Skip to content

Energy consumption in wind facilities

August 2, 2019

By Paul Homewood


I came across this analysis on the AWEO website, who campaign against wind power.

Energy consumption in wind facilities
Large wind turbines require a large amount of energy to operate. Other electricity plants generally use their own electricity, and the difference between the amount they generate and the amount delivered to the grid is readily determined. Wind plants, however, use electricity from the grid, which does not appear to be accounted for in their output figures. At the facility in Searsburg, Vermont, for example, it is apparently not even metered and is completely unknown [
click here].* The manufacturers of large turbines — for example, Vestas, GE, and NEG Micon — do not include electricity consumption in the specifications they provide.
Among the wind turbine functions that use electricity are the following:†

  • yaw mechanism (to keep the blade assembly perpendicular to the wind; also to untwist the electrical cables in the tower when necessary) — the nacelle (turbine housing) and blades together weigh 92 tons on a GE 1.5-MW turbine
  • blade-pitch control (to keep the rotors spinning at a regular rate)
  • lights, controllers, communication, sensors, metering, data collection, etc.
  • heating the blades — this may require 10%-20% of the turbine’s nominal (rated) power
  • heating and dehumidifying the nacelle — according to Danish manufacturer Vestas, "power consumption for heating and dehumidification of the nacelle must be expected during periods with increased humidity, low temperatures and low wind speeds"
  • oil heater, pump, cooler, and filtering system in gearbox
  • hydraulic brake (to lock the blades in very high wind)
  • thyristors (to graduate the connection and disconnection between generator and grid) — 1%-2% of the energy passing through is lost
  • magnetizing the stator — the induction generators used in most large grid-connected turbines require a "large" amount of continuous electricity from the grid to actively power the magnetic coils around the asynchronous "cage rotor" that encloses the generator shaft; at the rated wind speeds, it helps keep the rotor speed constant, and as the wind starts blowing it helps start the rotor turning (see next item); in the rated wind speeds, the stator may use power equal to 10% of the turbine’s rated capacity, in slower winds possibly much more
  • using the generator as a motor (to help the blades start to turn when the wind speed is low or, as many suspect, to maintain the illusion that the facility is producing electricity when it is not,‡ particularly during important site tours or noise testing (keeping the blades feathered, ie, quiet)) — it seems possible that the grid-magnetized stator must work to help keep the 40-ton blade assembly spinning, along with the gears that increase the blade rpm some 50 times for the generator, not just at cut-in (or for show in even less wind) but at least some of the way up towards the full rated wind speed; it may also be spinning the blades and rotor shaft to prevent warping when there is no wind§

Could it be that at times each turbine consumes more than 50% of its rated capacity in its own operation?! If so, the plant as a whole — which may produce only 25% of its rated capacity annually — would be using (for free!) twice as much electricity as it produces and sells. An unlikely situation perhaps, but the industry doesn’t publicize any data that proves otherwise; incoming power is apparently not normally recorded.

Full post here.



It is a moot point just how much electricity wind turbines consume, but it is clearly some.

As such, the amount of wind power produced are effectively being overstated by official figures, if this own consumption is not taken into account. This is especially relevant when wind turbines are consuming electricity when the blades are not turning.

It also raises the questions of subsidies, which are paid to wind farms based on gross output. Surely these should only be payable for net output?

  1. August 2, 2019 3:02 pm

    This is all very true. I gave evidence at several wind farm public inquiries several years ago where I provided data on wind turbine own-consumption and the fact that the electricity drawn from the grid was not metered and was not therefore paid for. But the evidence fell on deaf ears as the government-appointed planning inspectors were not interested in the facts – they just had to be seen to be implementing government policy.

    • Up2snuff permalink
      August 2, 2019 3:32 pm

      Philip, when I last asked an engineer in the appropriate Whitehall Dept (way back in the 1990s) the payback period for a wind turbine was reckoned to be one-tenth of its thirty year life. In other words, the CO2 emissions of manufacture and installation were not overcome on average – and, I guess, assuming average winds in the first three years – until year four. Is that still the case?

      With this need for electrical supply from elsewhere on the grid, in your view, how long is this payback period increased? I would be interested to know.

