Are Wind Turbines Efficient? They Sure are Ugly!

Are wind turbines efficient?

Are the monstrously ugly wind turbines (windmills) dotting the otherwise beautiful countryside efficient? You can probably tell I don’t approve of them. I am reminded how much I don’t believe in their efficiency or practicality every time I drive to my favourite farm.

That’s because there is an enormous north-south swath of them crossing highway 43 near the intersection of county road 11, the last leg of our trip from Ottawa to the farm in Eastern Ontario.

My last venture in that direction that was no exception. My four year old grandson, my travelling partner that day, summed up my feelings pretty well with a loud “whoa, what the heck is that big thing?” When I explained that it was a windmill, there to gather energy from the wind, he was quick to point out “but it’s not even moving!”

Exactly! During my last visit none of the windmills were operational. I mentioned this to my uncle upon arriving at his farm; apparently they were just installed. This time, a month or so later, maybe fifty percent were in motion. Not exactly a great track record.

How do Windmills Generate Electricity?

This YouTube video posted on Good Energy in the UK explains how well the windmills are working, especially within the north-western corner of Europe where it is almost always windy:

Are Windmills Efficient?

In reducing carbon footprints, these windmills are efficient, actually one of the smallest footprints in current practices of renewable generators. That’s because they do not release emissions of any sort into the atmosphere. However, their actual physical footprint is enormous, taking up huge amounts of land.

Optimal sites for wind farms are in remote locations due to the amount of space they require. The problem with this is that (expensive) transmission lines must be established to get the electricity from the remote locations to the big cities that use the most electricity. This however can be lucrative in the form of extra income for the owners of remote properties since the owners of wind power plants pay rent to the landowners, often farmers or ranchers, for the use of their land.

A windmill or wind turbine is typically only a maximum of 50% efficient when the wind is at a peak level. Wind, however, is typically inconsistent; very few global locations would have consistent winds to maximize the efficiency level.

Theoretically wind power is cost-effective because the electricity generated can be sold at a fixed price over many years, unlike the price of gas and oil which fluctuates like our Canadian weather. Wind turbines are exorbitantly expensive to make, install, and maintain, then only last on average 25 years. The wind is the inexpensive part, as it is a (free) natural resource.

Esthetics and Dangers of Wind Turbines

Not only are wind turbines hideous to look at, but they have also proven to be annoyingly noisy (when they work) as well as harmful, often fatal to birds. Hundreds of thousands of birds and bats are killed annually, in collisions with the massive rotating (and sedentary) arms of the wind turbines.


I like to think I am open-minded as well as a proponent of green energy. Why then, do these wind turbines bother me so much? Probably because I am also a proponent of sensibility, natural beauty, and efficiency, especially cost-efficiency.

photo credit

Inefficiency: Today’s Rant

I guess patience is not a virtue I possess; I have a hard time dealing with inefficiency…

As the team manager of my son’s hockey team, I and three other parents need to update our police checks to volunteer on the team.  All of us had this done many times over the years, through schools and sports teams. However, the rule is the checks have to be updated regularly.  I thought it would be more efficient to submit all four at once, so I volunteered to take their forms in with mine.  I photocopied all of the necessary ID, and had the other individuals fill in their own paperwork.

Yesterday, with four organized, neatly stapled, efficient packages of paper in my possession, I waited in line at our local police station. I was behind at least twelve other people. The first sign of inefficiency?  One lone police officer behind one of four wickets attended the needs of all the people in the line.  Apparently the budget was able to support this beautiful new building, but not the staff to occupy it. The fact that the line up was a group of chairs that we sat in should have warned me that the wait was going to be a long one.  When the line had not moved an inch in over thirty minutes, I left, as I had too many things to get done in the next few hours.


This morning I went back to try again.  After waiting 45 minutes for the same lone police officer to help me, I was told that I could not submit the paperwork for the other parents.  Apparently this practice was discontinued several years ago. I know I have done this before, so it must have been discontinued fairly recently.

I do recognize the importance of these police checks for volunteers working with children.  However, parents are busier than ever today juggling work commitments with their children activities. The volunteer process should be much simpler and much more efficient.  

Volunteers are extremely important to the success of any community.  Our children benefit directly when parents volunteer for the many positions that need to be filled. Not to mention the example these volunteers provide on how to give back to the community that gives so much to them.