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Resource Documents: Emissions (132 items)


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Unless indicated otherwise, documents presented here are not the product of nor are they necessarily endorsed by National Wind Watch. These resource documents are shared here to assist anyone wishing to research the issue of industrial wind power and the impacts of its development. The information should be evaluated by each reader to come to their own conclusions about the many areas of debate. • The copyrights reside with the sources indicated. As part of its noncommercial effort to present the environmental, social, scientific, and economic issues of large-scale wind power development to a global audience seeking such information, National Wind Watch endeavors to observe “fair use” as provided for in section 107 of U.S. Copyright Law and similar “fair dealing” provisions of the copyright laws of other nations.

Date added:  July 5, 2022
EmissionsPrint storyE-mail story

Climate impacts of fossil fuels in today’s electricity systems

Author:  Schernikau, Lars; and Smith, William


Oil, coal, and gas account for approximately 80% of global primary energy, but only a portion of total airborne CO2eq (approx. 35% at GWP20 to 65% at GWP100), even though they account for 95% of total measured CO2 emissions. The benefits of these energy sources, as well as their related costs, are not all incorporated in current energy policy discussions. Global greenhouse gas policies must include documented changes in measured airborne CO2eq to avoid spending large amounts of public funds on ineffective or sub-optimal policies.

The authors examined airborne CO2, which is less than half of emitted CO2, as well as reported CH4 emissions and the global warming potential of CH4 as published by the IPCC for coal and natural gas. The surprising conclusion is that surfaced-mined coal appears ‘better for the climate’ than the average natural gas, and all coal appears beneficial over LNG. Therefore, current CO2-only reduction policies and CO2 taxes are leading to unintended consequences and the switch from coal to natural gas, especially LNG, will not have the desired impact of reducing predicted future global warming; in fact, quite the contrary. A large portion of anthropogenic global warming is attributed by the IPCC and IEA to CH4, but it must be noted that CH4 emissions from natural sources and from agriculture account for approximately 40% and 25% of annual global CH4 emissions respectively. Energy accounts for about 20% of documented CH4 emissions.

CO2 contributes only approximately 35% of annual airborne anthropogenic GHG emissions after accounting for CH4, over a 20-year horizon. At a 100-year horizon, the contribution of CO2 increases to approximately 60%. Energy policies that do not consider all GHG emissions along the entire value chain will lead to undesired economic and environmental distortions. All carbon taxation and CO2 pricing schemes are incorrect and need to be revised.

At IPCC’s GWP20 an approximately 2% higher loss of CH4 across the value chain prior to combustion of natural gas versus coal will lead to ‘climate parity’ of coal with natural gas. According to public data, natural gas value chains have high CH4 and undocumented CO2 losses. On a global average, using only IEA-documented CH4 data, natural gas emits approximately 15% more CO2eq than surface-mined coal, over a 20-year horizon. This difference will increase as the use of shale gas and LNG expands.

Investors should support all energy systems in a manner that avoids an energy crisis, including intermittent renewable energy systems where they make sense. If CO2 emissions need to be reduced, one of the most effective ways would be to install ultra-supercritical power plants with CCUS technology. However, the undisputed benefits of increased CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere because of its promotion of photosynthesis and plant growth effects (fertilization) need to be considered in energy policy decisions as well. The authors suggest that future research and development should concentrate on reducing net emissions from fossil fuel power plants and providing cost-effective and reliable new conventional power generation capacity, utilizing clean coal and clean natural gas technology.

L. Schernikau, Berlin, Germany
W.H. Smith, Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri, USA

Journal of the Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy
vol. 122, n. 3, Johannesburg, Mar. 2022

Download original document: “Climate impacts of fossil fuels in today’s electricity systems

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Date added:  July 5, 2022
Emissions, U.S.Print storyE-mail story

No emission reduction gained from increasing wind and solar

Author:  Stevenson, David

I continued my ongoing analysis of electric generation in the PJM regional grid where Delaware is a participant. I wanted to share the results of how much wind and solar power was generated in the region from 2019 to 2021.

