Lies, damned lies, and “The Wind is Free”.

Waterhouse’s picture of the wind, “Boreas” -- looks better than a wind turbine!

Apologies to Benjamin Disraeli, who spoke of “Lies, damned lies and statistics”.  But there are few lies as mendacious and insidious as the oft-repeated claim that “The wind is free”.

Wind is only “free” in the same sense that coal or oil or gas are free.  They’re just lying there in the ground waiting for someone to collect them and turn them into electricity.  Trouble is, it’s quite expensive to do that.  But it’s even more expensive to collect wind power and turn it into electricity — about double, for off-shore wind.  Far from being free, wind power is very expensive.  And wind power is less useful than conventional power, because it’s intermittent and unpredictable, and requires conventional back-up.

Our obsession with wind is driving up domestic electricity bills at an unprecedented rate, leaving millions of households in fuel poverty, and forcing pensioners to choose between heating and eating.

It is undermining our economic recovery; making energy-intensive businesses look at moving off-shore, taking jobs with them; and making investment in the UK less attractive.  Our current energy policies are a disaster, and unless we change course they will lead to the de-industrialisation of Britain.

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26 Responses to Lies, damned lies, and “The Wind is Free”.

  1. Mike Stallard says:

    Well said!
    It is one of the great follies of our age.
    Meanwhile there was a programme on Radio 4 which tried to blame the Power Companies for putting the prices up!

  2. Lazarus says:

    What a short term and narrow minded view. Yes wind and most renewable energy sources are CURRENTLY more expensive than coal or or gas. So are nuclear plants but that isn’t a valid argument no to build them.

    But all the fuels you mention are getting more expensive and it doesn’t take an economist to see that. When petrol hit £1 a litre the whole country nearly came to a standstill with protests at refineries, but no one with any sense believes they will ever see fuel at £1 a litre again. So other than short term market fluctuations they will never be cheaper than they are now.

    Renewables including wind will almost certainly never be as expensive as they are now. Prices are tumbling, especially PV, and it will take less than a generation before many ‘alternative’ energy sources reach price parity and become even cheaper than the fuels you have listed.

    There is an argument to wait until price parity but with this country needing serious investment into future energy generation now you seem to be advocating building large capital plants that by necessity will still be in use 50 or more years from now at which time your argument will be turned on its head but not after wasting billions in what will become obsolete and expensive plant. Yes our energy policies are a disaster and you seem intent in continuing in the same vein.

    You are also incorrect in assuming that they need a conventional backup, though even if they do it isn’t much of an argument to say we shouldn’t use cars because they require spare tyres.

    The easiest solution may be to use conventional backup but many technologies exist to capture and store power when the wind is not blowing or it isn’t day light etc. These don’t need to be introduced to the grid until they are needed, at which time both the technology and the power they are backing up will be more competitively priced.

    So the simple question is what should we invest in to replace and increase our generating capacity for the future, plant and infrastructure that will become ever more expensive to run over time or that will become cheaper? I’d advocate taking the long term view.

    • Sorry,Lazarus, but how wrong can you get? We’ve seen promises for years that wind and solar will get cheaper, but they don’t. Indeed wind turbines are failing to survive for their design life, so even current cost estimates are likely to be on the low side. And nuclear is around the same as gas or coal, even allowing for waste disposal and eventual decommissioning. We have enough coal in the UK for a hundred years if we were prepared to dig it out.

      • Lazarus says:

        Roger, to back up my case with actual evidence, from Bloomberg Financial News;

        “Prices have dipped below €1m per MW for the first time since 2005, according to the latest edition of Bloomberg New Energy Finance’s Wind Turbine Price Index

        London and New York – Increasing scale, improved efficiency and over-capacity among wind energy hardware manufacturers have combined to push the average price of onshore wind turbines below €1m ($1.36m) per megawatt.”

