I was talking with my father yesterday, and he claimed that the problem with wind power is that the energy required to build a wind turbine exceeds the energy generated by the turbine during its operational life. This seemed a little strange, so I thought I would see what I could find about this. It seems that the effectiveness of a power system is measured by the Energy Return on Investment (EROI) which – according to this – is the usable acquired energy divided by the energy expended.
I haven’t researched this extensively, but according to The Oil Drum, the average EROI for wind turbines is 18.1. It increases with increasing turbine size (or turbine power) and can reach as high as 40. This seems to compare very favourably with other power generation sources. The figure below shows that the EROI can be as low as 1 (for biodiesel), as high as 100 (for hydro), but is typically between 10 and 40 (nuclear, for example, seems to be 10).
There may be valid issues with the use of wind turbines to generate energy (as there are for most energy sources), but it seems that the argument that it costs more energy to build the turbine than it returns during its operational life, is just completely wrong.