Below, using some peer reviewed data I hope to show you why an Industrial Wind Turbine, replacing coal plant, will actually increase Global Warming for well beyond the lifespan of the Industrial Wind Turbine itself.
First of all, just to be nice, we are going to assume that some highly dubious pro-wind propaganda is true.
We will assume a turbine has a productive life of 25 years.
We will assume that it directly offsets coal plant on a one-for one basis.
We will assume it needs no spinning reserve at all.
We will totally forget about the concrete/Neodymium mining/ steel/fibreglass/copper etc.
We will ignore the methane ( a strong greenhouse gas) that gets released from disturbed peat bogs where IWT's are sometimes placed.
Most of all we will completely forget about the environmental damage to wildlife. We will also totally ignore those pesky Human Beings who think they have a right to have a say about what gets built near them (Nimbys - damn them all!)
For those of you who are either falling about laughing or about to burst a blood vessel at this point, please bear with me and read on.
At this point we need to bring in the current ruckous over shale gas.
The data here I use here is taken from this paper: Coal To Gas: The Influence of Methane Leakage by Tom L. Wigley of the (U.S.A) National Center for Atmospheric research.
The main thrust of Wigleys research was to study what effect different rates of Methane loss (rogue methane) would have on a coal to gas conversion. His initial paper dealt with only a 50% coal replacement over 50 year period with a linear rate of replacement. The electronic suppliment dealt with a much more drastic changeover where coal was totally replaced by gas in 50 years.
The surprising outcome from this research is that in the first 40 -60 years or so, as gas replaces coal the main driver of global warming is the reduction in Aerosols emmitted from coal plant. A primary constituent of coal Aerosols is Sulphur Dioxide which is a very potent anti-greenhouse gas. So the removal of the aerosols actually increases global warming. It is only after about 60 years before the reduction in Carbon Dioxide overwhelms this warming.
The best graph to illustrate the problem is actually in the electronic supplement to this paper (see graph ESM2) This graph assumes total replacement of coal with gas over 50 years.
This is the graph (the top half refers only to proposed global temperature increase and is irrelevent here)
1. Carbon Dioxide (CO2) reduction by displacing coal (causes reduction)
2. Seepage of Methane (CH4) from either pipes or wells. (causes increase)
3. Reduction of Aerosols (mainly Sulphur Dioxide SO2) by replacing coal. (causes increase)
You can see this clearly on the left hand portion of the above graph. While this graph includes rogue methane from natural gas, clearly, even when you take the methane out of the picture the net affect on progressively replacing Coal plant for any non sulphurous generating plant for the first 40-60 years will be an increase in Global Warming.
Let us replace the Gas for Industrial Wind Turbines.
(We will ignore IWT peat bog methane release - although we shouldn't)
Over the 25 year life time of our idealised super Industrial Wind Turbine, these will be no reduction in Global Warming from a decrease in Carbon Dioxide generation at all. But over the same period, the reduction in Sulphur Dioxide emissions from the replaced coal plant will cause a much higher and significant rise on Global Warming.
This is true for Gas, Nuclear, Hydro, Wind and Solar. Anything, that in a rolling program reduces Sulphur Dioxide emissions will cause more Global Warming (not less) in the first 40-60 years after coal replacement starts.
A Gas plant will last 40+ years. Nuclear 60+ years, Hydro 100+ years. Plus all the three will give a consistent and reliable output without requiring any form of backup.
Even assuming the cloud cuckoo land concept of an IWT having a lifespan of 25 years, it will need to be replaced at least twice before any productive gains from Carbon Dioxide reduction will be made. The same applies to Solar.
But worse than that, the IWT's will always need backup from Gas anyway. It is very easy to visualise that even if a madcap scheme involving the building of hundreds of thousands of our idealised turbines took place, there would be no decrease in global warming at all this century. But there would be an increase in at least the first 40-60 years..
This all assumes the
Of course, removing Sulphur Dioxide is actually a very good thing. Even if it causes a temporary rise in Global Warming. Today hundreds of thousands of people die from coal based aerosols and the sooner they are removed the better.
But really, do we need to try and do it with half baked, wildly expensive and short lived plant like IWT's? Just about anything Gas, Hydro or Nuclear is more effective. The only technology that may be even more ineffective than IWT's is solar.
The end result of this, even if you believe the Wind Industry, is that Industrial Wind Turbines are NOT going to help prevent global warming within their 25 year life span. Or during the life span of the replacement or even the replacement after that. In fact assuming they actually do replace coal plant they will increase global warming for the next two generations at least.
Note: A less valid version of this argument is currently being used by the Greens against fracking. Their argument is less valid because gas is reliable, dispatchable and requires no backup other than standard fail-safe spinning reserve. It is also plentiful, is useable in transport as well as power generation and can be stored. It is also vital as a backup for the useless wind turbines even though it already cuts CO2 emissions by 60% from coal by itself.
But it appears that the Greens now think Sulphur Dioxide is "A Good Thing". (God help us all)