Prove This Wrong

27 11 2014
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John Weber

Another guest post by John Weber..  I have already pronounced more than once that building ‘renewables’ involves intensive use of fossil fuels, the emissions from which the machines made to generate this renewable energy can never be removed by the machines.  So while they may reduce the emissions that might have been caused by using fossil energy to generate this electricity, the machines do not remove them.  In fact, it doesn’t matter how many wind turbines are erected, the fossil energy use just keeps growing…..  and if we decided tomorrow to shut down all fossil fuel use (a darn good idea…), then not one more wind turbine would be erected, and not one more solar panel would be built.  It’s really that simple……..


It would be elegant if wind and solar energy capturing devices could actually maintain a modicum of the wonderfully rich lifestyles many of us live.  I believe this is a false dream and that BAU (business as usual) is not sustainable or “green” nor really desirable for the future of the earth or even our species.

Prove This Wrong

Many people believe wind and solar energy capturing devices can replace a substantial percentage if not all of our fossil fuel usage. Below you will find pictures and charts detailing the necessity of the fossil fuel supply system and the massive industrial infrastructure in this “renewable” dream.

Wind, Water, and Solar Power for the World

Nix nuclear. Chuck coal. Rebuff biofuel. All we need is the wind, the water, and the sun

By Mark Delucchi/ SEPTEMBER 2011

“We don’t need nuclear power, coal, or biofuels. We can get 100 percent of our energy from wind, water, and solar (WWS) power. And we can do it today— efficiently, reliably, safely, sustainably, and economically.  We can get to this WWS world by simply building a lot of new systems for the production, transmission, and use of energy. One scenario that Stanford engineering professor Mark Jacobson and I developed, projecting to 2030, includes: 3.8 million wind turbines, 5 megawatts each, supplying 50 percent of the projected total global power demand.”

Mark Z. Jacobson Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Stanford University was coauthor of another article. It can be found in Scientific America – “A Path to Sustainable Energy by 2030”.

They proposed that starting in 2012, 50% of the worlds needs could be supplied by 3,800,000 five megawatt wind capturing devices to be installed by 2030. Here are the numbers:

3,800,000 5 megawatts each supply 50% of the world’s energy needs in 18 years


211,111.11 Machines a year

578.39 Machines a day for 18 years

24.10 Machines each hour each day for 18 years EACH ONE INSTALLED EACH DAY

I am choosing wind energy capturing devices because they have a higher Energy Return on Energy Invested than solar energy capturing devices. I continually use the phrase “capturing devices” for what are usually called solar panels and wind machines because these are devices that capture the sun or wind energy. It is misleading to not realize they require energy and natural resources.

Let me cut right to the results of this study. The base of this 2.5 megawatt turbine in the pictures that follow (half the megawatts in the Jacobson/Delucchi study) used 45 tons of rebar and 630 cubic yards of cement. This computes in barrels of oil and in tons of CO2 for each base:

For the Concrete

478.8 Barrels of oil in 630 yards of concrete.

409.5 Tons of CO2 released for 630 yards of concrete.

For the Rebar

Taking a conservative 3 barrels of oil per ton the rebar would require 135 barrels of oil for the base of the 2.5 MW Turbine.

89 tons of C02 released for 45 tons of steel for the base.

All Together

The concrete and steel together for one base use

613 barrels of oil for each base alone.

Each base release 498 tons of CO2

(A barrel of oil is 42 gallons – or 160L)

Before looking at two of the energy requirements to install these 3,800,000 machines here are some interesting pictures of installing a wind energy capturing device from .

The machine we are looking at is only 2.5 MW turbine not the larger 5 MW proposed by Jacobson and Delucchi.

The turbines, each standing 485 feet tall and weighing 2,000 tons

The project utilizes 2.5 MW turbines on 100 metre towers.


The pictures clearly illustrate that the fossil fuel supply system and a vast industrial infrastructure support the manufacture and installation of these wind energy capturing devices. The tons of rebar and the yards of concrete offer a chance to look at the energy requirements for both. It is also important to point out that all the equipment used to install the turbines also have the fossil fuel supply system and the massive industrial infrastructure supporting them.

In researching this, the information for concrete was more definite than the range of energy required to make rebar.



