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Wind Turbines & White Elephants

July 27, 2014

By Paul Homewood


With thanks to  Peter Austin and Paul, who compiled the lists.


Following the story about the Welsh Govt’s £48K wind turbine in Aberystwyth, which has only produced £5 worth of electricity in the last five years, readers have sent me some more examples of wasted money.


1) Dover

Dover Express report:

THE much-trumpeted £90,000 wind turbine installed outside the council offices has generated just a tenth of the energy it should have done, the Express can reveal.

The 17-metre machine, erected outside the Dover District Council headquarters in Whitfield, was supposed to generate 45,000 kW hours per year, producing 7 per cent of the electricity used in the offices.

But the Express can reveal that just 22,080 kWhrs has been generated in total since November 2007 – less than 4,500 kWhrs per year.

Critics have called the project a "white elephant", but the authority has defended the scheme and said it has "raised the profile" of renewable energy by educating people across the district.


At 15 pence/KWh, the value of electricity produced is just £675 pa. Assuming (very generously!) no maintenance or interest charges, the payback is 133 years!

Interestingly, the paper reports:


Responding to a Freedom of Information Act request about costs and savings six months after the grant-funded turbine was installed, DDC said at the time: "It should save 45,000 kWhrs per year, producing 7 per cent of the electricity used in the offices."

But, this week, it appeared to backtrack from the numbers, saying the 45,000 kWhrs figure was the upper limit it could generate and was only achievable with constantly favourable wind speeds and direction.

A spokesman said: "The 45,000 kWhrs quoted is the optimum generation – in order to achieve this, the wind speed would always need to be at the maximum speed that the turbine could operate safely in, and the wind direction would always have to be favourable


Confusion between capacity and output is commonplace. Did the council get its sums wrong in the first place? Or did they knowingly waste £90K of ratepayers money, just to “raise the profile of renewable energy?



2) Derby

We then have the story from the Derby Telegraph of two turbines owned by Severn Trent Water, which have yet to produce any power, despite being ready last December.

The reason? They interfere with the radar at nearby East Midlands Airport.

They are now waiting for the airport to install new radar equipment to “ensure that the airport can operate safely”. I wonder who will pay for that?



3) Milton Keynes

It gets worse, as the Milton Keynes Citizen reports!


Three costly wind turbines built in the grounds of a school are now to be dismantled – after allegedly generating just £3.67 worth of electricity in NINE years.

Milton Keynes Council paid £170,000 for the giant turbines at Oakgrove School at Middleton .

But shortly after the school opened in 2005, the structures were switched off for health and safety reasons due to a manufacturing defect.

A source told the Citizen: “It all seems to be an extraordinary waste of money. None of it is the fault of the school itself – they’ve just been stuck with these huge things that have proved useless.”

The turbines were provided by a German company which has since gone into liquidation, leaving the council unable to get compensation


4) Hinckley

The Hinckley Times have the story of the £40K turbine at North Warwickshire and Hinckley College, which has used more electricity than it has generated.


An eco-friendly wind turbine installed to save energy at a Hinckley college has been labelled a “disaster” after revelations it has expended more power than it has produced.

In its three year lifespan the 31.5ft turbine – thought to have a price tag of around £40,000 – has turned only 8% of the time and has not created electricity but used enough to run an energy hungry household for two years.

When installed on the roof of the new North Warwickshire and Hinckley college campus on Lower Bond Street in September 2011, education chiefs lauded it as part of their commitment to embed sustainability across all college activities and a weapon in the fight to cut carbon emissions by 35% within four years.

But since its set up the vertical axis blades of the turbine have only been spinning for 8% of the time and only been working for 38% – during the remaining 62% of the time, because of its settings, conditions have been ‘unsuitable’ – ie the wind at 5m/s, a fresh breeze – has been deemed too strong and it switches off.

This means the device has used 497 kHw more than it has made – enough to run a fridge for a year, a microwave daily for half-an-hour for two years and a tumble drier daily for six months.

