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- A wind turbine can produce in months, not years, more energy than was needed to manufacture it.
Wind turbines, an alternative to fossil fuels, convert wind energy into electricity — about 10% of all electricity produced in the U.S.
An image shared on Instagram made several claims about wind turbines, including that they’re actually a big waste.
"The turbine has to spin continually for over four years just to replace the energy it took to manufacture it," said the image, which included a picture of a wind turbine over water.
"Annnd this is why I don’t take climate hysteria seriously," the poster wrote.
Modern windmills generally produce in months more energy than was needed to manufacture them, experts, research studies and other fact-checkers found.
There are many steps in the making of a wind turbine. The raw materials need to be mined, those materials need to be turned into rotors and towers, and those parts need to be shipped.
"Wind turbines have positive net energy payback within about a year," said Ken Caldeira, a global ecology senior scientist with the Carnegie Institution for Science in Stanford, California.
Here’s a look at some of the research we found that was published by university researchers in peer-reviewed journals:
A 2022 study by Brazilian researchers found energy payback was achieved in about six months.
A 2019 study by European researchers found that the payback on onshore steel wind-turbine towers was four to six months.
A 2017 study by Taiwanese researchers found the energy payback period was 13 to 14 months.
The highest estimate we found was a bit under six years, in a 2019 study by civil engineering professors at the University of Texas at Arlington.
"In general, as technology advances, the energy payback times will decline," said Ryan Wiser, senior scientist in the Electricity Markets and Policy Department at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, California.
Most of the evidence we found on energy payback says it takes a wind turbine operating for months, not years, to produce more energy than was needed to manufacture it.
We rate the claim False.
GhostArchive, July 19, 2023 Instagram post
Frontiers in Sustainability, "Greenhouse gas and energy payback times for a wind turbine installed in the Brazilian Northeast," Dec. 5, 2022
Climate Feedback, "Meme image falsely claims wind turbines produce less energy that is used to build them," May 27, 2019
PolitiFact, "Actually, wind turbines easily produce more power than it takes to build them," Oct. 12, 2021
CleanEnergy, "A comparative life-cycle analysis of tall onshore steel wind-turbine towers," Nov. 25, 2019
USA Today, "Fact check: Energy costs of wind turbine manufacturing recouped in months," June 7, 2022
Newswise, "Wind turbines recoup the energy required to build them within a year of normal operation," Sept. 16, 2022
Renewable Energy, "Life cycle assessment and net energy analysis of offshore wind power systems," March 2017
Email, Ryan Wiser, senior scientist in the Electricity Markets and Policy Department at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, July 24, 2023
Email, climate change researcher Mark Richardson, research scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology, July 24, 2023
Email, Ken Caldeira, global ecology senior scientist, Carnegie Institution for Science, July 24, 2023
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