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Old 06-18-2012, 03:51 PM   #1 (permalink)
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The Math of Green Energy

I came across this article on the math behind green energy.

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The world changed from wind, solar, and biomass to oil, coal, natural gas and nuclear for good reasons of physics and math. First and foremost are the concepts of energy density and power density. The hydrocarbons and nuclear pack a massively more concentrated punch. The power of solar and wind are very broadly diffused throughout the atmosphere, so more than herculean efforts are needed to collect and concentrate it in usable forms. Hence we see solar panels and several hundred foot wind turbines spread out over square miles, and it still doesn't add up to much.
One of the interesting points is the Green Movement wants to consider the holistic approach to energy and all the factors involved. I suspect this will change their thinking... I mean in what they consider... not what they think. Facts are such a pain.

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The Milford Wind Corridor is a 300-megawatt Utah wind project with 139 wind turbines covering 40 square miles. Manufacturing the concrete to build them used 14.3 million gallons of water in producing 44,344 cubic meters of concrete. That means "each megawatt of wind power capacity requires about 870 cubic meters of concrete and 460 tons of steel." That's 32 times as much concrete and 139 times as much steel as for a megawatt produced by natural gas.
Anyone want to calculate how long the windmill has to run to recovery the energy used to make it?
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Old 06-18-2012, 06:00 PM   #2 (permalink)
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now factor in the machinery and labor involved, maintenance costs, environmental impact of both the methods the resources, and projected lifetime of each.

... because incomplete pictures are fucking useless.
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Old 06-18-2012, 06:15 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Oh, and lets not forget how much it is going to cost to recover the pollution each makes ?
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Old 06-18-2012, 06:49 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Old 06-18-2012, 06:55 PM   #5 (permalink)
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The inconvenient truth behind ANY power supply is that if you completely balance the equation (consider ALL costs and ALL benefits) in the end Green is no more environmentally friendly that ANY source of power.
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Old 06-18-2012, 07:15 PM   #6 (permalink)
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The inconvenient truth behind ANY power supply is that if you completely balance the equation (consider ALL costs and ALL benefits) in the end Green is no more environmentally friendly that ANY source of power.
I agree with the first part, that you need to look at the whole picture to make any kind of evaluation. I wouldn't go so far as to say Green is just as bad as the current traditional power plants.
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Old 06-18-2012, 08:08 PM   #7 (permalink)
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I'm a regular reader of The Oil Drum | Discussions about Energy and Our Future

Four times a week they post a rundown of articles in The Drumbeat section regarding energy from all over the internet. There have been a rash of articles lately dismissing "Peak Oil" and trying to debunk "Green" energy. The math in these articles is always non-existent or atrociously bad, and as a result, the people at theoildrum.com consistently trash these articles.

Ultimately, the source of all these articles is the oil and coal lobby which is spending millions, maybe even billions, on disinformation campaigns. I think we had a huge thread about how the conservative lobbies are trying to get rid of clean energy incentives, too.

Wind and solar have a constant EROEI (energy returned over energy invested) of between 10 and 15, which is very good and very cost efficient compared to increasing costs of production in other forms of energy production.

Production of natural gas is so high right now that the price is very depressed. So whoever is writing this natural gas puff piece is trying to boost natural gas over wind and solar. What needs to happen with natural gas is to turn it from gas to liquid so it can be used as a fuel for transport. The process is very expensive to do. It is much cheaper to use gas to fuel power plants, thus putting it in direct competition with wind and solar projects. The green movement considers pollutants as a cost, oil and coal companies do not. Hence the discrepancies.

Surpluses in gas will not last more than a decade or two, then it will get expensive again, unless demand goes down thanks to wind and solar projects.
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Old 06-18-2012, 08:44 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Ultimately, the source of all these articles is the oil and coal lobby which is spending millions, maybe even billions, on disinformation campaigns.
Wind is already producing 2.5% of world electric generation, and retail solar panel prices are as low as a dollar a watt:

Module Pricing | Solarbuzz

The carbon-based life forms (coal, gas, and oil producers) are going to see some serious competition this decade. It's no wonder they are fighting. Thing is, large scale power production is based on economics, a disinformation campaign won't change that.
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Old 06-18-2012, 08:51 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Wind is already producing 2.5% of world electric generation, and retail solar panel prices are as low as a dollar a watt
All the hardware needed to produce solar and wind energy are made using coal, oil and gas. Anyone want to guess how many windmills it would take to run a factory to produce the things needed to make solar panels and wind turbines? How many solar panels? Not practical.
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Old 06-18-2012, 08:56 PM   #10 (permalink)
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All the hardware needed to produce solar and wind energy are made using coal, oil and gas. Anyone want to guess how many windmills it would take to run a factory to produce the things needed to make solar panels and wind turbines? How many solar panels? Not practical.
Yet.

