More Windmill Madness

"Giant wind turbines with blade spans that dwarf the London Eye could be the shape of future green power, it has been disclosed."

So declared several of our so-called newspapers, when they each printed the same press release recently.

These giant technological marvels, based upon 9th century technology, more than 500 feet tall and with a diameter of 475 feet, will be making an appearance to a shoreline near you within the next two years.

A question which immediately springs to mind is, how much electricity will be generated by these monsters?

The answer is absolutely underwhelming - 10 Megawatts each. Except that a wind turbine, on average, is only 25% efficient. So while, nominally, one of these turbines should be able to power 25,000 homes, in reality it will only power 6,250 or so.

Even were wind turbines 100% efficient, the numbers above are still pitifully small. The generating capacity of the UK is around 80 Gigawatts. That's 80,000 Megawatts. We would need, therefore, 32,000 of these in order to replace our end of life coal, gas and nuclear generating capacity.

Not to mention that the amount of CO2 used in the production of a windmill is never recouped through its useful lifetime. So even if CO2 were a greenhouse gas, and even if it were beneficial for us to reduce the amount in our atmosphere, building large numbers of windmills is insane, especially considering that a single wave power barrage, such as the Severn Estuary barrage, could produce 8 Gigawatts at half the cost of the equivilent wind farms.

As stated above, wind turbines are only 25% efficient on average, and often much less so. If anything demonstrates the futility of this form of power generation it is that. It should also be noted that windmills are often the last form of generating infrastructure to be actually called into service, not only because the electricity they generate is so expensive, but also because, even in the UK, you just can't rely on the wind.