“Common rebar is made of unfinished tempered steel, making it susceptible to rusting. Normally the concrete cover is able to provide a pH value higher than 12 avoiding the corrosion reaction. Too little concrete cover can compromise this guard through carbonation from the surface, and salt penetration. Too much concrete cover can cause bigger crack widths which also compromises the local guard. As rust takes up greater volume than the steel from which it was formed, it causes severe internal pressure on the surrounding concrete, leading to cracking, spalling, and ultimately, structural failure. This phenomenon is known as oxide jacking. This is a particular problem where the concrete is exposed to salt water, as in bridges where salt is applied to roadways in winter, or in marine applications. Uncoated, corrosion-resistant low carbon/chromium (microcomposite), epoxy-coated, galvanized or stainless steel rebars may be employed in these situations at greater initial expense, but significantly lower expense over the service life of the project. Extra care is taken during the transport, fabrication, handling, installation, and concrete placement process when working with epoxy-coated rebar, because damage will reduce the long-term corrosion resistance of these bars.”

“Under the most ideal circumstances, the energy required to produce solid iron from iron oxide can never be less than 7 million Btu per ton (MMBtu/ton). Since the energy required to melt iron under the most ideal circumstances is about 1 MMBtu/ton, the inherent thermodynamic advantage of making liquid steel from scrap rather than from iron ore is about 6 MMBtu/ton. When process heat losses are included, the advantage falls in the range of 9 to 14 MMBtu/ton. . . . current total energy requirements for the pro- Petroleum provides only a small amount of enduction of finished steel products in different pIants and countries from iron ore range from 25 to 35 MMBtu/net ton.”

The range above supports the 25 to 35 MMBtu/net ton. With various iron making processes, iron has a range of Btus per ton.   Converted to barrels of oil the range is 2.17 to 4.83 barrels of oil per ton of rebar.

Taking a conservative 3 barrels of oil per ton the rebar would require 135 barrels of oil for the base of the 2.5 MW Turbine.

On average, 1.8 tonnes of CO2 are emitted for every tonne of steel produced.

This means 1.98 tons of C02 emitted for every ton of steel produced.



Multiply 1.10231 to convert tonnes to tons

One yard of concrete equals two tons

Two tons equals 1.81437 tonnes

4,426,832.62 Btus in a yard of concrete

5,800,000 Btus per barrel of oil

0.76 barrels of oil in a yard of concrete

32.06 gallons of oil in a yard of concrete

0.65 tons of CO2 per yard of concrete

478.8 Barrels of oil in 630 yards of concrete

20,195.52 Gallons of oil in 630 yards of concrete

409.5 Tons of CO2 per 630 yards of concrete


On-site energy values are based on actual process measurements taken within a facility. These measurements are valuable because the on-site values are the benchmarks that industry uses to compare performance between processes, facilities, and companies. On-site measurements, however, do not account for the complete energy and environmental impact of manufacturing a product. A full accounting of the impact of manufacturing must include the energy used to produce the electricity, the fuels, and the raw materials used on-site. These “secondary” or “tacit” additions are very important from a regional, national, and global energy and environment perspective.

Normal weight concrete weighs about 4000 lb. per cubic yard. Lightweight concrete weighs about 3000 lb. per cubic yard. If a truck is carrying 10 cubic yards, then the weight of the concrete is approximately 40,000 lb.

The tonne (British and SI; SI symbol: t) or metric ton (American) is a non-SI metric unit of mass equal to 1000 kilograms;[ it is thus equivalent to one megagram (Mg). 1000 kilograms is equivalent to approximately 2 204.6 pounds,

It is important to realize we have only looked at the energy for the concrete and rebar for the base of a 2.5 MMwatt turbine. Behind this device and most sun and wind capturing devices are a global system of providing energy and materials. And this support is further supported.   Here is one mining truck among a worldwide fleet of trucks that also must be manufactured. It is like a thread on a knitted sweater that when you pull it thinking you will get a small piece, you end up with a whole ball of yarn.





26 responses

27 11 2014

We saw 4 huge semi’s pulling trailers with each a trailer long section of turbine tower on Tuesday. They are truly massive and seeing it reminded me of this the last time you posted this. If only we would ALL use less energy!

27 11 2014

the silly thing those most seem to be professionals or well educated, cannot see the carbon that renewables create from conception to on your roof, then the silliest part they then can’t see hat it all needs maintenance and complete replacement sooner than later, and none of it is recyclable, and recycling causes carbon as well

28 11 2014
Bob Manton

What exactly do you recommend?
Have no electricity?
Cull the population?
Continue using coal, gas and oil?
Give up and die?

28 11 2014

No Bob…….. reduce consumption by 90 to 95%….

29 11 2014

That depends Bob – would you prefer a softer landing or a few more years of decadence? 😛 🙂

I think the best (and probably hardest) thing anybody can do is unlearn the false narrative of civilisation and establish a new worldview for themselves.