Of course we'll never come up with more viable energy sources if the coal and oil lobby keep us from investing in research.
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Old 06-18-2012, 10:43 PM   #11 (permalink)
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All the hardware needed to produce solar and wind energy are made using coal, oil and gas. Anyone want to guess how many windmills it would take to run a factory to produce the things needed to make solar panels and wind turbines? How many solar panels? Not practical.
Studies have already been done on this:

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The average EROI for all studies (operational and conceptual) is 24.6 (n=109; std. dev=22.3). The average EROI for just the operational studies is 18.1 (n=158; std. dev=13.7).
This study was from 2006: The Oil Drum | Energy from Wind: A Discussion of the EROI Research More than likely things have improved since then.

Basically, wind turbines will produce somewhere between 18 to 25 times the amount of energy it takes to produce them, this is taking into account all costs involve including manufacture, assembly, maintenance, even the cost of decommission when it gets old.

These days the energy return for oil is around 10 to 1, that is to say it takes a barrel of energy to get 10 barrels of oil. That is an average of course. Pumping oil from a land based source is the cheapest method, it only costs a barrel to get 30 barrels, but we use more oil than what is available from that source. Deep sea platforms are energy intensive to build, and pump. Ditto tar sand operations, which are very difficult to refine.

Wind is actually a more efficient source of energy. Oil though is more reliable and more easily transportable.
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Old 06-19-2012, 06:37 PM   #12 (permalink)
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All the hardware needed to produce solar and wind energy are made using coal, oil and gas. Anyone want to guess how many windmills it would take to run a factory to produce the things needed to make solar panels and wind turbines? How many solar panels? Not practical.
Vestas is one of the world's largest manufacturers of wind turbines, with expected production of 7 GW this year, or about 2 nuclear power plant's worth of average power. About 1/4 of their operations are in Denmark, which uses a lot of wind power.

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The graph shows how much energy, measured in megawatt hours, is needed to produce a wind turbine with the capacity to generate 1 megawatt per hour. In 2009, for example, the average was about 88 MWh/MW, meaning the wind turbines had to run at full speed for 88 hours to produce enough energy to make up for Vestas' production.
Source: Vestas | Wind. It means the world to us. | Sustainability

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On average over the last four quarters, Vestas facilities in Denmark succeeded in drawing more of their energy from renewable sources. The company's renewable energy use in Denmark was 95.5 percent last quarter, up from last quarter's average of 80.8 percent. Vestas facilities in Denmark used about the same amount of renewable electricity. The company's average renewable electricity use in Denmark was 100.0 percent over the last four quarters, similar to an average of 100.0 percent last quarter
Source: http://data.vestas.com/country/denmark/#

Next strawman?

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Old 06-22-2012, 05:09 PM   #13 (permalink)
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I goofed using a copy/paste from Word and forgot to convert link: Green Welfare, Green Taxes, Green Poverty. The source for much of that article is from: Power Hungry: The Myths of “Green” Energy and the Real Fuels of the Future.

There are two resources that wind farms consume that are seldom considered; land and birds.

It is not a strawman argument to consider all the aspects of an energy source. Pay back on investment is a real financial consideration.

While each part of an energy source can be analyzed and debated, it is tedious and error prone. One can summarize all the debate and avoid the spin that fossil fuel, nuclear, and solar, and wind manufactures put out in regard to their products, by looking at the final cost of energy. We have fewer factors to consider. Things like the cost of the land are factored into final cost.

Unfortunately the cost of the environmental impact of bird kills is omitted from all calculations and costs. The wind energy groups are generally excused from bird kill penalties, including the American Eagle. All other fuel sources are heavily penalized for bird kills. If this single rule were changed and wind companies were held to the same standard, it would probably stop the development of wind energy.

