The True & Staggering Environmental Cost of Wind & Solar Power: Unsustainable Energy Defined

Where wind turbines are born: just one of China’s rare earth plants.


For the uninitiated, the sight of snow white wind turbines flailing in the breeze in some green field reinforces that feel-good notion that wind power is the crème de la crème of ‘green energy’.

For those in the know, whenever the term ‘green energy’ is trotted out by some starry-eyed hipster or sandal wearing troglodyte, a sense of wild frustration ensues, followed by an urge to throw something solid at their antagonist or to throw them off the top of one of their beloved windmills.

To maintain their faith, the wind worshipper avoids facts like the plague. Mathematics and meaningful statistics are shunned by cultists, too.

Here’s CFACT’s Paul Driessen laying out the numbers and reaching the obvious conclusion that – in relation to so-called ‘green energy’ – the numbers can never stack up.

Monumental, unsustainable environmental impacts
Paul Driessen
2 July 2017

Demands that the world replace fossil fuels with wind, solar, and biofuel energy – to prevent supposed catastrophes caused by man-made global warming and climate change – ignore three fundamental flaws.

  1. In the Real World outside the realm of computer models, the unprecedented warming and disasters are simply not happening: not with temperatures, rising seas, extreme weather, or other alleged problems.
  2. The process of convicting oil, gas, coal, and carbon dioxide emissions of climate cataclysms has been unscientific and disingenuous. It ignores fluctuations in solar energy, cosmic rays, oceanic currents, and multiple other powerful natural forces that have controlled Earth’s climate since the dawn of time, dwarfing any role played by CO2. It ignores the enormous benefits of carbon-based energy that created and still powers the modern world, and continues to lift billions out of poverty, disease, and early death.
    It assigns only costs to carbon dioxide emissions, and ignores how rising atmospheric levels of this plant-fertilizing molecule are reducing deserts and improving forests, grasslands, drought resistance, crop yields, and human nutrition. It also ignores the huge costs inflicted by anti-carbon restrictions that drive up energy prices, kill jobs, and fall hardest on poor, minority, and blue-collar families in industrialized nations – and perpetuate poverty, misery, disease, malnutrition, and early death in developing countries.
  3. Renewable energy proponents pay little or no attention to the land and raw material requirements, and associated environmental impacts, of wind, solar, and biofuel programs on scales required to meet mankind’s current and growing energy needs, especially as poor countries improve their living standards.

We properly insist on multiple detailed studies of every oil, gas, coal, pipeline, refinery, power plant, and other fossil fuel project. Until recently, however, even the most absurd catastrophic climate change claims behind renewable energy programs, mandates, and subsidies could not be questioned.

Just as bad, climate campaigners, government agencies, and courts have never examined the land use, raw material, energy, water, wildlife, human health, and other impacts of supposed wind, solar, biofuel, and battery alternatives to fossil fuels – or of the transmission lines and other systems needed to carry electricity and liquid and gaseous renewable fuels thousands of miles to cities, towns, and farms.

It is essential that we conduct rigorous studies now, before pushing further ahead. The Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Energy, and Interior Department should do so immediately. States, other nations, private sector companies, think tanks, and NGOs can and should do their own analyses. The studies can blithely assume these expensive, intermittent, weather-dependent alternatives can actually replace fossil fuels. But they need to assess the environmental impacts of doing so.

Renewable energy companies, industries, and advocates are notorious for hiding, minimizing, obfuscating, or misrepresenting their environmental and human health impacts. They demand and receive exemptions from health and endangered species laws that apply to other industries. They make promises they cannot keep about being able to safely replace fossil fuels that now provide over 80% of U.S. and global energy.

A few articles have noted some of the serious environmental, toxic/radioactive waste, human health, and child labor issues inherent in mining rare-earth and cobalt/lithium deposits. However, we now need quantitative studies – detailed, rigorous, honest, transparent, cradle-to-grave, peer-reviewed analyses.

