How Many Of Those Wind Turbines Are Actually Turning?

Posted on Sat 06/25/2022 by


By Anton Lang ~


I was recently asked if there was a way I could tell how many turbines were rotating at a wind plant, other than actually driving by one of these Industrial plants and and actually counting them.

This is a tricky one to answer correctly, and you’ll soon see why.

I sometimes do it myself, work out how many of those turbines are actually working, and you can tell by looking at the actual turbine itself, because the huge blades out front of the turbine are rotating, but other than that, is there another way?

In one word ….. yes, and I can show you how that is done. However, it is so complex that the average person would not even begin to know how to do it, and from that, you can now see how easy it is for the pro green lobby wind supporters to ‘get away with’ saying what they say about wind power being so good, because no one can really disprove what they say without an awful lot of work.

So, here’s how something like that could be done. You would need to know which wind plant to look at, and here in Australia, there are currently 76 separate wind plants.

Have you got that? Seventy six separate wind plants to look at, and that’s just here in Australia, because in other Countries, that number of wind plants could be well up over hundreds or more of them, so, again, see the scale of a task like this.

First, knowing the name of the wind plant you want to look at, you would need to know how many turbines that plant actually has. So here, you would need to go to the plant’s website and find out the number of turbines, but that’s not all. You would also need to know what type of turbine, and the power output in MegaWatts, and as well as that, the total Nameplate for the plant in question. That way, knowing that, and then finding the total output of the plant for a point in time, then you could work out the number of turbines which are working at that point in time. Now perhaps the complexity of the task is sinking in. I can do this, because I know exactly those things to look for, and where to go to find them, and I’m not writing this to show how good I am, but that a task like this is almost impossible to work out for the average person, and also how that wind supporters lobby can say whatever they want to, because no one (and probably even them) knows where to find that information.

Macarthur Wind Plant In Victoria Australia

So, then, let’s look at an example then. And here, we’ll use the Macarthur wind plant in Victoria. (shown in the image at right, and if you click on the image , it will open at a new window, and at a larger size, so you can better see the detail) This plant is now the third largest wind plant in Australia, but for close on seven years it was the largest. Here’s the link to that plant, and here for the sake of ease, I’m using the Wikipedia site, which in fact is now hopelessly out of date, but it does have the required information. The information we need is under the map for the site location at the right of screen. It says there that the total Nameplate for this plant is 420MW, that each turbine is of 3MW, hence there are 140 individual turbines.

Okay, so now we have that information. All we need now is to find a site which details the output of that wind plant, and on a time scale that can be used for a reasonable accuracy.

Here’s the link to the website where I get all my data from. Once you are there, that image you see is the overall general page for the daily power data from every power plant in the Country, and it’s actually shown in real time, as it is updated every five minutes from the AEMO data. (the Australian electrical power generation Regulatory Site) The top image is a map of Australia showing ALL the power plants of every type, and if you scroll down a little, you’ll see the graph for ALL power generation, from every source in the Country. From that, you need to isolate out just the Wind plant data. So, look down the right hand side of the page and you’ll see a heading titled ‘About the Australian Electricity Grid’. In the text, you’ll see the highlighted links to all the sources, so you need to look at the one link for ….. wind power. (and here, rather than do all of that, here’s the link to that wind power page.)

This shows the default for the current data for the actual time you just clicked onto the site, and as I mentioned above, this is also updated every five minutes.

So here, at the top right of that page, in the black heading, you see the day and the time. Click on that and when the calendar comes up for this Month, change the date to the day in question that you wish to view, and here the date I have used as an example is Wednesday 22 June 2022, so click on that date. Here, rather than go through all the steps above, this is that link to that day.

When that page opens, you see the default graph there for all 76 wind plants in Australia, and here the default shows the Capacity Factor (%) for each wind plant, and each one is shown in a different colour. So, to now get the power output, see at the top right of that graph it has % and MW. Well here, now click on MW, and a black line appears showing the total power output across the day for all 76 wind plants.

Under the graph is the list of each of those 76 wind plants, all coded with their AEMO code. Each of those 76 plants has the box alongside it ticked, so each plant’s total is added to the overall total, that black line on the graph.

At the bottom of the coded list is listed the five States in the AEMO coverage area. Above that you see at the end of the codes, the boxes for sub total and total.

So, here, as we want just the information for Macarthur wind, so, now, untick the boxes for every state and also untick the box for Total ….. and now you should have a blank graph.

Okay, now tick just the box for Macarthur wind, coded as MACARTH1. What you now see on the graph is the total output across the day for the Macarthur wind plant. The data is listed for time across the page and you can see that as you hover your mouse across the page, anywhere at all. Do it slowly, and you can see that the data is updated every five minutes, and the data is shown in real time, as the page is updated every five minutes.

