Resource Documents: Emissions (132 items)
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Author: Gitt, Brian
I love the *idea* of wind power. It sounds natural. Clean. Moral. But in reality, wind power harms the environment & people—especially low-income people. The myths about wind power are fueling bad energy policies & poor investments. The facts make it all look ridiculous.
2/ MYTH: wind power helps the environment.
Wind power requires excessive mining & land use. It industrializes coastline & kills wildlife.
Nuclear & natural gas power plants reduce CO₂ emissions more effectively.
3/ Wind turbines are made from minerals, petrochemicals, & fossil fuels.
Building a single 2 MW windmill uses 187 tons of coal—the equivalent of 125 pickup trucks full of coal.
4/ Building a 100 MW wind farm requires 30,000 tons of iron ore, 50,000 tons of concrete & 900 tons of non-recyclable plastics for the blades—all mined, transported & produced with hydrocarbons.
5/ Wind farms need 360× more land to produce the same amount of energy as a nuclear power plant.
A 200 MW wind farm spans 13+ sq miles (36 sq km). A natural-gas power plant with the same generating capacity could fit onto a single city block.
6/ Wind turbines threaten endangered whales & fisheries, & kill hundreds of thousands of birds every year.
7/ Each wind turbine blade is over 165 feet (50 meters) long & is made from toxic materials that can’t be recycled & that are getting dumped in landfills.
Tens of thousands of these blades will eventually enter the waste stream.
8/ There are better ways of reducing climate risk.
The carbon footprint of an offshore wind farm is 3 times larger than the carbon footprint of a nuclear plant.
Building wind farms channels resources away from better ways of reducing climate risk like nuclear power.
9/ MYTH: Wind power helps people.
Households pay more for electricity where there are wind & solar mandates:
German households saw their energy bills increase by 34% between 2010-2020.
American households in CA pay 80% more, & 11% more in 28 other states with mandates.
10/ Lower-income people subsidize wind-power tax credits for the wealthy.
“We get a tax credit if we build a lot of wind farms. That’s the only reason to build them. They don’t make sense without the tax credit.” —Warren Buffett
11/ The wind industry still needs subsidies even after billions in public handouts.
The US Treasury estimates the wind production tax credit will cost taxpayers ~$34 billion from 2020 to 2029. It’s by far the most expensive energy subsidy.
12/ People who live near wind farms report sleep disturbances, headaches, dizziness, vertigo, nausea, blurry vision, irritability, & problems with concentration & memory.
13/ China takes up 7 spots among the world’s top 10 wind turbine manufacturers—where weak environmental regulations prevail & lower production costs are fueled by coal & cheap labor.
14/ Goldwind (2nd largest wind manufacturer in the world) has factories in China’s Xinjiang province, where hundreds of thousands of Uyghurs are working in slave labor conditions.
15/ MYTH – We can build enough wind farms to meet our energy needs.
People hate living near wind farms.
The farms are loud & large (each is 400-700 ft tall (122-213 m).
They destroy views & hurt property values.
16/ Public backlash against wind farms is growing in the US & Europe.
Local governments have rejected over 317 US wind projects since 2015.
17/ Offshore wind farms sidestep some community conflicts but have other problems.
Building offshore farms is 3× more expensive than onshore.
They threaten endangered whales, fisheries, ocean views & industrialize the coastline.
18/ Wind turbines generate electricity only ~30% of the time because the wind doesn’t always blow.
Every megawatt of wind needs a megawatt of fossil fuel power (usually natural gas) as a backup.
19/ MYTH – Better tech will solve problems with wind power.
The Betz limit in physics caps the maximum efficiency for a wind turbine. At most, only 60% of the kinetic energy from wind can be used to spin the turbine & generate electricity.
20/ Not all tech innovation makes things cheaper.
Offshore wind is getting more expensive. The cost has been increasing by 15% whenever capacity doubles.
