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Some facts about sWINDle Australia

One of the Wind Power Ethics pages

SWINDLE is an anti-wind power Net site. It is certainly appropriately named, it is full of lies, half truths and exaggerations and is aimed at deceiving the public about wind power. This page provides a response to some of the lies in sWINDle. If the anti-wind power lobby are fighting for right and goodness against the 'evil wind power industry', why do they resort to lies and misleading statements to make their case?

The writers of sWINDle and most of the remainder of the anti-wind power lobby are motivated by selfishness; they don't want wind turbines near them (NIMBY) and don't much care about what climate change and ocean acidification will do to the planet if we fail to adopt renewable energy.

Written 2012/10/22, modified 2013/07/08 – ©
Contact: email daveclarkecb@yahoo.com
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Introduction

I was directed by a friend to sWINDle on 2012/10/22. First impression? It is carelessly written; the first and second paragraphs on the home page are identical.

But what about the factual content of sWINDle?

Some of the lies in sWINDle

  • sWINDdle claims to support "efficient, economical, safe and environmentally friendly sources of renewable energy" and that wind power "does not fit this simple criteria" (sic). It is easy to show that sWINDle is wrong on all these points:

    • Wind power is efficient. The state of South Australia had near zero renewable electricity in early 2003; in 2012 around 26% of its electricity is being generated by the wind; practically no fuel at all is consumed to produce all that electricity – what could be more efficient than that? (More at Efficiency of wind turbines.)

    • Wind power is economical. Wind power is at present the most economical form of renewable energy; why else would so many countries be installing so much wind power? In fact, if the cost of pollution is taken into account, wind power is much more economical than fossil-fuel-generated power. (More at Cost of wind power.)

    • Wind power is safe. Wind power has an excellent safety record; there are far fewer deaths per GWh of wind energy generated than for coal, oil, LPG and hydro electricity. There is absolutely no evidence that wind turbines cause ill-health.

    • Wind power is very environmentally friendly. No emissions are produced, very little water is consumed, very little land is taken out of production, the energy used to construct a wind farm is paid back in about six months of operation, what little remnant native vegetation is damaged is replaced, and few birds are killed by turbines.


  • Wind turbines save lives, but the people of sWINDle seem not to have realised this. There have been 17 reviews of the research literature; not one of these concluded that wind turbines cause any illnesses. On the other hand, it has long been known that the emissions from fossil fuel power stations cause numerous serious illnesses and deaths. The electricity generated by wind turbines mean that less electricity need be generated by burning fossil fuels. The top medical journal, The Lancet, quantified the deaths and serious illnesses caused by burning fossil fuels in power stations.

  • Contrary to the claim of sWINDle, Wind power does significantly reduce carbon emissions. This is so obviously true that no person having any intelligence or knowledge of the power system would deny it. Electricity has to be consumed at the same rate as it is being generated. If wind-generated electricity is fed into the grid, some other electricity generation must be lessened; usually in Australia this is fossil-fuel generated electricity. At the same time as wind power in SA went from 0% to 26%, coal-fired electricity went from 42% to 25% and emissions went down.

  • "Strobe lights day and night" says sWINDle. Some wind farms have aerial navigation lights for safety, most don't. They can be slightly annoying for those who like the look of the starry night sky in the country (I am one of these), but it is hardly going to harm anyone, and unlike town lights it doesn't stop you seeing the stars. Are they left on during the day? I very much doubt it, but would it matter if they were?

  • Wind turbines are not noisy contrary to claims by sWINDle. One can easily carry out a normal conversation right beneath a wind turbine without raising one's voice at all. A wind turbine is quieter than a car travelling at 80km/hr. I have visited many wind farms and have never heard a wind turbine from a distance greater than 2.5km (correction, on 2013/07/07 I managed to just hear some turbines 3.0km away), and then only in ideal conditions, and then only in near ideal conditions (for example, if there was a car travelling on the road within 2km of me, I could no longer hear the turbines because of the noise made by the car).
     
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  • Wind turbines are not a fire hazard in spite of sWINDle's claims. There have been a total of three fires in wind turbines in Australia. None produced any property damage (apart from that to the turbines), none posed a serious risk to any people or property. The fire authorities recognise that wind turbines are far less of a fire risk than is agricultural machinery. In fact wind turbines most likely reduce the risk of bushfires by safely conducting lightning strikes to earth. (Many fires are started by lightning in Australia each year. A row of wind turbines on a ridge-top intercepts the lightning before it can set fire to the dry grass on the ground.)

  • Wind farms are not a threat to wildlife; sWINDle is wrong again. For example, the British Royal Society for the Protection of Birds is so convinced that wind power will be good for birds that they are proposing a wind turbine at their headquarters. The prominent US bird protection group, Audubon, recognise that climate change poses a far higher threat to birds that do wind turbines. Australia's Conservation Foundation (ACF) is supportive of wind power too.

  • sWINDle implies that there are aviation issues with wind power: So far as I have been able to discover, no plane has ever crashed due to collision with a wind turbine, nor due to the small turbulence created by wind turbines. Agricultural aircraft are at much greater risk from power lines, which are very hard to see.

  • Wind farms do not reduce property values. Falls in property values is another common lie perpetrated by sWINDle and the rest of the anti-wind community. There is no evidence that more than minor, temporary, reductions to property values result from wind farm construction.
If you get the impression from this page that there's not a lot of truth on the pages of sWINDle, you'd be very close to recognising it for what it is; a tissue of lies.



Limitations of 'Renewable' Energy by Leo Smith

 
Emissions intensity on the Australian NEM
Emissions intensity
Graph credit – Professor Mike Sandiford, University of Melbourne; data from the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO)
This document, on the Swindle site, claims that renewable energy cannot achieve its aims because of three shortcomings:
  1. The power density of renewables is low;
  2. Renewables are intermittent;
  3. The power from renewables is not dispatchable.
The first two of these are true, the third is arguable, but, surprisingly, they are not important in the current context; nor does the reader have to understand these concepts. What matters is, 'does it work'? Can renewable energy supply a significant proportion of the power on an electricity grid? Can it significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions? If it does work then Mr Smith's claims are disproved.

It does work.

It can provide a significant part of the electricity supply.

In early 2003 South Australia had no wind power and negligible solar power. In 2011 about a quarter of SA's electricity was coming from wind power.

It does significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The graph on the right above shows emissions intensity (EI) from the four large states in the Australian National Electricity Market (NEM) and the average for the whole of the NEM, including Tasmania. Tasmania's EI is off-scale at the bottom of this graph.

Note the very large decline in South Australia's EI; due to the introduction of wind power, and to a lesser extent, solar power; showing how effective renewable energy can be.




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