Why Windmills Don't Work

Imagine your liberal husband drives up to the house in a brand new 70-foot-long 18-wheel tractor-trailer rig and announces, “Honey, I bought a new car!” The first thing you would think is: This is not a car. This is going to be very expensive to operate.


But your husband says, “Look, it works well. Brand new. It will be fine. Ten-year warranty.” And that is exactly how you should think about windmills to produce energy – they are like buying a tractor-trailer rig instead of a car.


Consider that windmills are said to be only about one-third as efficient as a nuclear power plant at generating electricity. So a tractor-trailer rig that gets 7 miles to the gallon rather than a car that gets 21 miles to the gallon is the same thing.


Then think about how much it will cost to keep the big rig on the road. Every time you need brake pads, it costs five times as much as brake pads for a car, just as windmills will push up the cost for electricity astronomically by requiring large amounts of parts and labor to maintain compared to, say, a nuclear reactor.


Think of this: A 1,000 megawatt nuclear power reactor usually has five separate generators each generating 200 megawatts. The reason is that you don’t want one single generator making 1,000 megawatts in case something goes wrong with it, such that the whole plant will have to be shut down completely.


Each of those five generators has to be maintained on a regular basis. It is called ‘routine maintenance’ and that is when the generators are shut down one at a time so that inspectors can check the bearings, the lubrication, the clearances, the output etc., to make sure that the generator is operating properly. All machines require routine maintenance. And when you shut down one generator for maintenance at the nuke plant, the other four continue operating, keeping plant operating at 80% capacity.


Those five generators are all located in a single building under a single roof with all the tools nearby for maintenance. If new parts are needed, they are on the shelf or can be brought into the building on a truck. And many of the parts for such a generator are heavy, so it is good that you have a crane inside the building to lift them into place.


Now imagine that you are going to put up windmills instead of building a nuclear plant. Since the largest windmill today is 1.5 megawatts, you would have to install 667 of them to get 1,000 megawatts of power, right? (667 X 1.5 = 1,000)




Windmills are only one-third as efficient as nuclear power because the wind does not blow all the time and does not always blow at the peak amount for the windmill to produce full power. So you would need to install three times as much wind power, or 3,000 megawatts. That means 2,000 windmills at 1.5 megawatts each (2,000 windmills X 1.5 megawatts each = 3,000 megawatts) just to get the same amount of energy as a 1,000 megawatt nuclear reactor.


So now think about doing your routine maintenance on 2,000 separate windmill generators versus 5 generators under a single roof at a nuclear power station. That is 400 times as much labor. Wow! That is going go make electricity very expensive with all those labor costs.




It will be much, much more than 400 times the labor. It will be thousands of times as much labor. And labor is the biggest continuing cost in most businesses.




Consider this: In order to do the maintenance check on Generator #1 at the nuclear plant you walk over to it and start work. The weather outside is irrelevant. You don’t have to put on any special clothes. Your tools are all right there.


But then imagine those 2,000 windmills are spread across 100 miles of mountaintops as they someday may be.


So to do maintenance on the windmills, the inspector first must get to them. And he may have to drive miles and miles on highways, and then up dirt roads to get to Windmill #1, all on company time. Those steep mountain climbs can be very slow. This labor cost just for a skilled employee to drive out to the windmills is included in your electric bill. And that’s just the start.


When the inspector gets to the mountaintop, he has to climb up Windmill #1, 300 feet straight up a ladder (the blade tips of a 1.5 megawatt windmill peak at 450 feet off the ground).  That’s hard work and takes time, the equivalent of a 25-storey climb in a building. When was the last time you took the stairs up 25 stories? Then imagine straight up…


Then he does his maintenance check and, if everything looks OK, he climbs back down. 25 stories. Only 1,999 windmills to go.


But only four more generators at the nuclear plant to inspect.


But wait. What if the inspector needs a replacement part for Windmill #1? Does he have the part in his truck? What if he doesn’t? He has to drive back down the mountain, get the part and drive back up. Or wait for another truck with the part to arrive, maybe wait hours.


Woah! Wait a minute! What if the part weighs a lot? He can’t haul it up the tower by himself. He may need a helper (double the labor cost) or, for a really heavy part like a main bearing, a helicopter to fly the part in, which is super, super expensive.


Hmmmm… Costs are rising every minute with this ‘free’ wind energy. And the consumer pays every penny.


Then imagine for mathematical convenience that there is an average hypothetical failure rate for a certain part over five years of, say, 20%. That means that you would have to replace the part in one single generator at the nuclear station (20% failure rate for five generators is one generator). Or you would have to fix 400 wind generators (20% of 2,000 windmills = 400).


That’s pretty inefficient, wouldn’t you say? And very, very, very  expensive as far as both parts and labor are concerned – 400 smaller parts to replace, versus one big part.


Phew! These windmills are getting very expensive.