21/ Some people think we’ll be able to store surplus wind energy in batteries. But the world’s largest battery factory (Tesla’s Gigafactory) would need 1,000 years to make enough batteries for 2 days’ worth of US electricity demand. And batteries cost 200× more than natural gas.
22/ Wind farms break down often & don’t last long.
Equipment failures & declining performance make the cost of operating a 16+ yr old wind turbine prohibitive.
Onshore turbines lose 37% output & offshore turbines lose 50% output at 16 yrs.
23/ Myths about wind power are driving bad investments & policy decisions.
Dollars spent on them cause harm & suffering to the poorest among us–a high cost for false moral comfort.
Let’s build an energy system that maximizes human flourishing & minimizes environmental harm.
24/ What We Need To Do:
End subsidies & incentives for wind & solar.
Retire the dirtiest coal power plants.
Build new efficient natural gas power plants (and hydro and geothermal where possible).
Reform regulations & build nuclear power plants.
Invest in energy R&D.
Feb 15, 2022, Twitter (@BrianGitt)
Author: Albanito, Fabrizio; et al.
- The displacement of terrestrial carbon stocks is crucial to quantifying the environmental impact of onshore wind energy.
- Direct and indirect greenhouse gas emissions are quantified spatially based on land cover types and wind farm characteristics.
- Emissions of land use change from the construction of 3848 wind turbines across Scotland vary from 16 g CO₂ kWh−1 in shrubland to 1760 g CO₂ kWh−1 in peatland.
- Opportunity costs of onshore wind farms range from £0.30 to £65.0 per MWh of electricity generated per year.
The development of onshore wind energy impacts the land where it is constructed, together with competition for natural resources between the energy and land sector. The loss of terrestrial carbon stocks and ecosystem services from land use change to wind farms can be interpreted as the opportunity cost that landowners give up by choosing to construct wind farms on their land. Here, we spatially quantify the impact onshore wind farms have on land when we factor in the opportunity carbon (C) costs. We found that the construction of 3848 wind turbines in Scotland generated 4.9 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO₂) emissions from land use change. On average the emission intensity of land use change in peatland is 560 g CO₂ kWh−1, in forestry is 88 g CO₂ kWh−1, in cropland is 45 g CO₂ kWh−1, and in pastureland is 30 g CO₂ kWh−1. In the worst land use change scenario, the displacement of Dystrophic basin peat habitats generated 1760 g CO₂ kWh−1, which is comparable to the life cycle emissions of fossil-fuel technologies such as coal and gas-fired electricity generation. In arable land, the loss of harvestable crop to wind power was forfeited for a gain in opportunity costs up to £15.4 million over a 25 year operating life. Considering the short-term value of CO₂ in the trading market, the opportunity carbon costs of onshore wind farms can range from £0.3 to £65.0 per MWh of electricity generated per year. These findings highlight that the preservation of terrestrial carbon stocks and crop production in the land sector require the development of new payment schemes that can compete economically against the monetary benefits that landowners can access from lease agreements agreed with energy companies. This ensures also that wind turbines are geographically placed to protect ecosystem C stocks, and to minimize the carbon intensity of the electricity generated.
Fabrizio Albanito, Anita Shepherd, Astley Hastings, Institute of Biological and Environmental Sciences, University of Aberdeen, 23 St Machar Drive, Aberdeen, Scotland
Sam Roberts, Pryor & Rickett Silviculture, Lugwardine, Hereford, UK
Journal of Cleaner Production
Volume 363, 20 August 2022, 132480
Download original document: “Quantifying the land-based opportunity carbon costs of onshore wind farms”
Author: Stevenson, David
Virginia Governor Northam led the Commonwealth into the multi-state Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). I conducted a multi-state study, updated for Virginia, which came to the same conclusion as a Congressional Research Center study . The dozen-year-old RGGI program has resulted in no significant additional emission reduction compared to comparison states, but did shift generation to other states. Virginia electric generation fell 9% in the first ten months of 2021 despite a 7% increase in demand as the purchase of RGGI allowances began. Virginia natural gas fired power plants lost against regional electric grid bids from non-carbon tax states with 10% to 13% lower cost as shown in the following table .