      • A C Osborn permalink
        August 2, 2019 8:47 pm

        Not much of an Engineer, Turbines do not last 30 years and as they age they become less productive.
        Some calculations say they will never pay back the CO2 used in their construction when the full costs, ie CO2 still being produced by Base Load Generation is taken in to consideration.
        In fact one of the latest studies suggests they actually increase CO2.

      • Up2snuff permalink
        August 3, 2019 10:19 pm

        Thanks, ACO, for that info below. (For some strange reason – site software? – I cannot reply directly to your post.)

        I feared as much. A lot of the early on and off-shore turbines were unreliable and required frequent visits by engineers using CO2 producing fuels to reach them. That would eat into any payback period.

        Would like to know what Phillip Bratby thinks about it though.

      • August 6, 2019 2:29 pm

        @Uptosnuff re \\ Thanks, ACO… I cannot reply directly to your post.) //
        There are two ways to view this site
        : From the url
        or via and clicking the READER button and subscribing
        In the first case there is a Reply button underneath a new comment,
        but not underneath a reply to a comment.

        The second method gives you superpowers
        i A reply button under each comment
        ii A LIKE button under each comment
        iii paging of comments, so that each page isn’t too long
        iv So in normal view the ABOUT page is too long to read, but in WordPress view it just loads the last 10 comments, so it is an easy place to add your own news story tip

  2. August 2, 2019 3:17 pm

    Reblogged this on Climate- Science.

  3. MrGrimNasty permalink
    August 2, 2019 3:21 pm

    If Rampion is anything to go by, offshore wind farms are constantly being serviced by big ships hacking around using up tons of marine diesel. They also run tourist trips (goodness knows who would pay to see a wind farm) but again pointlessly wasting more fuel.

    • Sheri permalink
      August 2, 2019 3:54 pm

      (goodness knows who would pay to see a wind farm) The same idiots that want them put in but never live within a 100 miles of them.

    • It doesn't add up... permalink
      August 2, 2019 9:16 pm

      Rampion appears to be one of the worst performing offshore windfarms at 28.6% capacity factor. It was supposed to generate 1,400GWh p.a., but that equates to just 1,000GWh p.a. – perhaps they should be challenged on their claim to supply 350,000 homes.

      I recently found this data summary of capacity factors on offshore wind for the UK (there are also pages for Denmark, Belgium and Germany)

      • MrGrimNasty permalink
        August 3, 2019 12:01 pm

        I’m not sure if Rampion has been fully operational long enough to get good capacity factor figures, but the ‘x’ homes is always deceitful anyway, ignoring energy use for heating and all other industrial etc. energy users.

      • stev permalink
        August 5, 2019 11:53 am

        Don’t worry the CCC is confident that the next 15,000 biggies will be 58% CF.

  4. August 2, 2019 3:55 pm

    It’s clear from basic economics that the wind power industry consumes more energy than it produces. All economic costs can be traced back to some form of basic energy cost. Since the wind industry loses money without government subsidies or set-asides, the money it spends on its own costs is more than the value of the products it produces. Since the only product it produces is basic energy, it must be producing less of that energy than the amount that it consumes. If it produced more energy than it consumed, it would make money in a free market without government subsidies or set-asides. This is one reason why wind power can never produce a major fraction of an economy’s energy even if fossil fuel prices increase. When fossil fuel prices increase, the wind industry’s costs will increase faster than any increase in the value of its product.

  5. Thomas Carr permalink
    August 2, 2019 5:02 pm

    Anyone aware of the amount of power consumed in the manufacture, transport to site and erection of each mast ?
    Seems to me to be a front end cost that is also not set against the value of the eventual net power output.
    To some extend ditto for the cost of the sea bed habitat survey which is a pre-condition of erecting the towers and laying the interconnector cables.

    Vestas could say what is the embedded power cost for the making of the towers and blades .
    Fugro can give costs for a sea bed survey.

  6. August 2, 2019 5:18 pm

    On wind turbines at sea they have small diesel generators.

  7. Stonyground permalink
    August 2, 2019 5:55 pm

    I know some one who works for a company that does maintenance work for the wind energy industry. She spends a lot of time booking train and air tickets as well as hotel accomodation for wind turbine engineers. I would expect that a regular power station would just have the maintenance crew living nearby.

