Subjecting Wind Power to the Same Scrutiny as Horizontal Hydraulic Fracturing

Opponents of drilling for natural gas usually key in on the process of hydraulic fracturing, claiming that it pollutes groundwater supplies. “Clean water!” becomes the rallying cry—and who is not for clean water? The Environmental Protection Agency has joined the chorus by ordering a “cradle to grave” study of hydraulic fracturing that will begin this year and run until 2014 before the final results are in. Waiting for the results of the study will no doubt be used as an excuse to delay drilling in some states and municipalities.

Author Paul Driessen points out that we should do an apples to apples comparison by performing a cradle to grave study of wind turbines, the darling of the green movement, too:

But if a life-cycle study is warranted for hydraulic fracturing, because drilling might pass through subsurface formations containing fresh water, similar studies are certainly called for elsewhere: wind turbine manufacturing, installation and operation, for instance.

Turbines require enormous quantities of concrete, steel, copper, fiberglass and rare earth minerals – all of which involve substantial resource extraction, refining, smelting, manufacturing and shipping. Land and habitat impacts, rock removal and pulverizing, solid waste disposal, burning fossil fuels, air and water pollution, and carbon dioxide emissions occur on large scales during every step of the process.

Over 95% of global rare earth production occurs in China and Mongolia, using their technology, coal-fired electricity generation facilities and environmental rules. Extracting neodymium, praseodymium and other rare earths for wind turbine magnets and rotors involves pumping acid down boreholes, to dissolve and retrieve the minerals. Other acids, chemicals and high heat further process the materials. Millions of tons of toxic waste are generated annually and sent to enormous ponds, rimmed by earthen dams.

Leaks, seepage and noxious air emissions have killed trees, grasses, crops and cattle, polluted lakes and streams, and given thousands of people respiratory and intestinal problems, osteoporosis and cancer.*

Read the rest of Driessen’s thought-provoking piece by following the link below.

* (Feb 28) – Wind Power: Questionable Benefits, Concealed Impacts

  • Hy. I am doing a little research about Hydraulic Conductivity and I found one great new Open Access ( free to download and share ) book. This book provides the state of the art of the investigation and the in-depth analysis of hydraulic conductivity from the theoretical to semi-empirical models perspective as well as policy development associated with management of land resources emanating from drainage-problem soils. You can find “Developments in Hydraulic Conductivity Research” here: // Cheers! 🙂

  • Thanks for that link Zana. Looks like a good resource. A big download! But nice that it’s freely available to anyone.

  • Stuart Smith

    The call to subject wind farm installations to the same cradle-to-grave environmental analysis as hydrofracturing is on point. Wind power installations (just like coal) have a lot of environmental and economic externalities as listed here. Wind power fans in the region would not find solution mining for rare earths very appealing if it were conducted here. I guess it’s OK if it is in China or Congo and people there (as with Native people in the past in the USA) are subject to the acid lakes and mine tailings. Out of sight, out of mind. Like about everyone, I have a cell phone, which includes rare earths. Better if we restore the mining in the USA and above all, recover that already refined and manufactured. Also, driving to project sites in eastern WV, where wind turbines line the hill tops along the state line, it has to be obvious that installing dozens of these installations had an impact on the landscape. Finally, if bats are essential and endangered, why is the impact overlooked? Wind shouldn’t be getting a “pass”. As long as we need to keep warm and electric power (no end to that) gas looks good by comparison. Keeping gas and fluids out of fresh water is relatively simple if everyone pays attention and does their job. Writing from the new Rock and Roll Capital of Ohio 🙂