|Fuel Source||2021 MWh||2020 MWh||Difference||% Change|
|Total Fossil Fuel||49,187,000||57,823,000||(8,636,000)||−15%|
|Total Zero CO₂||30,528,000||29,727,000||801,000||3%|
|October year to date totals from US EIA Electric Power Monthly|
The RGGI program requires power plants to buy emission allowances for each ton of CO₂ emissions with allowances sold in quarterly auctions. Speculators can participate and potentially resell allowances at higher prices. Virginia power plants will lose about $330 million in generation revenue in 2021 (9.4 million lost MWh annualized @ $35/MWh). The loss of in state generation will continue to rise as RGGI allowance prices rise. A study of the RGGI state of Delaware showed natural gas generation could fall to zero at a $16/ton allowance price (see graph below). Generation will likely shift out of Virginia much faster than new wind and solar generation can be built.
The first question to consider is how Virginia emissions reductions compare to the RGGI states from 2007 to 2019:
- Per capita emissions from Virginia electric power plants fell 46 percent . RGGI states fell 40 percent after adjusting for the emissions RGGI states shifted elsewhere by importing more electricity from other states, and industrial business lost to other states.
- Total Virginia power plant emissions fell 17.5 million tons .
- The Virginia generation mix changed by reducing coal-fired generation by 42 percentage points  compared to 16 in RGGI states. Natural gas generation increased by 43 percentage points, 10 in RGGI states. RGGI states added 5 percentage points of zero emission resources, and Virginia saw no change as solar added 4 percentage points replacing the same amount of nuclear and hydro power.
It is no surprise Virginia had a higher rate of reduction in emissions than RGGI states as that was similar to the conclusion of my peer reviewed study published in the Cato Journal, “A Review of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative” . RGGI had essentially no impact on emissions reductions compared to five other states who had similar energy policies except for RGGI. Consequently, there will likely be no environmental benefits from Virginia joining RGGI.
Importing power adds cost to cover the greater transmission distances and congestion at key transmission sub-stations. Well-paying jobs at the power plants would be lost, and that has secondary impacts on the economy. The direct cost of RGGI is currently about $58/year based on a Dominion Power rate increase request to the utility commission of $4.37/Megawatt-hour , and an average monthly usage of 1.1 megawatt- hour per month . A large industrial customer using 6,000 Megawatt-hours a month in a utility commission example would pay about $315,000/year in 2022 for RGGI.
Allowance prices averaged $9.60/ton in 2021 and ended the year at $13 , and resulted in $128 million in costs added to electric bills. RGGI, Inc. itself shows prices rising to as much as $24/ton  by 2030. RGGI costs may average $250 million a year through 2030 based on the RGGI upper end forecast, or $2.5 billion over 10 years. RGGI, Inc. raised $284 million in RGGI auction revenue which was added to electric bills, and claims to have saved $112 million on electric bills by investing in energy efficiency, renewable energy, and greenhouse gas abatement . Our analysis  showed the savings estimates are questionable as no robust auditing has been done on the supposed savings, or of how money was spent. For example the RGGI report shows Connecticut invested money, but in actuality the state directed RGGI revenue to its general fund. In any case the supposed savings were insignificant. Energy efficiency and renewable energy savings represented 0.09% of RGGI state electric generation in 2019.
Joining RGGI would require electric generators to reduce CO₂ emissions 65% from 2007 levels, or an additional 13 million tons by 2030. In 2020 coal fired power plants emitted 4.5 million tons of CO₂. Closing those power plants would meet 35% of the emissions goal. Electric generation would fall 3.3 million Megawatt-hours. That is lost power plant generation worth about $115 million (3.3 million MWh @ $35/MWh). Decommissioning costs for those power plants would be about $325 million . Coal production in Virginia would fall about 1.8 million tons a year currently worth $90 million a year  at $50/ton.
