Friday, 8 August 2014

Why Wind Turbine Land Impact is Exaggerated

Math is important.

Cast your eyes to the tweet below, courtesy of the Australian Petroleum Production & Exploration Association, or APPEA: 

APPEA's Natural Gas website is linked at the bottom of the image. The website features a gigantic flame, in case you were in any doubt as to what they're all about.


There's an  undercurrent of antagonism towards renewable energy on the page, so it makes sense that, in an effort to compare the land use needed for gas extraction, they'd pick wind farms and solar panels as their comparison technologies.

The troublesome thing here, for whoever it was that made that infographic, is that wind farms actually have an incredibly low impact on land. Once the machines are up, farmers can continue to use the land in and around wind farms, for agriculture and stock. This is a wind farm in the Netherlands, nestled amongst a Tulip farm:


In the infographic, APPEA claim that you'd need six turbines, each of three megawatt capacity, to generated fifty two gigawatt hours a year (enough to power around 8,000 homes). They claim that these six machines would covered a total of 2.5 hectares. For this to be the case, the coverage of each turbine would have to be 4,167 square metres, with the tower having a diameter of 72 metres.



As you may know, a wind turbine tower isn't 72 metres wide. If it were, it would mean each of the sheep in this photo has a length of around 28.8 metres

Via Dave Clarke's Blog

If the sheep in that photo truly are 28.8 metres long, that's about 2.3 standard bus lengths. They're probably not. I think its more likely APPEA got their calculations wrong.

The UK's Department of Energy and Climate Change released this infographic last year:


It was hastily taken down, after the DECC faced criticism. It's a little harder to figure out the calculations they've used here, but we can do a rough estimate:



......625 metres wide? Surely, they're forgotten a zero? They haven't. They're assuming that the land impact of a wind farm incorporates everything within the boundary of the farm, rather than the actual machines. As I mentioned earlier, it's sneaky and dishonest - you can still use the land around the pad of the tower.

If you're still suspicious, here's an overhead view of the Capital and Woodlawn wind farms. Obese, land-destroying death machines? Or, relatively small towers of steel that convert wind to electrical energy? You decide.

3 comments:

  1. A friend of mine in the industry said that onshore unconventional gas wells, ie CSG or shale, tend to have a fairly limited lifespan - he said 5-10 years was not uncommon in the US. Not only is this slashing the profits when they forecast a 10+year lifespan for the well, it means that compared to a wind farm that lasts 20 years or more, and can be rebuilt on the same site, a gas well will have to be shut down, capped (we hope), and a new one sunk a bit further along the coal/shale seam. So over 20 years, there might be 2-4 gas wells for the equivalent wind farm, with all the destructive land uses that are entailed - evaporation ponds, for example, alongside the wells.

    ReplyDelete
  2. We live in a rural agricultural community here in Ontario which has sadly become " Gentrified " by several decades of invasion by affluent city folks . The ones who vehemently oppose wind farm development care not a bit for the local farmers who want to supplement their incomes from cash cropping our abundant wind resource. They only want and feel entitled to their retirement " paradise " unspoiled by viewing wind turbines. To hell with our climate, as long as they have plenty of vineyards, wineries , restaurants and art galleries nearby. Ignorance is bliss, and we have no shortage of blissful people drunk on " Whine " who feel the only valid land use is for their own selfish purposes.

    ReplyDelete
  3. We live in a rural agricultural community here in Ontario which has sadly become " Gentrified " by several decades of invasion by affluent city folks . The ones who vehemently oppose wind farm development care not a bit for the local farmers who want to supplement their incomes from cash cropping our abundant wind resource. They only want and feel entitled to their retirement " paradise " unspoiled by viewing wind turbines. To hell with our climate, as long as they have plenty of vineyards, wineries , restaurants and art galleries nearby. Ignorance is bliss, and we have no shortage of blissful people drunk on " Whine " who feel the only valid land use is for their own selfish purposes.

    ReplyDelete