What’s the footprint of a Wind Turbine? Ask Howard Hayden

The green thugs claim that Wind Tubines have a positive impact on the enviornment. Birds and Bats might disagree–but there’s more, courtesy of Howard Hayden

Howard is emeritus prof of physics at U Conn. I asked him if I could put up his essay on developments related to Catastrophic Anthropogenic Warming, now called climate disruption (apparently carbon dioxide is now a toxic air pollutant, and we mammals are just like diesel trucks, spewing evil CO2).

An item that deserves attention for Howard Hayden’s last newsletter is his short essay on the imprint and substructure of a typical 2.5 Mega Watt wind turbine, much like the wind turbines that were spread out over Mills County, Texas, in the past year–100 turbines on the ridge next to the road I travel to go to Fort Hood to work.

100 wind turbines built for more than 100 million dollars and they would produce about one-third of their rated capacity over a year, so they would produce about 90 Megawatts but require on-line backup for windless days.

However they make it because of mandated alternative energy portfolios in Texas, tax credits and subsidies. Farmers and ranchers are easy targets for the lease payments or royalties, whatever the arrangements are.

10 miles of open country spoiled by 300 foot bird and bat Cuisinarts, sitting on a prominent 50-100 foot ridge. Ruins the vista for hunters and retirees, and anyone who loves the country, pockmarks the land with access roads and transmission lines, and the land use is 500 acres at about 5 acres per fan. Electricity output is, at best, one tenth of a typical 1000 Mega watt coal plant that is on-line all the time and reliable, and takes about 100 acres and can be built where the grid is readily accessible and where the plant is not a sore on the horizon.

However, the power lines and the scarred up ranch land is factor–and the actual site is another matter, ranch land is not so valuable as farmland for ag production, and in Texas the fans are on ridges in pastureland–imagine when they site them in Mid Western row and field crop farmland.

When installed the fans have to have a stout substructure.

Howard explains.

The Energy Advocate
A monthly newsletter promoting energy and technology
May 2014 (Vol. 18, No. 10) P.O. Box 7609, Pueblo West, CO 81007 Copyright © by The Energy Advocate

STEM Notes: Wind Power
Wind turbines exert considerable leverage (a.k.a. torque, lever-arm length multiplied by force) on the base of the structure. The force is never published, but it is easy to calculate: Power = force times velocity. For a 2.5-MW wind machine in Cashton Greens Wind Farm in Wisconsin, at 25 m/s wind speed (above which the machine must be turned off) 2.5  106 W  25m/s = 100,000 newtons (  22,500 pounds). The tower height is 117 meters (385 ft).
For this case wind turbine’s torque on the ground is equivalent to the weight of a large school bus at the end of a plank the length of a football field from field-level spectator to field-level spectator. Accordingly, the base of the structure must be very substantial.

The circular part of the structure shown in the Cashton Greens picture will be the only part that shows after the rest has been covered with dirt, and it will contain 63 metric tons of concrete; the rest of the base will contain 570 metric tons. The base will contain 41 metric tons of rebar.

Dunn note: let’s see, what’s the carbon imprint of making and installing all that concrete? How about the carbon imprint of building a fan and tower? We don’t start the first day with a 0 imprint, do we and they have to be linked to a reliable source of energy–so what’s the benefit except to the gamers playing the tax credits and the mandates, and the subsidies. Warren Buffett recently stated that wind power goes nowhere without the tax credits so i have to look at 100 ugly fans and wonder how many birds are going to killed for what? So anxious greenies and gamers can do their projects?

The Energy Advocate
Publisher: Vales Lake Publishing, LLC. Editor Howard Hayden, Ph.D., (for identification only) Professor Emeritus of Physics, University of Connecticut. The Energy Advocate, PO Box 7609, Pueblo West, CO 81007. ISSN: 1091-9732. Fax: (719) 547-7819, e-mail: corkhayden@comcast.net. Website: http://www.EnergyAdvo¬cate.com. Subscription $40 for 12 monthly issues. A Primer on CO2 and Climate 2nd Ed. $11.00 and A Primer on Renewable Energy $16.00 for subscribers. Bass Ackwards: How Climate Alarmists Confuse Cause with Effect $18. (Add $5.00 for Priority Mail) Checks must be drawn on a US bank. VISA, MasterCard, Discover/NOVUS accepted.

Thanks for the info, Professor Hayden.

