How Much CO2 Gets Emitted to Build a Wind Turbine?

turbine base

The ONLY justification for wind power – the massive subsidies upon which it entirely depends (see our post here); spiralling power prices (see our post here); and the suffering caused to neighbours by incessant low-frequency noise and infrasound (see our post here) – is the claim that it reduces CO2 emissions in the electricity sector.

STT has pointed out – just once or twice – that that claim is nothing more than a central, endlessly repeated lie.

Because wind power fails to deliver at all hundreds of times each year, 100% of its capacity has to be backed up 100% of the time by fossil fuel generation sources – which run constantly in the background to balance the grid and prevent blackouts when wind power output collapses – as it does on a routine, but unpredictable, basis (see our posts here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here). And for more recent woeful ‘efforts’:

The Wind Power Fraud (in pictures): Part 1 – the South Australian Wind Farm Fiasco

The Wind Power Fraud (in pictures): Part 2 – The Whole Eastern Grid Debacle

The mountains of dismal hard data tends to cut against the wilder claims emanating from the wind-worship-cult compounds that wind power ‘displaces’ – and will eventually ‘replace’ – conventional generation sources, but the ‘threat’ to BIG COAL, BIG GAS & BIG OIL is more imagined than real:

Why Coal Miners, Oil and Gas Producers Simply Love Wind Power

Even before the blades start spinning – the average wind farm clocks up thousands of tonnes of CO2 emissions: “embedded” in thousands of tonnes of steel and concrete. So, every wind farm starts with its CO2 abatement ledger in the negative.

Here’s Andy’s Rant with a breakdown of just how much CO2 goes to build one of these things.

So what’s the carbon foot print of a wind turbine with 45 tons of rebar & 481m3 of concrete?
Andy’s Rant
4 August 2014

Its carbon footprint is massive – try 241.85 tons of CO2.

Here’s the breakdown of the CO2 numbers.

To create a 1,000 Kg of pig iron, you start with 1,800 Kg of iron ore, 900 Kg of coking coal 450 Kg of limestone. The blast furnace consumes 4,500 Kg of air. The temperature at the core of the blast furnace reaches nearly 1,600 degrees C (about 3,000 degrees F).

The pig iron is then transferred to the basic oxygen furnace to make steel.

1,350 Kg of CO2 is emitted per 1,000 Kg pig iron produced.

A further 1,460 Kg CO2 is emitted per 1,000 Kg of Steel produced so all up 2,810 Kg CO2 is emitted.

45 tons of rebar (steel) are required so that equals 126.45 tons of CO2 are emitted.

To create a 1,000 Kg of Portland cement, calcium carbonate (60%), silicon (20%), aluminium (10%), iron (10%) and very small amounts of other ingredients are heated in a large kiln to over 1,500 degrees C to convert the raw materials into clinker. The clinker is then interground with other ingredients to produce the final cement product. When cement is mixed with water, sand and gravel forms the rock-like mass know as concrete.

An average of 927 Kg of CO2 is emitted per 1,000 Kg of Portland cement. On average, concrete has 10% cement, with the balance being gravel (41%), sand (25%), water (18%) and air (6%). One cubic metre of concrete weighs approx. 2,400 Kg so approx. 240 Kg of CO2 is emitted for every cubic metre.

481m3 of concrete are required so that equals 115.4 tons of CO2 are emitted.

Now I have not included the emissions of the mining of the raw materials or the transportation of the fabricated materials to the turbine site so the emission calculation above would be on the low end at best.

Extra stats about wind turbines you may not know about:

The average towering wind turbine being installed around beautiful Australia right now is over 80 metres in height (nearly the same height as the pylons on the Sydney Harbour Bridge). The rotor assembly for one turbine – that’s the blades and hub – weighs over 22,000 Kg and the nacelle, which contains the generator components, weighs over 52,000 Kg.

All this stands on a concrete base constructed from 45,000 Kg of reinforcing rebar which also contains over 481 cubic metres of concrete (that’s over 481,000 litres of concrete – about 20% of the volume of an Olympic swimming pool).

steel in turbine

Each turbine blade is made of glass fibre reinforced plastics, (GRP), i.e. glass fibre reinforced polyester or epoxy and on average each turbine blade weighs around 7,000 Kg each.

Each turbine has three blades so there’s 21,000 Kgs of GRP and each blade can be as long as 50 metres.

A typical wind farm of 20 turbines can extend over 101 hectares of land (1.01 Km2).

