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Types of invalid arguments
Ad hominem
Straw man
Non-sequitur
Simply wrong

Examples
Wind replaces coal
Wind turbines and health
Rare earths
Social disruption
Ethical considerations

Climate change

Some absurd arguments

Invalid arguments used against wind power

Humanity must change from fossil fuels to renewable energy; no reasonable and well informed person would argue otherwise. It happens that I live in an area where there are many wind farms. In recognition of these two facts I have become an advocate for wind power.

Over the years I have noticed many of the same invalid (and often absurd) arguments being used against wind power over and over again. This page lists some of those arguments, and explains why they are invalid. Much more detail on wind power problems, alleged problems and objections is provided on another page on this site.

In any argument it is important to be able to refer to supporting evidence. When asked for supporting evidence wind power opponents usually refer to an anti-wind Internet site; never (in my experience) to a peer-reviewed science site and very rarely to a government departmental publication.

In my experience people who publicly and vocally oppose wind farms are almost always willing to lie and exaggerate, or at least use facts in a misleading way (for example, the rare earths argument, below). Any person who wants to support wind power, for the good of the planet, should be prepared for this.

This page written 2016/05/23, modified 2017/03/17
Contact: email daveclarkecb@yahoo.com (David K. Clarke) – ©
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Turbines of Cape Bridgewater Wind Farm, Victoria, Australia
Wind turbines
An argument can be invalid for several reasons; some of them are
  1. It may not address the point in question;
  2. It may contain a false premise;
  3. It can be misleading;
  4. It can be so vague and unclear as to be meaningless;
  5. It can simply be wrong.
A good explanation of valid and invalid arguments is given in The Skeptics Guide. I have taken several exerpts from that page in what is below.

A good argument will be backed-up with evidence and anyone who uses any argument should be able to provide sound evidence in support of their stance. Many, probably most, wind power opponents make claims for which they can provide no supporting evidence.

Types of invalid arguments

Ad hominem

From The Skeptic's Guide: "An ad hominem argument is any that attempts to counter another's claims or conclusions by attacking the person, rather than addressing the argument itself."

 
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This is one of the most common arguments used by wind power opponents. It is an 'argument' that avoids the point in question and attacks the person instead. Typical ad hominem argument are "I don't believe you because you must be in the pay of the wind industry" or "You are not as well educated as I am" or "You can't comment on wind turbines and health because you don't live near a wind turbine".

Straw man

From The Skeptic's Guide: A straw man argument attempts to counter a position by attacking a different position – usually one that is easier to counter. The arguer invents a caricature of his opponent's position – a "straw man" – that is easily refuted, but not the position that his opponent actually holds.

A typical straw man argument used against wind power is: "No country can run on wind power because the wind doesn't blow all the time. When the wind stops there's no electricity." I doubt that anyone has ever advocated running a country on wind power alone; that would be the only case in which this argument would be valid.

Non-sequitur

From the Skeptic's Guide: In Latin this term translates to "doesn't follow". This refers to an argument in which the conclusion does not necessarily follow from the premises. In other words, a logical connection is implied where none exists.

An example: a wind power opponent states that fossil fuels are needed to build a wind farm, therefore his case that wind power does not replace fossil fuels is proven.

Simply wrong

Perhaps most of the invalid arguments made by opponents of wind power are invalid because they are plain wrong.

For example, it has often been falsely claimed that 'the world is turning away from wind power'. Sometimes those using this argument will cite one or more wind farms that have been abandoned or decommissioned; a wind farm typically has a life of about 25 years, after which it is quite probably superseded by more efficient wind turbines. In fact the amount of wind power worldwide continues to grow by around 20% per year.

An outstanding example of someone getting it totally wrong is the case of a prominent economist who wrote a submission to a parliamentary committee claiming that it would take more than 3000 years for a wind farm to 'pay back' the carbon dioxide emissions resulting from the manufacturing of the concrete used in the turbine's footings. This figure is too high by a factor of about 60,000.

The third example I will give is the claim, used particularly by the opponents of a wind farm on South Australia's Yorke Peninsula, that wind farms are incompatible with agriculture. One of several ways in which this can be refuted is to point out that the three US states with the greatest amount of installed wind power are also the three most agriculturally productive states in that country.



Examples of a few specific invalid arguments used agains wind power

 
Rottnest Island wind turbine, Western Australia
Wind turbine
In this section I will list some of the common invalid arguments and give links to their refutation. Many other points are discussed on my page Wind power problems, alleged problems and objections.

Wind power replaces coal power

A very few years ago it was common to hear from wind farm opponents statements like "No coal-fired power station has ever been shut down because of wind power". In fact many coal-fired power stations are shutting down because with the rise of wind and solar they are no longer needed. As one example, in my own state of South Australia there was practically no renewable energy in 2002, but in May 2016 the state's last coal-fired power station shut down and we are now getting an average of around 41% of our power from wind and solar.

Wind turbines and health

There is absolutely no sound evidence that wind farms harm anybody's health; there are more than 20 reviews of the research literature showing that. In fact wind power will improve the health of populations because it will replace coal-fired power stations, the emissions from which cause millions of deaths globally each year.

One 'argument' you might come across if you point out the science about turbines and health is "So you believe that all those people who have reported to wind farm inquiries about their health problems are telling lies!". Of course this is another non-sequitur; they are drawing an unwarented conclusion. These people are more likely to be mistaken in their belief about the cause of their illnesses rather than lying; although some may well be exaggerating their symptoms.
 