The back-of-the-envelope calculations that follow provide a template. I cannot vouch for any of them. But our governments need to conduct full-blown studies forthwith – before they commit us to spending tens of trillions of dollars on renewable energy schemes, mandates, and subsidies that could blanket continents with wind turbines, solar panels, biofuel crops, and battery arrays; destroy habitats and wildlife; kill jobs, impoverish families, and bankrupt economies; impair our livelihoods, living standards, and liberties; and put our lives under the control of unelected, unaccountable state, federal, and international rulers – without having a clue whether these supposed alternatives are remotely economical or sustainable.

Ethanol derived from corn grown on 40 million acres now provides the equivalent of 10% of US gasoline – and requires billions of gallons of water and enormous quantities of fertilizer and energy. What would it take to replace 100% of U.S. gasoline? To replace the entire world’s motor fuels?

Solar panels on Nevada’s Nellis Air Force Base generate 15 megawatts of electricity perhaps 30% of the year from 140 acres. Arizona’s Palo Verde nuclear power plant generates 900 times more electricity, from less land, some 95% of the year. Generating Palo Verde’s output via Nellis technology would require land area ten times larger than Washington, DC – and would still provide electricity unpredictably only 30% of the time. Now run those solar numbers for the 3.5 billion megawatt-hours generated nationwide in 2016.

Modern coal or gas-fired power plants use less than 300 acres to generate 600 megawatts 95% of the time. Indiana’s 600-MW Fowler Ridge wind farm covers 50,000 acres and generates electricity about 30% of the year. Calculate the turbine and acreage requirements for 3.5 billion MWH of wind electricity.

Delving more deeply, generating 20% of U.S. electricity with wind power would require up to 185,000 1.5-MW turbines, 19,000 miles of new transmission lines, 18 million acres, and 245 million tons of concrete, steel, copper, fiberglass, and rare-earths – plus fossil-fuel back-up generators for the 75% to 80% of the year that winds nationwide are barely blowing and the turbines are not producing electricity.

Energy analyst David Wells has calculated that replacing 160,000 terawatt-hours of total global energy consumption with wind would require 183,400,000 turbines needing roughly: 461,000,000,000 tons (461 billion tons) of steel for the towers; 460,00,000,000 tons of steel and concrete for the foundations; 59,000,000,000 tons of copper, steel, and alloys for the turbines; 738,000,000 tons of neodymium for turbine magnets; 14,700,000,000 tons of steel and complex composite materials for the nacelles; 11,000,000,000 tons of complex petroleum-based composites for the rotors; and massive quantities of other raw materials – all of which must be mined, processed, manufactured into finished products, and shipped around the world.

Assuming 25 acres per turbine, the turbines would require 4,585,000,000 acres (1,855,500,000 hectares) – 1.3 times the land area of North America! Wells adds: Shipping just the iron ore to build the turbines would require nearly 3 million voyages in huge ships that would consume 13 billion tons of bunker fuel (heavy oil) in the process. And converting that ore to iron and steel would require 473 billion tons of coking coal, demanding another 1.2 million sea voyages, consuming another 6 billion tons of bunker fuel.

For sustainability disciples: Does Earth have enough of these raw materials for this transformation?

It gets worse. These numbers do not include the ultra-long transmission lines required to carry electricity from windy locations to distant cities. Moreover, Irina Slav notes, wind turbines, solar panels and solar thermal installations cannot produce high enough heat to melt silica, iron, or other metals, and certainly cannot generate the required power on a reliable enough basis to operate smelters and factories.

Wind turbines (and solar panels) last just 20 years or so (less in salt water environments) – while coal, gas, and nuclear power plants last 35 to 50 years and require far less land and raw materials. That means we would have tear down, haul away, and replace far more “renewable” generators twice as often; dispose of or recycle their component parts (and toxic or radioactive wastes); and mine, process, and ship more ores.

Finally, their intermittent electricity output means they couldn’t guarantee you could boil an egg, run an assembly line, surf the internet or complete a heart transplant when you need to. So we store their output in massive battery arrays, you say. OK. Let’s calculate the land, energy, and raw materials for that. While we’re at it, let’s add in the requirements for building and recharging 100% electric vehicle fleets.

Then there are the bird and bat deaths, wildlife losses from destroying habitats, and human health impacts from wind turbine noise and flicker. These also need to be examined – fully and honestly – along with the effects of skyrocketing renewable energy prices on every aspect of this transition and our lives.