Each and every wind turbine has a magnet made of a metal called neodymium. There are 2,500 Kg of it in each of the behemoths that have just gone up around Australia.

The mining and refining of neodymium is so dirty and toxic – involving repeated boiling in acid, with radioactive thorium as a waste product – that only one country does it – China. (See our posts here and here).

All this for an intermittent highly unreliable energy source.

And I haven’t even considered the manufacture of the thousands of pylons and tens of thousands of kilometres of transmission wire needed to get the power to the grid. And what about the land space needed to house thousands of these bird chomping death machines?

You see, renewables like wind turbines will incur far more carbon dioxide emissions in their manufacture and installation than what their operational life will ever save.

Maybe it’s just me, but doesn’t the “cure” of using wind turbines sound worse than the problem? A bit like amputating your leg to “cure” your in-growing toe nail?

Metal emission stats from page 25 from the 2006 IPCC Chapter 4 Metal Industry Emissions report.

Cement and concrete stats from page 6 & 7 from the 2012 NRMCA Concrete CO2 Fact Sheet.
Andy’s Rant

light-in-darkness

Sometimes, the wick just ain’t worth the candle.

About stopthesethings

We are a group of citizens concerned about the rapid spread of industrial wind power generation installations across Australia.

Comments

  1. 8james38 says:

    You have an interesting and important site, but to be optimally effective, I suggest that you clarify a few things.
    First, from your article:

    “The mining and refining of neodymium is so dirty and toxic – involving repeated boiling in acid, with radioactive thorium as a waste product – that only one country does it – China. (See our posts here and here).”

    Calling Thorium a radioactive waste product is very far from the truth. In the first place, Thorium is hardly radioactive at all. It is not fissile, but is fertile, meaning that it cannot sustain a chain reaction, but under sufficient neutron bombardment in a reactor, can be converted into a fissile fuel.

    Therefore, Thorium is not a waste product, but is fuel for a very safe type of reactor, and should be treated as a valuable co-product, not waste. The MSR (Molten Salt Reactor) was built and tested for 20,000 hours at Oak Ridge in the 1960’s (see MSRE – Molten Salt Reactor Experiment).

    The MSR/LFTR (Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor) is a totally fail-safe reactor that cannot melt down (the fuel is already a molten salt), needs no giant containment structure since it has no water in the reactor, and is about half as expensive to construct as a “conventional” PWR (Pressurized Water Reactor). The MSR/LFTR can also use present stockpiles of Nuclear Waste as fuel, solving the storage problem and giving us power for hundreds of years. Your additional articles referenced in the above quote are eloquent about irresponsible mining pollution, but add nothing accurate about Thorium.

    Second, from the article:

    “And I haven’t even considered the manufacture of the thousands of pylons and tens of thousands of kilometres of transmission wire needed to get the power to the grid. And what about the land space needed to house thousands of these bird chomping death machines?”

    It is not a good idea to give the Wind/Solar industries a pass on any significant source of pollution. The CO2 footprint and the cost of transmission lines are very significant, and should be estimated and included in your conclusions – in all of your articles.

    You will find some very detailed and important support for your position in the following critique of the plan proposed by Professor Richardson of Stanford – to power the entire US with nothing but Wind/Solar plus other “renewables”:

    “Analysis and critique of the 100% WWS Plan
    advanced by The Solutions Project”

    http://www.timothymaloney.net/www.timothymaloney.net/Critique_of_100_WWS_Plan.html

    OR: http://tinyurl.com/gov9mtg

    Timothy Maloney’s site also has very important information on MSR/LFTR, and articles discussing several important related issues.

    • Excellent information of thorium……sadly countries and news medias are run by Luddites, not those strong in the pure sciences….. and now we have entire University science faculties that are bogus….. just not real science…..yet!

  2. Stopthesethings: GREAT article. I was in NZ some time ago, and had a look at the wind farm at Raglan. It cost twice as much and produced one quarter of the electrical power as the A1B nuclear reactor used in the latest US Aircraft Carrier.

  3. 4TimesAYear says:

    Reblogged this on 4timesayear's Blog.

  4. Reblogged this on Climatism and commented:
    With a lifespan of only fifteen years, running at max 30% output, an industrial windmill could spin until it falls apart and never generate as much energy as was invested in building it.

    Sadly however, contradictory facts matter little in the ideological echo charmer of the great global warming swindle.

