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Discussion Starter #1
What does it take to make a wind turbine?

Windmills may produce no greenhouse gases during their operation but they are the champions at consuming concrete and steel during their construction phase.
Wind Is Champion at Consuming Steel and Concrete

I was wondering since I read somewhere that it takes 220 to 230 tons of coal to make a wind turbine. Details get a bit sketchy but it does seem to be in the ballpark.

How much coal goes into a wind turbine?

So that's one fossil fuel wind turbines can't do without and it uses quite a bit, but what about oil?

Undoubtedly, a well-sited and well-built wind turbine would generate as much energy as it embodies in less than a year. However, all of it will be in the form of intermittent electricity—while its production, installation, and maintenance remain critically dependent on specific fossil energies. Moreover, for most of these energies—coke for iron-ore smelting, coal and petroleum coke to fuel cement kilns, naphtha and natural gas as feedstock and fuel for the synthesis of plastics and the making of fiberglass, diesel fuel for ships, trucks, and construction machinery, lubricants for gearboxes—we have no nonfossil substitutes that would be readily available on the requisite large commercial scales.
To Get Wind Power You Need Oil

Not quantified, but obviously there would be no wind turbines without oil.

Odd that this is so seldom discussed. Lots of talk about how much fossil fuel is alleged to be saved by a wind turbine, but very little about how much fossil fuel it takes to make and maintain one. Most articles I read skip the carbon footprint of making and maintaining them when lauding them.

I'd better not go look at battery manufacturing next. I'm starting to feel a bit ripped off. :(
 

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230 tons of coal doesn’t sound like a lot. Since payback is only one year, seems like a good deal. Once steel is made it’s 100% recyclable.

Try seeing how much oil it takes to make a gallon of E100. Then burn it in an ICE.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
230 tons of coal doesn't sound like a lot.
Quora said:
Most coal cars used currently are the Aluminum rotary dump style. The actual amount of coal loaded into the car varies, but will be somewhere in the neighborhood of 200,000 lbs or 100 tons.
So that's 2 1/4 of these for one wind turbine.



Since payback is only one year, seems like a good deal.
Payback figures I've seen are less than one year (5-8 months in one estimate), but I'm pretty fuzzy on what "payback" really means. Most estimates I've seen are on cost, not carbon footprint.

Once steel is made it’s 100% recyclable.
Recyclable using more coal and oil.
 

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230 tons of coal doesn’t sound like a lot. Since payback is only one year, seems like a good deal. Once steel is made it’s 100% recyclable.

Try seeing how much oil it takes to make a gallon of E100. Then burn it in an ICE.
Well our local power plant eats 3,786 tons of coal DAILY (to power approximately 285,000 homes/865 megawatts)
So in theory that is the power to build 16 wind turbines every day.

So around 250 turbines would replace this coal plant (rough calculations based on info found on internet) or 15 days worth of coal.

Interesting to think about.
 

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I was wondering since I read somewhere that it takes 220 to 230 tons of coal to make a wind turbine. Details get a bit sketchy but it does seem to be in the ballpark.
Even if it's higher to build a 1MW wind turbine, that's an insignificant use of coal given that a coal fired plant uses something like 3750 tons to make 1MW of electricity. Over twenty or twenty five years (the chart says fifteen years but that's unrealistically short as the sixty year life for nuclear is unrealistically long), the use of coal isn't much of an issue. Unless I'm missing something -- which is certainly possible -- it would be 300 tons used to construct the wind turbine versus whatever coal is needed to construct the coal plant plus 3750 tons/year X 20 years = 75,000 tons to operate the coal plant. That's a ratio of 1:250. Yes?

I think we can see why the economics favor renewables or natural gas and why coal plants are being shut down. We can also see why coal companies don't like renewables. If wind turbines needed to use more coal they'd probably be all in favor. LOL
 

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Discussion Starter #6 (Edited)
Even if it's higher to build a 1MW wind turbine, that's an insignificant use of coal given that a coal fired plant uses something like 3750 tons to make 1MW of electricity. Over twenty or twenty five years (the chart says fifteen years but that's unrealistically short as the sixty year life for nuclear is unrealistically long), the use of coal isn't much of an issue. Unless I'm missing something -- which is certainly possible -- it would be 300 tons used to construct the wind turbine versus whatever coal is needed to construct the coal plant plus 3750 tons/year X 20 years = 75,000 tons to operate the coal plant. That's a ratio of 1:250. Yes?
Ashish Tiwari said:
Modern sub critical power stations have a thermal efficiency of 39%. How do I get that?