Figures from the college show (based on the average price of a kHw at 17p) the turbine has used £1,730 worth of electricity, twice the annual bill of a high energy usage household.


But what the hell? As was the case in Dover, it is apparently OK to waste taxpayers’ money, just to promote “sustainability”.


Andy Crowter, group director of facilities and estates at North Warwickshire and Hinckley College, said:

”The turbine is not there primarily to create income but to promote sustainability – one of the most important challenges facing the UK. The turbine is a symbol of the college’s awareness of its environmental responsibilities, an icon of good practice to its students and recognition of the college’s award winning Carbon Reduction Plan. “



5) Canada

And it’s not just in Britain, as the National Post report:


Several Prince Edward Island rinks that were convinced to make the expensive conversion to wind power, but never saw the promised savings, are now trying to get rid of the trouble-plagued turbines and win compensation for their troubles.

“We went into debt to purchase this windmill on the promise that it would make us money and it would help us with our power costs,” said Tom Albrecht, vice-president of the South Shore Actiplex in Crapaud, P.E.I., which spent $70,000 and received another $230,000 from the federal and provincial governments to install a turbine.

“The bottom line is buy us out and give us our money back.”

Last week, the Wind Energy Institute of Canada apparently decided to shut down turbines at at least some of the rinks, as it worked through technical problems, according to Darin Craig, past president of the South Shore Actiplex board.


6) Whitfield

The Council at Whitfield, Kent have scrapped the turbine only installed in 2007, as Kent Online report:


The wind turbine at the district council offices at Whitfield, fitted in 2007, is to be scrapped.

“With time and use, the turbine developed a fault in 2012.A council spokesman said: “The turbine was important as not only did it generate renewable energy, but it helped to raise the profile of environmental matters, and was used for educational purposes.

“The turbine was assessed for repairs, but as well as the cost of the repairs, it was clear that the industry and technology had developed, and that the company who supplied the turbine had ceased trading, causing difficulties regarding the availability of parts and servicing arrangements.

"It was considered that the repair costs and ongoing maintenance issues meant that it was no longer viable and sustainable to keep the turbine.


Once again we see the words “raise the profile”.


[As Chris Manuell points out, this is the same

7) Huddersfield

Five years after installing two turbines on the Civic Centre roof at a cost of £100K, Huddersfield Council are to take them back down, as the Huddersfield Examiner explain:


THE Civic Centre turbines are to be taken down.

Kirklees Council last night announced that the landmark windmills will be removed – five years after they cost £100,000 to install.

One of the 27-feet turbines has been broken for the past 16 months.

Kirklees installed the two windmills in July, 2006, to raise awareness of renewable energy among the thousands of motorists who drive along the ring road every day.

But yesterday officials admitted defeat and said the turbines would be taken down – and new ones installed at a windier location.

A council spokesman said: “It had become clear that carrying out repairs was not the most effective or value-for-money option, so the council has now found a different way of solving the problem.

“We have reached an agreement with the turbine suppliers Proven Energy, who will remove both turbines from the Civic Centre roof over the coming months and will provide the council with two new turbines, free of charge and with longer warranty periods than the current turbines.

“The council’s plan is to locate the new turbines in an open location where the energy generated will be greater than at their current site.”

The spokesman added: “Having one of the current turbines out of action gave us the chance to re-assess the situation. We have come up with the most common sense, effective way forward.

“The new location is yet to be finalised, but we are working with Proven Energy to find a site within the council’s ownership.”

The six-kilowatt windmills cost £101,000 to buy and install in 2006.

Kirklees came up with £70,000 and a Government grant covered the rest.

In 2008 the turbines brought £2,078 into council coffers, but cost £6,431 to maintain and repair.


 Although Proven Energy will arrange for the turbines to be taken down and replaced, it hardly seems likely they will be doing this out of goodwill. Meanwhile, Huddersfield ratepayers can feel satisfied that their money has gone to “raise awareness of renewable energy”.


