Wind Turbine Blades Can’t Be Recycled, So They’re Piling Up in Landfills

Wind Turbine Blades Can’t Be Recycled, So They’re Piling Up in Landfills

SOURCE: Bloomberg DATE: February 5, 2020 SNIP: A wind turbine’s blades can be longer than a Boeing 747 wing, so at the end of their lifespan they can’t just be hauled away. First, you need to saw through the lissome fiberglass using a diamond-encrusted industrial saw to create three pieces small enough to be strapped to a tractor-trailer. The municipal landfill in Casper, Wyoming, is the final resting place of 870 blades whose days making renewable energy have come to end. The severed fragments look like bleached whale bones nestled against one another. “That’s the end of it for this winter,” said waste technician Michael Bratvold, watching a bulldozer bury them forever in sand. “We’ll get the rest when the weather breaks this spring.” Tens of thousands of aging blades are coming down from steel towers around the world and most have nowhere to go but landfills. In the U.S. alone, about 8,000 will be removed in each of the next four years. Europe, which has been dealing with the problem longer, has about 3,800 coming down annually through at least 2022, according to BloombergNEF. It’s going to get worse: Most were built more than a decade ago, when installations were less than a fifth of what they are now. Built to withstand hurricane-force winds, the blades can’t easily be crushed, recycled or repurposed. That’s created an urgent search for alternatives in places that lack wide-open prairies. In the U.S., they go to the handful of landfills that accept them, in Lake Mills, Iowa; Sioux Falls, South Dakota; and Casper, where they will be interred in stacks that reach...
Antelope hindered by solar farm

Antelope hindered by solar farm

SOURCE: Green River Star DATE: December 4, 2019 SNIP: More than 1,000 antelope were bottlenecked near the Sweetwater Solar facility west of Green River over the weekend as they attempted to migrate to winter ranges. The antelope were forced onto Wyo. Highway 372. According to Mark Zornes, Regional Wildlife Management Coordinator for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, pronghorn have traditionally migrated through the area because it’s a spot where snow blows away from a nearby ridge, creating an easy passage for wildlife. However, those attributes have also made the area an attractive spot for solar development. While Zornes says the developer behind the Sweetwater Solar facility increased the right of way to the nearby highway to 600 feet at the request of the WGFD, the department had concerns the migration corridor would be hampered. According to a letter submitted to the Sweetwater County Land Use Office regarding the solar project’s proposal April 27, 2018, the WGFD was concerned with how the facility’s perimeter fence would cause antelope and big game to funnel onto Wyo. Highway 372. The WGFD feared this would cause increased collisions between vehicles and wildlife. The letter also raises concerns about the solar facility’s location. “We encourage the county to develop a policy or other mechanism to encourage solar energy development in areas which are more compatible with large-scale industrialization, rather than in more valuable wildlife habitat such as this project,” the letter states. “From a wildlife and habitat standpoint, we believe there are many areas in Sweetwater County more appropriate for solar energy development.” Zornes said concern for the safety of migrating wildlife is...
The Downside of Solar Energy

The Downside of Solar Energy

SOURCE: Scientific American DATE: December 1, 2019 SNIP: The solar economy continues its dramatic growth, with over a half-terawatt already installed around the world generating clean electricity. But what happens to photovoltaic (PV) modules at the end of their useful life? With lifespans measured in decades, PV-waste disposal may seem to be an issue for the distant future. Yet, the industry ships millions of tons every year, and that number will continue to rise as the industry grows. Total e-waste—including computers, televisions, and mobile phones—is around 45 million metric tons annually. By comparison, PV-waste in 2050 will be twice that figure. Motivated by concerns about exposure to toxic materials, increased disposal costs and overcapacity at landfills managed by underfunded local governments, researchers are exploring global solar waste management solutions based on concepts like the circular economy. At the same time, demand for everything from sand to rare and precious metals continues to rise. While supplying only about 1 percent of global electricity, photovoltaics already relies on 40 percent of the global tellurium supply, 15 percent of the silver supply, a large portion of semiconductor quality quartz supply, and smaller but important segments of the indium, zinc, tin, and gallium supplies. In the U.S., there is no federal e-waste regulation to motivate PV-waste collection and recycling. Federal law only requires special management for PV modules that are characterized as hazardous waste under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. Some PV modules are considered hazardous waste because of lead or cadmium, others are not considered hazardous waste at all. Since it is not possible to tell whether a PV module is...
Industrial Wind Project Violates Indigenous Rights

Industrial Wind Project Violates Indigenous Rights

SOURCE: Honolulu Civil Beat DATE: November 20, 2019 SNIP: The Kahuku community has risen up to protect themselves and their sacred and winged creatures from the dangers of a new wind energy project. These turbines are 568 feet high, less than 1,750 feet away from Kahuku Elementary, 1,648 feet away from residents and, especially disturbing, 760 feet away from our farmers’ family residences. Industrial wind turbines are killing winged creatures considered sacred to the Hawaiians and could be responsible for the possible extinction of entire species. This is an indigenous rights issue for Native Hawaiians, and other people of Polynesian ancestry as they are in violation of articles 29 and 31 of the “UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples” (2007). Article 29 states, “Indigenous peoples have the right to the conservation and protection of the environment and the productive capacity of their lands or territories and resources.” [T]he state of Hawaii seeks to solve a problem using the same kind of mentality that created it. It continues to support large scale industrial projects for energy which kill species native people consider sacred. When taken into account all of the environmental damages and fossil fuel consumption necessary to produce them, turbines are not truly green. Tons of iron ore must be mined from the earth, and transported and manufactured using fossil fuels. They also depend on fossil fuels to keep running and will burden local landfills already overflowing in a short amount of time. World-renowned cultural anthropologist, Tevita Kaʻili (2019) states that he views “the killing of culturally and spiritually significant winged creatures by turbines as a form...
Electric car future may depend on deep sea mining

Electric car future may depend on deep sea mining

SOURCE: BBC DATE: November 13, 2019 SNIP: The future of electric cars may depend on mining critically important metals on the ocean floor. That’s the view of the engineer leading a major European investigation into new sources of key elements. Demand is soaring for the metal cobalt – an essential ingredient in batteries and abundant in rocks on the seabed. Laurens de Jonge, who’s running the EU project, says the transition to electric cars means “we need those resources”. What is ‘deep sea mining’? It’s hard to visualise, but imagine opencast mining taking place at the bottom of the ocean, where huge remote-controlled machines would excavate rocks from the seabed and pump them up to the surface. The concept has been talked about for decades, but until now it’s been thought too difficult to operate in the high-pressure, pitch-black conditions as much as 5km deep. Now the technology is advancing to the point where dozens of government and private ventures are weighing up the potential for mines on the ocean floor. Why would anyone bother? The short answer: demand. The rocks of the seabed are far richer in valuable metals than those on land and there’s a growing clamour to get at them. Billions of potato-sized rocks known as “nodules” litter the abyssal plains of the Pacific and other oceans and many are brimming with cobalt, suddenly highly sought after as the boom in the production of batteries gathers pace. At the moment, most of the world’s cobalt is mined in the Democratic Republic of Congo where for years there’ve been allegations of child labour, environmental damage and widespread...