According to twitter messages, windmills would yield relatively little energy if you include the energy it takes to make such a windmill. NUcheckt concludes that research shows that wind turbines yield about twenty times as much as they cost.
Former minister Ronald Plasterk tweeted on 18 February that windmills are horribly ugly and that they generate relatively little energy if you "include all production costs".
But how much does a windmill really deliver when you look at energy production and CO2 savings?
Three Dutch windmills saved CO2 after a year
The manufacture, construction and maintenance of wind turbines cost energy and cause CO2 emissions. Taking this into account, researchers from Utrecht University looked at what three wind turbines in the municipality of Houten produced in 2015.
Based on earlier research, they estimate that the production and maintenance of these wind turbines is responsible for 6.9 kilotons of CO2 emissions. Once a windmill runs, it avoids CO2 emissions. Because wind energy is used, less energy has to be generated from fossil fuels.
For the wind farm in Houten, the wind turbines had recouped their 'life cycle' of CO2 emissions in a year. In 2014, the three wind turbines supplied a total of 4.1 percent of the energy used in Houten, a municipality with nearly 50,000 inhabitants.
Windmill provides twenty times more energy than it costs
Research is also being done internationally into the environmental benefits that wind turbines generate. The UN climate working group, the IPCC, published as early as 2011 an analysis of 20 existing studies that attempted to map the full CO2 emissions and energy it takes to run a windmill.
This showed that three quarters of wind turbines take less than nine months to produce as much energy as they cost. According to the IPCC, windmills last around 20 to 25 years. Earlier research from 2010 showed that on average wind turbines generate around 20 times more energy than they cost. More recent Taiwanese research from 2017 showed that an offshore wind farm can generate between 17 and 27 times as much energy as it costs to make it.
Wind energy produces 45 times less CO2 emissions than coal
Windmills also emit around 25 times less greenhouse gases from production to waste processing per kilowatt hour of energy produced than when energy is generated from gas and 45 times less than energy from coal. This CO2 emission from wind turbines has been confirmed in American and Danish research from 2014.
These researchers do write that when a country is largely dependent on wind energy, it is also necessary to invest in energy storage because it is not always windy. This can reduce the CO2 saving by wind farms.
Which windmills provide the most energy?
In the Netherlands in 2018 almost 2 percent of energy consumption was generated with wind energy. How much energy can be generated by wind turbines depends on the location and the size of the windmill. Large wind turbines at sea are the most favorable when only CO2 emissions and energy production are considered.
See also: NUcheckt: What we know about the effect of windmills on birds
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