How Stuff Works (HSW) has an article on bird kills. They quote American Bird Conservancy’s (ABC) article, which has moved. ABC would supposedly have a bias toward saving birds and provides comparisons between other energy sources. Its jus the link is broken. The data on HSW is way out of date. ABC has new info here.

ABC’s estimate is 440,000 per year from Fish and Wild Life data, which is still old data.
Contrast that to nuclear plants that provide habitat for birds.
I think ABC is stretching on Hydro-electric power as related to birds. They have no numbers. The same is true for bio-mass.
Solar energy burns birds (think mirror farms), but the incident of injury is only about 2 per week, according ABC the sources is ‘researchers’.

Coal contributes a habitat destruction effect on birds or indirect kill. ABC has no real numbers leaving this one as mostly speculation. But, no one considers the massive habitat destruction caused by wind farms in the analysis of bird kill factors. Habitat destruction affects more wildlife than just birds.

Corta Atalaya is the largest open pit mine in Europe and once in the world: 1,200 metres (3,900 ft) long, 900 metres (3,000 ft) wide, and 350 metres (1,150 ft) deep. That converts to 0.42 sq miles or 1,087,795 m². Land use for wind farms is hard to find. The general metric given is 28 – 83 acres per megawatt, which makes it hard to compare coal and wind. The initial article refers to the Milford Wind Corridor a 300-megawatt Utah wind project covering 40 sq miles or 10,3599,524m². Just one American coal mine produces more energy than all the wind farms combined.

Cats are said to be a bigger bird kill problem than wind generators. But, how does one realistically count feral cats much less the birds they kill? I see this cat thing said often

FNC has a 2011 article on the problem in California.
WSJ has a 2012 article pointing out the legal double standard for wind companies.
The Guardian has a 2012 article with 3 references, 2 are still live.

Wikipedia provides the equations for Levelised Electricity Cost (LEC). Unfortunately government policy is not considered in the cost analysis.

What I find amazing is the failure of most people to look at the total cost and impact of wind energy. When one projects the number of wind generators needed to provide any meaningful energy source, the land and birds consumed is astounding.

Peter Ferrara is making the point in his article that historically the cost of energy has gone down as energy sources were concentrated. In the free market it has lead to better and better energy sources that reduced poverty and improved health. Now as more governments have socialized and move away from the free market, renewable energy is mandated and the free market influences removed. The result is energy costs are going up and we are reverting to the energy sources of medieval times.

He points out the health effects of primitive energy the poor are forced to use. The effect that is having in less developed countries is catastrophic. The mandated energy sources are driving energy costs up and cutting of the ability of the free market to find better and more economical energy sources.

Also, the ideas that the world is running out of fossil fuel is absurd. In the last 10 years science has increased the proven resources of natural gas, oil, and other resources. We have well over 200 years of cheap energy and America and the world’s proven energy reserves are increasing. See: Real Clear Energy.

We have time to develop alternative sources without being forced by crony capitalists and stupid politicians to use non-existent alternatives.

Whether or not to use fossil fuel still come down to CO2 and manmade global warming ideas. Anyone that reads past the glamour pieces in the main stream media knows there is no scientific consensus. And does anyone REALLY think science is done by consensus? What about the scientific method?

Getting past the agenda driven reports reveals the computer models currently in use don’t work and are so incomplete that when feed in the data we have leading up to 1800 they wildly mis-predict the last 200 years of weather. All predict massive global warming from 1800 to 2000 that never happened.

New Paper “Climate Physics, Feedbacks… – This paper points out how primitive climate research is.
Unscientific American on line chat on heat wave to cultists – blames 90s this week on AGW – Is a good example of how the main stream and agenda driven sources report events. Once lay people stop thinking prestigious science magazines are unbiased on the topic and apply common sense and start asking questions things start to unravel.
An Unpublished Law Dome Series – Lots of information. Hits on UN IPCC: “A Climategate email shows that Phil Jones asked about the omission of the Law Dome series from the IPCC illustration in the AR4 First Draft. I [Steve McIntyre] asked the same question about the AR4 Second Draft. They realized that the Law Dome graphic had an elevated medieval period and thus, including it in the graphic would – to borrow a phrase from the preparation of AR3 – would “dilute the message” and perhaps provide “fodder to skeptics”. I think this well illustrates how supposedly scientific organizations run an agenda and censor information that does not fit their agenda.
Shocker: The Hansen/GISS team paper that says: “we argue that rapid warming in recent decades has been driven mainly by non-CO2 greenhouse gases” – Even some of the strongest and best know AGW people are inconsistent. The article can only speculate on Hansen’s change. But, Henson is a biased Greener that supposedly leads objective research. Climategate blew any belief in objectivity away.

