Environmental Issues with Construction of RE Facilities

Briefing Note 22.1 February 2022

Background

Serious environmental issues arise at ten stages of RE production, from mining raw materials to the disposal of turbines, batteries and solar panels at the end of their working lives.

Critical issues at the phase of construction

RE facilities, including the poles and wires required to carry the power to market from remote locations, demand massive amounts of land, concrete, steel, and metals including the essential rare earths.

A single wind turbine contains around 900 tons of steel, 2,500 tons of concrete and 45 tons of nonrecyclable plastic. Transport of the materials adds to the environmental impact, as does the disposal of the components when the facility is decommissioned.

The AEMO Integrated System Plan to double our electricity supply using wind and solar power calls for a ten-fold increase in large-scale wind and solar capacity and more than 10,000 km of new transmission lines.

Environmental impact is the dirty secret of the RE industry and when environmentalists realise what is happening many will not tolerate that amount of damage.

Recommendation. Legislate for comprehensive environmental impact statements to support applications for RE development, taking account of the ten stages from exploration to waste disposal.

Mark Lawson. Journalist and author. Website Highly recommended (RC)

SUPPORTING INFORMATION

For more information on the ten stages of environmental impact see the paper by Bill Stinson that can be accessed at this link.

The ten stages

Phase 1 – Raw material sourcing – Environment Destruction.

Phase 2 – Raw material mining

Phase 3 – Raw material processing – Environment Destruction, Human Rights Abuse, Toxic Waste

Phase 4 – Approval – Supply Chains – Modern Slavery, Human Rights Abuse

Phase 5 – Fabrication – Large Scale Environment Destruction

Phase 6 – Transportation “Throughout the solar PV manufacturing process all of the materials and products must be shipped to and from more than a dozen countries around the world in large barges, container ships, trains or trucks – all powered by non-renewable oil.”

Phase 7 – Construction – Environment Destruction, Tenuous Supply Chain, Toxic Waste

Phase 8 – Operation – Environment Destruction, Flora and Fauna Destruction,

Phase 9 – Demolition and Rehabilitation

Phase 10 – Disposal – Environment Destruction, Toxic Waste

15 thoughts on “Environmental Issues with Construction of RE Facilities”

  1. Serious environmental issues arise at ten stages of RE production, from mining raw materials to the disposal of turbines, batteries and solar panels at the end of their working lives.

    RE isn’t about the environment.


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  2. A single wind turbine contains around 900 tons of steel, 2,500 tons of concrete and 45 tons of nonrecyclable plastic. Transport of the materials adds to the environmental impact, as does the disposal of the components when the facility is decommissioned.

    I suspect that these are but the tip of the ‘cost‘ iceberg when it comes to wind farm or solar farm construction. The life cycle, let alone environmental, costs are grossly underestimated in most cases.

    But hey, just follow the money.


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  3. RE facilities, including the poles and wires required to carry the power to market from remote locations, demand massive amounts of land, concrete, steel, and metals including the essential rare earths.

    Francis Menton:

    Schernikau and Smith consider a case of trying to power just Germany using solar power generated in Spain (Spain having the best conditions in Europe for generating power from the sun). The conclusion:

    It appears that solar’s low energy density, high raw material input and low energy-Return-On-energy-Invested (eROeI) as well as large storage requirements make today’s solar technology an environmentally and economically unviable choice to replace conventional power at large scale.

    S&S mainly focus on the incredible material requirements that would need to be met for this solar/battery project. First, as to the solar panels:

    To match Germany’s electricity demand (or over 15% of EU’s electricity demand) solely from solar photovoltaic panels located in Spain, about 7% of Spain would have to be covered with solar panels (~35.000 km2). . . . To keep the Solar Park functioning just for Germany, PV panels would need to be replaced every 15 years, translating to an annual silicon requirement for the panels reaching close to 10% of current global production capacity (~135% for one-time setup). The silver requirement for modern PV panels powering Germany would translate to 30% of the annual global silver production (~450% for one-time setup). For the EU, essentially the entire annual global silicon production and 3x the annual global silver production would be required for replacement only…….

    https://www.manhattancontrarian.com/blog/2022-1-17-two-more-contributions-on-the-impossibility-of-electrifying-everything-using-only-wind-solar-and-batteries


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  4. Great article Rafe – cannot you advise me of the measurement of renewables, I recall it being .0062 to .0069 while fossil is between 1.62 to 1.71
    I think that’s right
    moderated

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  5. Seperately, visit any solar PV installer and ask how many inverters they replace (failures, upgrades and non-compliance issues . Many have pallets full around the back, alongside the old panels)
    And…..grid over-voltage on cool sunny days, along with grid debilitating undervoltage from intermittent cloud and the dreaded duck curve lays to waste many household white goods before their time. More land fill.


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  6. Rafe,

    the concrete, steel etc is a moot point — given we need those things for other power sources, too. The real question is ‘how many tonnes of concrete per kWh over the life of the plant’ comparison for wind vs. coal vs. nuclear.

    ditto the infrastructure.

    Ivan’s got it – there just isn’t enough of the special sauces (Silver, silicon in the case of solar cells) to make solar and wind meaningful solutions.


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  7. Regarding decommissioning / end of life removal of windmills the govt could stipulate a holding fund which the owner pays into say $100k per year for each. They are very expensive to eliminate so if action is not planned we will have rows of future rusting hulks in the countryside Soviet style.


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  8. …we will have rows of future rusting hulks in the countryside Soviet style.

    Paint them green and grow ivy on them, problem solved, and at Christmas time hang colourful Greenies on the blades like little baubles.


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  9. future rusting hulks in the countryside Soviet style.

    .. or California style.

    to give you an idea of the impact of wind power, consider the third largest onshore windfarm in the world, the Alta Wind Energy Center in Mojave.

    Nameplate capacity of 1550MW.. but runs at 22% capacity, so only really 340MW output.
    130 sq km of area.
    here’s a photo.

    Compare that with a single coal station – like 50 yo Liddell. 2000MW.


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  10. bemused says:
    January 29, 2022 at 6:54 pm
    But hey, just follow the money.

    It always is, it always is. many have long discovered that this ‘green thing’ is a pot full of money. Pretend, or don’t, to be green but have an idea/concept that you can sell and awaaaay we go.


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