What is the carbon footprint of a 200m turbine, and how much concrete is poured into the ground to support 35 of them?
An increase in the number of planning applications for onshore wind farms is leading to communities asking more questions, including why all that energy is required in the first place.
These are the types of questions being asked of both the planning authorities and the wind companies, like Galetech and Bord na Móna, who are looking to build two separate wind farms on lands at Bracklyn and Ballivor Bog respectively.
But these are not just questions for the people living in Raharney, Ballivor, Bracklyn and Delvin, who will be the most affected by a number of tall turbines, but for the entire nation.
That’s according to Daryl Kennedy, spokesperson for the Delvin Raharney Ballivor Wind Action Group, who is challenging the view that wind turbines are a key part of climate change mitigation.
“The perception of wind energy is generally clean, green and virtually free, but what is the reality?
“That is just one of the questions which all citizens of the country, as well as planners, government departments and elected politicians should be asking,” said Daryl.
“There is a huge increase in planning application for onshore wind farms, despite the fact that we already have more than 4000MW wind energy in place. Our current peak electricity demand is between 5,000 and 6,000MW, so what’s the driving force for more?
“Essentially it’s the unprecedented growth in electricity demand as a result of mega data centres being built in the Dublin region,” he claims.
“For example, Amazon is building a 223,000square foot data centre in Mulhuddart, which will use almost 5% of our national electricity when fully built. That’s more than a city the size of Waterford or Galway uses in a year!
“Data centres are necessary to keep the technology that we all love operating but Ireland has welcomed more data centres than any other country in the world.
“With enormous energy needs and few jobs, the companies need to claim green credentials, such as being fully energised by renewables.
“This is where the contracts with wind energy companies come in, even though major data centres could not survive on the intermittent energy from wind – think of a windless frosty day in December or January.
Billions of euro
Daryl points out that billions of euro will need to be spent on the national grid to cope with all that energy.
“EirGrid have stated that our energy usage will increase by close to 60% by 2027, to meet data centre demand.
“The Irish Academy of Engineers estimates that we need to spend €9 billion on our grid system by 2030 to handle the energy being channelled to the data centres, some of which comes from wind.
“Meanwhile, the SEAI estimates that we will be investing €6-12 billion per annum by 2040 in renewable wind energy. That’s a lot of daunting figures and one has to ask – who is going to pay for all of this and is it really the right path?
“At the moment the majority of our energy demand is met via fossil fuels and there are few that would disagree that we need much cleaner and sustainable solutions. But is industrial wind energy really the way forward?
“Think for a minute about what it takes to put just one turbine in place. At up to 200m in height, the concrete usage is close to 1000 cubic metres – that’s 125 lorry loads of concrete poured into the ground. For a wind farm of 35 turbines, that’s close to 4,400 lorries of concrete!
“The fabrication of the turbines themselves involves the use of rare earth metals which are obtained through environmentally-damaging methods.
“A turbine of 200m in height uses an enormous amount of metal, also requiring mining and intensive fabrication and transport, as well as the importation of electrical wiring, installation of local energy infrastructure in addition to all new access roads and electrical substations.
“So one really begins to wonder about the carbon footprint of each and every turbine, and each and every industrial wind farm.”
Daryl, like all involved in the Delvin Raharney Ballivor Wind Action Group, believes that our boglands should be renewed and used for environmentally enriching enterprises, not further recipients of steel, stone, metal and concrete.
Daryl finishes by saying: “I have not yet seen a compelling analysis of the carbon payback – i.e. how long it takes for a wind turbine, and wind farm in general, to have a net positive impact on emissions.”
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