Commentary

Clean Renewable? There Is No Wind Energy Without Fossil Fuels

By Vijay Jayaraj | January 26, 2021 | 5:09pm EST
Wind turbines generate electricity at the San Gorgonio Pass Wind Farm near Palm Springs, Calif. (Photo credit: Robert Alexander/Getty Images)
Wind turbines generate electricity at the San Gorgonio Pass Wind Farm near Palm Springs, Calif. (Photo credit: Robert Alexander/Getty Images)

Many people today praise wind and solar energy as clean energy and trust them as the power sources of the future, the sources that will replace fossil fuels.

President Joe Biden has announced his intent to force the transition. With a couple of executive orders that curtailed fossil fuel use, he is marching towards his intensive plan to increase dependency on renewables.

Last week, Biden’s newly appointed White House climate czar Gina McCarthy said, “Biden has committed to 100% clean power by 2035.…We are going to get there because we will not be stopped.”

Wind, especially, is touted as a symbol of clean power. It is common to see the image of a wind turbine on pamphlets or reports that address the transition to clean energy.

But the shocking truth is that wind energy is impossible without fossil fuels. Fossil fuels are not merely a supporting source, but the very foundation of wind turbines and the energy derived from them.

The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), a highly respected global professional association, calls wind turbines the “pure embodiments of fossil fuels,” and it is 100 percent right to do so.

Every stage in manufacturing wind turbines involves fossil fuels, and plenty of them. Without steel, cement, and fiberglass, there is no wind turbine. All the three are produced with fossil fuels. No fossil fuels, no wind turbines.

According to United States Geological Survey (USGS) estimation of material requirements, “1 MW of wind capacity requires 103 tonnes of stainless steel, 402 tonnes of concrete, 6.8 tonnes of fiberglass, 3 tonnes of copper, and 20 tonnes of cast iron.”

As IEEE puts it, to produce 25 percent of the global electricity demand using wind energy, we would require roughly 450 million metric tons of steel. And steel is manufactured predominantly using coal, implying that we would require “fossil fuels equivalent to more than 600 million metric tons of coal.”

The process would also require 90 million metric tons of crude oil for the rotor mass and various other hydrocarbon byproducts needed for coating and turbine lubricant.

An energy industry observer points out that “state-of-the-art wind turbine blades are made of carbon fiber, which consists of layers of plastics and plastic resin, both of which are derived from oil and natural gas.”

In plain language, the production, installation, and maintenance of a wind turbine is completely dependent on fossil fuel or fossil fuel derivatives. Wind energy cannot be termed clean unless fossil fuel is also clean.

Besides, even during the operational phase, wind turbines are reliant on fossil fuel or nuclear energy to provide backup when the turbines become non-operational when there’s no wind or the wind speed is either too low or too high.

In addition to their complete dependency on fossil fuels, wind and solar energy rely on the supply of rare earth metals such as europium, lanthanum, and neodymium —mined mainly in China under environmentally disastrous conditions.

The metals emit a lot of toxins when they are mined and processed, polluting land and water resources. Even the most ardent mainstream advocates of renewable energy have acknowledged this real and grave danger that rare earth metals pose to the local environment and health in China.

It is also ridiculous to call wind energy “clean” when wind turbines kill millions of birds, resulting in a systematic reduction in population of raptors and migratory birds, including those species classified by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature as vulnerable and threatened.

The mainstream media and the radical environmentalists have misled the public by proclaiming that wind energy is clean and fossil fuels are not, when the former is a derivate of the latter.

They have also suppressed from the limelight the information about how renewables like wind and solar are completely dependent on fossil fuels (and in some cases nuclear) to provide backup energy.

So, the continuous propaganda that we are moving or transitioning to a cleaner form of energy is a complete falsehood.

Vijay Jayaraj (M.Sc., Environmental Science, University of East Anglia, England), is a Research Contributor for the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation.

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