From 2019 to 2021, wind and solar power generation increased by 30% but had no impact on carbon dioxide emissions (CO₂).

PJM is the largest regional grid in the country, serving 65 million people in thirteen mid-Atlantic and Midwestern states generating 22% of US electricity. Emissions did fall 0.8% over the period but were entirely due to an almost one-to-one replacement of high-emission coal with lower-emission natural gas.

This is a huge failure since emissions reduction is the only purpose of the rush to use more wind and solar-powered generation. These power sources are poor technologies no one would use without permanent government mandates, massive subsidies, and punishing taxes on carbon-based fuels that add $1 billion a year in power cost just in PJM.

Most wind generation occurs when it is least needed, and most solar generation occurs in about 6 hours a day, and both are very intermittent with wide seasonal variation. They are also non-recyclable, have one-third to one-half the productive life spans of alternative power sources, and take up a lot of ground.

Why are we using wind and solar if it doesn’t reduce CO₂ emissions?

An 8.1 million megawatt-hour (MWh) increase in wind and solar power generation replaced a 6.8 million MWh decline in zero-emission nuclear and hydroelectric power and covered a 1.3 MWh increase in PJM demand. Most of the decline in nuclear power resulted from the closure of the last Three Mile Island generating unit. Nuclear power plants are not competing well against subsidized wind power.

Emissions fell 2.8 million metric tons, or 0.8%, but would have fallen 8 million tons, or 2.5%, had emission rates by fuel followed the 2019 experience. The reasons for the difference between the actual emission reductions and theoretical emission reductions are instructive.

First, as intermittent power use increases, fast-reacting “peaking” generators are used more frequently to cover power shortfalls. These generators are inefficient, oil and natural gas-fueled units with high emission rates. Oil-based peaking generation increased 76% and emitted an extra 0.7 million tons in 2021 due to more wind and solar power.

On average natural gas emits about 40% of the CO₂ as coal for each MWh generated. However, coal plants are not designed to start and stop efficiently.

The chart below shows a curve of how emission rates rise as much as double as generation rates fall.

Source: RGGI, Inc.: RGGI COATS Platform

Coal generation fell over 7% from 2019 to 2021, mostly from power plants generating less often than from power plants shutting down completely. Emissions should have fallen at the same 7% reduction rate as generation but only fell by 3.7%, about half the expected amount.

The results of my analysis are surprising as past studies of emission reductions by the US Energy Information Agency show falling electric industry emission rates could be attributed only about 68% to fuel switching to natural gas while new wind and solar impacted the rest. The use of high emission electric generation fuels has fallen 63% since 2005.

We may be seeing a new era where expanding wind and solar generation is routinely more likely to replace zero and low-emission power sources as they displace high emission sources. If that is the case, it may be time to end wind and solar mandates and subsidies.

—David T. Stevenson, Director
Center for Energy & Environmental Policy
Caesar Rodney Institute, Delaware
June 20, 2022

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Date added:  March 2, 2019
Economics, Emissions, Environment, WildlifePrint storyE-mail story

Why Renewables Can’t Save the Planet

Author:  Shellenberger, Michael

When I was a boy, my parents would sometimes take my sister and me camping in the desert. A lot of people think deserts are empty, but my parents taught us to see the wildlife all around us, including hawks, eagles, and tortoises.

After college, I moved to California to work on environmental campaigns. I helped save the state’s last ancient redwood forest and blocked a proposed radioactive waste repository set for the desert.

In 2002, shortly after I turned 30, I decided I wanted to dedicate myself to addressing climate change. I was worried that global warming would end up destroying many of the natural environments that people had worked so hard to protect.