Pick a point in time across the day, and here, I’ll make it easy and pick the low point for the day shown here as 18:00, so that’s 6PM. Here is the link to that individual point in time graph, and I have shown the image of that at right, and if you click on the image, it will open on a new page and at a larger size, so you can see the detail more easily, and as you can see in the codes below the graph, the only indicated plant is that for Macarthur Wind.

The total here is 19MW. So in the five minutes leading up to 6PM, Macarthur wind had six of its 140 towers with the blades actually turning and generating power. SIX OF THEM.

Okay, now why I detailed every step here is to show you how the exercise CAN actually be done ….. but to show you just how difficult, nigh on impossible, that task actually is.

There are 76 individual wind plants that you can check, and there are 288 individual time points across the day, and also, the information dates back to the very day that the wind plant came on line, so in the case of Macarthur Wind, all the way back to its opening in January of 2013, although the data at this site only goes back to March of 2014, so there are a little more than 3000 days, so more than 864,000 individual time points that could feasibly be checked, just for Macarthur Wind alone just the one wind plant of 76 individual wind plants.

The task would be monumental.

Also, as a generalisation here, and one I have occasionally used in my daily wind generation Posts, you could do a similar task for the overall representation, and here, note I used the word ‘generalisation’. For that same day, go back to the total for very wind plant in the Country. The overall total Nameplate is is now 9854MW, and while the total number of turbines all up would be difficult to find out, and also a long task to find out, the generalised number might be roughly calculated. The current average for all turbines is (around) 3MW, so that means there are around 3280 individual turbines across Australia. So, for this same day, only now using the total power, then at the low point for the day, just before 6PM, then the total output is 1270MW, and at a 3MW average, then at that low point in time for this day, there were only 420 of those towers which had their blades turning over and generating power, but again, that’s just a generalisation. 420 turbines out of a total of 3280 turbines.

And therein lies the sneakiness behind those green lobby wind supporters. They KNOW that no one will ever go and check ….. even if they knew how to go and check in the first place.

I didn’t do all of this to show I know everything, but just to show you how complex something like this really is, so I hope this helps you here. Sometimes, a seemingly simple question can become so involved.


A further observation was also made that if so many turbines were not in operation, then how many of those might be because they have a fault that cannot be repaired within a short time.

Wind Turbine Nacelle. Image courtesy of Siemens.

We keep hearing that wind is now the cheapest form of power generation, and it’s just so much BS really. The actual maintenance costs on wind plant turbines is horrendous, something you will also never hear about. At a coal fired Unit, you have ONE unit at ground level to service, so walk in, do the work, and walk out. With a wind plant it’s anything up to (and more than) a hundred Units, all of them at skyscraper height, some of them, at 120 metres above the ground, (and the official height of a skyscraper, the tallest building in any city being just 100 metres) and then the tradesman doing the work is working in a confined space. The image at right shows the breakdown of a typical Wind turbine inside the nacelle on top of the huge tower, and if you click on the image it will open at a new window and at an increased size, so you can better see the detail. There are stairs inside that huge tower, but imagine walking up thousands of stairs inside a very confined space to work on the generator inside that nacelle at the top of that tall tower, again in a very very confined space inside the nacelle, and to carry all your equipment and spares needed as well. These days, nearly every wind plant has to hire a helicopter to insert the workers from the top, onto a platform on top of the nacelle. The costs of maintenance are in fact so horrendous, that it’s sometimes cheaper to leave the Unit isolated and turned off than it is to service it. Again, that’s something you’ll NEVER know, and they wouldn’t tell you anyway even if requested. And they are more fragile than coal fired Units as well.

All of that adds to the reason why the Capacity Factor is so low for wind generation, and has just not improved over the years. That’s one of the reasons I have been keeping that data I keep on that daily basis, to actually show that. We are also being told that the newer turbines are so much more reliable and that in time, that Capacity Factor will increase as more and more new ones are added to the grid, and again, that’s just not true, as my data bears out. Over the four years I have been keeping this data on that daily basis now, the CF has stayed virtually the same, at that figure of 30%. In that time, the total Nameplate for wind generation has almost doubled (from 5301MW to what is now 9854MW)  with so many new Plants added to the grid, and that CF is still at that 30% figure it was when I first started doing it. I have used that 30% here for Australia for more than twelve years now, and one of the reasons I started to keep this data was that I was told it was improving year on year, and that the 30% figure was a ….. GROSS understatement. It’s actually totally accurate.

Anton Lang uses the screen name of TonyfromOz, and he writes at this site, PA Pundits International on topics related to electrical power generation, from all sources, concentrating mainly on Renewable Power, and how the two most favoured methods of renewable power generation, Wind Power and all versions of Solar Power, fail comprehensively to deliver levels of power required to replace traditional power generation. His Bio is at this link.