Zero Return: Intermittent Wind & Solar Devour More Energy Than They Can Ever Return

Sunset and calm weather have been with us since the dawn of time; wind and solar power have existed for barely a generation, and only as a result of massive subsidies.

The notion that modern economies can operate around the vagaries of the weather and time of day is, of course, patent nonsense.

The factory owner sets their work program around-the-clock, rather than wind speeds and isn’t particularly interested in waiting for the sun to rise to a point that means they might receive a little solar power. Nor are they keen on shutting down operations when the sun drops over the horizon. No, the Industrial Revolution was just that. And it came about when engineers harnessed thermal power as high pressure steam, thanks to the superior energy density of coal.

Civilisation never looked back. Although, renewable energy rent seekers and the climate cult that follows and slavishly supports their profiteering antics would merrily send us back to the pre-steam age.

The short point is that weather-dependent power generation sources have never provided meaningful power; and they never will.

Notwithstanding their backers’ hollow promises, wind and solar have managed to consume vast amounts of taxpayer’s dollars and enormous volumes of the world’s scarce resources. Which begs the question, is wind and solar really worth it?

In a two-part essay, Jay Lehr provides an answer; and that’s a definitive negative.

Wind and solar weaknesses — Part I
Jay Lehr
19 May 2020

So-called “Green energy” threatens our culture, our freedoms and our pocketbooks, yet provides no net electricity to our electrical networks. Zero-Zip-Nada. They remain a Green delusion.

A bold statement, yes? Bolder still is the fact that wind and solar power plants are more efficient when they are not running and are the most efficient and eco-friendly when:

  • They are never bought, never installed, and never operated because they produce little or no net electrical power for a community’s electrical network, called the grid.
  • They make no significant reduction in CO2 emissions or pollution, and little reduction of fossil fuel burning.
  • For the “green-plants” already bought and installed—the best option for an electrical utility and the community is to tear them down, recycle the materials, restore the wastelands, and give your wallet and the Earth a big green smile.

Those are the tips of the “Inconvenient Fact” icebergs and are fully documented in the newly published book A HITCHHIKER’S JOURNEY THROUGH CLIMATE CHANGE by Terigi Ciccone and Jay Lehr, now on Amazon/Kindle. We will preview and substantiate these startling and other revelations in detail, after a brief sidestep to Mr. Michael Moore.

THE DAMAGE STARTS. Michael Moore, of all people and a lifelong champion of humanity and the environment, has exposed the eco-charlatans in his newly released documentary PLANET OF THE HUMANS. This is a five-star, must-see movie destined for at least one Oscar. In the process, Michael plants many gut-wrenching images in our psyche.

First, is the vast and extensive damage done to our environment and the Earth’s bio-system to land strip, mine, produce, transport, install and operate these solar and wind plants. We start with preparing the installation sites, where thousands of acres of trees are cut, and the landscape razed. They bulldoze hills down and fill over the valleys and streams. That is bad enough for the installation site, but….

  • But then, Michael pulls the curtain further back and attacks our senses with the stark images of the ecological and biodiversity damage paid just to build these devil-machines. Open-pit mines gouged deep into the Earth all over the world to extract the steel, aluminum, copper, and other minerals needed for these solar/wind plants. Hundreds of tons of cement produced to anchor the base of the hundreds of 300 to 500-foot towers and their 300-350 foot long wingspans.
  • Untold tons of Earth and rocks are blasted with thousands of kilos of dynamite to extract a few kilos of rare earth metals. Solar panels are not made from sand, as they lead us to believe, but precious and purest quartz that will need hundreds of tons of coal to make solar cells.
  • In a two-minute segment, Michael puts before our eye the millions of tons of coal, oil, and gas that are burned to mine, process, and transport the raw materials into solar and wind components. All of them emitting billions of tons of CO2 and pollution. Will these solar/wind plants ever recover the electrical energy that it took to Just build them? Most probably not, as detailed by C. Le Pair, in his article “Windmills increase fossil fuel consumption and CO2 emissions,” Oct 2011.
  • You will never see the destruction of animals and the bio-system going on in these remote sites all over the world, or on a guided media/political/school-sponsored tour of your local electric installations. The hundreds of birds, bats, and eagles killed by the turning blades will be picked up before you arrive. But most egregious is that they will not show you the fossil-fuel power plants, hidden from view, that are needed to back up the intermittent, unreliable, and expensive solar and wind plants 100% of the time.