I thought the solutions were pretty straightforward: solar panels on every roof, electric cars in every driveway, etc. The main obstacles, I believed, were political. And so I helped organize a coalition of America’s largest labor unions and environmental groups. Our proposal was for a $300 billion dollar investment in renewables. We would not only prevent climate change but also create millions of new jobs in a fast-growing high-tech sector.

Our efforts paid off in 2007 when then-presidential candidate Barack Obama embraced our vision. Between 2009–15, the U.S. invested $150 billion dollars in renewables and other forms of clean tech. But right away we ran into trouble.

The first was around land use. Electricity from solar roofs costs about twice as much as electricity from solar farms, but solar and wind farms require huge amounts of land. That, along with the fact that solar and wind farms require long new transmissions lines, and are opposed by local communities and conservationists trying to preserve wildlife, particularly birds.

Another challenge was the intermittent nature of solar and wind energies. When the sun stops shining and the wind stops blowing, you have to quickly be able to ramp up another source of energy.

Happily, there were a lot of people working on solutions. One solution was to convert California’s dams into big batteries. The idea was that, when the sun was shining and the wind was blowing, you could pump water uphill, store it for later, and then run it over the turbines to make electricity when you needed it.

Other problems didn’t seem like such a big deal, on closer examination. For example, after I learned that house cats kill billions of birds every year it put into perspective the nearly one million birds killed by wind turbines.

It seemed to me that most, if not all, of the problems from scaling up solar and wind energies could be solved through more technological innovation.

But, as the years went by, the problems persisted and in some cases grew worse. For example, California is a world leader when it comes to renewables but we haven’t converted our dams into batteries, partly for geographic reasons. You need the right kind of dam and reservoirs, and even then it’s an expensive retrofit.

A bigger problem is that there are many other uses for the water that accumulates behind dams, namely irrigation and cities. And because the water in our rivers and reservoirs is scarce and unreliable, the water from dams for those other purposes is becoming ever-more precious.

Without large-scale ways to back-up solar energy California has had to block electricity coming from solar farms when it’s extremely sunny, or pay neighboring states to take it from us so we can avoid blowing-out our grid.

Despite what you’ve heard, there is no “battery revolution” on the way, for well-understood technical and economic reasons.

As for house cats, they don’t kill big, rare, threatened birds. What house cats kill are small, common birds, like sparrows, robins and jays. What kills big, threatened, and endangered birds—birds that could go extinct—like hawks, eagles, owls, and condors, are wind turbines.

In fact, wind turbines are the most serious new threat to important bird species to emerge in decades. The rapidly spinning turbines act like an apex predator which big birds never evolved to deal with.

Solar farms have similarly large ecological impacts. Building a solar farm is a lot like building any other kind of farm. You have to clear the whole area of wildlife.

In order to build one of the biggest solar farms in California the developers hired biologists to pull threatened desert tortoises from their burrows, put them on the back of pickup trucks, transport them, and cage them in pens where many ended up dying.

As we were learning of these impacts, it gradually dawned on me that there was no amount of technological innovation that could solve the fundamental problem with renewables.

You can make solar panels cheaper and wind turbines bigger, but you can’t make the sun shine more regularly or the wind blow more reliably. I came to understand the environmental implications of the physics of energy. In order to produce significant amounts of electricity from weak energy flows, you just have spread them over enormous areas. In other words, the trouble with renewables isn’t fundamentally technical—it’s natural.

Dealing with energy sources that are inherently unreliable, and require large amounts of land, comes at a high economic cost.

There’s been a lot of publicity about how solar panels and wind turbines have come down in cost. But those one-time cost savings from making them in big Chinese factories have been outweighed by the high cost of dealing with their unreliability.

Consider California. Between 2011–17 the cost of solar panels declined about 75 percent, and yet our electricity prices rose five times more than they did in the rest of the U.S. It’s the same story in Germany, the world leader in solar and wind energy. Its electricity prices increased 50 percent between 2006–17, as it scaled up renewables.