Efficiency=860/Heat Rate.

If all the chemical energy in the gets converted into electricity,it will take 860 Kcal of heat to generate 1 unit of electricity. Unfortunately due to various losses, the heat required per unit of electricity is quite high. For 39%,the value would come around 2200 Kcal/Kwhr. (So,you would need 2200 Kcal of heat to generate a unit of electricity).

Ok, now since there are various coal grades used in a thermal power plant ,for the sake of simplicity, I will take the mean value of the Gross calorific value to be 3000 Kcal/Kg (So,the coal would generate 3000 Kcal of heat if we combust 1 kg of coal,this is what we call the Gross calorific value).

So, Let’s assume that we have a unit of rating 600 MW.

So Every hour,we are generating 600 MW of electricity, you can convert it down into KWhr for the sake of simplicity=600*1000 KW-hr=600000 Kwhr.

Multiply it with the Unit Heat Rate(there are various other heat rates, and that is another chapter).

600000(KW-hr)*2200(Kcal/KW-hr)=132*10^7 Kcal of Heat is required to generate 600 MW of electricity. Notice how the units get cancelled out.

Alright, so once we know the heat required to generate 600 MW of electricity, then we can divide it by the GCV of coal.

132*10^7(kcal)/3000(Kcal/Kg)=440000 Kgs of coal to generate 600 MW. Convert it back into tons, so you will need 440 tons/hr to generate 600 MW of electricity.
Try again? I'm sure there are a lot of variables. I don't know who is closer but Ashish went past simple math.

Oh, and we're using very little coal for electricity around here and less and less every year across the country now so if you want to compare something try natgas vs. wind, especially on carbon footprint. Don't forget to mine your iron ore and raw materials for the concrete.

I think we can see why the economics favor renewables or natural gas and why coal plants are being shut down. We can also see why coal companies don't like renewables. If wind turbines needed to use more coal they'd probably be all in favor. LOL
Economics favor natural gas or it wouldn't be spreading like wild fire across the country.

But My quandary was about why I never hear about what it takes to make and maintain wind power units. The numbers usually thrown around don't account for the nasty stuff and the true carbon footprint (positive or negative) isn't brought out. With >52,000 utility-scale wind turbines running right now it adds up.

or.....

Without Tesla there wouldn't be a Volt! Maybe, but without fossil fuels there certainly wouldn't be wind or any other type of "renewable" power. And just for the record, it's not renewable. "Renewable" is something that reproduces itself. Like food...... Wind turbines, solar panels and so forth have a lifespan. The closest thing to a truly renewable power source would be hydro since we don't have to make the rain.

I'd like there to be more truth in reporting. The E85 fiasco is a good example, being a net carbon loser. I'm not saying wind power is, but it's not as rosy as it's painted to be either.

I wonder if this "payback" thing takes gubmint subsidies into account. IIRC we still subsidize ethanol production.
 

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Discussion Starter #7

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Even though you use coal now for producing the "green" technologies, wouldn't the "green" technologies eventually displace the coal needs?

I mean humans had to build the first robots, but eventually the robots could be used to build more robots, thus displacing the humans.
 

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Try again? I'm sure there are a lot of variables. I don't know who is closer but Ashish went past simple math.
Not sure why you're using this estimate. 440 tons/hour for 660 MW is .73 tons/hour for one MW. Over a year this is (.73 tons/hour) X (24 hours) X (365 days) = 6424 tons/year. That estimate is much higher than my estimate. Most likely he used a much lower HHV value for the coal. Those can vary from 10,000 kJ/kg to 25,000 kJ/kg. I think I used a very high grade coal and he used a very low grade coal. But note that his efficiency of 39% is likely high since it doesn't account for the Gross Caloric Value. I used 88% for this and a 38% efficiency for the plant, giving a total efficiency of .3344 (rounded to .34). However, no matter what assumptions you make, you end up with the coal plant using as much coal in a couple of weeks as you'd use in a wind turbine in 20 years.