THE DAMAGE DOESN’T STOP. Most plants will never reach the advertised 20-year useful life but averaging in the 12 to 15-years. But then, what, repeat the above costs and destruction to replace these monstrosities? The choices are few, and none are good. Let us peek into our crystal ball:

  • Replace the machinery? As a minimum, we must tear down all the working components, haul them away, load them on ships. What then, drop them into the oceans, releasing the toxins where one sees them? Or burn more fossil fuels to detox the egregious parts, recycle some parts or find a developing country desperate enough to take them in exchange for a few dollars.
  • Tear everything down? Or, having seen the futility of the enterprise, do we tear everything down? Spend countless more tons of fossil fuels to break the many tons of steel-reinforced concrete, meltdown the metals, recycle the plastics and fiber materials, and haul away the debris, but to where?
  • Abandon it and walk away? All too often, we have utilities conveniently declare bankruptcy and walk away, leaving behind rusting towers like headstones on endless cemeteries or in fields scattered with broken mirrors and solar collectors?

LET’S SUMMARIZE: In this first of a three-part series, we examined the costs and environmental damage of deforestation, mining, production, transportation, and installation of these solar and wind plants. For this, we say again, thank you, Michael Moore, for opening our green eyes, and wish you success with this outstanding movie. Alarmingly we got a hint that after these costs, fossil fuels burned, CO2 released, and eco-damage, these machines may not even produce the energy that it took to build and install.

In the next segment, we dive deep into the science, engineering, economics and environmental impact of their operation and maintenance and see what the benefits at the end of the tunnel are, if any.

Spoiler alert, we find a rule of thumb instead:


Weaknesses of wind and solar: When science and reality clash — Part II
Jay Lehr and Terigi Ciccone
25 May 2020

In Part One we established a Rule of Thumb for electrical engineering which states: All Solar and Wind Power on an Electric Grid Must Be Backed Up With an Equal or Greater Amount of Fossil Fuel Power Running on Standby 100% OF The Time.

There are those who claim that one day these intermittent sources will be backed up by batteries, which is the claim of the solar plant to be built in the Mohave Desert 30 miles NE of Las Vegas. In a future article we will explain with simple arithmetic why this can never happen at any affordable costs based on the laws of physics. For now we want to address the claims that have lead to the distorted interest in solar and wind power.

Daily academia, the press/media, the CO2 industry, and politicians sound the alarms with headlines screeching:

  • Global Warming threatens humanity.
  • The Green New Deal will save the planet.
  • Anthropogenic CO2 is melting the polar Ice, threatening NYC, and Miami.
  • Global Warming will destroy humanity and the planet in 12-years.
  • Stop carbon now; ground the jets and no more cows.

But when science and reality bite, they bite hard. The field of energy has never had a shortage of folks with crazy ideas. We have all heard stories of supposed perpetual motion machines, but most of us are smart enough to recognize that they do not and can not exist. However, because we all also see the wind blowing and the sun heating, it appears that gaining useful energy from them should be both possible and relatively inexpensive. After all we have long used the wind to sail boats and grind grain and the sun to heat a multitude of things. Producing electricity however with an intermittent source of power is another thing that very few people understand. Those who are proposing such power tend to benefit from the government subsidies given by politicians who have absolutely no understanding of how power plants must work.

French writer and philosopher Voltaire had a crisp way of cutting through the fog of self-deception and self-aggrandisement. He said, “I always make one prayer to God, a very short one, ‘O Lord, make our enemies quite ridiculous!’ God granted it.” Yet it seems we will be forever battling a great deal of this ridiculous ignorance. This three part series will hopefully strike a blow for common sense about energy production with little need to tax a readers understanding of math or engineering. The production of electricity is complex when one needs to understand how a generator creates electric power but it is simple when we just leave the machinery where a turbine is turned inside magnetic coils.

So here are some headlines that are not covered by the shrilling media:

  • Renewables Threaten German Economy & Energy Supply, McKinsey Warns In New Report: Forbes, 5 September 2019 by Michael Shellenberger. A new report by consulting giant McKinsey finds that Germany’s Energiewende, or energy transition to renewables, poses a significant threat to the nation’s economy and energy supply.
  • Windmills increase fossil fuel consumption and CO2 emissions, Article by C. LePair details the many misunderstandings using the Amsterdam-Schiphol 500 MW combined-cycle fossil-fuel plant plus a 100MW windmill plant. Over a typical one-year operation, it reduced fossil-burn by 4.5% with no reduction in CO2. But increased maintenance costs:
    • The often-used 20-year life cycle for a windmill is more likely 12 – 15 years
    • Windmills are a net consumer of electricity when the wind is less than about 10 MPH, see figure 1.

  • Global WarmingPolicyFoundation, Article by Rupert Darwall, on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the disastrous British commitment to the Paris Agreement stated “While politicians flatter themselves as climate saviors the costs are borne in worsened business competitiveness and squeezed household budgets that weigh most heavily on the poorest in society. …. No other serious country will do anything quite so foolish in the name of saving the climate.”

What is happening? Where are all those benefits, they promised us? In the first segment, we introduced our rule of thumb shown at the beginning and end of this article worth repeating again: We will now use the Netherland’s Schipol wind plant as an example and walk through the significant factors to demonstrate the accuracy of our rule of thumb.