Start with Daniel Quinn’s Ishmael series for your unlearning, then read everything/anything on permaculture, green anarchy, anarcho-primitivism, deep ecology, new tribalism, etc… to construct your new and sustainable outlook.

Then the transition and solutions necessary to allow you, your loved ones, and humanity to “simply live” will become self evident.

28 11 2014

In theory, giving cheap enough wind&solar, everything could be powered by that energy: just convert’em into yr preffered type of energy (liquid forms if u need ones), eating the inevitable convertion losses, and use that prefferable forms.
In practice though we have yet to see SUCH a cheap wind&solar (or nuclear) to afford that on the scale necessary, and realistically cant expect that any time soon enough – if ever – to be able to make a transition be4 things go really bad

1 12 2014
Alex Stasse

630 Yard^3 ~ 481.6m^3
Density of concrete is about 2,400 kilograms per cubic metre
This gives ~1156 tons of concrete per turbine
211,111 turbines per year makes that 244 Megatons of concrete per year.
Chinas current concrete use is ~2.2 GIGAtons per year.

If we can produce enough wind turbines to produce 50% of the worlds power (probably 100% if we stop wasting energy) in 18 years by using 10% of Chinas concrete usage then it suddenly seems a lot less hopeless.

500 Tons of CO2 per base sounds like a lot, but keep in mind coal releases about 1.9 tons of CO2 for each ton burned ( 5MWh of coal power uses about 2.43 tons of coal (4.62 tons of CO2)( so the turbine ‘pays’ for the base after about 108 hours, or just over 4 days if it’s running at full capacity and if it’s replacing coal power.

1 12 2014

Alex, I don’t know how you get payback of four days, because the accepted figure is more like six months, which is pretty bloody good and way better than solar…… Wind turbines very rarely run at full capacity, and rarely for 24 hours. In fact, when they do, it makes headlines! However, the issue here is NOT that payback occurs (we all know it does) or how fast, but the fact that whenever a turbine is built, emissions that the turbine CANNOT remove are added to the already overwhelming total. Then there’s the issue of maintenance, now largely done with helicopters!

1 12 2014
Alex Stasse

That payback is just for the concrete in the foot, and assumes 100% capacity which yes, doesn’t happen in reality. The point is that while building the turbines does add to the CO2 in the atmosphere, they still greatly reduce the CO2 we WOULD have emitted if we just burned coal instead. Even with maintainance via helicopters the CO2 emissions are greatly reduced. Wind turbines DO have an EROEI high enough that they could be self sustaining. It would be expensive and we still wouldn’t have as much free energy as we have now, but that doesn’t make it not worth doing. Every turbine built means a bit more coal will stay in the ground as it becomes less and less worth mining it, even if it’s mined a bit faster in the short term.

1 12 2014

” Every turbine built means a bit more coal will stay in the ground as it becomes less and less worth mining it”

There is a problem with that……. even though installation of renewables is growing exponentially at astronomical rates, none of it has slowed the burning of FFs which itself is growing exponentially….. in fact, I have sometimes wondered if the growth in FF consumption isn’t due to this accelerating renewables manufacturing!

1 12 2014

There is another problem with that too… Tony Abbott! 😛

2 12 2014
Bob Manton

“reduce consumption by 90 to 95%….”

We must all know that this is just not going to happen.
It would mean reverting to a life similar to the Amish but even more severe and restricted.
Mike you for one are not going to live this lifestyle. Your computer would go and all of the other things that make life “comfortable” such as a ICE vehicle.
The ONE thing that could bring the population back from the brink is never mentioned.
No matter how it is done, it is the only answer.
But talk to people and they just cannot see this, it is their RIGHT to have children.

2 12 2014

But Bob…… we ALREADY live on under 10% of normal consumption….

2 12 2014
Bob Manton

I suppose it comes down to what you consider “normal” consumption?

I am sure that you do not commute with a horse and cart.
You do buy some items from a shop.
You do not make your own clothes.
You do buy some animal feed.
If fact a complete audit of your lives would show that it cannot be “under 10% of normal consumption”.
You would access health care.

3 12 2014

No Bob, I do not own a horse and cart. But I don’t ‘commute’, I thought you knew that… and nearly all the driving we do do is un necessary and entirely caused by a society structured around cars…

We do buy some items from the shop, usually little luxuries we can’t make here, like tea and coffee and chocolate and cream….. and I’m still buying things to finish the house off, more luxuries, really, but the world out there that wants to buy my house has different prorities to mine.