    • I have been posting about the break down of these monstrosities for several years and as nicely as Andy did and his break down it left out a Bunch of stuff… To your point there has Never been a single windmill that has made it to it’s claimed life time and if your start from the first ones until the ones installed today the Average life span is about 7 years… Now I will give them the the newer designs will have a bit of a longer life they will do so with replacement of main bearing sets about every 5 years , those bearing sets are several tons of high strength high carbon steel requiring massive cranes and maintenance crews to disassemble the main nacelle .. All of which have their own CO2 output from raw material through job completion… Also each tower has a monthly maintenance program , semi annual maintenance and more in-depth Annual maintenance program… That requires trucks, power equipment and generalized replacement parts again with it’s own CO2 load out…

      A bit of what Andy left out is that each wind-farm requires a control center and phase matching transformer sub station with switch gear that adds massively to the materials tonnage

      • Hardik patel says:

        Thanks for your additional information, so what can we do now to reduce the carbon emission?
        Please any one advise.

      • If CO2 emissions are the problem, the only solution is nuclear power generation:

        https://stopthesethings.com/2015/12/14/climate-chicken-littles-nuzzle-up-to-nukes-as-wind-power-love-affair-ends-in-divorce/

      • E Griffiths says:

        Hardik, commercial some food growers pump CO2 into their greenhouses to increase crop yields. What this tells us is that the levels of CO2 in our atmosphere is limiting the growth rate of plants – so, in effect, it’s a trace gas. It is NOT the problem that is portrayed by the doomsayers. Increasing atmospheric CO2 concentrations will therefore speed up plant growth.

        Climate change has always happened, and will continue to happen, with and without human habitation on Earth. In fact, if it were NOT for climate change, mammals – including humans – would not have proliferated on earth. It took the extinction of the dinosaurs to create conditions which allowed mammals to flourish and evolve on earth.

        In fact, there have been several mass extinction events observed in the geological fossil records.

        The biggest problem we are facing is deforestation and raping of our natural resources. If you believe the garbage about human induced CO2 emissions, about 20% of CO2 emissions are attributed change of land use due to deforestation.

        If atmospheric CO2 concentrations and CO2 emissions were a problem, the geological Carboniferous Era never would not have happened.

        According the the lying doomsayers, the earth will turn into a lifeless desert if CO2 emissions rise. In reality, CO2 is the main building block of life on earth – if you REMOVE CO2 from the atmosphere, the earth WILL turn into a virtually lifeless desert. Only very few life forms, not dependent on solar energy (either directly or indirectly), will be able to survive in a CO2 free atmosphere.

        At the start of the Carboniferous Era, atmospheric CO2 concentrations were much higher than they are now. What happened??? Life flourished, and vast quantities of CO2 were removed from the atmosphere in the form of coal deposits in huge swampy areas, and by the formation of vast limestone reefs in warm shallow seas. Fossil fuels are, essentially, stored solar energy.

        What we are basically doing now, by burning fossil fuels, is recycling a small proportion of the extra CO2 that was in the earth’s atmosphere during the Carboniferous Era.

        In Britain, before the start of the industrial revolution, the forests were becoming depleted through over-exploitation. Burning coal and other fossil fuels has basically protected Britain’s forests from total destruction 2-3 centuries ago.

  5. Like all projections from wind companies, it is grossly over estimated for output of power; and underestimated on costs – some of the pads at Macarthur took upto 1100cm3 of concrete – as it kept disappearing in the softer country. I am a neighbor of turbines 1.5km away at the Macarthur wind factory.

  6. You have failed to quantify how much CO2 a turbine offsets and so your analysis is incomplete. I’m all in if wind power turns out to be more carbon intensive than fossil fuels but you don’t have me any where near convinced yet. Too many holes in your data and a myriad of other things you have not considered. As for the downtime issues with wind, yes, and there are times when wind provides too much power. So what is the solution to that? Simple – hydrogen through electrolysis. Produce Hydrogen, build decentralized hydrogen power plants and use them in place of coal and natural gas/nukes to bolster the grid when wind isn’t supplying enough.

    • Dan, you haven’t bothered to properly consider the article, and you certainly haven’t clicked on the links included or embedded. Otherwise, you would not be raising your first contention; viz, the assertion that wind power ‘offsets’ CO2 emissions in the electricity sector. There is no such evidence anywhere in the world, where wind power is attempted to be ‘integrated’ into a coal/gas fired grid, to support any such assertion.

      The article above is not meant to ‘convince’ anyone. But we have over 1,100 others that might – many of them dealing with the fictions that: wind power is a meaningful power source; reduces CO2 emissions; and is cheaper than conventional generation sources.

