Wind Power is Hot Air!

By Peter Mills. There have been a few excellent articles on this website regarding the government’s blinkered insistence on threatening British local communities and heritage landscapes with the presence of so-called wind farms. I make no apologies for writing another.

 The plain fact is, that wind turbine technology is still in its infancy, and the wind turbines of today are not fit for use outside testing and research establishments. Our government is insisting on having wind-farms built all over the place, at stupendous cost, without waiting for the technology to catch up with safety and reliability.

 The current state of human technological expertise in wind-turbines is equivalent to the early years of development of the US space program. For every successful rocket launch, there were several failures, some of them spectacular.

 The full extent of the dangerous failures of wind turbines prematurely installed before the technology has been fully developed and tested simply because government thinks they are a “good idea” is not widely known, especially in Britain. Many people I speak to on this subject do not even realize that there have been any dangerous catastrophic wind-turbine failures.

 This is by no means a rant. I shall let the actual facts speak for themselves. In last year’s Proceedings of the 1st International Nuclear and Renewable Energy Conference (INREC10) in a paper titled “Wind Turbine Gearbox Technologies”, research scientists from the Department of Aerospace Engineering & Department of Nuclear, Plasma and Radiological Engineering of the University of Illinois admit there are “reliability problems associated with transmissions of gearbox equipped wind turbines…” and that “the gearbox problems currently encountered by existing wind turbine technology” should be addressed. A few lines further on, the same experts state: “…Operational experience reveals that the gearboxes of modern electrical utility wind turbines at the MW (megawatt: ed) level of rated power are their weakest link…” and that: “…gearboxes… commonly fail within an operational period of 5 years.”

 In Part 2 of this same report, it is noted that insurance companies currently rate wind power as a “risky sector”, pointing out that Munich-based international insurance giant Allianz “…was faced with around 1,000 damage claims in the year 2006 alone” with gearboxes in wind turbines having to be “replaced in large numbers”. When assessing the insurance risks, the report states that: “…an operator has to expect damage to his facility every four years,” adding that: “…A gearbox replacement can cost up to 10 per cent of the original construction cost, enough to cut deep into the projected profits.”

 Part 6 of this revealing report deals largely with the wind turbine gearbox design, again referring to this aspect as the “weakest link” of the turbine. It is pointed out that: “…As turbine sizes increased, the design of gearboxes able to handle the torque generated by longer and heavier blades has become a problem. In addition, turbine loading is variable and hard to predict. Some gearboxes have failed in less than two years of operation.”

So, are wind turbine catastrophes rare and isolated occurrences as the government wishes us all to believe? No, they are not. In fact, statistically, every wind turbine erected in the UK up to this present time is likely to fail catastrophically within 2 to 5 years after “switch-on”. A little research in the world’s newspapers is extremely revealing on the subject. Please bear in mind that these are merely a small handful of reports from various places in the world during only the 11 month period between May 2010 and March 2011.

May 13, 2010 by Alaina Potrikus in The Post-Standard, New York: “As experts hone in on what caused a 187-ton windmill to collapse in a Fenner cornfield last year, developers are moving forward with a plan to get the rest of the wind farm’s 19 turbines safely spinning as early as mid-July. Turbine 18 fell to the ground in the early hours of Dec. 27, shocking neighbors who have lived among the windmills for nearly a decade and industry experts who called the failure unprecedented.”

June 22, 2010 in Malta Today. “Germany’s first offshore wind park was dealt a blow with the failure of two turbines due to inferior materials. The rough patch has energy executives scurrying to reassure Berlin and banks scrutinizing their billions in offshore wind energy investments.”

June 21, 2010 by Caitlin Traynor in Oneida Daily Dispatch (Wisconsin). “The foundation wasn’t faulty, the 187-ton machine wasn’t defective and all specifications were met. Yet Enel North America and the top industry analysts they hired have no answers as to what caused Turbine 18 to topple over Dec. 27.”

July 28, 2010 by Dan Churney in The Daily Journal. “Ellsworth came from Germany to live in rural Marseilles 17 years ago with her husband, who is from Morris. She researched the operating record of towers, primarily in Germany, where she said they have much longer experience. As a result of this experience, she said Germans never erect wind towers any closer to a home than one mile. ‘Blades can tear off and be like missiles,’ she said.”

August  1, 2010 by Michele Linck in Sioux City Journal. “A lightening strike started a fire in a wind turbine Saturday morning, destroying the turbine and one of three new blades that had been laid out on the ground beneath it in order to be installed as replacements. Damages totaled $760,000, according to Peterson Fire Chief John Winterboer.”

August 12, 2010 by Megan McNaught in The Mercury (Hobart). “They were designed to withstand cyclones but yesterday’s blustery conditions were enough to wreck two wind power turbines on top of the Marine Board Building. The turbines were seen spinning out of control in winds of up to 54km/h just before midday – before two blades came loose and fell in on themselves.”

August 13, 2010 in ReCharge. “Siemens Wind Power has discovered significant problems with the corrosion protection of pitch bearings in its 3.6MW offshore turbines, and has contracted the MPI Resolution jack-up vessel to carry out a major maintenance campaign, Recharge has learned.”

August 17, 2010 by James Quilter in Windpower Monthly. “OFFSHORE: Siemens is carrying out essential maintenance work on four offshore wind farms, including the recently opened Gunfleet Sands, after it was discovered the turbines’ bearings were corroding.”

