There are two aspects of green energy insanity that never get adequate attention, the reliance on rare earth minerals and the demolition and wastes issues.
The lousy economics, especially compared to those of natural gas and its emissions cutting benefits, is part of the green energy insanity I wrote about a few days ago. I provided a followup in my Best Picks of the Week post yesterday with a feature titled “The Answer Is Blowin’ Away in the Wind” about the unwinding the German Energiewende wind venture. Ever alert reader Mark Dye investigated, found the author had identified error an in the original article that has since been corrected. Another part of story has also surfaced, he noted, a part that seldom gets any attention. It’s about what to do with old windmills, which provides further insights into green energy insanity.
The front-end problem with both solar and wind is that they depend on rare earth minerals that often have to be imported and the mining of which is about as anti-environment as it gets. The German story, though, is about the back end, when old windmills have to be demolished. The original story may be found here in German and this is the translated second part (emphasis added):
Recycling of the components poses a particular challenge when it comes to dismantling. “We set up wind turbines with massive subsidies, but no one thought what would happen to the plants afterwards, for example, that the funds used must also be recyclable,” says Herwart Wilms, Managing Director of Germany’s largest waste management company Remondis.
Although the material of steel parts or copper pipes is very good recyclable. However, one problem is the rotor blades, which consist of a mixture of glass and carbon fibers and are glued with polyester resins. “We are facing a huge problem,” said Michael Schneider from Remondis to Handelsblatt. Because it is hardly possible to separate the resin-bonded fibers again. “We can not get them apart anymore,” says Schneider. From 2021, 16,000 tonnes of such materials could be produced annually.
Although the wind power industry wants to develop solutions for recycling. Whether these then not only technically but also economically, but is in the stars. So in the end, only the energy recovery could be left, ie combustion. But even this is difficult because the residues of rotor material are fine-grained and clog the filters of incinerators.
But with the dismantling of the plants themselves, it is not enough. The concrete pedestals, which form the foundation of wind turbines, would also have to disappear. In a large plant, this base can quickly cover more than 3,000 tons of reinforced concrete and often reach more than twenty meters deep into the ground. According to the German building code, wind turbines have to be “completely dismantled” – and the explanations to the law make it clear that dismantling includes the foundations.
Also, several courts have confirmed that after the end of an investment, the concrete foundations have to be removed. That makes ecological sense. As Godehard Hennies, managing director of the Water Association Day Bremen / Lower Saxony / Saxony-Anhalt has stated to the world, the foundations often pierce several geological horizons and cause a serious mixing of previously separated aquifers.
The complete removal of the concrete base can quickly cost hundreds of thousands of euros…
Other sources suggest the old propeller blades can be recycled but it doesn’t seem so great either, unless you like the idea of combusting resins to produce cement:
A previous study that was commissioned by Scottish National Heritage (SNH) forecasted that there would be a need to ‘recycle’ approximately 225,000 tons of rotor blades by the year 2034. Something similar is happening in Germany, where the rotor blades are ‘reprocessed’ in industrial scale factories and then shredded and mixed with other waste. The final product is then used in cement manufacturing facilities as fuel.
Cement production also happens to be “one of the largest sources of industrial process-related emissions” according to the EPA, but I’m sure adding windmill resins will improve the process.
All sarcasm aside, there’s no doubt technology will eventually solve the problem, just as the natural gas industry has solved the problem of dealing with flowback and produced water by recycling it. That isn’t the point, though, No, the point is that renewables come with waste issues, too, and a host of others environmental,ental concerns that need to be addressed. The cost will be the ultimate arbiter of what works and what doesn’t. Green energy insanity is believing “green energy” is somehow free of such issues and there are no costs to be addressed.
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