Green Watch

Wind Turbines Produce Drama, Cash, and Some Electricity: Support for Anti-Nuclear Nonprofits

Danish Wind Turbines Produce Drama, Climate-Left Cash . . . and Some Electricity (full series)
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“Extraordinarily Rare” | Support for Anti-Nuclear Nonprofits

Relative Unreliability

As noted earlier, all the major turbine makers have recently reported financial challenges linked to unanticipated reliability issues. The assertion that these dozens of comprehensive and frequently dangerous failures represent “very rare” incidents for Vestas should be weighed against what each those calamitous turbines can produce.

In a comparison of needless drama produced per kilowatt hour, how do wind turbines stack up?

Not well. According to a January 2024 estimate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Climate Portal, nearly 800 average-sized wind turbines are needed to match the electricity output of just one average output (900MW capacity) carbon-free nuclear reactor.

The report also calculates how much environment gets torn up by all those turbines:

When it comes to land use, nuclear plants take up as little as 10 hectares per terawatt-hour of electricity produced per year, while wind uses about 100 hectares, measuring just the area taken up by turbines. (This rises to an astounding 10,000 hectares if you include all the land covered by a wind farm, but most of this space is open land and can be used for ranching or farming.)

For environmentalists who wish to reduce carbon emissions while preserving the environment, the choice between nuclear and wind energy (or solar, also a large land hog) should be a no-brainer.

Support for Anti-Nuclear Nonprofits

But as these supposedly “very rare” disasters have hit Vestas turbines over the past two decades, the wind machine maker has been supporting and partnering with nonprofits that oppose nuclear energy.

In 2011, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) announced it was partnering with the Vestas “WindMade” campaign.

“The new label in the WindMade family will recognize a wide variety of renewable energy sources, including wind, solar, and geothermal, as well as hydro power and biomass from approved certification schemes,” crowed WWF in a news release.

Missing from this formula is nuclear energy. According to Our World in Data, nuclear reactors provided more of the planet’s carbon-free power in 2022 than any other source except hydroelectric dams. And nuclear was the overwhelming carbon-free power champion in the United States in 2022, kicking out three times more electricity than American hydro dams and more than the combined total for wind, solar, geothermal, and biomass.

WWF is anything but a champion of nuclear power. Throughout 2020 and 2021 the climate alarmist nonprofit repeatedly opposed attempts by the European Parliament to include nuclear power as part of the EU’s sustainable energy taxonomy.

Whether its agreement with Vestas translated into direct support isn’t clear, but WWF isn’t starving either. In its recent IRS filings the U.S. affiliate of WWF reported revenue of $381.6 million for 2022 and $408.3 million for 2021.

Like all 501(c)(3) educational nonprofits, WWF should be entitled to donor privacy and is not legally required to disclose the names of donors. But some occasionally do so voluntarily.

The 2015 and 2016 annual reports from the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) both thank Vestas for donations in the “$100,000–499,000” giving range. RMI has quietly become one of America’s largest climate policy nonprofits, with annual reported revenue since 2021 exceeding $115 million. RMI founder Amory Lovins has been a strident opponent of nuclear power for almost half a century.

It is not clear when or if Vestas continued this support for RMI, though RMI’s 2022 annual report credited 13 “anonymous” donors giving at least $100,000 each, with four of those giving more than $1 million each.[2]

A May 2016 Rocky Mountain Institute report on its Renewable Energy Buyer’s Alliance noted a collaboration between RMI and Vestas:

Finally, looking beyond the value chain, we engaged manufacturers, including turbine producer Vestas, and transmission-line developers such as Clean Line Energy, that are helping to improve the grid so that more wind and solar can be transmitted easily and reliably from where the wind blows and the sun shines to where customers need it.

A 2017 annual report from the Australian affiliate of Friends of the Earth credits Vestas Australia in its list of “donors and supporters,” but does not disclose a giving level. IRS filings by the U.S. affiliate showed revenue exceeding $17.6 million for both 2021 and 2022.

For at least 40 years Friends of the Earth (FoE) has been one of the Earth’s most adamant enemies of nuclear power. In 2023, FoE’s American affiliate filed lawsuits in an effort to close California’s Diablo Canyon nuclear plant. This put FoE far to the kooky left of even California’s stridently lefty Gov. Gavin Newsom (D), who wisely and successfully intervened to keep the carbon-free energy facility open.

Diablo Canyon has a generating capacity of 2,240 megawatts. Using the aforementioned estimate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (nearly 800 wind turbines needed for every 900 MW of nuclear capacity), this would make Diablo Canyon the equal of more than 1,900 wind turbines. In 2022, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, Diablo Canyon all by itself produced 17.6 terawatt hours of electricity, 20 percent more than the combined output of every wind turbine in the state of California.

Using the MIT estimate of a 10,000 hectare field needed for each terawatt hour of annual wind energy production, a wind turbine facility producing 17.6 terawatt hours would scatter turbines across a 176,000 hectare field.

That would mean using 679 square miles to accomplish what Diablo Canyon does with 1.5 square miles. To put 679 square miles in perspective, imagine covering an area twice the size of the very windy Rocky Mountain National Park with wind turbines.

Why is there all this evidence that Vestas reliably and repeatedly works with and supports so many powerful, stridently anti-nuclear, climate nonprofits?

There may be nuanced and complex answers to this question.

But the simple answer is probably the correct one.


[2] This detail regarding anonymous donors was also referenced in “Climate Alarmists Hoover Up Corporate Welfare,” an October 4, 2023, CRC analysis that looked more closely at Rocky Mountain Institute donors: “In the 2022 annual report alone, 13 “anonymous” donors are also credited with giving $100,000 or more—four gave more than $1 million. Given what is known of the named donors, it is reasonable to conclude that some of the 13 have also benefited directly from the IRA corporate welfare for weather-dependent power and storage.”

 In a development that may be merely correlation, but could also be causation, the Rocky Mountain Institute’s 2023 annual report appeared after the online posting of the passage quoted above. But this latest RMI annual report did not itemize the number of anonymous donors at each giving level. RMI had publicly disclosed this statistic regarding anonymous giving in every previous annual report since at least 2007.

Ken Braun

Ken Braun is CRC’s senior investigative researcher and authors profiles for and the Capital Research magazine. He previously worked for several free market policy organizations, spent six…
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