8) Wotton

The Gazette have the story of this wind turbine, that had to be removed for being too noisy:


A SCHOOL in Wotton has been forced to remove its controversial wind turbine after receiving a noise abatement notice.

Blue Coat Primary School’s prized 15-metre turbine was taken down in August after standing unused for a number of months.

Robert Weaver, environmental health officer at Stroud District Council, said: "As soon as it was operational, it was giving out unacceptable levels of noise at quite a lot of dwellings nearby, as well as some quite far away."

The school had been warned when it was granted planning permission in 2009 that if noise were to become an issue the turbine may have to be decommissioned.

Specialist engineers had worked with the school over a period of about eight months to try to reduce noise, but modifying the blade tips and even shortening the blades themselves had little effect.

Simon Weston, chairman of governors at Blue Coat School, said the school had taken a reluctant but pragmatic decision that they had reached the end of the road after the physical adaptations to the turbine provided no improvement to the noise.

Wotton resident Michael Toft, 61, who lives just 100 metres from the school, said he was relieved that the threat of permanent noise intrusion in his house and garden had been removed.

He said: "The turbine wasn’t just noisy in high winds. It had a whole repertoire of sound effects, ranging from an inexorable swishing in light winds, through to chuffing like a never-arriving steam train in moderate winds, with the piece de resistance being a full-blown impression of a helicopter hovering over the field outside our garden when the wind was strong."

He added: "On a visual note, I don’t think it’s right that structures like this should be sited prominently on skylines within the Cotswolds AONB."

The school is now hoping to pass the turbine on to be used elsewhere, as the equipment is entirely functional.

Grant-funded, largely from the public sector, the turbine was part of the school’s renewable energy drive. Solar panels are also installed on site.

It was hoped that the turbine would engage children at Blue Coat with energy issues, as well as reduce the school’s carbon footprint and electricity bills.

Cllr Dennis Andrewartha, executive member for planning for Stroud District Council, said: "We explored every possibility to see if the school’s wind turbine could stay up and generate power but ultimately it was too noisy and affected too many residents.

"Since it went up we have had around 40 complaints about the noise nuisance and our officers have been out to assess the problem a number of times. We are great supporters of green energy so it was with reluctance that we had to see this wind turbine come down."

Mr Weston added: "We still take environmental education seriously. It’s nice to have practical things you can point at, but certainly our interest in making it [renewable energy] an important part of the curriculum is ongoing."


 Since when was “renewable energy” an “important part of the curriculum”? More to the point, if the noise was so bad 100 metres away, what damage has been to done to children’s health at the school itself, who would be exposed to it for several hours every day?


9) Exeter

At the home of the Met Office, Exeter City Council will probably never recoup the cost of their Civic Centre turbines, as the Express & Echo report:


THE money Exeter City Council spent on installing wind turbines at its city centre base is unlikely ever to be recouped in energy savings, the Echo can reveal.

The authority invested £5,000 putting three wind turbines on the roof of the Civic Centre in 2007.

But it could take up to 50 years for the turbines to match that sum in savings. And as the average shelf-life of a turbine is understood to be 20-25 years, it is likely to have been a loss-making enterprise.

The city council has defended the outlay and revealed savings made through a number of other green initiatives are more considerable.

But campaigners for lower taxes have criticised the move as a "PR project" which was not a serious effort to save money.

The turbines were aimed at helping the council meet its Government-set target of reducing CO2 emissions and it was one of the first local authorities to take the step.

A council spokesman said it was not possible to quantify what the turbines were powering but added: "We estimate the energy produced saves the council in excess of £100."

However, Maurice Spurway, spokesman for Exeter Friends of the Earth, said: "There are some occasions when it is more important to focus on the message of reducing carbon dioxide emissions than the economy of it.