I do not make my own clothes, but I’m sure I own enough already to see me through ’til I die..

We buy almost no animal feed…. I;’ve taken up Geoff Lawton’s mantra of feeding chooks food scraps and compost, and it seems to be working.

I try to NOT access health care by staying healthy, and I would feel a lot better if I was somewhere cooler like Tassie….

In the end, we only do what we do because we can. And we still can because we still have fossil fuels, and the economy is still artificially bolstered up with fantasy money, and none of that will last much longer, and soon EVEYONE will have to do as we do and live on 10% of the normal energy consumption.

I read an interesting article recently that I’m thinking of writing up here when I have some more time, and it said that the average American (and it’d be the same for Australians) consume more energy in one month than their grand and great grand parents did in their ENTIRE LIVES…….. so if we coped 2 or 3 generations ago, I’m sure we’ll cope again.

8 01 2015

No, I can’t prove it wrong, there are too many numbers, too many facts to consider about which I have little to no expertise. But it’s obvious that we’re not going to stop using fossil fuels tomorrow, and it’s equally obvious that if we continue to invest in fossoil infrastructure we can never hope to get off that seductive, addictive treadmill.

Most likely we’re already screwed, but if we’re not to simply throw our hands in the air and give up, we must at least try to move towards a position where we can harness the energy the Sun provides us on a daily basis — far more than adequate to our current needs.

All we need are the smarts to figure out how to trap it.

8 01 2015

By all accounts we already have 10% renewables installed. That’s all we need to live more simply so we may simply live….

9 01 2015

… except that all too few folk are prepared to consider such a thing, as they equate it to ‘going back to live in caves’. /eyeroll

8 01 2015
seaworkBob Manton

This whole article is slanted towards the premise that we have to keep using fossil fuels.
What it stops short of is that if we have BAU, then it will all come to a grinding halt eventually anyway.
We will run out of commodities.
We will put ourselves beyond the tipping point of global warming.

Keep on building coal power stations.
Keep on building gas power stations.
Keep on building Nuclear power stations.
Keep on driving ICE vehicles.
This will accelerate the end because this way leads to breakdown.
All of the statistics in the article about concrete usage, steel usage, large plant usage apply to these and also need fuel to run them.
So continuing with the BUA is not an option.
I have also seen an article that itemises the amount of trucks, fuel, concrete, steel and other finite materials used in the extraction and processing of uranium which also would apply to all conventional power stations and it is just as daunting as this article scathing analysis about renewable energy.
Do not fool yourself about the way ahead. The only way to survive as a species is to virtually go back to living in the middle ages.
Cut back on population voluntarily and live frugally or have nature cut us back violently.
There is no other choice.

8 02 2015
The power of spin | Damn the Matrix

[…] gases generated while mining and manufacturing which have been discussed here ad nauseam in earlier posts…..  The power of spin is such that the uninformed will continue believing we can have it […]

11 06 2015
What it would take for the US to run on 100% renewable energy | Damn the Matrix

[…] But here’s the key thing for me.  exactly how would the US build an increasing quantity of renewables, growing year after year, while reducing fossil fuel use, year after year, at the same time..?  And we all know how much fossil energy it takes to build all those wind turbines….. […]

28 03 2016
What a tangled web we weave…… | Damn the Matrix

[…] Weber, whose excellent articles about the fossil fuels needed to make renewable energy I have published here before, led me to a Jo Nova item on her website titled Renewables industry […]

15 02 2018
Todd Houstein

A reasonable effort, but half baked. It doesn’t actually pull the numbers together to compare energy consumed in building a wind turbine vs energy it will generate over its lifetime. Why go to all that effort and then not do the math?

There are hundreds of studies that do do the math though, and they show that wind turbines generate considerably more energy than is used to make them. Sure, right now most of the energy used to make them is derived from fossil fuels, but that can change. Zero (or very near zero) greenhouse gas emissions electricity is totally doable from a technical and economic basis.

However, there’s no such thing as a free lunch. All electricity generating technologies have negative impacts. As such, we should be as frugal as possible first, and as efficient with what we use as possible second. Absolutely! No argument from me there. But renewables are crucial to securing a stable climate.

15 02 2018

Sure, right now most of the energy used to make them is derived from fossil fuels, but that can change.

NO it can’t……… ALL the raw materials are mined with diesel, and NOTHING will ever replace diesel. Electric vehicles, trucks in particular, are a complete mirage……

15 02 2018
Todd Houstein

Mirage? Was the link supposed to be to something supporting that claim? It only pointed back to this page, which doesn’t mention electric vehicles.

16 02 2018

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