        “Bloomberg New Energy Finance’s Wind Turbine Price Index shows that fierce downward pressure on prices has continued in recent months in all parts of the world”
        “Dropping turbine prices may be uncomfortable for manufacturers, but it is good news for project developers and it further improves the cost-competitiveness of wind energy compared with gas and coal. ”

        “The cost of electricity generated from wind is now at record lows: several projects in high resource areas (US, Brazil, Sweden, Mexico) display a levelised cost of energy – excluding the impact of subsidies but after including the cost of capital and maintenance – below EUR 50/MWh ($68/MWh). This compares to current estimated average costs of $67 per MWh for coal-fired power and $56 per MWh for gas-fired power. ”

        “Onshore turbine prices per MW of capacity are now for the first time lower than they were before the surge in steel and other commodity prices. The levelised cost of wind power has been driven down not only by lower turbine costs, but also by higher yields per MW of capacity. ”

        Prices are dropping, and only a fool would deny that price parity must be the ultimate conclusion of this and rising fossil fuel prices.

        How wrong can I get? Not as wrong as you apparently.

      • Thanks Lazarus. Not much here about the cost of conventional back-up, which effectively doubles the capital investment, nor the losses on running the back-up intermittently and inefficiently to compensate for variable wind. Also, a few extreme examples don’t refute the fact that overall, on-shore wind is 50% above conventional generation, and off-shore is double.

      • Axel says:

        Lazarus wrote:
        “The cost of electricity generated from wind is now at record lows….. excluding the impact of subsidies”

        But that’s the point isn’t it? These schemes or in fact scams, could never exist without subsidies. They are NOT commercially viable, and damaging to the environment. Not just an eysore which seriously affects the valuable tourism industry in Britain, but which creates vast hazardous cesspools of industrial puss in the area where the rare earth minerals, for the windmill magnets are mined and refined.

        Your anaolgies are fatuous, and your logic is faulty.

    • i Lazarus
      I’m running through the experiment now. Perhaps you’ll check me? I’m using the wind subsidy farm at Bicker, in Lincolnshire, because I know that it was conveniently under construction when google earth took the pictures, so you can see the concrete being used clearly, and even construction vehicles.
      Using the ruler tool I’m measuring 34. 25 meters across the base diameter, in one direction. 57.86 meters along its length and an access area 35.52 meters by 36. 30 meters. This being the concrete surface area required for one wind folly. Without all the extras, that come with wind farms.
      As per depth of concrete. This is usually the depth required to hit bedrock. Which is a problem on the Fens.
      How big a problem? Well a recent submision here for a development required 8 steel reinforced concrete piles per turbine 30 meters deep (yes 30 meters) by two meters dia. each one. That’s 1,810 tones per turbine for the piles. And 1,080 tones for each base (2,890 tones total) plus 55 tones of steel each turbine.
      Do you want to get onto the issue of all the thousand of large diesel powered vehicle movements required to shift all this superstructure about, along narrow country roads, near peoples homes…..Or in fact the issue of pile driving near peoples homes?……I think you might be starting to grasp what i’m saying?

  3. David says:

    The only way wind energy/alternative energy will compete with nuclear and “fossil fuels” (that misnomer is one of the damned lies) is when it is generated by millions of upstarts/consumers and NOT by central, compulsory monopolies/huge corporations. VOLUNTARY COMPETITION is the only route, and the establishments are hellbent to prevent that.

    Indeed, the technology has a long, Long, LONG way to go before it’s really viable, but “wind” fits quite well in the fascists’ scheme to define future energy policy BEFORE technology and markets mature. It’s all about defining who makes money, and who pays, by force of law. Socialist/fascists/corporatists/mobsters would have it no othe way.

    The a$$es in the establishment refuse to wait and compete! Meanwhile, the people suffer and ‘pine for from the very hands that exploit and abuse them. If only we have mass media intelligent and determined enough to dissect, for the masses, what is so glaringly obvious. Instead they, too, are part of the problem.

  4. leosco says:

    Governments around the world, our own included are deluding the public into paying collosal sums of money into this green energy fraud, and who can blame them if the public are so uneducated and gullable as to believe that the majority of politicians in every country are actually working for the public good and not just using the people to build larger and larger personal wealth and maintaining the status quo.

  5. Lazarus says:

    Roger, I’m not saying that wind isn’t more expensive. Just as electric lights were more expensive than gas, only investment and subsidies changed that. But within a generation or so it won’t be even with subsidies.

