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Wind, Solar and Fossil Fuels Part I

Every stage in manufacturing wind and solar facilities involves fossil fuels (and lots of them). Raw materials are mined and transported with diesel fuel. The mining and transportation equipment are made from steel. Steel is made in blast furnaces powered by fossil fuels. The erected wind and solar facilities stand on pads of cement. 500 million tons of coal is consumed annually in the manufacture of cement. The roads used to access wind and solar installations are built by steel machines powered by diesel fuel; those same roads are made of asphalt (oil) or cement. In short, if no fossil fuels, then no wind and solar. Can You Make a Wind Turbine Without Fossil Fuels? | Energy Central

The average wind turbine weighs 1688 tons (the equivalent of 23 houses) and contains 1300 tons of concrete, 295 tons of steel, 48 tons of iron, and 24 tons of fiberglass. An offshore jack-up vessel (used to install offshore turbine foundations) uses about 2,640 gallons – or 63 barrel of marine fuel (from crude oil)-- per day. Constructing a 500 MW installation requires between 200 and 300 days of jack-up rig time, which means between 12,571 barrels (bbls) and 18,857 bbls of marine fuel consumed during construction.

One thing is certain: a “transition” to wind and solar doesn’t mean a goodbye to fossil fuels. Wind and solar are not possible without fossil fuels, and that’s reflected in the consumption numbers. World oil consumption increases by 1 million barrels per day every year; coal usage reached a record high in 2022; and natural gas consumption is on pace for a record year in 2023.

Finally, wind turbines and solar panels wear out every 20 years (or sooner we are finding out). Fossil fuels have to be used to dismantle and dispose of the old wind and solar installations. And then the fossil fuel consumption process starts all over again to replace the worn out wind turbines and solar panels.

Wind and solar have a small role in the world’s overall energy supply. And even that small role is only possible via the consumption of huge amounts of fossil fuels. To assert that wind and solar will soon bear a large role, and that we can do without fossil fuels (while maintaining our current lifestyle), is preposterous…and dangerous.

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