ENERGY by Ian PlimerNews Weekly
Greens' silence on folly of wind and solar power
, October 25, 2014
A simple evaluation of ideological electricity shows that it is unsustainable. The answer is certainly not blowing in the wind.
The amount of energy embedded in steel pylons, concrete footings, blades, wiring, magnets, land clearing and roads is more than a wind pylon would ever generate in its working life. Wind farms cannot generate electricity in a gentle zephyr or a gale, cannot operate continuously and optimistically operate at 20 per cent of nameplate capacity.
Professor Ian Plimer
Wind farms have the life of a parasite because they freeload themselves onto existing grids paid by conventional efficient energy, need subsidies and drain electricity from the grid when it is too cold. Wind turbines don’t run on wind; they run on subsidies.
A single 1,000-megawatt wind farm produces at least 7 million tonnes of carbon dioxide in component construction and concrete. Almost 100,000 truckloads of concrete are required just for the footings. Maintenance by diesel-powered vehicles only adds to emissions. Wind farms need 24/7 back-up from carbon dioxide emitting coal-fired power stations.
Wind farms do not reduce human emissions of carbon dioxide; they increase emissions.
A wind farm using 660-kilowatt generators requires 7,600 generators at 20 per cent efficiency to produce 1,000 megawatts. At $2,000 per kilowatt installation, this would cost $10 billion. This is more than twice the cost of a reliable, clean, coal-fired 1,000-megawatt generator.
The environmental effects of wind farms are devastating. Construction of wind farms in rural areas results in a decline in residents’ mental and physical health, decreased property values and community disharmony. A recent study showed hearing loss for people experiencing low frequency noise.
In the United Kingdom, renewable energy costs, principally from wind, create fuel poverty for 2.4 million folk. In the 2012-2013 UK winter, there were an additional 35,000 deaths. This translates as six sick, elderly or vulnerable people killed every year for each installed wind turbine.
At 20 per cent efficiency, 1,000 megawatts of delivered electricity requires about 800 square kilometres of cleared land. A nuclear or coal-fired power station requires up to 60 hectares of cleared land.
Habitats are destroyed by land-clearing to reduce turbulence. Generator fires are common, and the resultant grass and bushfires cannot be water-bombed from the air as wind pylons are a flight hazard. Is this the modern face of environmentalism?
In Spain, at least 18 million birds are slaughtered annually by wind-turbine blades. Bird deaths in Germany are more than 300 per turbine, and in Sweden almost 900 per turbine. German turbines kill more than 200,000 bats per year, and in the U.S. turbines kill some 2.8 million bats.
Not to worry. Greens feel morally superior because they think that wind farms emit less carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and hence are saving the planet. We are certainly saving the planet from birds and bats. If a nuclear or coal-fired electricity generator damaged the environment as much as wind farms, there would be an outcry.
Wind farms are meant to be a contribution to prevent global warming. However, patient people have been waiting for three decades for the evidence showing human emissions of carbon dioxide drive climate change. The evidence is missing in action.
The same calculations can be made for solar power. The amount of embedded energy in the metal, concrete, glass and roads is far greater than can ever be produced in a solar farm’s life. Construction of solar panels leaves toxic chemicals in someone else’s back yard. The amount of carbon dioxide released in manufacture and maintenance is greater than the saving, and coal-fired generators need to be on standby all the time because solar power is not continuous. Solar power has an efficiency of about 10 per cent and, until the laws of physics are changed, this cannot be improved.
Greens must be very pleased that the 4,000-megawatt Drax power station in Yorkshire is changing from coal to wood-burning. Some 70,000 tonnes of wood will be burned each day. Clear felling of forests in North Carolina, rail transport, pelletising, ship loading, 5,000 km of ship transport, unloading and train transport do not sound very environmentally friendly and result in huge carbon dioxide emissions from diesel and bunker fuels.
The EU has deemed that carbon dioxide emitted from wood burning is recycled by plants yet carbon dioxide emitted from fossil fuel burning is dangerous. Go figure!
Why are the Greens silent about the environmental damage of wind and solar electricity generation?
Wind power is unreliable, uneconomic and environmentally damaging. No wind farm could provide mains power without generous subsidies, increased electricity charges and horrendous damage to the environment.
Few jurisdictions have plans for disassembling a wind farm after its useful life. Defunct wind farms should remain on the skyline as a reminder to future generations of our environmental ecocide and a memorial to our stupidity resulting from caving in to green pressure.
Fund managers have invested in wind energy to make money, not to save the environment. Their due diligence would have shown that wind farms are a costly, subsidised, high-risk method of ruining the environment and that a Renewable Energy Target was unsustainable ideology.
Rather than plead to the government for even more money, fund managers should be sacked. It is not the role of government to bail out high-risk investors who follow fads and spend more money on advertisements in The Australian than on due diligence.
Ian Plimer is an Australian geologist, professor emeritus of earth sciences at the University of Melbourne, professor of mining geology at the University of Adelaide, and the director of multiple mineral exploration and mining companies. He has published many scientific papers, six books and is one of the co-editors of Encyclopedia of Geology. His most recent book, Not For Greens, is available from News Weekly Books.