But for honest, evenhanded EPA and other scientists, modelers, and regulators previously engaged in alarmist, biased climate chaos studies, these analyses will provide some job security. Let’s get started.

Following Paul Driessen’s theme, the video below lays out an accurate and to scale animation by Gabrielle Hollis of the minimum number of wind turbines required to notionally equal the output of a single nuclear power station. We say ‘notionally’, because atoms don’t down tools every day, like wind power does.



About stopthesethings

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


  1. Glen C. Lambert says:

    Solar panels are far more efficient at turning sunlight into heat than they are at turning sunlight into electricity. Solar panels produce more waste heat per watt than any other power source. In areas where there are large solar plants temperatures can be as much as 4 degrees hotter than surrounding land forming heat islands. Pilots flying lower than 12,000′ can feel the rising air.
    Plants and animals are the enemy of solar and must be removed from solar plants. Since solar plants require vast amounts of land usually only available in environmentally sensitive areas wildlife is devastated. Migratory paths are blocked and sensitive vegetation removed. In the Mojave desert tortoise are placed in rescue programs to live out their lives in residential back yards.
    I have not even covered the environmental impact of the manufacturing process that produces cyanide and acid wastes while consuming vast amounts of coal energy in China. I have also not covered the economic viability of solar which could not exist without vast amounts of government funding. The end consumer pays about $2 a peak watt for solar panels 1/4 the actual cost because the panels are quadruple funded by taxes,
    There is also the problem of wear and maintenance: The average solar panel will lose 1/2 of its capacity every 8-10 years, so in 20 years will only produce 1/4 of its installed output. In high power arrays solar panels can completely burn out and need to be completely replaced. Usually failed panels are detected by thermal imaging surveys.
    We could do much more for reducing heat in the lower atmosphere by increasing the reflective properties of roofs, roads and parking lots. By installing solar panels and asphalt we are painting the planet black and then complaining about the heat. In the end though climate is a byproduct of solar weather which may be about to take a turn to the colder as we are almost through the modern maximum that started in 1945.
    As we exit solar cycle 24 which as been peculiar and if the usual pattern holds SC24 to SC25 peak could be 14 years (11 is normal) which has not happened since the beginning of the Mounder Minimum (mini ice age). To make up for SC24 the beginning of SC25 would have to be early and sharp which is rare but not unknown.

  2. It’s a mistake to ask for more government studies on the dangers of wind and solar energy. All that is necessary is for government to repeal laws and regulations that give the variable and intermittent power of wind and solar top priority on the grid, and mandate utilities to purchase renewable energy with power purchase agreements (PPA) that bypass the wholesale market. Government studies are dominated by climate change zealots primarily responsible for creating the fantasy of a clean energy future.

    In other words, force renewables to compete on a level playing field, and the free market they will make them disappear.

    It is obvious, even to a casual observer, that the mandates for a clean energy future is forcing the early retirement of baseload coal and nuclear power from the grid that is resulting an increasing grid instability and skyrocketing rates. In response to Rick Perry, the DOE is already leaking reports that renewables are not the problem.

  3. swan101 says:

    Reblogged this on UPPER SONACHAN WIND FARM.

  4. A large Nuclear power station would never work in Australia because of the geographics of the Transmission system and high load centers. The Australian load starts at Cairns in north Queensland and continues in a rather small band to Adelaide in South Australia along the East coast. Australia will always need multiple medium sized power stations strategically placed along this line to cover all the load centers and cities.
    Given the engineering problems alone of Nuclear power stations and the construction time and Australia not having a nuclear or large scale engineering industry any more to support such high technology any power station would probably parallel Australia’s disastrous folly into in building submarines. If a Nuclear power station was built it would have to be fully backed and run by a state or the federal government as no Insurance company in the world would insure it and without insurance no state government could afford to let it operate.

