Rafe Champion guest post. The Dark Side of Wind and Solar Power

We are now alert to the failure of the green energy transition and even more alarming for genuine environmentalists is the fact that “decarbonization” policies are wreaking more havoc on the planet than global warming ever will. That has been going on for decades in plain sight and Michael Moore gave a glimpse of that ugly picture in his documentary film Planet of the Humans. No wonder that the usual suspects tried to close him down, happily without success. Still I have not seen it mentioned lately, certainly not in the “progressive” press.

Bill Stinson of the Energy Realists of Australia has compiled a record of environmental and human rights devastation through ten phases of wind and solar power production, from sourcing minerals to the disposal of work out windmills and solar panels and the remediation of damage (what remediation did you say?)

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


The paper is too densely packed for casual readers so we split out some bite-sized chunks to put in briefing notes for our list of politicians and others. This was Note 21.2 to introduce the paper.

Critical issues with the volume of raw materials required

Note 21.20 signalled the massive scale of mining that is required to deliver the raw materials required for the international net zero effort.

The International Energy Agency calculated that the needs for “energy transition minerals” such as lithium, graphite,nickel and rare-earth metals would rise by 4,200%, 2,500%, 1,900% and 700%, respectively, by 2040. The full report:

The report noted that the world doesn’t have the capacity to meet such demand and there are no plans to fund and build the necessary infrastructure for mines, transport facilities and refineries.

Critical issues at the stage of exploration and sourcing

Briefing Note 21.21 reported that an international research team with members at the Centre for Biodiversity at the University of Queensland has raised serious concerns.

“Mining threats to biodiversity will increase as more mines target materials for renewable energy production and these new threats to biodiversity may surpass those averted by climate change mitigation.” This is just the tip of an iceberg because there is bound to be a global “gold rush” for energy materials taking miners into remote wilderness areas that haven’t yet been disturbed.”

See this report.

See also Mark Mills – What’s Wrong with Wind and Solar
“The mining industry necessarily uses oil for heavy machinery, often to generate electricity in remote locations. Global mining already uses nearly twice as much petroleum as the entire country of Germany, and that’s before the emerging “gold rush” for energy minerals.”
“The global push for Electric Vehicles will drive up demand for a variety of other energy minerals from 200% to 8,000%. Mining can be done responsibly, but new mines aren’t likely to open in America or Europe. Consequently, some environmentalists have begun to worry about the invasion of pristine and fragile ecosystems around the world in hot pursuit of mineral wealth.”
(Mark P Mills – Washington Examiner – Energy & Environment – “The Myth of the Great Energy Transition” – October 1, 2020)

Critical issues at the phase of construction

Briefing Note 22.1 signals the environmental impact of building wind and solar farms. 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 the that amount of damage.

Human Rights and Environmental Issues in the supply chain

Note 22.2 describe the human rights, environmental impacts and waste disposal issues arising from large-scale generation of renewable energy.

The Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) report titled Uyghurs for Sale: ‘Re-education’, forced labour and surveillance beyond Xinjiang claims that the Chinese government had facilitated the mass transfer of Uyghur and other ethnic minority citizens from the far western region of Xinjiang to factories across the country.
In the Democratic Republic of Congo some 40,000 children as young as four toil with their parents for less than $2 a day up to 12 hours a day. https://www.cfact.org/2020/08/09/renewable-energys-staggering-human-costs/
The Commonwealth of Australia – Modern Slavery Act No 153, 2018 Act requires entities based, or operating, in Australia, which have an annual consolidated revenue of more than $100 million, to report annually on the risks of modern slavery in their operations and supply chains, and actions to address those risks. Other entities based, or operating, in Australia may report voluntarily.

The Commonwealth is required to report on behalf of non-corporate Commonwealth entities, and the reporting requirements also apply to Commonwealth corporate entities and companies with an annual consolidated revenue of more than $100 million.”
(Commonwealth of Australia – Modern Slavery Act No 153, 2018 Clause 3)
Environmental and waste disposal issues

The manufacture of solar panels requires significant natural resources including quartz, coal, silver, copper and highly toxic rare earth elements. Mining those resources is damaging to the environment and destroys habitats.

