Here is another blogpost clearly explaining the limits of renewable energy using mathematics… you know, that discipline you cannot argue with? Originally published at Energy Skeptic dot com where loads of other interesting stuff on energy matters are accessible. I highly recommend that site to all my DTM followers…..
Material requirements of 50% wind power in the USA hit limits to growth
Wind turbines can’t be made forever because natural gas, coal, oil, uranium (thorium), neodymium, and other energy resources and minerals needed for wind turbines are finite, and the energy to recycle is limited.
Oil, the master resource, coal, and natural gas are required to make the millions of tons of steel, copper, fiberglass, plastic, epoxy, and concrete as well as deliver and maintain hundreds of thousands of wind turbines providing 50% or more of electricity as fossil fuels decline.
2,029,104,500 MWh = Wind power to equal 50% of annual electricity generation in 2013 (4,058,209,000 MWh / 2)
5,606.4 MWh power per year per 2 MW turbine (2 MW * .32 national average capacity * 24 hours * 365 days) summer
361,926 Number of 2 MW turbines required (2,029,104,500 MWh / 5,606.4 MWh) You’d need 531,318 wind turbines to allow for the lowest capacity of .218 in august 2013 (EIA).
Area required 104,586 square miles — the entire state of Colorado (361,926 2 MW turbines * 2 * 92.47 acres per MW) (AWEO)
Materials per 2 MW turbine in short tons: 265.5 steel, 1025.5 concrete, 39 iron, 3 copper, 24.3 fiberglass, 10 epoxy, 2.4 plastic (average of Elsam, Guezuraga), and rare earth metals neodymium 800 pounds, dysprosium 130 pounds (ED).
Total amount of materials needed for 361,926 wind turbines in short tons: 96,091,353 steel, 371,155,113 concrete containing 74,213,022 cement (20% of concrete), 144,770 tons neodymium, 23,525 dysprosium, 14,115,114 iron, 1,085,778 copper, 8,794,802 fiberglass, 3,619,260 epoxy, 868,622 plastic
Annual steel production world-wide 1,833,395 tons in 2014 (worldsteel) = 52 years of world steel production (96,092,353 / 1,833,395)
Annual cement production USA 142,464,000 tons (USGS) = 52% of annual cement production (roads, buildings, sewers, and other infrastructure will suffer)
Neodymium world production is 7,840 tons/year. Windmill turbines would require 18.5 years of production. Dysprosium production is 112 tons/year requiring 210 years of dysprosium production (ED).
Fossil energy required to build windmills: The vehicles that mine iron ore run on diesel. Vehicles and equipment that process iron ore are mostly made of steel. Iron and steel are made by blast furnace or direct reduction using coal or natural gas. Imported steel arrives on ships burning diesel. Cement (20% of concrete) is made in a kiln using coal or natural gas. Fiberglass, epoxy, and plastic are made out of petroleum.
If the plan is to build 150% wind power to increase the capacity credit for reliable power, or immigration and birth rates increase the US population to 1 billion as expected in census projections by 2100, triple all of the above figures. Since the rest of the world also wants wind power and have increasing populations, perhaps multiplying by 10 would be more realistic, or by 12, since many material requirements were left out (i.e. transmission / distribution lines and towers, substations, roads, etc).
ED. 2015. Neodymium. Dysprosium. ElementsDatabase.org
EIA. 2015. Table 6.7.B. Capacity Factors for Utility Scale Generators Not Primarily Using Fossil Fuels, January 2008-November 2014. U.S. Energy Information Administration.
Prieto, P. A. 21 Oct 2008. Solar + Wind in Spain/ World. Closing the growing gap? ASPO International conference.
USGS. 2011. Cement production. United States Geological Society. 127,200,000 long tons converted to 142,464,000 short tons (2,000 lbs)
Worldsteel. 2014. Monthly Crude Steel Production 2014. Pig iron 2013 + DR 2013. worldsteel.org (converted from long to short tons).