"Survival of the planet is more important and reducing CO2 as we progress towards the 22nd century is crucial, so anything which has been done in this direction is the right thing to do.


10) Greenock

Up in Scotland, Inverclyde Academy were reported in 2011 to be ready to scrap their turbine, installed just three years earlier;


Inverclyde Academy was hailed as the first school in the UK to have one of the 50-kilowatt wind turbines when the building opened to pupils in December 2008.

The turbine is meant to provide 15 to 25 per cent of the school’s annual energy requirement.

But the turbine hasn’t generated any power for more than a year.

It has been plagued by technical problems, including a faulty gearbox, and its manufacturer has gone bust.

Now Inverclyde Council says if the turbine cannot be repaired, it may have to be taken away.


11) Portland

Down in Dorset, another turbine installed at a Primary School has had to be shut down as it was killing too many seabirds, as the Dorset Echo relate:


A £20,000 wind turbine brought in to make a Portland primary school more environmentally friendly has been turned off because it was killing seabirds.

Headteacher Stuart McLeod, of Southwell Community Primary School, said they ‘tried everything’ to solve the problem but had no choice but to shut it down.

In the past few months the nine metre high generator has taken the lives of 14 birds – far higher than the manufacturer’s estimate of one per year.

The wind turbine was installed at the school around 18 months ago, thanks to grant funding, to provide six kilowatts of power an hour.

Mr McLeod said: “We’ve got the ideal location for wind power but unfortunately seagulls kept flying into it.


I guess that really taught the kids to be “environmentally conscious”!


12) Climping, West Sussex

Despite being on the coast, this turbine at the Climping Village School had to be shut down, because it was not producing enough power. From the Bognor Regis Observer:


A WIND turbine has been removed from Climping’s village school because it generated too little power.

The 9m-high turbine was installed at St Mary’s Primary School in 2005 as part of an experiment to see if the winds along the coast would make it sustainable.

The pilot project was designed to test wind energy technology, reduce school energy costs and provide an educational tool for pupils.

But a West Sussex County Council spokesman said: “The decision to remove the turbine has been taken because of a series of factors, but mainly because the system has not performed well.

“Energy-saving costs at the school of £550 between April 2011 and March 2012 were not enough to cover the costs of maintaining and insuring the turbine. The company which manufactured and installed the turbine has also gone into liquidation.”

The turbine’s cost was mainly covered by external grants and the county council met the short-term running costs. It was considered unsustainable for the school to take on these costs.


Yet another company gone into liquidation.Take the grant money and run!




 There are no doubt hundreds of other examples up and down the country. A lot of pain and wasted money could have been avoided if attention had been paid to this study from Southampton University back in 2009:


The final report demonstrated conclusively that micro-wind turbines installed on buildings performed very poorly, some consuming more power than they generated. Even at the best sites in exposed and windy rural areas, annual yields were far lower than the estimates predicted by industry. None of the devices mounted on buildings would pay for themselves within the expected life of the turbines.



But when it’s not your money you’re spending, then what the hell?

  1. Paul permalink
    July 27, 2014 5:57 pm

    So, so depressing Paul. What’s worse is that today two cooling towers belonging to Didcot A power station (evil, dirty coal don’t you know) were demolished. It’s like losing a close relative.
    Returning to my neck of the woods what was once a thriving colliery, shut down soon after the miner’s strike is set to become a centre for all things green and expensive.
    To rub salt into the wounds they will have a museum to show people how energy was dug from the ground all those years ago. The bloody cheek of it!
    Read more here and weep:

    You can go on the Hadlow college website but it’s Sunday, a day of rest and not fair to one’s blood pressure and general well being.

    I’m sure there are many, many more wind turbine scam stories out there and once there’s a decent list I’m sure there will be a national newspaper or two who might well be interested in running a good story.

  2. Mikky permalink
    July 27, 2014 6:30 pm

    I’m afraid were stuck with Windmills thanks to the EU Renewables Target, though it may cost us less in fines to fail to meet it than it would to actually meet it.