Processing those natural resources requires generation of significant amounts of electricity. In particular, construction of photovoltaic (PV) cells (i.e. solar cells) requires the extraction of silicon from quartz (i.e. silicon oxide) using carbon. “The first step of solar PV production is gathering, transporting and burning millions of tons of coal, coke and petroleum coke – along with charcoal and wood chips made from hardwood trees – to smelt > 97% pure mg-Si from quartz”. Large quantities of coal, coke, charcoal and woodchips must be burnt, with a consequential substantial release of CO2 into the atmosphere. A “vast amount of deforestation [is] necessary for solar PV production”
(Why Do We Burn Coal and Trees to Make Solar Panels? Thomas Troszak, 14 November 2019, para 2, paras 3 and 15 and reference notes [14] to [16])

“They’ve long wanted a totally electric vehicle fleet, which they claim would be clean, ethical, climate-friendly and sustainable. Of course, those labels hold up only so long as they look solely at activities and emissions within California state boundaries – and not where the mining, manufacturing and electricity generation take place. That kind of “life cycle” analysis would totally disrupt their claims.

Consider copper. A typical internal combustion engine uses about 50 pounds (23 kilos ) of this vital everyday metal, the International Copper Association says. A hybrid car requires almost 90 lb (40 kg); a plug-in EV needs 132 lb (60 kg); and a big electric bus can use up to 812 lb (369 kg) of copper. If all 15,000,000 California cars were EVs, they would need almost 1,000,000 tons of copper.

But copper ores average just 0.5% metal by weight. That means 200,000,000 tons of ore would have to be dug up, crushed, processed and refined to get that much copper. Almost every step in that process would require fossil fuels”. (The staggering human costs of “renewable” energy – Paul Driessen – Energy – August 9th 2020, page 1)

The notes produced by the Energy Realists can be found at this site hosted by the RiteOn organization. A more complete list is on our own website but this is still under construction and apart from he list of notes, most of site is “filler’ until Peter Campion comes back on duty after he finishes his election race with Bob Katter in the federal election.

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16 comments to Rafe Champion guest post. The Dark Side of Wind and Solar Power

  • #

    The trouble is Rafe, is that WE know all this but those making the green energy decisions are either ignorant or being so ideologically obtuse they merely act like the three wise monkeys


    • #

      Thanks tonyb, I did not have a good grip on this until very recently. I have virtually no friends who are green loonies but hardly any of them are more than vaguely aware of the extent of the damage.

      With all of these issues we can make a substantial start to shift public opinion just by ensuring that all our friends and relations are well informed.

      Bearing in mind the thought that “Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could only do a little.” From Edmund Burke and kept in circulation lately by Frank Brus of the Five Dock Climate Realists.


      • #


        Yes, we need to better inform our friends and relations with simple bullet point facts. However, most of our friends and relations are not directing energy policy.

        So the big question is how do we get the message in front of the media and politicans who resolutely refuse to listen or don’t want to listen

        Hence the three wise monkeys.


    • #

      Math was never a strong suit of the left environmentalists, I’d say its a bit of both with greed thrown in for good measure.

      For me its the moral hypocrisy of those that claim the life of nature is more important than anything else to them, then make excuses for the industrial scale damage and sometimes destruction of that precious life held so rabidly because their evil is lesser than ours.

      Remember these are people not skeptical but reactionary.


  • #
    Timo Soren

    I would like to see the material requirements for a large coal burning facility indirect comparison to a number of windmills to see how long before the windmills catch up (if ever) to the coal plant.


  • #

    not exactly answer but close:

    Václav Smil:
    On average, these thermal power stations are at work about 50 percent of the time… In contrast, wind turbines work on average only about 23 percent of the time, which means that even with all the requisite new high-voltage interconnections, slightly more than two units of wind-generating capacity would be needed to replace a unit in coal, gas, oil, and nuclear plants.
    You build the one nuclear power plant—like them or hate them— and one plant easily equals 2,000 megawatts. You build one big wind turbine, it’s two megawatts or three megawatts. So again, you have to build thousands of wind turbines to equal one nuclear plant.
    The largest solar PV parks thus generate electricity with power densities that is roughly 5-15 times higher than for wood-fired plants but that is at best 1/10 and at worst 1/100 of the power densities of coal-fired electricity generation. Again, if only 10% of all electricity generated in the US in 2009 (395 TWh or about 45 GW) were to be produced by large PV plants, the area required (even with average power density of 8 W/m2) would be about 5,600 km2.
    If 10% of the US electricity generated in 2009 (395 TWh or 45 GW) were to be produced by large wind farms their area would have to cover at least 22,500 km2, roughly the size of New Hampshire.
    As a result, these new energy infrastructures would have to be spread over areas ten to a thousand times larger than today’s infrastructure of fossil fuel extraction, combustion and electricity generation.


