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 hominemFrom 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."
Straw manFrom 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-sequiturFrom 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.
A deductive argument based at least one wrong premiseA deductive argument can consist of several premises from which a conclusion can be drawn. If the premises are correct the conclusion must follow.
One wind power opponent wrote to me that wind power was unviable because wind turbines require oil. He didn't explain further, but from other similar claims it seems that the reasoning goes something like this:
I suspect that I hardly need point out to the reader that the second premise is quite false, therefore the conclusion does not follow.
A more valid conclusion is close to being the opposite of the claimIn fact since coal is needed to make the steel of turbine towers, petrochemicals are needed to make wind turbine blades and lubricating oils are needed for wind turbines to be operated we have excellent reasons to reserve the world's remaining fossil fuels for high-value uses such as these rather than burning them.
Simply wrongPerhaps most of the invalid arguments made by opponents of wind power are invalid because they are plain wrong.
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.
One of the most absurd arguments that wind power opponents use is the claim that wind turbines don't reduce CO2 emissions. The amount of electricity generated in a power grid must always equal the amount being consumed, so when wind turbines put power into a grid other generators, often fossil-fuelled, generate less; so less fossil fuels are burned. I've discussed this subject elsewhere in greater depth. Also, quoting from Scientific American:
"Wind Power Proves Effective CO2 SaverThe piece was written by Paul Brown and dated on October 22, 2013.
Examples of a few specific invalid arguments used agains wind power
Wind power replaces coal powerA 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 healthThere 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.
Rare earths and environmental damageRare 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
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.
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.
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?
Then neither is it justifiable to say, as has been said many times, "If Australia was to reduced its emissions it would impact our economy but would not solve the climate change problem".
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.
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 probability 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."
Backup power and emissions
Emissions and backup power
Health and wind turbines
Some absurd arguments
Types of invalid arguments
Wind replaces coal
Wind turbines generate power most of the time