An Ill Wind

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By Steve Campbell  October 15, 2017

“But it’s an ill wind blaws naebody gude.”  Rob Roy, Sir Walter Scott

A brief look behind the facade of wind-generated electricity.

In driving 130,000 miles in about 16 months, this reporter has seen windmills in States from California to New York, from Texas to Wyoming.  There were multiple passes by most of them.

PalmSpringsWindmill_Highway3Figure 1: Windmills Ransacking the Majestic Beauty of the Palm Springs Desert 

Photo Credit Steve Campbell 2017

No statistics were kept and only an intelligent guess can be made how often idle windmills were seen.  That number would be about 15%.  Add to that about 25% when the things are operating at noticeably quite slow – but steady – speeds.  A small but significant percentage (say 2%) of idleness was during near-gale-force wind conditions.  For example in Wyoming, when this driver  had to pull his empty trailer off of Interstate 80 to avoid a blow — over.  All the windmills passed while struggling to maintain my lane had been quite noticeably motionless.  And with good reason — they would otherwise tear themselves to pieces in the gusting, shifting winds.

And you can tack on another 5% when, in very low wind conditions when some mills are moving, some not and some barely creeping around.  That tells me that only the blades are turning — disconnected from the generators – and not one Watt of electricity is being produced.  I can only assume (but not prove) that this is a public relations ploy to make it seem like the taxpayers are getting something for all the subsidies.  Overall, my estimates were consistent with the researched usage number of 31% found in an article entitled “The True Cost of Wind Electricity” – by Planning Engineer and Bud Istvan [1]

There was also a months-long period when a field of an estimated one hundred completed windmills near Amarillo, Texas was seen (in repeated passes) to stand idle.  This happened even in steady wind conditions while another set of mills just down Interstate 40 were spinning along quite well.  Your humble narrator puzzled over that for a long time.  Why would they not connect these machines up to the power grid as each was completed and thereby start generating a return on investment?  Everything happens for a reason.  But, any logic behind this idleness of hundreds of millions of dollars in capital assets escaped me.

The answer became obvious just recently in the same article cited above [1].

Warren Buffet wind farms are receiving $253 million of annual (Hey, People! – “Annual” means EVERY YEAR!) tax credit from “Iowa wind generation on an investment of $5.6 billion (2953 MW * 0.31CF * 8766 hr/year *$31.5/MWh). BH’s effective tax rate last year was 31%. Those wind credits are equivalent to earning (253/0.31) $816 million on his $5.6 billion wind investment — 15% return before any operating profit from selling electricity”

“….we get a tax credit if we build a lot of wind farms. That’s the only reason to build them. They don’t make sense without the tax credit.  —  Warren Buffet””

The answer was that these windmills (Warren Buffet’s or not) had already generated a return on investment in the form of an annual tax credit   before a single kilowatt was produced.  So, schedule construction and receive the tax credit immediately.  Worry about power transmission capacity later.

Note that “Wind” as capitalized in this report refers to electric generation by that source.  Likewise, for Coal and Natural Gas

Big Wind is still trying to say that it is cheaper than Coal. (1) 

To summarize how they try to maintain this fiction:

Including tax credits and incentives as income that will continue indefinitely

Assuming a much longer lifetime for windmills than actually exists.

Including a nonexistent “carbon tax” (it was not passed) applying to Coal and Natural Gas.

Assuming an unrealistically high usage rate. (35-38 % instead of 31%)

Payments to Wind utilities for generation that they could have done, but did not because of low demand.

But, they still can’t manage to make up enough excuses to say they can compete with Natural Gas.

Just in Terms of Raw Materials, Wind Loses (Big Time) to Natural Gas

Wind uses 153 times as much steel per unit energy generated and 32 times as much concrete [Green Energy Revolution Folly].  Do the numbers cited by Big Wind include the cost in labor and “carbon” in the fossil energy used to production of those resources?  Greens are very quick to say “leave it in the ground” when it comes to Petroleum or Coal.  Wind uses grotesquely large amounts of steel and concrete for the amount of energy produced.  News for Greens: Both of those also come out of the ground!  And they are mined, refined and transported by Petroleum and Coal!


Bird and Bat Carnage

The Spanish Ornithological Society (birdwatchers) reviewed actual carcass counts   in 136 monitoring studies (2012).  Those results indicate that Spain’s 18,000 windmills are killing six to ten million birds and bats* per year. Swedish and German studies confirm that. [3]

I have extrapolated to the updated (2016) DOE statistics.  The 77,000 wind turbines currently operating in the US may be responsible for 27 to 42 million birds and bats killed per year.  — SC

ExxonMobil was cited in 2009 for killing 85 birds in facilities in five states [4].  The fines assessed were over seven thousand dollars per bird.  Applying the same rate of penalty to the Wind Industry will bankrupt it.  But, not to worry, the Obama administration gave Wind a thirty year “get-out-of-jail-free card”.  No fines will be forthcoming.  So much for equal justice.  ExxonMobil spent a few million and made some changes to stop killing birds.  The only change Wind can make is to stop the turbines.

Bird and bat kill estimates from the Wind Industry are much smaller and for several obvious reasons.  The “kill radius” is still considered 200 feet, despite the fact that they are makng bigger and bigger turbines that throw the dead and wounded animals outside that radius.  Surveys of carnage take place only once every 30-90 days while scavengers destroy the evidence.  Wounded animals are not counted.  And now, the bird mortality rates (and presumably that of bats as well) are considered the property of the windfarm owners – not public domain[3].

WindmillBladeCompositeFigure 2: Windmills have now reached a size limit imposed by transportation considerations.  This blade is 116 feet long – over twice as long as a standard semi-trailer. It is just barely possible to move these on any roads other than rural Interstates.  A composite photo was made because it would not fit in the camera’s field of view.  Photo Credit Steve Campbell 2017


Figure 3:  A red kite (Spanish cousin of the eagle) is down hard.

Photo courtesy  of and

Falsely Accused

Greens will point to domestic cats as being “far worse” killers of birds.  They gloss over the fact that – to make a local example – my tuxedo cat has brought me a few (very common and prolific) mocking birds and once a blue jay, but he never dragged an eagle carcass up to my back door. He’s never come up with a bat either, despite the fact that they hang out (no pun) around here.

Back Camera
Fig, 4.  I’m not guilty, I tell you!  Get those cameras out of here!

*Just to be clear: You may not like bats, but they eat the insects that would otherwise consume agricultural yields.  That includes non-food crops like cotton and so-called “Green crops” like corn for ethanol.  In fact, some farmers cultivate bat colonies for that very reason.


Wind power is not economically feasible without taxpayer subsidies.  Any pretense otherwise is disingenuous in the extreme.  Or would you call Warren Buffet a liar?

Wind uses an excess of construction resources compared on a per-energy-unit basis to other forms of generation.  Those resources are mined, processed and transported with “fossil fuels”.  Nothing is wrong with Petroleum or Coal in my opinion, but the whole excuse for Wind power was to avoid fossil fuels.  They have “missed the mark”.

The turbines kill substantial amounts of large, protected birds and bats as well. No remediation is forthcoming and no fines (a la ExxonMobil) will be assessed.

Is this really the way we want to generate electricity?

Author Credit

Steve Campbell is a Geophysicist (a Genuine Scientist) and has studied this stuff for decades.  Read his articles and contact him at

0. Ill Wind:

  1. Engineer and Istvan – The True Cost of Wind Energy:
  2. Jeff Ausubel – Green Energy Revolution Folly:

  1. Save the Eagles International (Bird and Bat Carnage):

  1. Department of Justice: (ExxonMobil fines):

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