  8. swan101 permalink
    August 2, 2019 6:25 pm

    Reblogged this on ECO-ENERGY DATABASE and commented:
    Excellent post – should be required reading for all government officials and MPs.

  9. Joe Public permalink
    August 2, 2019 6:38 pm

    Another wind turbine energy consumption is to keep the blades slowly rotating during lulls, to prevent the bearings brinelling.

    “Wear Analysis of Wind Turbine Bearings”:

  10. Gamecock permalink
    August 2, 2019 6:59 pm

    When I was in the power cost business, we called this power-for-power. We grossed up the cost of exported power to cover the cost accounting for power-for-power.

    We didn’t have any wind turbines, so I have no idea what their power consumption is.

  11. Jeff Todd permalink
    August 2, 2019 7:55 pm

    I have often wondered what the actual useful power generated amounts to; there are 3 figures, 1 of which is rarely discussed and one of which whose existence is never even acknowledged.

    Nameplate – the number on the tin which is never reached
    Gross – the number generated at the turbine before losses
    Net – the number less all the losses raised in the article

    I wonder which figure the government pays out our money out on?

  12. I_am_not_a_robot permalink
    August 2, 2019 9:41 pm

    “This is especially relevant when wind turbines are consuming electricity when the blades are not turning”.
    No problem:

  13. August 2, 2019 9:45 pm

    Reblogged this on ajmarciniak.

  14. It doesn't add up... permalink
    August 2, 2019 9:50 pm

    This link gives some idea of power consumption at Australian wind farms when not operating, taken from the turn of the year when it was summer there (data can be downloaded)

    The ratio of maximum power draw to maximum output in the 6 day sample of 5 minute data showed figures of 1-1.5% being quite common. Some of the wind farms managed to keep operating throughout, thus not revealing their power consumption when idle, since only net electricity export is recorded. Average power draw in periods when it was occurring was typically around half of peak figures. Maximum output may or may not be a reasonable reflection of maximum capacity, given the relatively short period considered. Average output was around 31% of the maxima, so if static consumption is typical we can multiply by about 1.5 to get average consumption relative to output. This ignores any energy losses prior to metering in inverters and other electronics. I have ignored an outlier in the data (CAPTL_WF) which is likely to be caused by wrong data.

  15. David P permalink
    August 2, 2019 10:34 pm

    I have been informed by E-on that I am now being provided with 100% renewable electricity. This is how they explain it. I am sure it makes sense…to them!

    “How we make sure its matched

    Once energy has reached the national grid, it becomes hard to trace the source of that power. So to make sure your energy is renewable, we match the amount of electricity you use with our own renewable generation assets, along with the power we buy directly from a number of independent generators around the UK.

    The rest is backed by renewable electricity certificates. Renewable energy certificates guarantee that electricity is generated from a renewable source – matching the amount of electricity supplied to customers with the equivalent amount from 100% renewable sources. This also rewards renewable power generators and promotes future investment in the supply of renewable energy for the grid as a whole.

    So all of the power we supply will be from either our renewable assets or backed by renewable electricity certificates.”

    • bobn permalink
      August 3, 2019 1:43 am

      Ah, forged meaningless magic paper promises. Buy this moon from me – its backed by renewable authenticity certificates – magic paper never lies – these 1970 £1 paper notes will always be worth $5 – until they are only toilet paper,.

    • Gerry, England permalink
      August 3, 2019 10:15 am

      So how does a piece of paper guarantee that renewable energy is generated to that amount? Given that they are all at the 100% crap and knowing how little is produced I don’t see how the numbers can possibly add up. I would certainly accept the answer that they don’t and are not intended to.

    • steve permalink
      August 5, 2019 11:48 am

      Yes, it’s good to know that if I get 100% renewable electricity, somebody else will be getting less.

  16. Iain Reid permalink
    August 3, 2019 8:02 am


    “So all of the power we supply will be from either our renewable assets or backed by renewable electricity certificates.”

    This statement is true but it does not mean their customers recieve 100% renewable electricity, what power you recieve as a customer depends largely on physical location to the various power sources.

