Wind energy supporters love to say “the wind is free,” because it seems so obvious and irrefutable, they believe it supports their argument that wind turbines make sense. Unfortunately, “the wind is free,” is a meaningless talking point adding nothing to the wind energy debate and it’s just one of a long series of wind energy myths, misdirections, half truths and hype we’ll deal with here.
Don’t fall for the misdirection
When someone says wind energy is better than the other options because, “after all, the wind is free,” they’re doing what any good stage magician does, he misdirects your attention.
You want electricity, not wind
Standing outside and feeling the wind on your face is easy and, in that case, the wind is free, but if you stand outside all day long, at the end of the day, you have not generated a single watt of electricity and isn’t electricity the whole point?
Wind is not electricity
Before the energy in the wind becomes electricity at your wall outlet, you’ll need to build some very large and very expensive wind turbines, you then need to lay a lot of very long, heavy duty electrical cables, you need to build an electric substation to gather together the electricity produced by the individual wind turbines and then you must connect into the grid so the electricity will be available to a utility for further distribution to people who need it. This construction project and all of the equipment that must be built and installed is certainly not “free,” it costs many millions of dollars and without it, the wind energy is not converted into electrical energy, which is what you really want. You must count those millions of dollars because unless you spend the money, all you have is wind.
Free wind will not light up our homes and businesses or run our machines and electrical equipment. The reliable, always-on electricity we need for those jobs does not occur in nature, it must be produced by applying a lot of creativity, innovation, capital equipment, labor, time and no small amount of money. Free wind is not free electricity, in fact, it’s quite expensive.
Fossil fuels are just as free as the wind
But, say the wind advocates in response, wind is there for the taking once you build the wind turbine, unlike coal and oil and other fossil fuels that need a mine or drilling rig to retrieve them. Well, what is that 300 foot tower with three gigantic blades other than a rig to retrieve the wind? The cost of retrieving fossil fuels, whether for leases or equipment, is something that needs to be invested up front, the same as with the wind. Once you’ve drilled an oil well or natural gas well, the oil and gas are there for the taking, too, or, to use the language of the wind advocates, they’re “free.”
Eliminate the nonsense and compare
Generating electricity using the wind is simply one method of producing it, it’s not magic, it requires an input of one energy source, the wind, that is converted into electricity. As a result, it can be directly compared with all of the conventional energy sources, whether fossil fuels or nuclear, that are likewise converted into electricity, so you can decide how it compares.
Our intention with this series of articles is to guide you through misleading slogans like “the wind is free,” to help you to make up your own mind about wind energy. We’re pretty confident that once you look at the facts, you’ll see wind energy as an unreliable and very expensive step into the past.