Wind and Solar are Worse than Coal and Waste Gas

October 24, 2012 05:56

Political force-feeding of wind and solar energy does more harm to the natural environment than coal, affects the local climate, hits consumers with unnecessary costs and threatens industry with power failures.

by Viv Forbes, Chairman, The Carbon Sense Coalition


James Hansen, an outspoken world climate alarmist says: “Coal-fired power plants are factories of death”. The Australian Greens want a fast end to coal mining in Australia, and support a swift expansion of wind and solar power. As the Greens are part of the coalition which governs Australia, the electricity industry is now being coerced by carbon taxes and green subsidies and mandates to replace efficient and reliable coal-powered electricity with costly and unreliable wind and solar plants.


All of this paranoia is driven by climatist claims that carbon dioxide causes environmental harm by triggering dangerous global warming. Let’s look at whether coal energy or green energy does more harm to the environment.


There is absolutely no proof that carbon dioxide causes any measurable changes to climate. In fact, the evidence indicates that changes in atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide are a result, not a cause, of variations in global temperatures.


Moreover, burning coal in clean modern power stations has definite benefits for the biosphere – it puts food and drink for all life back into the atmosphere. The major coal combustion products are – nitrogen plant food from the air (69%), carbon dioxide plant food from the coal (21%) and water vapour, the liquid for life, from the coal (7%). The other 3% comprises mainly inert atmospheric gases from the air and an ash residue of trace minerals from the coal. The green bogey-man, carbon dioxide, is the gas of life and a free gift from coal combustion to the biosphere. More carbon dioxide has proven benefits in making plants grow faster in good weather and helping them survive better in droughts or frosts. More carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is insurance for the biosphere no matter what climate change is in store for us.


Green energy, however, can affect local climate and does cause environmental damage.


Wind turbines work by extracting kinetic energy from the wind. To extract significant energy in any particular location, there needs to be an almost impenetrable thicket of these whirling scythes.

Source of picture:


This has three adverse consequences – it changes the local climate, takes a terrible toll on birds and bats, and the throbbing noise pollutes the local environment.


A wall of wind turbines acts like a mini coastal range – slowing the wind and making it rise over the obstacles. Whenever air rises over a range, it cools and tends to drop its moisture as rain. As it goes down the other side it tends to warm up, lowering its relative humidity. This is why the apparently insignificant coastal range from Cooktown to Cooma is naturally covered with thick scrub and the land in the rain shadow behind the coastal range is dry. Wind towers inevitably have a similar effect on climate, creating new rain shadows in the areas robbed of wind. The effect is magnified if turbines are placed along the ridgeline. To add to the environmental risk, some turbine motors have caught fire in high winds, causing bushfires in this more vulnerable rain shadow area

How to increase the Height of the Wind & Rain Barrier – The Hallet Wind Farm in South Australia 2012


Stand-alone solar farms also cause environmental damage. Solar, like wind, is a very dilute form of energy that requires a huge area of collectors to harvest significant energy. Green plants need that same solar energy on their leaves to grow, but solar collectors shade the ground and steal their energy, creating even greater deserts than wind towers. This is not a problem in real deserts, but the massive populations needing electricity seldom live near deserts – they flock to the warm green coasts.


Peak production from solar panels in Australia occurs at noon.

Peak annual demand on the power grid occurs in mid-winter at 6.30pm, after the sun goes down.

Therefore in winter, solar panels are about as much use as an ashtray on a motorcycle.


In addition, both wind and solar need far bigger networks of maintenance access roads, fire breaks and transmission lines than coal. The existing environment is destroyed by dozers and graders and the disturbed land is covered by roads and concrete, or re-colonised by aggressive weeds.



Tehachapi Pass Wind Farms – 5,000 turbines cover virtually every ridgeline in the mountain pass between the Mojave Desert and California’s Central Valley.


Source of picture:



Finally, both wind and solar farms produce zero or negligible power for at least 60% of the time. Thus they need 100% backup to avoid power failures. These backup facilities sterilise more land, and often need to be on “spinning reserve” in order to be instantly ready when clouds hide the sun or the wind fails at a time of peak demand. This additional construction causes more environmental harm and massively increases the cost of green electricity.


In this way both wind and solar energy affect far more land per unit of energy generated than a compact coal mine and its nearby linked power station.


Finally, what about gas? The carbon tax and the green war on coal and carbon dioxide have artificially boosted gas in preference to coal for generating electricity. This is generally a misallocation of resources. Gas is a very useful carbon fuel, but is generally too valuable to burn for generating electricity. It also needs to be gathered from a far bigger area than coal, creating more surface disturbance for a network of wells, pipelines, roads and waste water containment dams. In a sensible world, industrial electricity would be generated mainly by low-cost hydro, geothermal, coal or nuclear, with some gas for variable peak loads. Gas is more useful as fuel for mobile equipment, it provides a cleaner transport fuel in cities than petrol or diesel, and is invaluable for petrochemicals, fertilisers and plastics. Gas is surely being wasted providing backup for the token wind and solar plants being built.


