Just one of the dirty secrets behind “green” wind turbines.
The less you know about wind energy, the more you’ll like it

The construction of wind turbines has been touted as the savior of the planet. We are constantly bombarded with the amount of fossil fuel that can be saved by switching to wind power. Currently, we in the Town of Sanford, are being asked to forfeit our way of life for the promise of clean energy from wind turbines. But, are they actually as clean and green as promised?

The life cycle of a wind turbine is broken down into five distinct phases: construction, transportation, installation, operation, and decommissioning. (Wilburn) Every one of these phases relies heavily on fossil fuels, the first three being by far the worst offenders.

Beginning with the steel, iron ore must first be mined using heavy machinery and leaving the Earth looking like the photo at right. The ore is then transported to a mill, again using fossil fuels. Often the ore must be shipped across oceans to a mill, more fossil fuels. Large amounts of coal and/or natural gas are used at the mill to fuel the blast furnaces to process the ore into steel. Once the steel is made, it still has to be formed into the components for the turbine, trucked to the site, and installed

Cement is made in a kiln that uses coal, natural gas, or sometimes burning tires to produce heat. Not only does burning these fuels add to the problem of atmospheric carbon dioxide, but the chemical reaction that creates cement produces even more carbon dioxide as a byproduct. Cement is one component of the concrete used for the base of the turbine. Once the concrete is made, it will be trucked into the site eating up more fossil fuel.

At the building site, trees are cut for the pad area, access roads, and transmission line areas. Heavy equipment digs a massive hole 30 feet deep, a steel reinforcement rod cage is constructed, concrete is poured from trucks arriving around the clock, then a large crane begins construction of the turbine. All of this equipment burns an incredible amount of diesel fuel.

“The consumption of fossil fuels and water during construction and decommissioning can be significant. Transportation of oversized equipment can be expensive and hazardous.” (Wilburn)

Let’s not forget all the petrochemicals used for the plastics in the turbine, the lubricants to keep parts moving freely, and chemicals used to deice the blades.

Then there’s the energy consumed to run the turbine. It is shocking to find out that wind turbines use an incredible amount of energy to function. An article on aweo.org breaks down all the times a wind turbine uses power instead of producing it. The conclusion here is that it is feasible that a turbine could use more energy than it produces. This energy is not metered, meaning that the other electricity consumers in the area end up paying for the wind farm’s use of energy. (http://www.aweo.org/windconsumption.html )

“For a long time to come—until all energies used to produce wind turbines and photo-voltaic cells come from renewable energy sources—modern civilization will remain fundamentally dependent on fossil fuels.” (Smil) This being the case, is it wise to use so much fossil fuel on building turbines which are already considered obsolete?

Works Cited

Consumption of Electricity by Wind Turbines [AWEO.org]. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.aweo.org/windconsumption.html

Smil, V. (2016, February 29). To Get Wind Power You Need Oil. Retrieved April 17, 2019, from https://spectrum.ieee.org/energy/renewables/to-get-wind-power-you-need-oil

Wilburn, D.R., 2011, Wind energy in the United States and materials required for the land-based wind turbine industry from 2010 through 2030: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2011–5036, 22 p. https://pubs.usgs.gov/sir/2011/5036/sir2011-5036.pdf

Wilson, R. (2014, February 25). Can You Make a Wind Turbine Without Fossil Fuels? Retrieved April 17, 2019, from https://www.energycentral.com/c/ec/can-you-make-wind-turbine-without-fossil-fuels?page=1