The balance of the emission reduction would have to come from natural gas fired plants reducing generation by about 19.3 million Megawatt-hours. Lost generation would be worth about $675 million a year by 2030 (19.3 million MWh @ $35/MWh). Virginia produces enough natural gas to generate 14.7 million megawatt-hours of natural gas that should be worth an average of $500,000 a year a year by 2030 . By 2030 35% of Virginia natural gas generation would have to close with a decommissioning cost of $83 million .
The average annual cost between now and 2030 of lost generation, and lost coal and natural gas production could be as high as $560 million. RGGI expense may be $250 million a year, and there may be $400 million in one-time power plant decommissioning cost. Over 10 years RGGI might have a direct cost of $8.5 billion. Indirect and induced impacts are calculated using a regional multiplier from the US Bureau of Economic Analysis, which is 1.2983 for utilities  may cost $19.5 billion to reduce emissions by about half. To go to zero emissions with RGGI alone may cost $39 billion.
The costs don’t count the impact of lost grid reliability. No longer exporting dispatchable power, and relying on intermittent wind and solar power, could cause electric grid reliability issues in the thirteen state PJM, Interconnection electric grid potentially leading to untold cost.
1) Congressional Research Service, “The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative: Lessons Learned and Issues for Congress”, Jonathan L. Ramseur, May 16, 2017, sgp.fas.org/crs/misc/R41836.pdf . Cato Journal, “A review of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative”, www.cato.org/cato-journal/winter-2018/review-regional-greenhouse-gas-initiative
2) US Energy Information Agency, Electric Power Monthly, Electric Power Monthly – U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA)
3) Author calculation from U.S. Energy Information Agency, “Detailed State Data”, www.eia.gov/electricity/data/state/ : Emissions, Generation, Demand, and Capacity Charts by State 1990 to 2020. Inside Energy, Lost in transmission: How much electricity disappears between a power plant and your plug? www.insideenergy.org/2015/11/06/lost-in-transmission-how-much-electricity-disappears-between-a-power-plant-and-your-plug/
4) Thomas Jefferson Institute, “Youngkin to Withdraw from RGGI, End Carbon Tax”, jeffersonpolicyjournal.com/youngkin-to-withdraw-from-rggi-end-carbon-tax/
5) Virginia State Corporation Commission, Carol Meyers cost testimony on Dominion Power Integrated Resource Plan, scc.virginia.gov/docketsearch/DOCS/4p8t01!.PDF
6) Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative Auction Results, www.rggi.org/auctions/auction-results
7) Draft 2017 Model Rule Policy Scenario Overview Sept. 25, 2017, page 13, www.rggi.org/sites/default/files/Uploads/Program-Review/9-25-2017/Draft_IPM_Model_Rule_Results_Overview_09_25_17.pdf
8) RGGI, Inc., “The Investment of RGGI proceeds in 2019”, www.rggi.org/sites/default/files/Uploads/Proceeds/RGGI_Proceeds_Report_2019.pdf
9) Resources for the Future, “Decommissioning US Power Plants”, Daniel Raimi, Oct. 2017, media.rff.org/documents/RFF20Rpt20Decommissioning20Power20Plants.pdf . Average cost/MW is $117,000 for coal, $15,000 for NG.