    • The United Arab Emirates built a nuclear generation system from scratch in less than a decade and had no nuclear engineering capacity before that, the same applies to China. The concentration of very large scale coal fired plant in the La Trobe Valley, Victoria and in the Hunter Valley, NSW defeats your claim about concentration of generation capacity and load. Including Hazlewood, Victoria’s couldn’t have been larger or more concentrated. All of Australia’s large scale plant were built by state governments and they ran them, SEC in VIC, ETSA in SA and so on. The only impediments to nuclear power in Australia are Luddites and their ‘we could never do that’ arguments and gutless politicians. Nuclear power is the obvious choice for Australia and small modular reactors of 100-200MW built in series overcome the Luddite claim that we are too small to support large scale plant. By the way, France has 58 reactors spread across the country. So, what’s your next point?

    • stpaulchuck says:

      the Japanese make trailer sized sealed units that can be buried for security and safety that power anything from around 20,000 population on up. They need to be refueled about every 20 years so you can just swap them out and recycle at a central facility. Most of them are thorium based and we have around four times more thorium than uranium.

    • michaelspencer2 says:

      You really need to catch up on subject and not Helen Caldicott-type propaganda. Download this PDF:, go to page 3 and then follow the proverbial bouncing ball. Hours of entertainment and enlightenment guaranteed!

  5. Reblogged this on Tallbloke's Talkshop and commented:
    Paul Driessen tells is like it is, and makes a wake up call to governments and private industry to properly assess the costs and impacts of ‘green’ energy.

  6. And there is still the question (at least for me), what is the energy requirement for a typical commercial sized wind-turbine which includes even when they are not producing electricity (which is most of the time)? I have researched that they use power for various things, depending on location and time of year, such as a heater for the 60 gallons of oil in the nacelle, the required flashing lights, blade deicers, computer link, mechanism adjustments (blade pitch/nacelle orientations) and other associated energy requirements. Any other energy producing plants (coal, nuclear, etc) has this information easily available. Do you have access to these figures in relation to wind turbines?

    • The short answer is no. Manufacturers do not make the information public, although their specifications documents give some general information. The power consumption is significant and varies between turbine sizes and configurations. In Australia its wind farms produce power on average between 23 to 40% of the time (referred to as capacity factor) but when and for how long is totally dependant on the weather. No one promoting wind power talks about sudden and total wind power output collapses, of the kind that have caused repeated mass blackouts and load shedding in SA, nor do they talk about power consumption for the same reason.

      • Melissa says:

        STT: About three years ago, I laughed at one wind farm representative when he said at a public meeting (his) turbines did not take power from the grid and that the company stored the wind power needed to keep the turbines turning over, in a battery. No response was given when I asked, “Where is this battery, first I’ve heard of it”. There is no documentation in the Planning Permit or VCAT Hearings about the installation of batteries. There was no documentation that turbines do fail to operate and require an energy source to keep them functional. Knowledge we didn’t have then, prevents us blindly accepting these many ongoing myths inferring that wind energy is cheap, clean or green.

        There is no information anywhere on the power bill wind farm operators should be paying.

        ‘The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie, deliberate, contrived, dishonest but the myth, persistent, persuasive and unrealistic.

        – John F. Kennedy –

    • beowulf says:

      The number you are after is 35 to 36kW. That is what an “average” 3MW turbine draws whether producing power or standing idle. Obviously scale that up for 5 and 6MW turbines.

      During an episode in December last year when the Macarthur wind farm in VIC was becalmed, it was drawing 5MW from the grid for a number of hours according to ANERO. There are 140 X 3MW turbines at that farm. That is how we know how much power each unit consumes to sustain itself. Since that was mid-summer, there may be a slightly higher power requirement in the colder months to heat oil etc as you say. I have no idea about that.

      Over a period of 39 hours Macarthur achieved a capacity factor of 0.38%, not counting all the power it drew back OUT of the grid.

  7. michaelspencer2 says:

    Great stuff! I’ve been waiting for something like this fill a gap on page 4 of this:

    Our alarmist ‘green’ friends are in line for a big shock! And I wonder what sort of remorse will strike the followers/victims of the great ‘global warming/climate change’ fraud once they realise (if they ever do, of course!) that they have been conned by ‘expert’ charlatans, and that far from ‘saving the planet’ they have been complicit in doing the opposite.

    And the woe and the angst when they discover that MODERN nuclear can produce electricity at between about 3.5 and 5 cents per kWh! (Hmmmm ….. I think that might be just a tad less than ‘renewables’ can manage – even on a good day!)

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