    I suspect we badly need the Scottish Hydo power to get anywhere near meeting the target.

    Anyway, the fines for failing to meet the target will be nothing compared to the Mother of all greenie wailing and finger pointing (think Invasion of the Body Snatchers) that will greet the failure. All part of the Green Protection Racket being perpetrated.

    My solution for meeting the target: simply use power cuts in metropolitan areas, and wait for the mood to change (think Green Zombie Apocalypse).

    • willie ross permalink
      August 31, 2014 10:11 am

      Scottish Hydro power will not solve the problem. There is very little ‘constant’ hydro power available. The ‘pumped storage’ hydro power is only available for short periods, i.e. until the higher reservoir runs out. When this happens, it requires more power than is ever produced to pump water back up to the higher reservoir. A clown of a MSP in the Scottish Highlands, has suggested we use heavily subsidized wind power (if we ever have an excess), to power the pumping of water to the upper reservoir, so we can get heavily subsidized hydro power letting the water flow back down again. Subsidies all the way then!

  3. Chris Manuell permalink
    July 27, 2014 7:34 pm

    Excellent list of failed wind turbines, however I have to tell you that No.1 and No.6 are the same turbine. It was situated at Dover Council Offices which are at Whitfield near Dover.

  4. July 27, 2014 8:21 pm

    Reblogged this on the WeatherAction Blog.

  5. Herve D permalink
    July 28, 2014 9:57 am

    We understand now why in Germany – the Holy state of God renewable (and added CO² !) so many courts are plagued with plaintiff private investors claiming that RONA is far below promises, mostly negative, plagued with lower winds, mechanical problems and so on…
    We can see so stupid is Europe, both at EU Commission and local governments, that Wind is the only industrial sector under growth… They had better to burn their banknotes…. and Obama is following the track too…..

  6. July 28, 2014 10:40 am

    Thanks, Paul. Excellent post. As for the cliche about ‘raising awareness’ about renewables, your airing of the actual facts about the scam/delusion is far more effective than any of the overpaid, half-witted parrots in these councils. Imagine a national broadcaster that would expose this incompetence and waste to the British public…. no, neither can I.

  7. Bloke down the pub permalink
    July 28, 2014 11:19 am

    Stroud District Council doing the right thing, who would’ve thunk it? All those people around the world trying to raise awareness of renewable energy, talk about the laws of unintended consequences.

  8. winter37 permalink
    July 28, 2014 10:08 pm

    Thanks to all who have compiled this list.Keep up the good work.Your country needs you.
    The country does not need Ed.Davey,and his comrades.

  9. Stonyground permalink
    July 29, 2014 6:49 am

    I am quite intrigued by the statements being issued by the various authorities that are responsible for these disasters. They seem to have brainwashed themselves into believing that windmills are green and therefore must be a good thing by definition. As a consequence, no matter how much of an abject failure each windmill project turns out to be, they simply can’t bring themselves to admit that it might have been a bad idea.

    It is interesting to note how many of the makers of windmills are going out of business, despite having a seemingly endless supply of idiots queueing up to buy them with other people’s money.

    • A C Osborn permalink
      July 29, 2014 12:24 pm

      Of course they “go out of business”, they have taken the instant profit and avoided the hassle and costs of repairs and cleanup.
      Colour me cynical.

  10. Brian H permalink
    July 29, 2014 4:09 pm

    “497 kHw more …”

    Say what? Works out the same as kWh, but the W remains capitalized, as it is for (only) all units using names = khW!!

  11. Brian H permalink
    July 29, 2014 4:11 pm

    Maggie comes to mind: “running out of other people’s money”.

  12. nigelf permalink
    August 5, 2014 12:43 pm

    To a sane person the only “awareness” that these stories raise is that windmills are an expensive and insane way to make electricity. It’s really no different than hiring hundreds or thousands of people to pedal a big generator for their electricity. Sure you can do it but who in their right mind would willingly pay the price per kwh once the wages were factored in?
    If Rube Goldberg were alive he’d be bringing copyright charges against these fools.

