Toxic Truth: Millions Of Solar Panels & Wind Turbine Blades Destined For Landfills

The so-called wind and solar ‘industries’ are barely out of nappies, and yet they’re already responsible for a smorgasbord of toxic waste.

The magnets in wind turbine generators are made from neodymium and dysprosium, rare earth minerals mined almost exclusively in China, which controls 95 percent of the world’s supply of rare earth minerals. The processing of which has covered whole tracts of China with fields of toxic waste and giant toxic lakes.

Solar panels are a veritable toxic cocktail of gallium arsenide, tellurium, silver, crystalline silicon, lead, cadmium, and heavy earth material.

Then there’s the landfill legacy being created by wind turbine blades, with the First World cynically using the Third World as its dumping ground: ‘Green’ Energy’s Poisonous Legacy: Millions of Toxic Turbine Blades Destined for African Landfills

Thousands of 45-70m blades (weighing between 10 to 25 tonnes) are being ground up and mixed with concrete used in the bases of other turbines erected later or simply dumped in landfill. Which should worry locals: the plastics in the blades are highly toxic, and contain Bisphenol A, which is so dangerous to health that the European Union and Canada have banned it.

As Jon Sanders outlines below, it’s a monster of a problem that can only get bigger.

Wind, solar panels pose waste issues
The Robesonian
Jon Sanders
18 February 2020

Bloomberg Energy this month issued an attention-grabbing report on a serious waste problem with wind turbines: Retired turbine blades are clogging up landfills.

This problem is only going to get worse, as Bloomberg reports, because right now the blades at the end of their lifespan are from wind power built more than a decade ago. There’s been a fivefold increase in installing wind turbines since, powered in large part by federal and state incentives and mandates.

If you enjoy John Locke Foundation research and Carolina Journal reporting, you know wind power poses many ecological problems. It’s not just turbine blade waste, but also noise pollution, visual pollution, disruptions of military radar, eagle and other wildlife killings, and excessive land use.

What makes disposing wind turbine blades so bad for landfills and the environment? All these things:

  • They’re huge, from 100 feet long to the length of a football field.
  • They have to be cut into pieces on site using expensive, specialized equipment.
  • It takes a tractor-trailer to haul off a cut-up blade.
  • They can’t be recycled.
  • They’re made of resin and fiberglass and currently can’t be repurposed.
  • They can’t be crushed for efficient landfill storage.
  • Landfills don’t really have the space for them.
  • Obtaining permitting for new landfills is also expensive.

In the next 20 years, the U.S. will have more than 720,000 tons of waste blade material. Wind turbine blades are “forever waste.”

Used solar panels have many chemical waste components, including gallium arsenide, tellurium, silver, crystalline silicon, lead, cadmium, and heavy earth materials. Solar facilities also requires an enormous expanse of land, many taking prime farmland, stressing the state’s agricultural ecosystem.

Also concerning is the presence of GenX and related compounds in solar panel components.

Solar panel waste is an especially important issue to solve for North Carolina given how many solar facilities we have. State mandates, tax credits, other incentives, and an especially solar-friendly interpretation of federal law governing utilities and renewable energy producers have made North Carolina second only to California in solar facilities.

According to JLF Senior Fellow Don van der Vaart, if you stacked all the solar panels currently in North Carolina on a football field, the stack would stand over 120 stories high. That’s taller than the Empire State Building. What kind of waste issues does all that pose?

It is for those reasons that JLF has for years written about decommissioning and reclamation bonds for solar and wind facilities. The idea is to be able to restore the land to its previous use before the facilities were built.

Decommission and reclamation are standard environmental protection for other land uses. It’s so noncontroversial, in fact, that the Bureau of Land Management under President Obama required full reclamation bonding for solar and wind energy projects on public lands.

Nevertheless, until last year the renewable energy lobby had been successful at keeping decommissioning and reclamation for solar and wind facilities out of state law. But, in 2019, Sen. Paul Newton, R-Cabarrus, took up the issue and, despite opposition from the renewable energy lobby, was able to get decommissioning for solar and wind facilities.

House Bill 329 requires the Environmental Management Commission to come up with rules for the decommissioning of solar and wind power plants by Jan. 1, 2022. The renewable lobby was able to prevent some reforms Newton sought: recycling of all renewable energy items, banning them from deposit in landfills, and automatically requiring solar and wind companies to post reclamation bonds.

Still, the law requires EMC to consider many factors in determining the rules for decommissioning, including such considerations as:

Do solar panels, batteries, or materials used in solar and wind facilities exhibit characteristics of hazardous waste?

Can they be reused, refurbished, recycled, safely deposited in landfills, or safely disposed as hazardous waste?

How much of the state’s landfill capacity will be taken up by solar cells, wind turbines, and batteries?

How do other states and the federal government regulate these issues, including decommissioning and financial assurance?

How much financial assurance should be required to ensure proper decommissioning?

The key to EMC drawing up proper regulations governing decommissioning and financial assurance of wind and solar facilities, however, is to make sure that the renewable energy lobby, solar and wind companies, and solar and wind advocates don’t capture this regulatory process. It’s too important.

The many community and ecological waste challenges posed by end-of-life wind turbine blades, solar panels, and batteries should impress regulators and policymakers of the need to get decommissioning and financial assurances right for North Carolina.
The Robesonian

About stopthesethings

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

Comments

  1. Albert Rogers says:

    I have wondered if these horrid things ought to be tried out as a possible base in the seas for the corals that are going to be drowned as the seas rise from global warming.
    If it does any good, we could knock down ALL of the horrible wind devices.

  2. I am guessing the plastics used in these high flying fantasy nightmare greenie energy systems built so far could have provided the entire world 3 lifetimes’ supply of those efficient dual and triple use “single use” thin plastic bags being banned by politicianists everywhere, bags that save lives, save energy, save trees, and break back down into earth friendly carbon over less than 10 years instead of 100 million.

  3. Really good!

    In a similar way nuclear waste can be stored . . the heavy particles will not escape and if covered under 10 meter of water it´s safe……. AND as current use of nuclear fuel is only a couple of % the newer reactors can use the waste and will not even need to mine for hundreds of years….

  4. Reblogged this on Dreaming 🐦 Freedom.

  5. Reblogged this on ajmarciniak.

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