      You casually gloss over intermittentcy, mere ‘downtime issues’ as you call them. We take it you’re not presently in intensive care on life-support relying on wind power alone, then?

      However, that is THE fundamental flaw in a source that is being forced into economies under ideological mandate, backed by colossal subsidies, coupled with ludicrous claims that it will completely replace conventional sources, including nuclear (witness Germany).

      In the post above you will not have studied the data or analysis in these posts:

      https://stopthesethings.com/2015/07/20/the-wind-power-fraud-in-pictures-part-1-the-south-australian-wind-farm-fiasco/

      https://stopthesethings.com/2015/07/21/the-wind-power-fraud-in-pictures-part-2-the-whole-eastern-grid-debacle/

      Those posts demonstrate – that wind power can never amount to a meaningful power source, and defeat the claims that by spreading turbines over a large area output can be smoothed and become meaningful (ie satisfy demand on a consistent and predictable basis).

      The evidence involving actual CO2 output where wind power is added to gas/coal-fired grids is all against your primary contention:

      http://www.clepair.net/statlineanalyse201208.html

      https://stopthesethings.files.wordpress.com/2014/05/le-pair-et-al-wind-turbines-as-yet-unsuitable-as-electricity-providers.pdf

      https://stopthesethings.files.wordpress.com/2014/04/bratby-ghg-abatement.pdf

      The only counters to the above will be models based on fantastical assumptions.

      We don’t propose to dip into your suggestions about turning electricity into hydrogen, simply because you will never find a market for power that would need to retail at 10-20 times the price of conventional power (at a guess – with wind power already costing 4 times the cost of coal-fired power – only available 25% of the time, of course – and heavens knows the costs of converting electrical power to hydrogen gas and then back).

      STT is a specialist site, devoted to debunking the fiction that wind power offers a solution to anything other than ideological vanity. We don’t mean to advance the ’cause’ of any particular power generation source, but to be meaningful it must be available on-demand and affordable to all. Everything else involves intellectual dishonesty, as well as a selfishness that we will never condone or tolerate. Ask yourself this question: are you prepared to leave any single one of your fellow citizens (someone’s elderly grandmother, say?) sitting freezing in the dark all for an ideological whim? If you’re prepared to do that, then you’re probably happy to see the poorest billion on the planet continue to keep cooking on dung and twigs in an unlit hovel. We’re not content to see either.

  7. So , in comparison , how much CO2 gets emitted when building a skyscraper , say like the CN tower in Toronto ? A useless building that cost many millions to build . All the high rise buildings around the world ? Not trying to say windmills are a good thing or bad thing , but your CO2 argument falls short .

    • Gerry, you clearly haven’t read the post. And certainly not the material linked within it. Skyscrapers and their owners don’t claim to reduce/abate CO2 emissions in the electricity sector, or at all. No-one does. We do not understand your point. The wind industry claims – as the justification for the $billions in endless subsidies – and the excuse for the fact that it is meaningless as a power source – simply because it cannot be delivered on demand – that wind power makes very substantial reductions in CO2 emissions, when, in fact it does no such thing. This little post simply points to some of the CO2 emitted to build a single turbine. We welcome sensible comments on this site, but not those from people who haven’t bothered to read the posts on which they propound their world views.

  8. Reblogged this on pattikellar and commented:
    For those who want more information on what is in and under an Industrial Wind Turbine….

  9. John Latilla says:

    Great article – I am pretty sure that all wind farms are located in the countryside.

    I don’t know why that is as it seems logical to install them right in the cities to reduce the transmission costs. They are after all “silent, safe and eco friendly!”

    Maybe they are not built in the cities because the majority of their biggest fans also happen to live in the cities!

    • To be fair the majority of the fans for anything will live in cities are majority of folk live in cities🙂

    • I don’t know of major cities that have consistent enough wind, at least enough to justify wind turbines on more than an intermittent basis. Chicago comes to mind in America due to its nickname, but it’s all relative. Offshore near some coastal cities seems viable. I don’t think there’s a major conspiracy to keep them out of view from cities, since a number of them are easily seen from urban commutes, but they definitely favor cheaper rural lands to directly invade.

  10. George Papadoupoulos says:

    Thanks STT for continuing to expose the greatest fraud of all time.