Let us first explain the two most common electric power plants. A Simple Cycle plant burns fuel, normally natural gas or coal to create steam to turn a turbine that generates electricity. A more efficient plant uses a combined cycle of a natural gas turbine and a steam turbine using waste heat from burning the gas to power a second generator.

Despite the bucolic image presented to the public/press, in reality, the substance is the fossil-fuel part assuring the delivery of the needed base-load of 500 MegaWatts. This is optimum efficiency assuring no brownouts or blackouts and with minimum CO2 and pollution. Then when the wind is blowing in the favorable speed range of 8 to 25 miles per hour (Figure 1), wind power is brought online, and the fossil fuel plant is then cycled down and modulated from its ideal 100% to just 80% to take into account the 100 Mega Watts being supplied by the wind. As the wind speed varies the fossil fuel plant output can go back and forth between 80% and 100%.

As background information, a typical Gas-Fired, Combined-Cycle, Gas-Turbine Plant, will have a thermal efficiency of around 60%, and the modern ones are approaching 70%. But when the same plant is trimmed down to the Simple Cycle mode, meaning no steam power from waste heat, the efficiency is cut by more than half, and the CO2 and pollutants go up. The steam part is eliminated in order to ensure stable output of the electric grid.

Spinning Reserve: The plant is required to maintain a constant energy output (500MW) and 50-Hz frequency, but the wind speed and forces are constantly changing, and a Combined f Cycle plant cannot react fast enough, but a Simple Cycle plant can. The Simple Cycle can cycle up and down to synchronize the output power and frequency needed by the grid (see Figure 3). But it comes with a major reduced thermal efficiency from the mid-60s to mid-20%. Thus, it increases the fossil-fuel burn and increases the production of CO2 and pollutants. To more easily understand this just think of your automobiles gasoline mileage on the open road versus stop and go city driving.

  • You will find that the electric energy industry is quite supportive of windmills. First, they sell windmills and their generators and supporting equipment. Then they sell the equipment-rich Combined Cycle plant, operating in an erratic-open cycle mode. This erratic operation stresses/consumes the most expensive spare parts at two to three times the normal rate, thus driving the spare parts sales through the roof.
  • The costs of this erratic operation quickly wipe out the reported 4.5% fuel saving dollars by many factors. Environmentally the damage is even more severe. Because, if there were no windmills, the Combined Cycle plant would operate at its peak efficiency of over 60%, thereby burning less fossil-fuel and produce far less CO2 and atmospheric pollutants.
  • The Netherlands is a small, densely populated country where much of its land has been meticulously reclaimed from the sea at great expense. Yet here we find that building this do-nothing, 100-MW wind plant has also cost it more than ten square miles of farmland.

Three strikes and you are out.

STRIKE-1) In the first segment, we demonstrated that wind or solar plants would likely never recover the energy that it took to build and install them while foisting great damage on our little blue planet.

STRIKE-2) in this second segment, we demonstrate that these green machines produce no net energy for the grid.

STRIKE-3) we demonstrated the extensive ecological damage inflicted by building these monstrosities AND adding insult to injury, with no reduction in fossil fuel burned, and with increased levels of CO2 and pollution.

Back to Michael Moore. In the latter parts of the documentary film, PLANET OF THE HUMANS, Michael and Jeff Gibbs express grave concerns about the over-population of the Earth, seven-billion and growing. They opine; we are running out of room, running out of resources, running out of farmlands, how will we ever feed our population? We are already short on water like the Colorado River never reaches the Pacific Ocean anymore. So, the discussion fades from Anthropogenic Global Warming to the Anthropogenic Population Alarm, and Michael and Jeff are ill-equipped for this discussion.

Fortunately, we are well equipped to answer the challenge. In the third and concluding segment of this series, we demonstrate how, through the magic of fossil-fuels and nuclear power, humanity has already solved the pseudo-crisis of global overpopulation. All efforts to convert to wind and solar power, while impossible in any case, would surely head the world toward the problems Moore and Gibbs so improperly fear.

We hope the world will eventually take to heart the Ciccone/Lehr Rule of Thumb which states “All wind and solar power on an electric grid must be backed up by an equal or greater amount of fossil fuel power running on standby 100% of the time”.

About stopthesethings

We are a group of citizens concerned about the rapid spread of industrial wind power generation installations across Australia.


  1. Reblogged this on ajmarciniak.

  2. Just as well I am on the way out, so old I grew up on bees wax for light. Cows in stable for heating. Besides the wood stove and heated brick for hot water bottle.

  3. Ralph Fischer says:

    Windmills were useful in the middle age. They provided power when it was needed (autumn storms came right after harvest) and the corn would not mind to wait a few days for wind.

    However they were not abandoned because there was no more wind.

  4. Reblogged this on uwerolandgross.

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