September  8, 2010 by Ben Backwell in ReCharge. “A six to seven metre portion came off the blade in the incident in Lem, Western Jutland, a Vestas spokesman says. He adds that the company is investigating the cause of the incident. “We don’t see this as a design fault,” he says.”

October 26, 2010 in Tehachapi News. “The CHP (California Highway Patrol: ed) closes roads near runaway wind turbines for the safety of motorists. ‘The runaway wind turbine, when it deteriorates or explodes, can send scrap metal and steel up to a mile away,’ said CHP Officer Ed Smith.”

November  5, 2010 by Aimee Hodson in The Leader. “’I had several calls from concerned residents who saw the fire, which burned for over two hours,’ said local county councillor Paul Marfleet. ‘I went up to the site and the police and fire service were there, but there was little they could do to tackle a fire 75 metres above the ground and I did sympathise.’”

December  3, 2010 by Traci L. Weisenbach in Huron Daily Tribune. “Smith said brief power outages experienced in the area cause the three turbines to instantly stop and recoil, which fatigues the blades in the area where they are likely to break. When the blades are new, they’re more flexible and durable. …we are going to direct all maintenance employees to approach away from the blades and keep visitors away. The blade ejection happens rarely, but we need to err on the side of safety.”

January 11, 2011 by Richard Degener in Press of Atlantic City. “’When we arrived, there were obvious flames showing from the top of the windmill. The windmill was spinning ridiculously out of control,’ Villas fire Chief Richard Harron Jr. said. The out-of-control turbine was apparently sending a surge of electricity down the tower into electrical connections in the garage.

January 16, 2011 by Rob Setchell in Wisbech Standard. “A campaigner attacked the “dead end technology” behind Fenland’s wind farms after he discovered that two of the £2 million turbines at Coldham are currently standing idle. John Stoneman, from Cambs Environmental and Wildlife Protection, first warned the operators of the Co-operative site that one of their turbines was broken in October. Another turbine has also been out of action for a fortnight. Both are yet to be fixed.”

March 16, 2011 by Mark Del Franco in North American Wind Power.”’It looks like the braking mechanism failed, and the rotor gained speed, flexed and hit the tower and sheared off the mounting plate at the hub where it connects with the nacelle.’ …The rotor appeared to scrape the tower on its way to the ground, which could require the tower to be replaced as well.”

March 24, 2011 by Dale Wetzel in The Republic. “A North Dakota regulator says bolt failures caused a wind turbine’s rotor and blades to fall from a tower north of Rugby. Six other wind turbines have been shut down so bolts can be replaced. Bolt failures caused a wind turbine’s rotor and blades to fall from a tower in north-central North Dakota, and six other turbines have been shut down. …the citizens of Pierce County, they’re probably a little bit concerned too. …You might not want to go hiking in the prairie for a while.”

Surely, a fully government-approved, environmentally-friendly, properly researched, properly engineered and, above all, safe industry should not be producing so many highly dangerous failures throughout the world? Surely, this underlines the truth of my earlier statement that the wind turbine industry is still at the moment only in the same level of progress as the haphazardly exploding rockets of the early space age?

Small wonder, then, that the US Government-sponsored report “Improving Wind Turbine Gearbox Reliability” from the National Renewable Energy Authority in America contains the statement: “The wind energy industry has experienced high gearbox failure rates from its inception… wind turbine generators have yet to achieve their design life goals of twenty years… the higher-than-expected failure rates are adding to the cost of wind energy…”

From the actual evidence, it is clearly apparent that wind turbine generators are, without exception, all accidents waiting to happen. Do you want such guaranteed accidents where you live? Unfortunately, under the British Lib-Lab-Con power-sharing club, we, the people, have absolutely no choice whatsoever in the matter – unless we finally come to our senses and elect a Nationalist government that puts People before Business Backhanders!

2 thoughts on “Wind Power is Hot Air!

  1. Onshore wind turbines have their problems in terms of maintenance – however offshore ones can be a nightmare. During periods of bad weather for instance repair may simply not be possible for weeks because of the dangerous conditions. Not at all convinced that wind turbines will ever be anything more than a sideshow when it comes to the generation of electricity.

  2. The problem with wind power is not a shortfall in technology. It is driven by the basic limitation that wind is a diffuse and unreliable energy source. This problem will not be solved by any amount of new technology, research money or propaganda, because no amount of research or wishful thinking will change the basic characteristics of the wind.

    There is in fact nothing terribly complicated about building a wind turbine (or a wave machine for that matter) – both require the application of simple mechanical engineering. But they need to be robust to survive the environment and that pushes up capital costs of expensive components.

    These things are failing early in life because manufacturers are under tremendous pressure to reduce capital costs, so that upfront costs are at least reasonable, which ultimately means under-engineering key components like the gear box and main bearings. Capital cost is ~70% of the cost of wind electricity. We could in fact engineer wind turbines today that would survive many years without maintenance. But they would be even more unaffordable than today’s unaffordable turbines.

    Wind turbines are impractical for simple reason that wind is a diffuse, low power density energy source, about 2W/m2 on average. For solar power, the figure is close to 5W/m2 under UK conditions, but harnessing it requires slabs of expensive crystaline silicon. Both vary randomly and unpredictably. Compare this to the power density of the inside of a nuclear reactor pressure vessel, which is something like 3 million times greater and does not vary at all until with move control rods.

    It should come as no surprise that the average PWR generates for 2.5-4 pence per KWh, whereas offshore wind generates at a wopping 14.5pence/kWh, and solar something like 25p/kWh. And this does not include storage or load balancing costs. These technologies will never be affordable as base load energy sources.

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