Tag Archives: distributed power

Wind power increases vulnerability to terrorism

Per Ribbing, board member of Sveriges Vindkraftkooperativ, an economic cooperative union promoting wind power, argues that large scale power production such as with nuclear power or coal plants is "yummie" for the world's terrorists. The implication is that distributed power production like wind and solar power is better from a security perspective because terrorists or warmongers cannot knock out every wind turbine and solar panel. He asks us:

I have a question... Is it at all possible to wage a war over wind? Who do you invade to control the ocean's waves? Who do you shoot to steal their sun?

I know he asked the questions rhetorically, but here are the answers: "Yes it is"; "the grid operation centers"; "the grid operators". Electrical power is never autonomous. You need a power grid and someone to operate it. This is where the weak spot is. Distributed power production, especially with fickle and unreliable power sources such as wind and solar power, does not increase our resilience against security threats such as terrorism. On the contrary, wind and solar power makes us more vulnerable.

As we showed in our article The day wind power nearly blew out Europe, distributed power power production with unreliable sources puts great strain on the networks. Having to do constant load balancing puts the grid at risk since it was never built to shuffle large amounts of power over great distances. This means that our weak spots in such a scenario is not the power plants, but the power grid. Take out a few nodes in such a network, and you can cause not just nationwide havoc, but in fact start messing things up for an entire continent.

Per Ribbing asks us:

What kind of world do you want to build? One where the energy systems have to be constantly protected from terrorists?

Again he asked this rhetorically... but here is a lesson in debating Per: don't ask questions for which you may get undesirable answers. The answer to your question is that reliable large scale power production plants are at least possible to protect, and they do not make our power grid highly vulnerable to evildoers.

As the editors of Barometern.se already concluded: as long as there is a terrorist threat, any kind of critical facility, be they subways, hospitals, aircraft, ferries and so forth, will be at risk. A wind powered system is not exempt from this because we will still have power network operation centers, network nodes, switch yards, power lines and thousands of other vulnerable points where a terrorist may cause havoc.

So the answer to security threats is not to start handicapping ourselves, because no matter what we do we will still be vulnerable. Making a move to wind power will not help. The terrorism argument in the debate on our future power solution is nothing but an inane and silly appeal to fear.