    If we are investing in power infrastructure we want to be investing in the best option, not for now but for then, and wind is in that part of that future mix. We already have conventional backup, there is no need to invest in more. Engineering solutions exist, but as you are a prime example, the political will a forward thinking doesn’t. You just refuse to see the big picture. Can you honestly say with any conviction that you can’t see renewables like wind producing energy cost effectively within 20 years? Do you want this country re-investing then because all the investment in the first 10 years has resulted in more expensive power?

    Wind energy just 15 years from grid cost parity

    “”If wind and solar are treated as favourably as nuclear was in the 1970s and 80s and there is the necessary financial support then wind will break even [with the cost of grid electricity] by 2020-2025 and solar by 2030,” said Peter Lund of the Helsinki University of Technology’s Advanced Energy System Department.

    He added that both sectors were currently 30 to 50 per cent more expensive than fossil fuel power and needed subsidies to cover this gap, but predicted that this gap would close as the industries scale up.

    “You have to remember that after the break-even point, these technologies will be cheaper [than conventional alternatives],” he said. “We need to think of the support they receive as an investment.””

    • Axel says:

      Lazarus wrote:
      “Roger, I’m not saying that wind isn’t more expensive.”


      Yes you did …
      Comment by Lazarus October 9, 2011 @ 11:59 am

      “The cost of electricity generated from wind is now at record lows….. below EUR 50/MWh ($68/MWh). This compares to current estimated average costs of $67 per MWh for coal-fired power and $56 per MWh for gas-fired power. ”

      Weasel words my friend. You don’t even remember what you wrote just a few hours previously, yet it is there for all to see. You constantly make elementary Aristotelean errors of logic in your arguments and the details are often unfounded and unempirical.

    • Lazarus, you can make any advances you like in wind technology, but this will not change the behavior of the wind itself. You will still have built devises for producing 0.0% energy at low wind speeds, at great cost, in resources, and land footprint.
      And no, there is no significant way of storing scaled up energy from them.
      …Hopefully your wind energy costings will include full compensation for every householder that they are built too close to, (when built onshore.) And allows for the maintenance disasters offshore, yet to happen, when this ongoing over-scaled experiment, runs into ‘unforeseen’ difficulties.

      • Lazarus says:

        No one is suggesting exclusive wind power. All power sources are variable but because we have a grid it can be coped with. there is always wind in some areas of the UK regardless of clam weather.

        Plus wind turbines have very little land foot print since almost all the land beneath can still be used for farming, fishing etc. PV, unless mounted on roofs, can take up acres of space as do conventional power stations..

    • No Lazarus. You are wrong on both claims. There is not always wind blowing somewhere in the UK. Which is why the National Grid often records GB’s wind fleet at less than 1% of requirement. Often much less, and sometimes as low as 0.0%. (I have print outs to support this).

      The land usage footprints of wind folly, for their bases, tracks, hardstands, extra access roads, substations, and other buildings, extra overheads. Per MW is very much greater than other systems. Absurdly so.
      And the land usage required for the whole subsidy farm, is so great it is ridiculous. Preventing any meaningful contribution overall, on this small overcrowded island. And requiring farmers to work in ‘hard hat’ areas too close to the follies.

      • Lazarus says:

        I’m not wrong. What I said is factually correct. I have no reason to disbelieve what you say either but we are talking about two different things. Actually what you say could be used as an argument for covering more areas with wind farms.

        Of cours installations need access. All new installations will, regardless of type, but not necessarily access roads.

        The same goes for substations and pylons. This country has failed to invest in the Grid for generations. It makes perfect sense to spend at least a proportion of any future investment on alternative energy since they will be competitively priced within a decade or two and eventually cheaper than conventional types. This is simple logic.

        If what you say about farmer and hardhats is true so what? Plenty of hard working people wear them daily. But you almost sound as if they are being built without land owners consent. The landowners, farmers or not, will be compensated even if they have no actively encouraged they erection themselves

      • Sorry you are wrong again Lazarus. They are being proposed in this region for crown lands. Farmed by tenant farmers. And opposed by those same farmers. Too close to their homes, and using the land they farm….’so what?’……That’s what.

