Gone With the Wind

Peter Smith23 Jul, 2023 4 Min Read
In Oz, despoiling the landscape as a matter of national policy.

Mount Emerald wind farm is so named because it sits on a high plateau aside Mount Emerald in North Queensland. It needs to sit high otherwise there is insufficient wind. Therein lies a tale, which I’ll come to, told by photographer, environmentalist and global-warming believer Steven Nowakowski. Who, relevantly, also exhibits an evident penchant for statistics. Mr Nowakowski is part of a growing environmentalist rebellion against the vandalization of landscapes by wind turbines.

I read only this morning of Bob Brown’s continuing opposition to a planned new high-capacity undersea cable to carry power from his home state of Tasmania to Victoria. It’s part of a project to make Tasmania the “battery of the nation” via hydro and wind. Dr Brown (a medico) and former leader of the federal Greens (party), doesn’t want his idyllic Tasmanian backyard transformed into a battery. Other people’s backyards? Well, that might be a different story.

The delicious irony. Greenies hoist by their own climate-alarmism petard. True, having them on our side of the fence opposing (some) wind farms is disconcerting. But, on the plus side, they are experts at protesting. Among his credentials, Brown has stared down bulldozers in Tasmanian forests. Wind developers may be in for a torrid time, particularly as country-wide opposition from local communities is also growing. It couldn’t happen to a more flagrant bunch of rent-seekers.

Almost as effective as a wind farm.

Mount Emerald wind farm comprises 53 turbines sitting on cleared concreted land, most with a height of almost 150 metres to the top of the blade. There they are on high ground blighting the landscape for miles around. Still folks, they are saving the planet. Along comes (the big) Nowakowski to burst the bubble. He sourced data for the whole of 2022 on the power output of the windfarm in question from NEMLOG which, in turn, collects its data from the Australian Energy Market Operator. It’s reliable data, providing electricity output at five-minute intervals. That’s a spreadsheet of over 105,000 observations. He found, despite its elevation, that the overall median output of the wind farm was a mere 18 percent of its 180 megawatts plated capacity. For 107 days it produced on average less than 10 megawatts (less than 6 percent) and for 63 of those days produced nothing at all.

Nowakowski didn’t stop there. He considered the length of time a turbine must operate to reach so-called carbon neutrality. I can’t vouch for his calculations but enjoyed his comment, via an email, which he was happy I share:

After doing these calculations I looked at what time it takes for a wind turbine to become ‘carbon neutral’ and found it takes 10-15 years. This is considering a capacity factor of 35 percent. Therefore, Mount Emerald with half of that capacity factor will take twice that long and therefore will never become ‘carbon neutral’. I can confidently say that this particular wind farm is a scam on every level.

A scam on every level, sums up the whole boondoggle that is wind turbines. Take your mind back to not too many decades ago when global cooling was the threat. True, there were some silly “scientific” proposal to deal with that, but surely turbines take the biscuit. Huge unwieldly, visually polluting, structures made in China; requiring extensive mining of exotic materials; transported at great cost with considerable logistical difficulty onto many far-flung hectares of ruthlessly cleared pristine land; requiring unsightly transmission lines and towers to carry the power to the grid. And all of this not knowing when power will be produced, or how often or how much. And not knowing how much maintenance will be required, how long the turbines will last and what to do with them when they expire.

Focus on the 18 percent median output from the Mount Emerald wind boondoggle. That comes to just 32MW. Liddell coal-power station, which was shut down at the end of April this year, could in its prime provide 1800MW when operating at an average 90 percent of its plated capacity. That is the equivalent of 56 Mount Emeralds or close to 3,000 turbines. And remember not one of those turbines would be producing anything at all on windless days. Useless, is a gross understatement. You might sensibly ask how these thing ever get built. There are three factors at work, so far as I can tell:

First, prolonged hysterical hype about "climate change" has led to mental derangement on a vast scale.

Second, wind and solar projects are waved through, while hydrocarbon projects are met with intractable regulatory and legal opposition. Take the Adani coal mine, also in Queensland. After about ten years of jumping through environmental hoops, it was stopped in its tracks for a considerable time by the yakka skink and ornamental snake, which the federal court thought might be at risk.

Take the gas company Santos. It thought it had the all-clear to restart drilling at a multi-billion-dollar gas project in the Timor sea, north west of Darwin, over 100 kilometres distant from the Tiwi Islands, which form part of Australia’s Northern Territory. Think again. It missed consulting with Tiwi Islander Dennis Tipakalippa who claimed successfully that he was not consulted over the company's plans and should have been. “Our sea is like our mother,” he said, “we are part of the sea and the sea is part of us.” Hooey wins the day. See factor 1.

Third, money, of course. Not only in the form of subsidies but in the form of gaming the system among electricity suppliers which own legacy generators as well as wind and solar. There’s money to be made if you can turn up coal or gas power when the wind drops and wholesale power prices soar.

Hard to say where this will end up. Wind can only prevail if madness prevails. Who can be sure that madness won’t prevail. Go back to factor 1.

After a career in economics, banking and payment-systems management, Peter Smith now blogs on the topics of the day. He writes for Quadrant, Australia’s leading conservative online site and magazine. He has written Bad Economics, of which, he notes, there is much.


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One comment on “Gone With the Wind”

  1. So now their going t o be installing Wind Turbines way high up meanwhile in Scotland their chopping down trees to make way for Wind Turbines I am sure the Eco-Freaks are happy now

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