As for the cost advantage of wind (or solar), it's kinda ludicrous. It's going to cost $4K/hour for the coal to run a coal plant and $0/hour to power a wind turbine. If wind was consistent there wouldn't be any coal plants or natural gas plants. If you want to be practical, there is a reason why electricity is so much less expensive in Iowa than in Nebraska. Basically the PUC in Nebraska never figured out that the wind didn't stop a the border! :)
 

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Let's not forget that higher altitudes with less oxygen result in even lower efficiency for combustion in general.

Article I read today was saying the economics of coal are such that it's no longer whether or not it's cheaper to build a new coal plant or wind/solar, but whether or not it's cheaper to even maintain a coal plant or build new wind/solar. Coal is beginning to lose even that analysis now.

One reason Japan was able to come back as a world power after WW2 was the advent of electric induction smelters, so, no, coal is not necessary to produce steel.

(There is actually a metal produced by induction smelters known as Japanesium, which basically means any old scrap melted together. Probably where Japan's reputation for producing trash came from, back in the day.)
 

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I guess farm land is the place for this since there is a blade throw hazard.
I’m in...after the mortgage is paid off and I build an array of solar flowers on my 24 acres. That would be a sight to see, a blade thrown through a solar array - kind of like a baseball bat headed into the stands on a wild swing
 

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My question is if it requires fossil fuels, feed-stocks and lubricants to make and operate a green energy device like a wind turbine (and I assume the same is true for solar panels, hydro turbines, nuclear reactors, etc.), then how are future generations going to operate them and make new ones after we have burned up all the accessible fossil resources?
 

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Discussion Starter #13
I really didn't want to litigate this again, but okay. I guess it can't be avoided.

Not sure why you're using this estimate.....etc.
Cuz it's out there and as reliable as any other. There's just no way to calculate it accurately because.....

Let's not forget that higher altitudes with less oxygen result in even lower efficiency for combustion in general.
....among other things like coal type and so forth.

As for the cost advantage of wind (or solar), it's kinda ludicrous. It's going to cost $4K/hour for the coal to run a coal plant and $0/hour to power a wind turbine. If wind was consistent there wouldn't be any coal plants or natural gas plants. If you want to be practical, there is a reason why electricity is so much less expensive in Iowa than in Nebraska. Basically the PUC in Nebraska never figured out that the wind didn't stop a the border! :)
You're comparing coal to wind again. Not sure why you're ignoring the real power source taking over area by area. Look what's on top according to EIA.

Major energy sources and percent shares of U.S. electricity generation at utility-scale facilities in 2016

Natural gas = 33.8%
Coal = 30.4%
Nuclear = 19.7%
Hydropower = 6.5%
Wind = 5.6%
Biomass = 1.5%
Solar = 0.9%
Geothermal = 0.4%
Petroleum = 0.6%
Other gases = 0.3%
Other nonrenewable sources = 0.3%
Pumped storage hydroelectricity = -0.2%4

Now please don't tell us the echo chamber saying that the oil and coal companies are putting the hurt on wind adoption after saying how economical it is. Coal doesn't even have that kind of political clout anymore anyway. Gas is king and it's taking over. Why? Because it doesn't care if the sun shines or the wind blows. It's reliable.

Even though you use coal now for producing the "green" technologies, wouldn't the "green" technologies eventually displace the coal needs?
That's the goal, but as it stands these things still depend on coal and oil. And thank you for understanding the topic.

I mean humans had to build the first robots, but eventually the robots could be used to build more robots, thus displacing the humans.
Easy there, robots don't build themselves just yet Terminator.

Article I read today was saying the economics of coal are such that it's no longer whether or not it's cheaper to build a new coal plant or wind/solar, but whether or not it's cheaper to even maintain a coal plant or build new wind/solar. Coal is beginning to lose even that analysis now.
Curious: Why is China still building new coal plants? Even with the reduction of such in their plans, they're still building more.

One reason Japan was able to come back as a world power after WW2 was the advent of electric induction smelters, so, no, coal is not necessary to produce steel.

