To End Up In Landfills
Fabien Bouglé dénonce les conditions financières et relaie le mécontentement des pêcheurs.
L’éolien est une énergie nocive
L’éolien offshore, une étape vers une transition électrique sans nucléaire
Vent de colère !
Lettre ouverte au Président de la République
Parc éolien en Baie de Saint-Brieuc : les raisons de la colère
Énergies renouvelables et effet de serre sont indépendants
Eoliennes : la face noire de la transition écologique