    • #

      Max, maybe you have no understanding of runtime and output compared to capacity. One also needs to understand capcity at a particular power station which has multiple units particularly with scheduling in a wider net work. Another thing few seem to know that individual units of a boiler steam turbine combination (fired by coal, oil or gas) can be operated with a range of output eg 30 to 105% and a small change (say 10%) of output can done in within a minute or so depending on size. Remember in the 1970s NSW, Qld, Vic and WA power was produced more than 90% from coal.
      Data from UQ (which has a number of solar plants in Qld. shows the the average annual output of a solar plant over a number of years is 16% of capcity (for a start it has not output at night). The average output of the 3 Gorges power station (22,000 MW) is about 8000-9000MW. In the past Qld coal fired powerstation have averaged over 90% in runtime and for some over 90% in capacity.


  • #

    Catter or Katter?


  • #

    Australia has signed on to the grand scheme sponsored by the UN (headed by a communist) and the globalists. Our politicians have sold us out. Don’t bother talking sense, it’s not about sensible solutions any more. It’s about a new world order in much the same way that the Democrats in the USA are all a out “hope and change” which is shorthand for the complete destruction of that society and reforming it to be the dominion of the elites and socialist oligarchs.


  • #

    I have been known to use the tip jar but this looks like a lack of appreciation.


  • #

    With regards to mining; another aspect very poorly understood, even by most miners, is the “strip ratio.”
    This is the ratio between the amount of “waste” or overburden that has to be removed in order just to expose the ore, which itself might have a miniscule mineral content.
    For example, the iron ore mining industry in the Pilbara typically has a strip ratio of about 4:1 – ie 4 tonnes of waste has to be removed for every tonne of iron ore recovered – and that is at best about 60% iron for “high grade” ore.
    Gold has a strip ratio of about 14:1, and that is to recover only medium grade ore, which is about 6 grams/tonne. If you put 6 grams of gold in the palm of your hand you wouldn’t even feel it.
    Even the alarming descriptions in this article don’t go anywhere near describing the catastrophic environmental effects of large scale mining.
    I know this for a fact – I spent my life mining everything from iron ore to copper, diamonds, nickel rare earths and gold. The waste is mind blowing!


  • #

    Have any of the contracts drawn up when building a wind generator included a clause demanding the end of life removal of all the material, including the concrete/rebar base/access roads and restoring the site to its original natural state?

    Many of the wind farms in the UK are based on areas of peat moorlands which are themselves significant stores of ‘carbon’ and need deep foundations that involve digging through the peat to a stable base. Is this loss of ‘carbon’ included in the calculation of supposed carbon cost of a wind farm, along with all the ancillary costs such as access roads, transformers and connections to the grid?

    If not, then all that will be left is an industrial wasteland which will only be of use to film producers of dystopian epics. (As happens now with redundant factories from the rust belt industries.)

    If the site is refurbished, will the existing bases be reusable or will there be another round of concrete/rebar installation sterilising/industrialising yet another area of countryside?
    Current proposals for more on-shore wind farms in the UK seem to be going down this route.


  • #

    The child like response you will get goes like “yeah, well coal and gas cause pollution and destruction too” as if that somehow addresses the issues. They may pollute and destroy but they got virtue, its like the electrolytes in Brawndo.


  • #
    UK-Weather Lass

    There are already plentiful pictures of turbine and photovoltaic wastelands in the image archives from decades past to give us an idea of what a dystopian future could look like if we don’t get a handle on proper energy policy soon. It needs large scale planning and not a belief that intermittent energy technology will somehow come up with answers to what is currently impossible in any shape or form. If intermittent supply is so wonderful clean and fit for purpose then why are we not running everything successfully from it after three or more decades of the stuff?