(There is actually a metal produced by induction smelters known as Japanesium, which basically means any old scrap melted together. Probably where Japan's reputation for producing trash came from, back in the day.)
That's very interesting. Do you think wind and solar are up to the task of supplying the kind of power needed to smelt steel and supply everything else? How does Japan power induction smelters now?
 

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Discussion Starter #14
I'm in...after the mortgage is paid off and I build an array of solar flowers on my 24 acres.
Check the regulations on placement. You might get 2 or 3 in if they're far enough away from the homes there including yours, and far enough away from each other. I hear it's a big money maker, but I can't confirm that. It might pay off your mortgage faster.

That would be a sight to see, a blade thrown through a solar array - kind of like a baseball bat headed into the stands on a wild swing
Double whammy! :D
 

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...And just for the record, it's not renewable. "Renewable" is something that reproduces itself. Like food...... Wind turbines, solar panels and so forth have a lifespan. The closest thing to a truly renewable power source would be hydro since we don't have to make the rain.
That argument doesn't even make sense, since the damn has a lifespan too. But anyway, the term "renewable" refers to the fuel. Wind, solar, and hydro all have renewable "fuels"... nature makes all that for us. Coal and natural gas are gone once they're used (fine, they're "renewable" over geological timescales).

I'm not sure I understand your issue here... yes, making any structure requires resources. You bemoan the resources that go into building a wind farm (that then produces energy with no further emissions), but don't seem to mind the resources of building the several thousand fossil fueled power plants in the country (that then have emissions for every unit of energy they produce). Tons of steel and concrete to build a new natural gas facility too. If we need a new energy producing facility, isn't it better to put those resources into one that doesn't produce emissions for the next 30 years vs one that does (admittedly we currently still need some fossil stuff for base load in areas that don't have hydro or nukes)? So even if coal/oil/etc go into making a windmill, that windmill quickly reduces the overall carbon emissions vs building any other type of facility for that energy. How is that bad?
 

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Discussion Starter #16
That argument doesn't even make sense, since the damn has a lifespan too. But anyway, the term "renewable" refers to the fuel. Wind, solar, and hydro all have renewable "fuels"... nature makes all that for us. Coal and natural gas are gone once they're used (fine, they're "renewable" over geological timescales).
Ethanol is renewable. Wind and solar energy supply is free, but not reliable or consistent across the globe. I did say "closest" regarding hydro. All of them have investment and maintenance costs, and have to be replaced over time.

I'm not sure I understand your issue here......You bemoan......How is that bad?
I guess you're not catching on to what I clearly stated already. That's okay. I'll just give it some time.

Clue: I didn't say wind power is bad.
 

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Discussion Starter #17
Maybe an analogy will help.

I want to have improvements made on my house.

Contractor A says sure we can do that and everything will be beautiful! There will be no inconvenience to you at all!

Contractor B says sure we can do that but your house will be covered in dust and the power and water will be out for 2 days. You'll have to pay for a dumpster I put in your driveway for the waste, etcetera......

Both contractors do the same job, but I respect contractor B for telling me the whole story and preparing me for how the work will affect me as a whole. Whereas contractor A pisses me off every day he's on the job because he failed to manage my expectations.

I've had this happen. A noxious primer was applied to my basement floor in the middle of winter for an epoxy job. It should have been done at a time of year when I could open my windows without letting the heat out of my house. We were living in a toxic house because contractor A didn't tell us the whole story.
 

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You feel cheated because no one is holding your hand and telling you that "green" structures aren't magic and require resources to build like everything elsel, got it.

Well, maybe focus less on being needlessly long-winded and insulting, and you'll realize the obvious like the rest of us.
 

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Discussion Starter #19
You feel cheated because no one is holding your hand and telling you that "green" structures aren't magic and require resources to build like everything elsel, got it.

Well, maybe focus less on being needlessly long-winded and insulting, and you'll realize the obvious like the rest of us.
Pot meet kettle.
 

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What does it take to make a wind turbine?



Wind Is Champion at Consuming Steel and Concrete

I was wondering since I read somewhere that it takes 220 to 230 tons of coal to make a wind turbine. Details get a bit sketchy but it does seem to be in the ballpark.
That's to build the plant. A coal-fired power plant will consume that much coal in about 15 minutes of full operation.
 
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