        With regard to the footprints of turbines. Can I suggest a simple experiment? Use google earth, satellite images of turbine bases (and the tracks and hardstands, which serve no purpose other than going to the turbine from the nearest road. save this view into photoshop, or some such. Do the same with a powerstation at the same scale (I suggest gas, as we are awash with shale gas now.)
        Overlap the wind folly ground usage (usually 2MW capacity, operating at only about 22% actual loading of that, in south England.) against the gas power stations ground usage requirement (varying capacities, the one I usually use is 860MW)……..step and repeat this. See how few of them it takes, to fill the area. Note the difference in MW capacity.

  6. Or of course we could just use Shale gas, and be done with it…
    The wind is free, but are we?

  7. Hugh Davis says:

    Dear Mr Lazarus,

    The cost of constructing Chris Huhne’s proposed windmills over the next 10 years is £150 billion (including additional necessary infrastructure) yet exactly the same number of conventional power stations as now will have to remain in order for the grid to avoid blackouts when the wind isn’t blowing (which happens most often during the coldest days of winter). All of this cost has to be added to our electricity bills.

    All the sources you quote are from vested interests. Try reading some independent reports, and also John Hetherington’s “The WindFarm Scam”.

    Also you might do well to spend an hour or so browsing the 189 comments at
    many of which are from experts who really know what they are talking about.

    • Axel says:

      The cost of constructing a padded cell for Chris Huhne, much less than £150 Billion. Probably we could construct enough padded cells for all the UK eco-lunes in the Global Church of Green Sycophants, and they could generate enough electricy to run a small town, working in 8 hour shifts, on round the clock giant hamster-style wheels.

      it’s just an idea 😆

  8. Lazarus says:

    I wonder if some people engage their brains before they post? Rather than reply with any evidence that I may be in error I get;

    “All the sources you quote are from vested interests.”

    My sources being a respected News organisation and Peter Lund of the Helsinki University of Technology’s Advanced Energy System Department – what would he know?.

    This is followed by;
    “Try reading some independent reports, and also John Hetherington’s “The WindFarm Scam”.”
    and a link to a blog from a retired weather man went on a speaking tour arranged by the organization “Climate Sceptics”.

    No bias there then? You really could not make this stuff up.

    But £150 Billion over the next ten years seems very expensive especially since any policy only has wind generation as a fraction of overall generation. I can not believe such a claim without evidence, perhaps Mr Davis can furnish some or Roger knows something of the budget and how much other generation mixes and their infrastructure mightcost?.

  9. Hugh Davis says:


    I hold a degree in electrical engineering from Imperial College, and I can assure you that John Hetherington’s book is sound in every technical detail.
    I might also point out that universities do not permit students to use Wikipedia as source material for very obvious reasons, so perhaps you shouldn’t either!.
    With regard to the wattsupwiththat website, if you bothered to fo look it up you would see that it prints summaries of pretty well all research on both sides of the AGW argument and leaves the bloggers to fight it out among themselves.
    Compare this with all the alarmist websites which systematically remove all the blogs they disagree with, and never ever print anything which opposes their own biased viewpoint.

    • Lazarus says:

      MrDavis says;

      “I hold a degree in electrical engineering from Imperial College, and I can assure you that John Hetherington’s book is sound in every technical detail.”

      When someone instead of giving any supporting evidence for their £150 billion claim they start a post using the ‘argument from authority’ fallacy you just know which direction it is heading.

      I can assure you that you are wrong because I am a brain surgeon, a tree surgeon and the chief of physics at CERN.

      Actually none of the above is true but you must see the problem of making such claims on a blog. So you have no way to actually verify that while I do not claim a degree from ICL, I am at least as qualified as you to judge this issue. I suspect more so since I studied renewable energy for a year for my honours degree in technology which included a feasibility study for wind turbines on Rathlin Island off the north coast of Ireland. That was many years ago now but three turbines started operation in 1992.

      “I might also point out that universities do not permit students to use Wikipedia as source material for very obvious reasons, so perhaps you shouldn’t either!.”

