I don’t do a lot of wind energy flim flam debunking these days. I leave that to the next generation.
However, I will take up my cudgel reluctantly when my friends throw something egregious in my face. And that happened recently from several different sources: one a FaceBook post, and another from a chain email that’s circulating.
Both are bogus, but as with any good propaganda, there’s a kernel of truth to both and that’s what draws in the unsuspecting just as it’s intended to do. It works because most people won’t go beyond the photo and a line of text. It works because it has that “man bites dog” quality that reverses expectations and attracts attention.
I’ve written before about wind turbine myths and hoaxes. Here are just a few that I could find.
- I am Sick of Anti-Wind Propaganda
- Debunking Anti-Wind Myth of 14000 Abandoned Wind Turbines in California
- San Gorgonio Pass and the “Abandoned Wind Turbines” Near Palm Springs, California
Let’s start with the first that was thrown over my transom.
Clean Green Wind Turbine Hoax
This was a posting on FaceBook that showed a picture of wind turbine with oil leaking down the tower and workmen cleaning the tower. This was followed by a litany of complaints about wind turbines.
No, I am not going to repeat them here. The post was pure BS from one item to the next. I’ll just list my response. The source for much of this can be found in my last book. I know, a book, what am I thinking? They can look it up in a book.
- Wind turbines pay back the energy in their manufacture within the first 3-4 months of operation.
- Wind turbines pay for their financial cost within 7 years. They last for 20-30 years. We have wind turbines in California that have been in regular service for 37 years and they’re good for many more years.
- Most wind turbines in the USA are made in the USA, though parts for them are sourced internationally.
- Fiberglass blades can be and are being recycled. Newer blades will be easier to recycle.
- If oil reaches the ground, it becomes a hazardous waste spill and must be cleaned up like any other oil spill, like an oil leak from your fossil-fuel powered car.
- Better yet, use direct-drive wind turbines that don’t use gearbox oil.
In short, don’t believe bull shit.
Wind Turbine Blades Filling Landfills Myth
This is old stuff that’s been circulating on rightwing web sites for years. It came in as an email. The line “I don’t have time to check this out myself” is a dead tip off that you’re being astroturfed. I’ve got the same exact message now from three people. All with the same message portending “some truth” to it. (I find it interesting that these emails all use a copyrighted image that I am certain they did not pay for.)
I even got it from a friend at a reunion luncheon in my native Indiana. When I suggested he’d been astroturfed he said, “But it was on a major channel.” Then he went on to repeat pure hear-say, “I’d heard it from someone who heard it from people who worked on wind turbines in Randolph County.”
Well yes, good propaganda always starts with a kernel of truth.
And yes, blades on wind turbines have been replaced and these blades today are mammoth. Each wind turbine has three blades, so a wind farm with 100 turbines will have 300 blades and they will have to go somewhere if they’re replaced.
The photo with the email shows a landfill in Wyoming. As Scopes and others have pointed out the Wyoming landfill agreed to take the blades. They charge for the blade disposal and they use the funds to offset the cost for the rest of the landfill use by county residents. Unlike the other refuse at the disposal site, the blades are inert.
For now, the two ways to dispose of blades has been to saw them into pieces or to crush them so they are easier to handle and more compact to bury.
The goal is not to replace blades—they’re enormously expensive—and to recycle as much of the blades as possible when they must be replaced. As an industry, we’re not there yet. It’s likely that the European Union will lead the world in recycling of wind turbine blades. That process has just begun.
As noted above, there are projects in California where the wind turbines have been operating 37 years with the same blades. The blades have been periodically removed, repaired, and then returned to service.
The idea that there are tens of thousands of wind turbine blades being replaced annually is nonsense.
Here are just a few of the articles that I found googling the subject. Of course, most don’t bother and that’s the power of good propaganda.
- Wind Turbine Blades Don’t Have To End Up In Landfills
- Fact check: Wind turbine blades can be recycled, but it rarely …
- End of wind power waste? Vestas unveils blade recycling …
- How one company keeps wind turbine blades out of landfills
- Are Windmill Turbine Blades Buried in Wyoming Landfill?
- Wind Turbine Recycling – Turbine Recycling & Disposal
Replacing wind turbine blades and disposing of them when needed is not a show stopper. It’s a problem that needs to be addressed. But it’s not a show stopper. It’s not a case of “man bites dog.”