Wind Energy Development in other countries – An Overview

Given that the Irish Government proposes to develop 28,000MW and beyond of wind-derived electricity in Ireland over the coming years,  it surely behoves policymakers here to look at the experiences of other countries with regard to wind energy development.

I have been researching the experiences of Australia, Canada, Denmark and Germany  in this regard and in many respects, the experimentation with wind power in each of these countries has been an unmitigated social and financial catastrophe, the sole benefactors invariably being the Developers. Billions of taxpayer’s money has been squandered in these countries; electricity bills have skyrocketed as customers pay absurdly inflated prices for inefficient and unreliable wind power which still has to be backed up by fossil-fuel energy; clusters of debilitating health symptoms which are consistent internationally seem to follow the wind turbines; residents have been forced from their homes in all of these countries; non-existent environmental benefits as highlighted by peer-reviewed research and communities severed as neighbour turns against neighbour by the leasing of land to Developers to erect turbines.

In all of these countries, the wind power saga is a tale of greed and phony environmentalism overpowering rural interests.  However, the tide is turning as some of these countries have now openly acknowledged the many problems wrought by their renewable energy transitions.  Last year, the German Minister for Economics and Energy, Sigmar Gabriel admitted that Germany’s Energiewende Project had come with a hefty price tag for consumers. He spoke of how close Germany was to “the failure of the energy transformation” and stated “The truth is that in all fields we under-estimated the complexity of the Energiewende” (Der Spiegel Online, 25th Oct, 2013)  .  The German wind industry received 23.6 billion euro in subsidies in 2013 and yet CO2 emissions from that country increased  that same year.  Today, after two decades of reckless and aggressive expansion of wind power, Germany looks like this;

In Denmark, the Danish Economic Council has stated “The wind power expansion in the 1990’s is an example of a policy that was unprofitable from society’s point of view, even taking the economic advantages that the wind industry enjoyed into consideration” (DORS 2006, P.14).  Taxes and charges on electricity for Danish household consumers make their electricity by far the most expensive in the EU (OECD, CEPOS Wind Energy-The case of Denmark, 2009).   These taxes and charges stem from the substantial subsidies which have been directed to the Danish wind industry over the years.  From 2001 to 2005, for example, the yearly subsidy was 1.7-2.6 billion DKK and the subsidy per job created was 600,000-900,00 DKK ($90,000-$140,000). Furthermore, the arrival of wind power in Denmark has done nothing to replace the need for thermal plants that can deliver secure and cheap district heating. The Copenhagen Post newspaper published comments by retired High Court Judge, Peter Roerdam on the wind energy industry on the 16th November 2012; “Wind Power is an industry which has thoroughly corrupted the political system in Denmark”.  Back home, Fianna Fáil tell us that they are looking to the Danish Model of wind energy development to inform their policy in this regard.  Fianna Fáil will be interested to know that although Denmark generates 19% of its electricity demand from wind turbines, because wind is so highly intermittent, wind power meets as little as 5% as Denmark’s annual electricity consumption! (CEPOS Paper 2009, Wind Energy – The Case of Denmark).

In Australia, a Literature Review  which purported to show that wind farms do not represent a threat to human health was discredited in the Australian Federal Parliament on June 17th of this year.  It has recently been unearthed that the author of this Literature Review had been working with and for the Wind Industry.

Furthermore recently published peer-reviewed research in Australia concurs with empirical observations made in the UK (Prof. Gordon Hughes), Germany and Ireland (Dr. Fred Udo, Joe Wheatley) that wind energy is not decreasing CO2 emissions to any appreciable extent but is also placing the continued operational security and reliability of electricity grids under strain.  Paul Miskelly’s paper ‘Wind Farms in Eastern Australia – Recent Lessons’ published by Energy and Environment 2012 made clear that wind energy technology on the Eastern Australian Grid has been a colossal failure in terms of meeting its stated objective and he has recommended that currently-misguided policy strategies by Governments in this area need to be urgently reviewed.

In Canada, a new Documentary ‘Down Wind’ deals with how politicians in Ontario rammed through Green Energy Laws and dashed forward with the installation of thousands of wind turbines across the provinces farmland and countryside.  This Documentary clearly portrays how the Green Energy dream has turned into a nightmare in Ontario.  It was only in 2012 after many families had already been driven from their homes that Health Canada finally announced that it would conduct a Wind Turbine Noise and Health study.

Given the hard lessons that other countries have learned from embracing wind energy development, the question is why the Irish Government are intent on making the same mistakes? “From the errors of others, a wise man corrects his own” (Pubilius Syrus).  As our policymakers refuse to learn from the lessons of others, they are condemned to repeat other’s mistakes.

Written by Caitriona Cullinane