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Rare earths and environmental damage

Rare earth mining in China has caused serious environmental damage. Many modern consumer and industrial devices and machines use rare earths; wind turbines are just one of these. To blame the environmental damage on wind turbines, either principally or alone, is absurd but common among wind power opponents. More information is available on another page on this site.

Backup power and emissions
Installation of wind power does not require additional backup power that then impacts emissions reductions

 
Emissions in CO2 equivalent from stationary energy in Australia
Emissions
Data extracted from Australian Greenhouse Emissions Iinformation System [AEGIS]
The claim that backup power requirements negate the emission saving of wind power is a fallacy that has been commonly used among those who are opposed to wind power; it was never convincing. No matter what type of power generation there may be on a power grid, there must always be a fall-back available; all generators, including coal-fired and nuclear, fail from time to time. There must be backup available on any power grid, whether or not that grid has wind power.

For example, there has been no increase in backup power in South Australia following the installation of substantial wind power in the years between 2003 and 2016.

Strong evidence that wind power does reduce emissions is given by the graph on the right that shows that emissions fell in SA by 29% since 2002. There were no wind farms in SA in 2002, by 2014 South Australian wind farms were generating about 37% of the state's power. The best emissions reduction performance from any other state was a decline of 8% from NSW.

The graph also shows a significant decline in Victorian emissions starting in 2012. This coincides with a doubling (from 514 to 1066 MW installed) of wind power in that state. The percentage of wind power in Victoria is much smaller than that in SA.

550 MW of installed wind power in Australia can be expected to reduce emissions by around 1.5 million tonnes per annum so it is not enough to explain the full drop in Victoria's emissions, but it would have been a contributing factor.

Social disruption

When a proposed wind farm is opposed by a group of vocal and dishonest people social conflict can result. Where there is no dishonest opposition, there is no social disruption.

For example, in my region of South Australia, there was neither social disruption nor dishonest opposition before the building of Clements Gap, Brown Hill Range, Snowtown or Wattle Point wind farms, but there was on Yorke Peninsula when the Ceres Project, which included a big wind farm, was proposed. It was opposed by a very dishonest group calling itself the Heartland Farmers.

Arguments that contradict ethical principles

An argument may be functionally or rationally valid and yet contradict ethical principles. For example, the argument that a wind farm should not be built because a few of the people who live in the vicinity don't want it, when it will be good for the region, the country and the planet, is not an argument that can be ethically upheld.


Climate change and ocean acidification

 
A wind turbine at Wattle Point Wind Farm, South Australia
Turbine and Moon
Any argument opposing wind power that does not take into account anthropogenic climate change (ACC) and ocean acidification is not a complete and sound argument. If human society does not quickly and greatly reduce our use of fossil fuels we will be condemning our children and grandchildren to living in a greatly inferior world to the one we have been privileged to enjoy.

In my experience vocal opposition to wind power almost always is accompanied by denial of climate change and ocean acidification.

It would be interesting to know whether the climate science denial follows the opposition to wind power, or the opposition to wind power is at least partly because the disbelief in ACC causes the person to not see so much need for renewable energy. Perhaps one in some cases, the other in other cases?

 
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Some absurd, ignorant or stupid arguments

Below I intend to list a few of the more ridiculous arguments against wind power that I have had thrown at me (in addition to the examples listed above, which were all based on arguments that I've heard used).

Ridiculous expectation

On discussing wind farms and health I mentioned that I lived within 15km of a wind farm and that I have slept under turbines many times and have had a good night's sleep every time. The respons was "So what? You should live in a wind farm house for six months."

Wind turbines generate power most of the time

 
Normalised generation duration curve for wind in SA
Wind farm generation
Based on a graph in the 2008 SA ESIPC annual report
Several times I have heard wind power opponents say something like "wind turbines only generate power 30% of the time".

This argument probably comes from someone hearing that the capacity factor of a wind farm is 30%. What a capacity factor of 30% means is that a wind farm that can generate a maximum of, say, 100 MW will, on average, generate 30 MW. A little thought will then tell us that if it generated power only 30% of the time it would have to be either generating at 100% power or not generating at all; never generating at half power, two-thirds power, a quarter power; plainly absurd.

The graph on the right shows the percentage of the time when total wind farm output in SA exceeds a given percentage of installed capacity. For example, it shows that 10% of the time South Australian wind farms are producing about 55% of installed capacity and 60% of the time they are producing about 18% of installed capacity.

South Australian wind farms are generating power far more often than they are not generating power.

Finally, I should say that the average capacity factor of Australian wind farms is closer to 35% than 30%; excellent by world standards.


Wind power alone; energy storage

A wind turbine opponent on Facebook, May 2016: "Ask yourself this. If you were on a life support machine how would you like it to be powered?"

Implying, on no basis whatsoever, that if there is wind power there cannot be any other sort of power. I pointed out that in the real world wind could be combined with solar PV, solar thermal, biofuels, hydro and there could be energy storage. The opponent went on to say: "There is no viable storage and probably never will be. All research so far shows it would be massively expensive and would need fossil fuels to be built."

The fact that it would require fossil fuels to be built is, of course, quite irrelevant. I remarked that Wikipedia says that worldwide in pumped hydro alone there is capacity for 127GW (that is 127,000,000,000 Watts) of power and 740TWh (that is 740,000,000,000,000Wh) of energy in storage.

Not to be put off, the opponent went on to say: "There is no viable storage for industrial wind energy."




Index

Ad hominem
Backup power and emissions
Climate change
Emissions and backup power
Ethical considerations
Examples
Health and wind turbines
Non-sequitur
Rare earths
Social disruption
Simply wrong
Some absurd arguments
Straw man
Types of invalid arguments
Wind replaces coal
Wind turbines generate power most of the time
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