I used to think that dealing with climate change was going to be expensive. But I could no longer believe this after looking at Germany and France.

Germany’s carbon emissions have been flat since 2009, despite an investment of $580 billion by 2025 in a renewables-heavy electrical grid, a 50 percent rise in electricity cost.

Meanwhile, France produces one-tenth the carbon emissions per unit of electricity as Germany and pays little more than half for its electricity. How? Through nuclear power.

Then, under pressure from Germany, France spent $33 billion on renewables, over the last decade. What was the result? A rise in the carbon intensity of its electricity supply, and higher electricity prices, too.

What about all the headlines about expensive nuclear and cheap solar and wind? They are largely an illusion resulting from the fact that 70 to 80 percent of the costs of building nuclear plants are up-front, whereas the costs given for solar and wind don’t include the high cost of transmission lines, new dams, or other forms of battery.

It’s reasonable to ask whether nuclear power is safe, and what happens with its waste.

It turns out that scientists have studied the health and safety of different energy sources since the 1960s. Every major study, including a recent one by the British medical journal Lancet, finds the same thing: nuclear is the safest way to make reliable electricity.

Strange as it sounds, nuclear power plants are so safe for the same reason nuclear weapons are so dangerous. The uranium used as fuel in power plants and as material for bombs can create one million times more heat per its mass than its fossil fuel and gunpowder equivalents.

It’s not so much about the fuel as the process. We release more energy breaking atoms than breaking chemical bonds. What’s special about uranium atoms is that they are easy to split.

Because nuclear plants produce heat without fire, they emit no air pollution in the form of smoke. By contrast, the smoke from burning fossil fuels and biomass results in the premature deaths of seven million people per year, according to the World Health Organization.

Even during the worst accidents, nuclear plants release small amounts of radioactive particulate matter from the tiny quantities of uranium atoms split apart to make heat.

Over an 80-year lifespan, fewer than 200 people will die from the radiation from the worst nuclear accident, Chernobyl, and zero will die from the small amounts of radiant particulate matter that escaped from Fukushima.

As a result, the climate scientist James Hanson and a colleague found that nuclear plants have actually saved nearly two million lives to date that would have been lost to air pollution.

Thanks to its energy density, nuclear plants require far less land than renewables. Even in sunny California, a solar farm requires 450 times more land to produce the same amount of energy as a nuclear plant.

Energy-dense nuclear requires far less in the way of materials, and produces far less in the way of waste compared to energy-dilute solar and wind.

A single Coke can’s worth of uranium provides all of the energy that the most gluttonous American or Australian lifestyle requires. At the end of the process, the high-level radioactive waste that nuclear plants produce is the very same Coke can of (used) uranium fuel. The reason nuclear is the best energy from an environmental perspective is because it produces so little waste and none enters the environment as pollution.

All of the waste fuel from 45 years of the Swiss nuclear program can fit, in canisters, on a basketball court-like warehouse, where like all spent nuclear fuel, it has never hurt a fly.

By contrast, solar panels require 17 times more materials in the form of cement, glass, concrete, and steel than do nuclear plants, andcreate over 200 times more waste.

We tend to think of solar panels as clean, but the truth is that there is no plan anywhere to deal with solar panels at the end of their 20 to 25 year lifespan.
Experts fearsolar panels will be shipped, along with other forms of electronic waste, to be disassembled—or, more often, smashed with hammers—by poor communities in Africa and Asia, whose residents will be exposed to the dust from toxic heavy metals including lead, cadmium, and chromium.

Wherever I travel in the world I ask ordinary people what they think about nuclear and renewable energies. After saying they know next to nothing, they admit that nuclear is strong and renewables are weak. Their intuitions are correct. What most of us get wrong—understandably – is that weak energies are safer.

But aren’t renewables safer? The answer is no. Wind turbines, surprisingly, kill more people than nuclear plants.