The expected useful life time of wind generators is 16 years: Daily Kos.

The original OP question: The financial pay back runs from a few months to a few years. The energy and resource pay back is longer, but within general business norms. If wind generation was profitable, time to payback even for all resources would not be a reason to avoid wind generation.

But, without governmental mandates there would be no payback for wind generation. Zero. The cost of wind generation is non-competitive. Country after country is giving up plans for wind generation. The basic Math of Green Energy just isn't working.
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Old 06-22-2012, 05:42 PM   #14 (permalink)
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The general metric given is 28 – 83 acres per megawatt, which makes it hard to compare coal and wind.

Country after country is giving up plans for wind generation. The basic Math of Green Energy just isn't working.
Your long post is full of incorrect information, but I will just mention these two points. As you can see from the photo below, wind turbines don't take up anything like multiple acres each. They use up a bit of land there the support column goes, but the rest of the swept area of the blades can still be used for farming. Offshore turbines of course use up no land at all. You just have to not build them in shipping lanes.




On your second statement, in the face of actual wind power installations tripling in the last 5 years, do you have any evidence for country after country giving it up? I see strong growth based on this graph of total installed power:

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Old 06-22-2012, 05:57 PM   #15 (permalink)
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[...]
There are two resources that wind farms consume that are seldom considered; land and birds.
really? you're going to go there?

land is a non starter... it's one of the bonuses of wind generation... not only can it be installed and still leave most of the surrounding land usable, it can be installed where the land is useless for pretty much any purpose.

as for birds, even at 100 times the previous propagation noted in the article you linked to they still fail to be as much of problem as communications towers, and newer techniques are even reducing the problems of previous versions.

the other arguements are just as specious... such as the utterly absurd notion that open pit mining is more environmentally friendly because it kills less birds? because obviously that habitat is still viable for everything else... right? and we won't even talk about what happens to the surrounding habitat, or what the result is when they've mined it out and it becomes useless for any purpose save maybe as a landfill site.

The absurdity of these arguments stretches both belief and comprehension so far past the breaking point that it's hard to even imagine a way back to logical considerations.
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Old 06-22-2012, 08:15 PM   #16 (permalink)
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And does anyone REALLY think science is done by consensus? What about the scientific method?
Yes, most competent people do think that science is done by consensus.

Key components of the scientific method are reproducibility and peer-review. Reproducibility means that other people should be able to run the same or similar experiments or equations and come up with similar results. A single finding is interesting, but never conclusive, you need multiple researchers to reproduce the same findings before you can draw conclusions. Similarly, those findings need to be subject to peer review: other experts in the field should review them and look for errors in methodology or conclusion that would call the results into question.

As more and more data builds, as more studies are published, you will have more people trying to reproduce the findings, more people reviewing the research. When findings can be consistently reproduced, when papers are reviewed and consistently found to be valid, when multiple comprehensive reviews (papers studying large numbers of papers) are published reaching the same conclusion, then that can be said to be a consensus, and is an important outcome of the scientific method.

This isn't confined to environmental science. Most medical specialty societies publish clinical practice guidelines after panels of experts reach a consensus after reviewing published evidence. Consensus doesn't have to be unanimous, there will always be some people who will disagree with almost any finding, and one use of seeking consensus is that it can delineate areas where there is wide agreement from areas where there is uncertainty. The key issue is that a large group of experts can examine a wide body of evidence, and hopefully if there is a signal in all that noise, there will be some consensus on the findings.
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Old 06-22-2012, 08:30 PM   #17 (permalink)
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My real worry with wind power is nothing is free.. if we take all the power from the wind, then those winds won't be available for the climatic actions they are doing now - picking up moisture from one place, and depositing it in another.
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Old 06-23-2012, 12:12 AM   #18 (permalink)
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My real worry with wind power is nothing is free.. if we take all the power from the wind, then those winds won't be available for the climatic actions they are doing now - picking up moisture from one place, and depositing it in another.
See the picture I posted above? Notice where the moisture-carrying clouds are? Notice that the wind turbines are not in the clouds? Notice that the wind turbine blades do not fill the entire disk of their swept area? Notice how they are spaced out?

