The Great Windmill Scam

Published March 1, 2000

Not all Scandinavians are enamored with wind energy. What follows is an edited version of a stinging indictment by Iens Elliott Nyegaard, originally published in the Swedish journal Elbranchen (June 1999) and due for publication in the Danish Engineering Society weekly Ingenioren.

The emperor’s new machines

by Iens Elliot Nyegaard

The Danish 1968-generation introduced the Great International Windmill Scam. this whirling craze, a luxury-consumption of capital, energy, raw materials, and valuable landscapes. Then it was just a matter of cult objects for pseudo-religious fringe groups.

Costly, unpredictable, unreliable generation of a few kWh is of no importance to windmilling’s political instigators. They want to set up highly visible political symbols. Symbols telling the less knowledgeable, “See, your courageous politicians are saving you” from wholly imaginary dangers! Behind this shameful play-acting they then fleece the populace with new “green taxes.”

The windmill industry is the cuckoo’s chick of Danish industry–totally and fatally dependent upon the subsidies set off for the erection of political symbols. This has been clearly pointed out by the advisor to the Danish government, the Norwegian environmental economist, Professor Finn R. Forsund of Oslo University, in an interview printed in Politiken 2/1/95.

Not one windmill in the world can show accounts–honest accounts–in black. All run on subsides, rather than on wind.

Windmilling rests–unstably–on four basic, false premises:

  • “Windmills can replace other forms of electricity generation.” No, never. If you build for a certain effect from windmills, you must, at the same time, build for precisely the same effect from conventional power stations–which you then must keep idling, ready for immediate cut-in when windmills fail. And fail they do. Not even in the very windiest positions does any windmill give more than a third of installed effect–a fourth is the average.
  • “The windmill is the decentralized power supply of “the little man.” No. International capital and politically favored investors score the profits.
  • “Windmills save us from an energy crisis.” Nonsense. The world has available energy for all future needs. All so-called “energy-crises” are made by politicians.
  • “Windmills will help to prevent a climate catastrophe caused by CO2”. Rubbish. In the best case, the CO2-talk is an unproven theory. Increases in the CO2 content of the atmosphere may be seen as beneficial to the world.

Apart from wastage of capital, energy, and raw materials, windmilling wastes a finite resource: valuable landscapes. People who have windmills forced upon them are robbed both of intangible—quiet, views–and tangible possessions. Nothing stops infrasound, which according to topography and air conditions–temperature and humidity–can spread for miles.

Property values are reduced through a de-facto expropriation–to make way for private profits–without legal possibilities of redress. Leading North German property agents went public in the autumn of 1997 to state that the general property value drop in windmill-hit areas is 20 to 30 percent. Similar reports have come in from the UK and Denmark.

Since 1945, there has been a European consensus on an overriding planning principle: Coasts, high ground, and certain valuable landscapes shall be kept free of industry. True industries, on which hinge our welfare, are given special industrial zones. A political need for windmills as political symbols has caused this sound principle to be increasingly disregarded.

Windmills are often placed in areas with a weak electricity distribution net, which then is forced to accept a local, unpredictable electricity generation. Net and transformers must be strengthened–an expensive business. Electricity producers and distributors, who are forced by law to pay for windmill-electricity, have huge extra costs of close onto [$250 million] annually! The loss to Germany is about [$125,000] per windmill per year . . . and there are now over 7,000 windmills in that country. These losses correspond closely to calculations for the UK, Denmark and Sweden.

Non-green, true nature-conservancy groups have taken up the fight against subsidy-windmilling. In Germany, Bundesverband Landschaftsschutz assists more than 300 local “Citizens Initiatives” against the terror. In the UK, Country Guardian, Campaign for the Protection of Rural Wales, The National Trust, and many local committees stand up together against the rape of the landscape. Over 80 percent of new applications are stopped by them.

In Denmark, we now have Windmill Neighbors, very active. In Sweden, local initiatives have come together in the Swedish Landscape Protection Society, which had over 5,000 members after its first month of existence, and many more now.

Windmilling turns our best landscapes into ultra-low productivity industrial landscapes–all for the sake of the erection, at our cost, of superfluous political symbols intended to advertise a perverse policy directed against us.

S. Fred Singer is president of the Science and Environmental Policy Project.