OK, so let’s say the inspector gets Windmill #1 fixed. Then he has to get to Windmill #2. It is 800 feet west along the mountain ridge. He has to drive there on a road cut out of the wilderness, a bumpy road that can damage the truck and that will cause the truck to have a much shorter life than a truck driven only on the highway. These trucks are going to be very expensive and need lots of maintenance themselves.


By the way, no trucks are needed between generators at the nuclear plant. The inspector simply walks over to Generator #2 and starts his inspection.


The inspector arrives at Windmill #2. He climbs the ladder 300 feet straight up…


Get the picture? Only 1,998 to go!


Or just three more generators at the nuclear plant…


Imagine you inspect five windmills and that the day is then done and you have to go back to the utility headquarters. You have to drive all the way down the mountain and then back to the shop, labor which is all billed to the consumer. Then next day you have to drive all the way out to the mountaintop again, requiring lots of time (labor cost).


But remember there’s only FIVE generators at the nuclear plant, all snug and cozy inside the building. You don’t have to drive anywhere. By the time the inspector checks all five, another inspector might only have inspected one-fourth of 1% of the windmills.


Imagine the inspector checks three more windmills and the next windmill is on the next ridge with a small valley in between. So he has to drive all the way down into the valley and up the next ridge. That sure is going to take a lot of time (paid labor) and wear-and-tear on the truck. All eventually billed to the consumer.


What if it is winter? All those roads up to the mountaintop must be plowed. That is tremendously expensive and consumes lots of gasoline, you know, that scarce energy that is causing ‘global warming’ or ‘climate change’ or whatever they are calling it these days. What if the weather is so bad that the inspector cannot get to the windmill? What if he gets snowed in up on the mountain and has to be rescued? What if there is a huge rainstorm that washes out the roads? They need to be fixed, don’t they?


None of this happens at the nuclear plant where the generators are inside under one roof.


Labor is one of the most expensive parts of any business. Once the plant is built and the machines are installed, labor is the biggest cost over long periods of time. And windmills are going to cost huge amounts of labor and drive up the cost of electricity astronomically.


What about the natural forces acting on a windmill?


Windmills are subjected to big natural stresses. Throughout the history of electricity, generators have sat in one place and are bolted to the ground as they are at a nuclear plant or in a hydro dam. But windmill generators are up on a tower top that turns and shakes  in high winds. The blades are subjected to massive shear forces, putting a strain on the generator through the main axle bearings, requiring much more maintenance than a ground-based generator. This is going to increase the need for maintenance and shorten the lives of axles and generators compared to static generators. Everyone knows that if you stress a machine, it requires more maintenance.


What about power lines? If you build a nuclear plant, the power lines can be hooked into the grid nearby. If you build 2,000 windmills on the mountaintops, you have to connect up every single one of them with a power line. That is going to be very expensive, is it not? And use lots of extra copper or aluminum. This also is going to require the cutting of new power-line corridors through the forest and eventually down the mountainsides. This does not sound very ecological.


What is required to build those 2,000 steel windmill towers, each 300 feet tall? Just think of all the energy and labor you need to make all that steel. And the labor and all the paint to paint them all. And then to build the towers. Huge amounts of labor. In the meantime, the nuclear power plant is one building and is largely made of concrete which you do not have to paint ever.


How about the windmill blades. You have to make three blades for each windmill. 6,000 blades in all. Big blades more than 150 feet long, weighing tons. Laid end to end, they stretch 170 miles. Just think of all the energy and composite material that it takes not only to make all those blades, but to haul them up the mountain and install them.


And how about the theory called Economies of Scale? How much extra copper is going to be required to make those 2,000 separate generators than to make five big generators at a nuclear plant? Or to make all those blades, which are not required at a nuclear plant?


Lots more. Because big things use resources efficiently and little things like windmills use resources inefficiently.


See how you have to think about things like windmills before you put them up. See how you have to think about buying a tractor-trailer rig instead of a car? See what common sense is? This is what we are up against with the enviro movement – complete irrationality for “free” energy.


It is not free. It is extremely costly.


These enviros are trying to rush us into something that will kill our economy while it makes Al Gore and his ‘green’ investors rich at the same time. Which is all that matters to many environmentalists these days – money.


And what about all the scare stories about nuclear power and radiation? Well, consider that:


*Millions of American military personnel have served on and around nuclear-powered aircraft carriers and submarines with no ill effects.


*The United States detonated an atomic bomb 1,900 feet over Hiroshima, Japan on August 6, 1945 and people have lived there continuously ever since, contrary to the predictions of radiation doomsdayers.


*Atomic bombs were set off above ground right over the horizon from Las Vegas, Nevada in the mid-1940s and people have lived there continuously ever since.


*France gets 80% of its electricity from nuclear power without any health problems.


Please visit my website at www.nikitas3.com for more. You can read excerpts from my book, Right Is Right, which explains why only conservatism can maintain our freedom and prosperity.