    The intellectual pygmy will retort that COAL IS DEATH – or some such – and claim that wind power is replacing coal fired power and will, in time, completely replace it. The lightweight will claim that the road to a healthy future is paved with an endless sea of turbines and that this terrifies fossil fuel interests. When, of course, nothing could be further from the truth:

    https://stopthesethings.com/2015/05/01/why-coal-miners-oil-and-gas-producers-simply-love-wind-power/

    The wind power worshipping cult then goes on to claim that anyone who points out even the most basic (and unassailable) facts (like those in the post above) are obviously in the employ of BIG COAL. Thinking it a bit like the ‘BOKKO’ moment in one of Batman’s battles with his sworn enemies.

    But that merely exhibits the kind of intellectual rigour that attaches to people who routinely use terms such as “believer” and “denier” – in the manner of a petulant child, who knows they’ve lost the argument with an adult – in respect of anyone who has the temerity to point to the nakedness of their Emperor.

    Facts have always troubled them, hence their characteristic resort to name calling and the fallacy that because you point to the facts (that challenge their limited and ignorant world view) you must have an agenda. When in truth, their ‘case’ is simply a nonsense. And they haven’t got the maturity or grace to admit it.

  11. What about the hundreds of litres of oil in the gearbox that has to be changed every so many hours? This is the oil that, when it catches fire, falls burning from the 100 mtrs high towers.

  12. Jackie Rovenksy says:

    Andy, and that’s just the towers. As you point out you have not in detail calculated other emission costs, and the cost to the environment of such things as ‘value adding’ the raw rare earth materials for the magnets.
    The cost in emissions to produce each and every operating industrial wind energy turbine so obviously outweighs any savings.
    It beggars belief anyone could consider they’re good for the environment – but there we go those who should know better are falling for that old furphy – ‘If the ‘experts’ says its good it must be’.
    Maybe they don’t know the saying ‘If it sounds too good to be true it probably is’.

  13. Terry Conn says:

    Jackie Rovensky asks in the post 15th August 2014 ‘How is it that people still spruik for this industry….?’ As this post and numerous others by STT points out over and over again there is no reason at all to support wind farms and numerous reasons to have them stopped and shut down.
    Last week Tim Flannery was a guest at the Mudgee writers festival. He was asked by an ABC reporter ‘what should be done about the RET !’ He replied ‘let the voters decide and ask them do they ‘want renewable energy?’ The answer, of course, is that everyone would say ‘yes’. Therein lies the answer to Jackie’s question! The problem is that people in high places, such as Flannery, want the ‘fantasy’ to drive the issue and refuse to allow the reality to get in the way. Secondly, ‘these spruikers’ are gleefully supported by the ‘rent seekers’. Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, ‘the voters’ are either too busy and too far away from wind farms to bother delving for facts. Also, ‘the voters’ are because of our modern world totally disconnected from physical reality and how things actually work.
    Another problem is, in Australia at least, the 2001 legislation that introduced the RET simply listed 19 so called forms of ‘renewable energy’ as being eligible to receive RECs, ‘wind’ being one of them. No definition of ‘renewable energy’ or ‘baseload renewable energy’ was attempted or required.’Wind’ has become the only large scale type of so called renewable energy that has been pursued.
    The solution is that the massive education of ‘the voters’ and their civic leaders as pursued by STT and others who ‘actually know’ (and who are now getting to be a ‘critical mass’) about the massive ‘wind power scam’ must continue. For the rest of us I suggest just keep asking the ‘spruikers’ — how do you store wind power for when there’s no wind? Very few know that you can’t and then the penny starts to drop!!
    Congratulations to STT.

  14. Great job!!!!! Thanks,

    Marie
    Denmark

  15. Thank you Andy for this very helpful and factual set of calcualtions.

    I am sure you realize this but you do not mention the co2 produced in long distance shipping, in the large/enormous machine erection process, in New England’s case the cutting of acres of carbon sequestering forest and releasing that co2. Then there is the replacement of major parts (blades, nacels etc every ten years) far more frequently that the industry dares make public.
    Then there is (as you allude) the C02 required for the redundant polluting back up machines.

    I beleive and would like to show your statement to be true
    “You see, renewables like wind turbines will incur far more carbon dioxide emissions in their manufacture and installation than what their operational life will ever save.”

    You are so close to aggregating the life cycle co2 cost that it is worth a shot to complete the work. The only possible defense of industrial wind is co2 reduction and with that option gone conclusively it deserves not to exist.

    Thank you again
    Walter Cudnohufsky
    Ashfield, Massachusetts
    walt@wcala.com

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