They complained about the coal mine,

So we gave them 500 gas wells.

They complained about the gas wells,

So we gave them 5,000 wind turbines.

Now their lights have gone out

And they wish they had stuck with the coal mine.

Viv Forbes


The conclusions are obvious – political force-feeding of wind and solar energy does more harm to the natural environment than coal, affects the local climate, hits consumers with unnecessary costs and threatens industry with power failures.


Solar is sensible for domestic hot water, powering small remote facilities and re-charging portable batteries. Wind power is sometimes useful for pumping water and generating power in remote locations. Consumers should be free to choose and pay for whatever energy they prefer, for whatever reason. However, wind and solar both produce costly intermittent power and should never be subsidised or mandated as a primary source of industrial electricity.


Further Reading:

James Hansen, one of the world’s leading climate alarmists and leader of the war on coal says: “Coal is the single greatest threat to civilisation and all life on our planet. The trains carrying coal to power plants are death trains. Coal-fired power plants are factories of death.” See:


“The Greens have said very clearly: no new coalmines, no extension of existing coalmines; let’s invest in renewables – the technology exists,” Senator Milne. See:


Last weekend as blizzards swept across Europe, and over three hundred people died, Russia’s main gas-company, Gazprom, was unable to meet demand. Did anyone even think of deploying our wind turbines to make good the energy shortfall from Russia?

Of course not. We all know that windmills are a self-indulgent and sanctimonious luxury whose purpose is to make us feel good. Had Europe genuinely depended on green energy on Friday, by Sunday thousands would be dead from frostbite and exposure, and the EU would have suffered an economic body blow to match that of Japan’s tsunami a year ago. See:


Large-scale exploitation of wind energy will inevitably leave an imprint in the atmosphere.  Although the winds will not die, sucking that much energy out of the atmosphere may change precipitation and turbulence and have a climate effect as big as a doubling of the carbon dioxide content of the atmosphere. See:


Spanish wind farms kill 6 to 18 million birds & bats a year. See:


Maryland wind farm ranks as the most deadly to birds and bats in USA. See:


The only sustainable population of whooping cranes in the wild is declining, concurrently with the invasion of their migration route, the Central Flyway, by over 2,000 wind turbines and their power lines. Nearly one hundred of these critically-endangered birds were lost this year. See:


Residents as far as 10km from the nearest wind turbine are affected by infra-sound and low frequency noise from the turbine. Unable to live in their homes, and unable to sell them, they become homeless “wind farm refugees”. See:


Peak production from solar panels in Australia occurs at noon. Peak annual demand on the power grid occurs at 6.30pm in mid-winter, after the sun goes down. Therefore solar panels contribute ZERO to supplying peak demand. See:


The cost of renewable energy for Australia is explained here:


The products of combustion of all carbon fuels are normal and natural components of the atmosphere, and essential nutrients for all life. This paper looks at the compositions of solid carbon fuels, the process of coal combustion, the exhaust products produced, and the benefits and pollution potential of those exhaust products. See:


An increase of 300ppm in carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere (currently about 395ppm) would cause an increased growth in food plants of about 40% and trees of about 70%. See:


CO2 is essential for life. More CO2 will do much good and no harm. If it is allowed to increase at the current rate it will feed the world’s coming peak population without needing more land, seed, cultivation or water. For a beautifully illustrated article on the many benefits of carbon dioxide for the all life see:




About the Author:


Viv Forbes understands rain shadows – he lives in one. He and his wife Judy live on a farm just west of the coastal ranges, and spend most of their time and energy there. They also have first-hand experience with the intermittent power of windmills and solar pumps for pumping stock water, and have replaced most of them on their property with reliable air pumps operating on compressed air produced by coal-based mains power. They use solar chargers to run electric fences (cattle and sheep sleep at night), and a solar panel on the bonnet of one tractor to keep its battery charged. But for the heavy lifting like welding, electric hoists or keeping the cold room at 2 deg, reliable coal-powered mains electricity is needed.


Viv worked as a coal geologist for several years, helping to unravel the history written in the rocks in the huge coal basins of Queensland. He also explored for oil and gas and is still a non-executive director and shareholder of a small coal exploration company (which incidentally will benefit if high electricity costs in Australia drive our heavy industries to China and India). He thus understands the Grand Carbon Cycle, from the ancient carbon-rich atmospheres of the Permian and Jurassic Eras, to the massive ancient forests, to the extensive coal seams, to the electricity generated as that coal is burnt, to the welcome release of the ancient carbon dioxide back into the atmosphere, rejuvenating today’s biosphere.


With a bit of luck and a lot of Carbon Sense, he believes we may help Earth to return to the moist, verdant, warm, life-supporting environments that prevailed when those great forests grew.



Viv Forbes, BScApp, FAusIMM

Rosewood    Qld   Australia


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