10) US EIA weekly coal production, Weekly Coal Production by State (eia.gov), coal prices, Coal prices and outlook – U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), natural gas production, table_02.doc (eia.gov). Freeing Energy: “Straight Facts on the environmental impact on coal”: 1100 pounds of coal/MWh; Straight facts on the environmental impact of coal: CO₂ emissions, pollution, land, and water (freeingenergy.com)
11) U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis Regional Impact Multiplier System, composite multiplier for indirect impact of utilities is 1.2983, available by subscription service only
David T. Stevenson, Director
Caesar Rodney Institute Center for Energy Competitiveness
Download original document: “Virginia and the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative”
Author: Stevenson, David
This comparison of actual regional grid carbon dioxide (CO₂) emissions between 2019 and 2021 shows increased use of wind and solar did not reduce emissions. Wind and solar electric generation are actually poor technologies no one would use without permanent government mandates and massive subsidies and taxes that are adding $1 billion a year in power cost. They are also unreliable, non-recyclable, have negative environmental impacts , have shorter productive life spans than alternative power sources, and take up a lot of ground. If it doesn’t reduce carbon dioxide emissions why are we using wind and solar?
The PJM regional electric grid serves over 65 million people in thirteen states. It is the largest such regional grid providing 22% of the countries electric power. Table 1 below shows how generation from various technologies changed from 2019 to 2021, Key changes are:
- Natural gas replaced coal almost one to one as it has been doing so for about the last decade.
- Special oil based backup generators ran significantly more often.
- Total carbon based generation stayed about the same at over 60% of total generation.
- Zero emission nuclear generation fell over 2%, and hydro fell about 5%.
- Combined wind and solar generation grew about 30% replacing lower nuclear and hydro generation plus covering a 0.2% increase in total regional generation, but still only equaled about 4% of total production despite over a decade of mandates and subsidies.
- Overall the emissions fell 0.8%, a small improvement.
|Table 1: PJM electric generation by technology 2019 to 2021|
|Fuel||2019||2021||Change MWh||Change %|
|CO₂ systems mix||851.1926||843.3056||7.8870||−0.9%|
|Source: PJM Systems Mix |
Table 2 details the actual change in CO₂ emissions, but also considers how emissions may have fallen had the rate of emissions by megawatt-hour (MWh) remained the same as 2019. The key points are:
- Coal emissions should have fallen the same 7% generation did, but only fell about half as much as power plant efficiency fell.
- Emissions from oil based backup generation grew 60%, but efficiency improved about 25%.
- Natural gas generation grew 4.6%, but emissions only grew 3.6% as efficiency improved.
- Overall emissions would have fallen 2.3% instead of the actual 0.8% mainly caused by falling coal generation efficiency.
|Table 2: PJM Carbon dioxide emissions by carbon-based fuels|
|Fuel||2019 tons||2021 tons||Difference||% Change||2021 with 2019
|Source: PJM Systems Mix |
Fuel switching from coal to natural gas would most likely have occurred even if no wind and solar power were available. Natural gas has about 60% lower emissions than coal for each MWh produced. Some of that fuel switching was caused by lower natural gas fuel prices, and part was simply replacing closed coal- fired power plants. As generation at coal plants falls the plants become less efficient actually increasing emissions per MWh as shown in Chart 1 below. Coal plants were not designed for frequent stops and starts and doing so can more than double emissions per MWh of production. Calculating from PJM Systems Mix data shows coal emissions grew 3.4%/MWh. Without that increase the actual total emission reduction may have fallen 2.3% instead of 0.8%.
Solar and wind generation increased about 30%, or by 8.1 million MWhs. Nuclear power fell 6.3 million MWhs with 85% of that decrease related to the closing of the last unit at Three Mile Island. If you have been following the news many nuclear power plants are in financial trouble  and some plants are closing. Nuclear power generation has to be continuous as there is limited ability to ramp a plant up and down so those plants largely follow prices set by other generation sources. Federal tax credits for wind power of over $20/MWh  are awarded based on the amount of power generated and were close to the PJM average wholesale energy price for 2021 of $30.84/MWh . So wind projects will bid low or even negative prices sometimes to reap those tax credits and nuclear plants follow even when losing money. Hydropower is very flexible and can be ramped down if the prices go too low.
