4.5 windfarms per yeah/nah: Part 3

Never mind the view, feel the green

Matt Ridley published an article in The Spectator showing that wind turbines are neither clean nor green and that they provide zero global energy. He suggests that we urgently need to stop the ecological posturing and invest in gas and nuclear. Oh dear! Gas? The Comrade’s Captain’s Call Policy (CCCP) killed that golden goose.

We have been looking at Matt’s article and relating it to the 4.5 windfarms per year that Dr Woods is going to commission. Part 1, Part 2.

After investigating the land use requirements and the general inefficiency limits of wind turbines, Matt turns to the construction implications. Quote.

It gets worse. Wind turbines, apart from the fibreglass blades, are made mostly of steel, with concrete bases. They need about 200 times as much material per unit of capacity as a modern combined cycle gas turbine. Steel is made with coal, not just to provide the heat for smelting ore, but to supply the carbon in the alloy. Cement is also often made using coal. The machinery of ?clean? renewables is the output of the fossil fuel economy, and largely the coal economy.

A two-megawatt wind turbine weighs about 250 tonnes, including the tower, nacelle, rotor and blades. Globally, it takes about half a tonne of coal to make a tonne of steel. Add another 25 tonnes of coal for making the cement and you?re talking 150 tonnes of coal per turbine. Now if we are to build 350,000 wind turbines a year (or a smaller number of bigger ones), just to keep up with increasing energy demand, that will require 50 million tonnes of coal a year. That?s about half the EU?s hard coal?mining output. […]

The point of running through these numbers is to demonstrate that it is utterly futile, on a priori grounds, even to think that wind power can make any significant contribution to world energy supply, let alone to emissions reductions, without ruining the planet. As the late David MacKay pointed out years back, the arithmetic is against such unreliable renewables.

The truth is, if you want to power civilisation with fewer greenhouse gas emissions, then you should focus on shifting power generation, heat and transport to natural gas, the economically recoverable reserves of which ? thanks to horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing ? are much more abundant than we dreamed they ever could be. It is also the lowest-emitting of the fossil fuels, so the emissions intensity of our wealth creation can actually fall while our wealth continues to increase. Good.

And let?s put some of that burgeoning wealth in nuclear, fission and fusion, so that it can take over from gas in the second half of this century. That is an engineerable, clean future. Everything else is a political displacement activity, one that is actually counterproductive as a climate policy and, worst of all, shamefully robs the poor to make the rich even richer. End quote.

Matt Ridley, The Spectator

But, no. We are far too virtuous in New Zealand to extract evil natural gas from under our land or sea. It is so much better to import huge amounts of steel, cement, fibreglass etc and despoil our fantastic landscape while we chop up native birds and bats.