You cannot place wind turbines closer than 5-10 times their blade diameter to each other, because then the vortexes from one will mess up the energy production of the next one downwind. Simple logic says you cannot extract all the energy from the wind, because then there would be no wind to extract energy from. The reality is wind farms don't extract very much, or else part of the farm would not be producing power.

You may as well worry that increasing forests will stop the wind. The USA is actually gaining forest mass, because former farmland in the eastern part of the country has been allowed to return to it's natural state. Forests are quite good at stopping wind because they are dense and full of leaves. That's why mid-western farmers planted windbreaks, because even a single row of trees can cut soil loss from wind a great deal.
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Old 06-23-2012, 01:48 AM   #19 (permalink)
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Old 06-23-2012, 02:02 AM   #20 (permalink)
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even if the earth were flat and you put wind turbines everywhere, you wouldn't run out of wind.... because it's mainly a converted byproduct both the earths rotation, and thermal induction from sunlight* causing higher pressure warmthto push toward low pressure coolness... in effect it's a secondary transport for solar power.

*and no that doesn't mean you'd slow the earth rotation by any detectable amount either... the moon does that at so many orders of magnitude higher than even my above suggestion, and still only has a net effect of just over 2 miliseconds per century.
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Old 06-23-2012, 09:07 AM   #21 (permalink)
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What I want to see is more local generation. Whether solar cells on your roof, or fuel cells or what-have-you.

Just getting rid of the (from memory) 20-30% line loss, something that's too often overlooked in all these discussions, would represent a substantial reduction in the amount of carbon dumped in the atmosphere.
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Old 06-23-2012, 09:19 AM   #22 (permalink)
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What I want to see is more local generation. Whether solar cells on your roof, or fuel cells or what-have-you.

Just getting rid of the (from memory) 20-30% line loss, something that's too often overlooked in all these discussions, would represent a substantial reduction in the amount of carbon dumped in the atmosphere.
And as a bonus; you lose all the efficiency you get from big central generators!
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Old 06-23-2012, 09:30 AM   #23 (permalink)
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The central suppliers would still be there. Localized augmentation on every dwelling and business is the point. I think.

Expensive, certainly. But a payback could be calculated.

My employer has bought into it.
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Old 06-23-2012, 09:34 AM   #24 (permalink)
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I'm not saying we can't produce energy with "lower" impacts on the environment and quality of life, I'm just inconveniently pointing out that there's no "zero-impact" way of producing energy, any more than there is a perpetual motion machine. What the green revolution can accomplish, best case scenario, is trading one impact on the environment for another. Off-handedly dismissing concerns about the effects of "green" technologies (i.e. solar panels or wind turbines and etc.) on the environment and quality of life flies in the face of reality and logic and doesn't serve the movement well in the long run.
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Old 06-23-2012, 12:39 PM   #25 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by DanielRavenNest View Post
See the picture I posted above? Notice where the moisture-carrying clouds are? Notice that the wind turbines are not in the clouds? Notice that the wind turbine blades do not fill the entire disk of their swept area? Notice how they are spaced out?

You cannot place wind turbines closer than 5-10 times their blade diameter to each other, because then the vortexes from one will mess up the energy production of the next one downwind. Simple logic says you cannot extract all the energy from the wind, because then there would be no wind to extract energy from. The reality is wind farms don't extract very much, or else part of the farm would not be producing power.

You may as well worry that increasing forests will stop the wind. The USA is actually gaining forest mass, because former farmland in the eastern part of the country has been allowed to return to it's natural state. Forests are quite good at stopping wind because they are dense and full of leaves. That's why mid-western farmers planted windbreaks, because even a single row of trees can cut soil loss from wind a great deal.
Please put your straw men back in their box.

The wind on the surface (less than 500 feet) are what help pick up the moisture to the higher winds. So there MAY BE an effect. Will it be small or huge is not known. Not enough unbiased studies have been done.

Forests are good at changing the wind patterns and climate patterns. Known fact. You even bring it up, the wind breaks, and the cause of the dust bowl in the 20's.

All I am saying is that there is no *free* energy. If you take energy from an item, that is less energy that was being moved along to another place. Will it cause huge changes? I doubt it, but do not know for sure. Human kind is notorious for looking at the small picture, and ignoring what is outside of their area.
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