    What I feel is that the suppliers who claim that they only supply 100% renewable power are using a marketing ploy to lure customers with no real understanding of electrical theory and who believe that they are helping to ‘save the planet’. It is a cheat and I don’t understand why Ofgem do not clamp down on this? At the end of the day it does not alter the amount of CO2 emitted which depends entirely on demand and the amount of power supplied by the various fuel types of generation. Buying from green providers as these energy companies do does not change that.

    Very many large American companies (e.g. Google) have jumped on this bandwagon of buying only 100% renewable energy simply to improve credibility to an uniformed public.

    • Gerry Lightfoot permalink
      August 3, 2019 10:18 am

      I get 100% renewable energy from Outfoxthemarket and I don’t care whether it is true or not but they are the cheapest supplier for me. But, there are – or were – companies that claim 100% and then charge you a virtue signalling fee. Now that would be dodgy other than if people are that stupid then why not fleece them if you can.

    • August 6, 2019 2:42 pm

      You look out of your window and see the huge windfarm of StewGreen Power.
      You sign up and think you are getting Green electrity.
      Meanwhile we at StewGreen Power sell RE certificates for the power we produce.
      So two sets of customers think they are getting Zero Carbon leccy from each same 1KWh we produce.
      We ignore the fact there is embedded CO2 costs in the construction/deconstruction and maintenance of our windfarms.
      Our customers don’t really care, cos they’ve signalled their virtue.

  17. John Howard permalink
    August 4, 2019 1:08 pm

    A truly free market would end this discussion very quickly. No one in their right mind would build a 2nd wind turbine after they failed to make any profit on the first one. Only parasites who can count on the extortion racket called taxation to guarantee their profits continue to promote these ugly, costly, ineffective mechanical monsters.

  18. steve permalink
    August 5, 2019 11:38 am
    This little known article questions the unchallenged recommendations of the CCC to build 59% renewable electricity using up to 15,000 very large offshore wind turbines, costing a third of today’s prices and apparently 58% efficient, while using hydrogen reformation, 95% redundant gas generation using hydrogen and natural gas in very large stored quantities and carbon capture and storage.
    It compares the advice of the late great Professor Sir David MacKay to that of failed minister for mad cow disease and green industry advisor Lord Gummer.

    Paul please feel free to copy in onto your blog. it is not on any others (yet).

  19. steve permalink
    August 5, 2019 11:41 am
    This little known article questions the unchallenged recommendations of the CCC to build 59% renewable electricity using up to 15,000 very large offshore wind turbines, costing a third of today’s prices and apparently 58% efficient, while using hydrogen reformation, 95% redundant gas generation using hydrogen and natural gas in very large stored quantities and carbon capture and storage.
    It compares the advice of the late great Professor Sir David MacKay to that of failed minister for mad cow disease and green industry advisor Lord Gummer.

    Paul please feel free to copy in onto your blog. it is not on any others (yet).
    PS. a shortened version was offered to CW but they have not responded after showing initial interest.

    • steve permalink
      August 6, 2019 12:50 pm

      An older one that has received no interest. The first £57k electric taxi has arrived in my road, where lots of cabbies live. The rest have retired.
      Maybe a new article updated for NALOPKT?

      • August 6, 2019 3:01 pm

        Steve your blog has no comment function
        It’s good info
        I will add a link to the thread where I monitor the #DieselsRpaedos campaign
        There are 31 pages
        Here’s the link to last page

      • steve permalink
        August 6, 2019 4:04 pm

        Stew. It isn’t a blog. I wrote a few articles and couldn’t find any media interested in the fact that we are wasting vast amounts of money to achieve nothing. The one above on the CCC Report compared to SEWTHA had to be reduced to having fewer numbers in it and not being too complicated and even then the editor ‘struggled’ and thought it wasn’t logical. So I put back the figures and had my own website going in half an hour. The only folks interested are on blogs like Paul’s. The media is dominated by arty types who can’t relate to figures. This is why David MacKay was frustrated. It must have been very annoying to have to deal with civil servants who were as thick as mince.

      • steve permalink
        August 6, 2019 4:11 pm

        PS. The CCC Reportreveals that they are planning to make all shipping run on hydrogen. They will have to invent some mighty big canisters.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: