[ exact phrase in "" • results by date ]

[ Google-powered • results by relevance ]


News Home

Subscribe to RSS feed

Add NWW headlines to your site (click here)

Sign up for daily updates

Keep Wind Watch online and independent!

Donate $10

Donate $5

Selected Documents

All Documents

Research Links


Press Releases


Publications & Products

Photos & Graphics


Allied Groups

The unintended consequences of ‘clean and green’  

Credit:  By Jock Finlayson and Denise Mullen | Troy Media | Mon., Nov. 9, 2020 | www.thespec.com ~~

We all go to the store to purchase things – groceries, clothing, tools or the latest electronic gadget. During the global pandemic, an increasing share of shopping has shifted online. A few clicks and an item soon arrives at our doorstep.

We also often demand and receive services like education and medical care remotely these days. And natural gas and electricity almost invisibly are delivered through pipes and lines to heat and power our homes. However, we rarely ask where these goods and services ultimately come from, nor do we typically think about the raw materials used to make or provide them.

In the end, a large share of what people consume is sourced from something that’s grown from or exists on the Earth, which is then harvested, mined, processed, transformed and transported to the final user.

Making and shipping things requires energy, usually significant amounts of highly dense, portable, flexible and reliable fuels.

All fuels are derived in some way from the sun. It’s a matter of timing, since fossil fuels are the compressed detritus of animals and plants that expired long ago.

Once humans discovered fossil fuels, they were freed from the drudgery of finding fuel for cooking and heating. Later, people were able to rely on machines to replace back-breaking labour. Economic historians recognize that fossil fuels fostered a spectacular improvement in human living standards and enabled many other positive social advances.

But over time, the world has come to understand that using fossil fuels also carries a cost: greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and air pollution. As a result, there’s much interest in renewable energy sources and their role in hastening the transition to a cleaner economy – one less dependent on coal, oil and other fossil fuels.

Renewables – green or clean energy, as these words are used interchangeably – are a fabulous development. To start with, they produce zero GHG emissions. But there’s a problem. What’s missing from the public and policy discussions around renewable energy and energy transitions is awareness of the enormous quantities of raw and fabricated materials needed to produce the solar panels, wind turbines, biofuels, electric vehicles, batteries and other products we hope will support the development of a less carbon-intensive energy system.

“Clean” machines and the resulting “green” energy should be considered in relation to how land- and materials-intensive they are. For example, a recent engineering analysis reveals that a 100 megawatt (MW) wind farm uses about 27,000 tonnes of iron, 45,500 tonnes of concrete and another 800 tonnes of non-recyclable plastics for blades.

And because wind can only produce electricity when the wind blows, it needs storage to meet consumer demand and ensure grid stability. As such, wind energy requires the construction of a utility-scale storage system, which also requires an immense amount of raw and fabricated materials.

Overall, some estimates suggest that a “clean” electricity system may require three times as many machines to produce and store the same quantum of electricity generated by fossil fuels. Such a system also needs more physical space to capture the same amount of useful energy as is produced from other sources.

Then there is the waste, which isn’t recyclable for the most part.

For example, the International Renewable Energy Association predicts there could be 78 million tonnes of solar panels reaching the end of their useful lives by 2050, yielding annual solar e-waste of six million tonnes. That volume of solar waste could be two times larger than projected global plastics waste by 2050.

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions and mitigating the other harmful environmental effects of producing and using fossil fuels is important.

But before we buy into the simplistic narratives favoured by politicians promising a carbon-free energy Valhalla, we should insist on a more comprehensive analysis of the full cycle environmental and land use impacts of going ‘clean and green.’

The results will paint a much more complex and nuanced picture of what’s involved in transitioning away from the existing energy system.

Jock Finlayson is executive vice-president of the Business Council of British Columbia. Denise Mullen is director of environment and sustainability at the Business Council of B.C.

Source:  By Jock Finlayson and Denise Mullen | Troy Media | Mon., Nov. 9, 2020 | www.thespec.com

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

The copyright of this article resides with the author or publisher 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. Send requests to excerpt, general inquiries, and comments via e-mail.

Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding
Donate $5 PayPal Donate


News Watch Home

Get the Facts Follow Wind Watch on Twitter

Wind Watch on Facebook


© National Wind Watch, Inc.
Use of copyrighted material adheres to Fair Use.
"Wind Watch" is a registered trademark.