  13. andrew permalink
    November 12, 2014 4:28 pm

    i have worked in the so called wind industry for 15 years, and can confirm, everyone has been tricked,, it is not viable,,in reality,,

  14. November 28, 2014 5:07 pm

    Some more for you:


    BBC News, 7 November, 2013.

    ‘A wind turbine that cost the Welsh government £48,000 to buy has been generating an average of just £5 worth of electricity per month.

    ‘The turbine was put its Aberystwyth office, rated excellent for sustainability, in 2009.

    ‘The Welsh government said the turbine had mechanical problems.

    ‘But before it was installed, the turbine makers warned Welsh government contractors it would not be exposed to enough wind where it was positioned.

    ‘The turbine’s output has been monitored officially since January last year and figures suggest it could take hundreds of years for it to offset the cost of its purchase and installation.



    Independent (Ireland), 30 October, 2013

    ‘A WIND-powered park next to the abandoned Priory Hall apartment complex is incapable of generating enough spark to keep its lights on.

    ‘Built by Dublin City Council at a cost of €20m, Fr Collins Park in Donaghmede, north Dublin, was described as Ireland’s first “self-sustaining city park” when it opened in 2009.

    ‘Five wind turbines were designed to provide renewable energy for the park’s lights, pumps, fountains and maintenance depot.

    ‘But a report by BioXL Energy Consultants has found that about three-quarters of the parks electricity will have to be imported this year at a cost of €45,000 plus VAT.

    ‘Installation of the turbines cost €1.15m, about double typical commercial costs, according to the report which was issued in January of this year and released under the Freedom of Information Act.

    ‘Prior to the development, a feasibility study estimated that 100pc of the park’s energy would be met by wind power at peak times, with about 75pc being met on average.

    ‘But the new report stated that, even at peak performance, the wind turbines were incapable of meeting the park’s electricity needs.

    ‘In fact, they produced only €14,000 a year worth of electricity – needing a further €45,000 plus VAT in order to operate – while also devouring about €34,000 a year on maintenance.


    ‘“The performance of the turbines has been disappointing… However, the turbines have a strong demonstration and educational value,” claimed the report.


    ‘Balmedie wind turbine plans suffer setback

    Press & Journal, 24 March, 2010

    ‘PLANS to instal a wind turbine at a north-east school have received a setback after councillors heard the mast would take more than 100 years to turn a profit.

    ‘Aberdeenshire Council wanted to erect the structure at Balmedie Primary School.

    ‘Councillors on the Formartine area committee refused to give the project the go-ahead after hearing it would cost £102,156.54 to instal.


    ‘“The estimated annual reduction in electricity costs due to the energy produced by the wind turbine is £1,000.”

    ‘The report went on to say it would take 100 years to pay for itself without taking into account maintenance or rising energy costs, adding that “the payback period is significantly longer [by at least five times!] than the expected life of the turbine”.’

  15. November 28, 2014 8:15 pm

    wind won’t work…
    gas gets good

  16. January 5, 2015 3:58 pm

    For some reason I’ve only just seen this brilliant post and am busy passing it on. I’ve started making a list of makers of failed turbines as our council, poor innocents, responded to a recent collapse by saying it was a different make from all the ones they insist on putting in school playgrounds. The fact that the maker they use, Evance, went bust last April so they can’t fix broken ones seems not to register. So I’ve just started ploughing through our stats. – going to take a very long time . Many press reports don’t give the make which is a nuisance. And of course, as someone else said, they keep going out of business and being bought out.

    What really worries me is that the decision makers (public officials and councillors) don’t have a clue, nor do many head teachers – they don’t understand that wind turbines are useless, dangerous, affect health etc. All they care about is being seen as eco friendly.


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