In other words, the energy density of the fuel determines its environmental and health impacts. Spreading more mines and more equipment over larger areas of land is going to have larger environmental and human safety impacts.

It’s true that you can stand next to a solar panel without much harm while if you stand next to a nuclear reactor at full power you’ll die.

But when it comes to generating power for billions of people, it turns out that producing solar and wind collectors, and spreading them over large areas, has vastly worse impacts on humans and wildlife alike.

Our intuitive sense that sunlight is dilute sometimes shows up in films. That’s why nobody was shocked when the recent sequel of the dystopian sci-fi flick, “Blade Runner,” opened with a dystopian scene of California’s deserts paved with solar farms identical to the one that decimated desert tortoises.

Over the last several hundred years, human beings have been moving away from matter-dense fuels towards energy-dense ones. First we move from renewable fuels like wood, dung, and windmills, and towards the fossil fuels of coal, oil, and natural gas, and eventually to uranium.

Energy progress is overwhelmingly positive for people and nature. As we stop using wood for fuel we allow grasslands and forests to grow back, and the wildlife to return.

As we stop burning wood and dung in our homes, we no longer must breathe toxic indoor smoke. And as we move from fossil fuels to uranium we clear the outdoor air of pollution, and reduce how much we’ll heat up the planet.

Nuclear plants are thus a revolutionary technology—a grand historical break from fossil fuels as significant as the industrial transition from wood to fossil fuels before it.

The problem with nuclear is that it is unpopular, a victim of a 50 year-long concerted effort by fossil fuel, renewable energy, anti-nuclear weapons campaigners, and misanthropic environmentalists to ban the technology.

In response, the nuclear industry suffers battered wife syndrome, and constantly apologizes for its best attributes, from its waste to its safety.

Lately, the nuclear industry has promoted the idea that, in order to deal with climate change, “we need a mix of clean energy sources,” including solar, wind and nuclear. It was something I used to believe, and say, in part because it’s what people want to hear. The problem is that it’s not true.

France shows that moving from mostly nuclear electricity to a mix of nuclear and renewables results in more carbon emissions, due to using more natural gas, and higher prices, to the unreliability of solar and wind.

Oil and gas investors know this, which is why they made a political alliance with renewables companies, and why oil and gas companies have been spending millions of dollars on advertisements promoting solar, and funneling millions of dollars to said environmental groups to provide public relations cover.

What is to be done? The most important thing is for scientists and conservationists to start telling the truth about renewables and nuclear, and the relationship between energy density and environmental impact.

Bat scientists recently warned that wind turbines are on the verge of making one species, the Hoary bat, a migratory bat species, go extinct.

Another scientist who worked to build that gigantic solar farm in the California desert told High Country News, “Everybody knows that translocation of desert tortoises doesn’t work. When you’re walking in front of a bulldozer, crying, and moving animals, and cacti out of the way, it’s hard to think that the project is a good idea.”

I think it’s natural that those of us who became active on climate change gravitated toward renewables. They seemed like a way to harmonize human society with the natural world. Collectively, we have been suffering from an appeal-to-nature fallacy no different from the one that leads us to buy products at the supermarket labeled “all natural.” But it’s high time that those of us who appointed ourselves Earth’s guardians should take a second look at the science, and start questioning the impacts of our actions.

Now that we know that renewables can’t save the planet, are we really going to stand by and let them destroy it?

Michael Shellenberger is a Time Magazine “Hero of the Environment,” and president of Environmental Progress, an independent research and policy organization.

Originally published on February 27, 2019, at quillette.com

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Date added:  December 20, 2018
Economics, Emissions, Property valuesPrint storyE-mail story

Financial information on industrial wind turbines

Author:  Swanson, Janna

Dear ——

Usually these turbines are pushed through for two reasons – money and lowering emissions.

The money is a little different in every area and the utility companies play it all close to the chest but this is what we have gathered.