      So you reject the source outright even though it is fully referenced rather than just admit the point? Yet you expect me to accept yours.

      “With regard to the wattsupwiththat website, if you bothered to fo look it up you would see that it prints summaries of pretty well all research on both sides of the AGW argument and leaves the bloggers to fight it out among themselves.
      Compare this with all the alarmist websites which systematically remove all the blogs they disagree with, and never ever print anything which opposes their own biased viewpoint.”

      I am well acquainted with this site,

      So I would be interested in you linking to some ‘research on both sides’. Well just the side of the scientific academies but I doubt you will. Never mind, it is still just an unqualified blog after all.

      Never let it be said that I do not examine evidence and apply critical reasoning. I managed to get a copy of the book “The Wind Farm Scam”, assuming you mean John Etherington, rather than John Hetherington. How could any reasonable person think that such a titled publication could be ‘independent’? It was in my local library where I do some part-time work. Why pay for rubbish when you can get it for free.

      Of course I have only glanced through it so far but what struck me immediately is that Etherington is well qualified in his field of Ecology. He seems typical of the NIMBY environmental crowd, more concerned with how they think the view should look rather than technological progress. He isn’t really qualified to publish on any technology subject, nor the economics of it is he?

      The first thing that rang alarm bells is that there is a forward by the Journalist Christopher ‘Bonkers’ Booker, someone I’m also well acquainted with. This crank downplays the seriousness of asbestos, smoking and even casts doubt on Evolution. It doesn’t bode well if Etherington is relying on his approval.

      Chapter one looks like a fair introduction to wind power but it all seems about a decade out of date and he seems unnecessarily pedantic like saying “‘wind turbine generator’ is actually not a turbine because it dos not have many blades nor a shroud”.

      Even at a glance Chapter two has problems however. You did claim a degree in electrical engineering so how come you did not notice Etherington saying that all generators, including individual wind turbines, have to reach exact synchronism with the 50 Hz grid before a mechanically switched connection is made? This is wrong as modern electronics does away with any such problems. I wouldn’t expect an ecologist to know this but if he is going to publish it in a book shouldn’t he at least get it reviewed someone who is qualified?

      I haven’t got past Chapter two but I did look at the Epilogue and when listing his options for the future of electricity generation he appears to admit in option 3 that wind power is a proven resource and could be a major electricity supply for the UK, he just doesn’t like it, presumably for ecologically reasons.

      Are you still claiming that your recommendations are ‘independent’? Perhaps they should run some courses in critical thinking at ICL.

  10. Roger.
    At last, an elected representative who is not conned by lobbyists and self-interest groups.

    The emissions cat is now well and truly out of the bag thanks to :-

    Inland windfactories are a dead-end … and a very expensive one.

    When you get a minute could you also start campaigning for the EU to ‘claw back’ every pound of farm subsidies given to those landowners who are now taking a second huge taxpayer-subsided income from disfiguring the landscape for personal profit ?

  11. Lazarus says:


    I have tried your ‘experiment’. Firstly off shore wind, which accounts for most of the UKs installed capacity has no significant ‘foot print’ at all.

    I went to Wikipedia and found a List of onshore wind farms in the United Kingdom;

    I quickly pasted the coordinates of the first 10 sites into google maps;

    I could only see a substantial wind farms for the 9th and 10th entries, both in Cornwall. I think my point is proven.Enter 50°21′05″N 05°01′48″W for example. There is clearly access to each turbine but not exactly an ‘Access road’, more a dirt track. Little else looks significant.

    Then look at my nearest power station, Ratcliffe-on-Soar in google maps;
    52.865268°N 1.255°W

    I see the cooling towers from this every day and I know which one I’d rather have a view off.

    • Xenophon says:

      Ratcliffe is 2000MW, morning noon and night, if needed.

      A ‘2MW’ wind turbine is 500kW on average (and is produced when the wind blows, which is not necessarily when power is needed).

      Hence Ratcliffe = 4000 2MW wind turbines

      I know which I’d rather have a view of.

      • Lazarus says:

        The point is that there isn’t anywhere in the country that any one could ever see that many turbines. I certainly don’t mind seeing a few and much more attractive than Ratcliffe.

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