BY Viv Forbes
"Carbon Sense" Common sense on carbon, food, energy and climate.
We are told we must replace coal powered electricity with wind and solar, because of the “dangerous carbon dioxide” produced when coal is burnt. But a bit of investigation shows that carbon dioxide is a benefit to the biosphere, whereas wind and solar do real damage to the environment and the economy.
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.
IMAGE Trapping the Energy from the Wind
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.
IMAGE How to increase the Height of the Wind & Rain Barrier – The Hallet Wind Farm in South Australia 2012
To add to the environmental risk, some turbine motors have caught fire in high winds, causing bushfires in this more vulnerable rain shadow area.
Nothing like a good fire to clean up the Environment
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. Solar panels on roofs are expensive feel-good status symbols. They production seldom recovers their real costs.
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 on roofs 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.