In Iowa MidAmerican has freely admitted that they will receive $10 billion in tax credits. They have built 2200 turbines all told so that averages out to $4,500,000 per turbine in tax credits alone. They get to assess their turbines as well. They have assessed them at about $2,726,500 each.

The utility companies get a big pass on taxes because of the tax structure which allows them to pay 0% the first year increasing by 5% each year until they reach the cap of 30% in year 7, they will pay (very) roughly about $1,000,000 per year in taxes per installation and about $1-2,000,000 in landowner payments per installation. At this point realize that this is only tax credits we are talking about and they will still charge for the electricity the turbines generate. Why are electricity prices not falling if all their capital costs and then some are being paid for? Also, a utility will continue to pay taxes no matter how the energy is generated.

Landowners will receive about $10,000 per turbine. They receive this after signing one of the most ridiculous contracts you have ever read. See the paper “Things Commonly Found in a Wind Contract“.

On the other hand, the following are the economic detriments to a community.

Property values drop

The paper I have attached shows study after study that proves property values drop. The wind industry has their own studies but these studies are generally diluted by using assessments done up to 10 miles from the turbines or including farmland values that have had their value artificially raised by turbine payments. Also just the fact that almost no one wants to live in an industrial wind installation is a clear indication of value loss.

Farmland is taken out of commission

About 3 acres per turbine is almost unrecoverable. Farmland is not just dirt, it is soil. It is a living thing full of water, air, microorganisms in organic matter and minerals. Topsoil is the first layer, it is like gold and takes up to 500 years to create one inch of it. Clay or sand is the next layer down but the soil is damaged when they are mixed. Compaction is a huge issue in farming. Compaction ruins farm land by pressing out the air and water. Deep compaction can last for generations and cannot be undone by deep tillage. Wind turbine construction both compacts soil and mixes soil with clay.

The entire county’s base economy will be impacted by this loss of farmland for generations especially since decommissioning never includes the bases. Corn and bean roots are very often deeper than the bases.

Tiling issues

Much farmland is drained by extensive tiling infrastructure. The large equipment and especially the large cranes that can easily weigh 500,000 lbs. (or the weight of 125 cars). The compaction they cause moving between turbines can also crush tile 2-6 feet in the ground.

Aerial applications

Farmland is dependent on aerial applications for both weed control and cover crops. The presence of wind turbines increases risk and cost for the aerial operator as well as efficiency. Many refuse to fly within 1/2 mile of an installation. Some farmers will say to use ground rigs but if the conditions are muddy or the crops are leaning this is not a great option.

Bird and bats kills

Yes, in a farming community bird and bat kills certainly figure into the overall economy. They are natural pest control. When they are killed or driven off this impacts the economy so greatly that the US Geological Survey has issued a report on the economic impacts of bats alone.

The USGS report includes a list of the actual dollar amount of bats’ impact in each county across the US. MidAmerican just applied to the USFWS for a permit to kill eagles and endangered bats.


Eventually these things will have to come down. Two decommissioning reports done by expert engineers:

It is generally accepted that each turbine will cost $150,000-$200,000 to decommission. Many companies refuse to put decommissioning agreements in place.


Industrial wind energy is one of the most inefficient and ineffective ways to cut CO₂. In 2016 the American Wind Energy Association actually boasted that turbines would avoid 159 million metric tons of CO₂. It seems like a lot until you realize that mankind emits 35-40 billion metric tons of CO₂ every year. So their best boast is that they are avoiding so far less than 1% of emissions that even if they doubled the amount of turbines they had in 2016 that they would not reach past 1% CO₂ avoidance worldwide.

MISO (Midcontinent Independent Systems Operator) puts the cost of avoiding CO₂ with wind energy at $237/per ton – or $37,683,000,000 for 159 million metric tons.

This is just the tip of the iceberg.

Janna Swanson
Coalition for Rural Property Rights president
National Wind Watch board member

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