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8 responses to “What’s the footprint of a Wind Turbine? Ask Howard Hayden

  1. I’ve always maintained wind power was a wast of time and money. Aside from the need for an on line coal of gas fired plant for back up/make up I hadn’t considered the substructure. When (not if ) these things go out of favor (remember the ’50s bomb shelters) who’s is gona pay to have them removed? Not the owners as they will have declared bankruptcy and scampered on to the next get rich quick scheme.

  2. Those wind-turbine foundations reminds one of the Flaktuerme that were built above ground (and with sizable below-ground foundations) in major cities of the 3rd Reich to support flak cannons above the roofs of the buildings. These city-block-sized monstrosities were built of very dense and heavily reinforced concrete so that they could survive direct hits by bombs. The ones of Vienna still stand today because to de-construct them would destroy much of the surrounding neighborhoods. (You can find them with Google Maps.)

    • I’d forgotten about those; remember seeing them. Also some still in Berlin after the wall came down.

  3. Concerned Citizen

    It’s beyond exhausting to read arguments AGAINST clean energy that center on the impact to the environment.

    NOW you care about the risk to wildlife? Have you actually examined the footprint of a coal plant? (You know, the actual, environment footprint, not just “hey, did you realize those wind turbines were rooted in the ground?!”) I dare you to put your pet fish in coal plant runoff.

    It seems like you don’t care about land for land’s sake, just land for your sake. Those poor wealthy retired landowners have to stare at a response to the last few generations’ attitude toward environmentalism.

    And are fan blades certifiably uglier than smoke stacks? That’s totally subjective, but I’d imagine that coal plants are one of the reasons the country is a prettier place to be. Oh yeah, and there’s nothing scientific about ugly. Is your argument really that extra energy added to the grid on a regular basis sans pollution isn’t worth doing because you don’t like the way it looks? You don’t complain about the fans in your house. Even ugly ones if they keep you cool on a hot day.

    Can’t anyone see that these are only convenient rationalizations? And that some of it is just plain wrong? You can’t say in one spot that the turbines in question only produced a third of their 2.5MW capacity, then later claim that this amount is “at best”. For those of you not so good with math, the “at best” estimate of 1/10th of 1000MW equals 100MW per 100 turbines, or 1MW each. We know this isn’t true. The author literally just told us that it wasn’t. At best, 100 turbines can produce 250MW, or a quarter of a coal plant. Pretty good considering it has 0% of the carbon emissions, though that’s tough to put in perspective. Turbines can sometimes produce more electricity than projected, too, but the author would rather only leave you with the knowledge of an instance of wind power falling short so that when someone asks you later if wind power is reliable, you only have one convenient example to pull from. See the trick there?

    You were also tricked into thinking you’d really learn something because the author consulted with a college professor. The college professor then provided information published from a newsletter, not an academic paper. BIG difference. And on what? The weight of a wind turbine? Would you feel any differently toward wind turbines if they were lighter? Probably not. Then why report on it at all? Because you can use a meaningless statistic to convince others that you are a reputable source, and then introduce unrelated opinions as fact to sway the opinions of others, like that turbines aren’t a good choice for clean energy because they’re fat and ugly.

    These people telling you to ignore “crackpot” scientists don’t know the first thing about a real, scientific argument. Or worse, they know exactly what a solid scientific argument is, and they’re writing this instead anyway because they know that those who DON’T know better are easy to manipulate. This article was nothing but emotional manipulation.

    Take the first paragraph. It started out strong with an emotionally charged, polarizing term (green thugs). Then it implied that the guest professor had something that would contradict the notion that wind turbines were good for the environment. But where was that part again? You can look, but it’s not really there. We get mention of the bird fatalities, but we knew that from the “birds and bats” remark, not from our professor. Doesn’t matter, it sets you up to look for reasons why wind power is terrible, so no matter what the author says (or doesn’t say) in the rest of the article, you still came away knowing that the main idea of the article was that wind turbines are bad for the environment. Nifty trick, huh?

    I think my favorite part though was that Dunn was worried about the cost of wind power on future generations. That’s a total repackaging of a “green thug” argument against fossil fuels. Do you see how the author conveniently gets the logic behind an argument like that when it comes to something they want you to oppose?

    Question everything? Start with the people yelling the loudest with the least to say.

  4. Actually it’s worse than it seems because the life of the windmills is probably going to be a lot shorter than what the manufacturers claim.

    Most investors in windmills will probably will not recover their costs because the windmills will fail well before their claimed design life.

    Depends to some extent on the wind and the environment where the windmill is located.

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