There is more to the story. Electric demand and supply must be in absolute balance every second or there are brownouts and blackouts. To keep everything in balance PJM can call on fast reacting oil and natural gas-fired generators known as peaking generators. They meet the demand but are less efficient than regular equipment and increase emissions. The tables shows a large increase in oil-fired generation, and emissions. That increase is likely a direct result of wind and solar power ramping up and down as the wind and sunlight stopped or slowed. Without that extra peaking plant operation total PJM emissions may have fallen another 0.2%.
This lack of CO₂ reduction by wind and solar comes at a high cost. Tax payers and electric customers provide expensive subsidies totaling almost $2 billion in the 2020-21 period, or $1 billion a year;
- Besides selling power into the competitive PJM market wind generation receives $18 to 23/MWh  in federal Production Tax Credits paid by taxpayers depending on the year built for an average of $20.50/MWh. With 54 million MWh produced in 2020 and 2021  the total cost was $1,107 million.
- PJM reports  show from 6/1/2019 to June 1/2021, 1,077 MW of new solar capacity was added. Reports from the Solar Energy Industry Association  indicate the average installed cost of utility scale solar with tracking over that period was $0.96/Watt for a total investment of $1,034 million. Solar projects received a 26% federal Investment Tax Credit from taxpayers, or $269 million.
- Four states (NJ, DE, MD, VA) participated in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative that requires carbon based generators to buy allowances to emit CO₂. The cost gets passed on in electric bills. For example Virginia, the only one of the four states with integrated generation and distribution, received $228 million8 in RGGI taxes in 2021. Dominion Energy passed on $6.67/MWh to ratepayers, or about $80/year. In deregulated states the RGGI cost ($434 million in 2020-21) are passed on indirectly in higher average PJM energy prices.
In summary, the minor reduction in emissions occurred because lower emission natural gas replaced coal. The emissions reduction might have been as much as 2.5% instead of 0.9%. Increased reliance on intermittent wind and solar power increased the use of inefficient peaking power plants, and as generation volume at coal plants fell they became less efficient. Increases in wind and solar generation offset zero emission nuclear and hydro generation (84% of increase), with the balance going to higher overall PJM generation. The conclusion is wind and solar power are not yielding lower carbon dioxide emissions, but are adding $1 billion a year in costs. Without lower emissions why are we mandating and subsidizing wind and solar power?
1) Union of Concerned Scientists, “Environmental impacts of wind power”, https://www.ucsusa.org/resources/environmental-impacts-wind-power
2) PJM Systems Mix, https://gats.pjm-eis.com/gats2/PublicReports/PJMSystemMix
3) Institute for Energy Research, “Wind PTC threatens grid reliability”, https://www.instituteforenergyresearch.org/renewable/wind/wind-ptc-threatens-grid-reliability/
4) US EIA, Higher renewable capacity additions in AEO2016 reflect policy changes and cost reductions, https://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.php?id=26492 and Wind production tax credit extended to 2021, https://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.php?id=46576
5) PJM 2021 Markets Report, page 5, https://pjm.com/-/media/committees-groups/committees/mc/2021/20210503/20210503-item-07b-1-2021-annual-meeting-markets-report.ashx
6) PJM Capacity by Fuel Type, https://www.pjm.com/-/media/markets-ops/ops-analysis/capacity-by-fuel-type-2021.ashx and https://www.pjm.com/-/media/markets-ops/ops-analysis/capacity-by-fuel-type-2019.ashx
7) Solar Energy Industry Association, Solar Market Insight Report 2021 Q4, https://www.seia.org/research-resources/solar-market-insight-report-2021-q4
8) RGGI, Inc., Auction Results, https://www.rggi.org/auctions/auction-results
9) Caesar Rodney Institute, “Virginia your green new price tag is showing”
David T. Stevenson, Director
Caesar Rodney Institute Center for Energy and Environment
Download original document: “New evidence renewables don’t reduce carbon dioxide emissions”