Clean Power

Published on March 6th, 2013 | by Ronald Brakels


Australian Coal Plant Uses More Land To Generate Electricity Than Wind Power

March 6th, 2013 by  

One bit of malarkey I see trotted out every now and then is that wind is too diffuse a source of energy and requires too much land to be practical. Well, if that’s the case then coal power must be even more impractical because the coal fueled Hazelwood Power Plant in the Australian state of Victoria produces less electricity per square metre than the state’s wind farms.

While wind turbines get spread out over a wide area, apart from the bases of the turbines and the roads built to service them, almost all the land is still available for its original purpose which is normally either grazing or cropping. In Australia wind farms only remove about 1% of their total land area from use. And this is a figure that will get even smaller as the average size of wind turbines increases. A site that uses two megawatt turbines might only remove 0.67% of land from use. And even that small amount of land is not a complete loss, as agriculture benefits from reduced wind speeds and the service roads can be used by farmers.

Wind farms vary a lot in the total area they cover due to local wind conditions and topography. The Bald Hills Wind Farm, which is under construction on grazing land in Victoria, will have 52 turbines over 1,750 hectares, have a total capacity of 104 megawatts, and is expected to operate at over 36% of capacity. Using the 1% figure for land removed from grazing, which may be too high as its 2 megawatt turbines are large for Australia, it will produce an average of 218 watts per square meter, which isn’t bad at all and is much better than Hazelwood.

"I ate their ecosystem with some fava beans and a nice chianti."

“I ate their ecosystem with some fava beans and a nice chianti.”

Hazelwood Power Plant is a monster. I mean that quite literally. When they remake Silence of the Lambs they should cast Hazelwood Power Plant as Hannibal Lecter because I can’t think of anything scarier. It is the least efficient power plant in the OECD and the worst polluter in terms of greenhouse gases per kilowatt-hour produced. It is single handedly responsible for 9% of Australia’s carbon dioxide emissions from electricity generation. Due to exposure to hazardous substances it is estimated that over $400 million in health related insurance payouts will need to be made, and that’s just to former employees. It’s maximum output is 1,740 megawatts and it operates at an average of about 66% of that. The plant and its mine covers 3,554 hectares. Brown coal is carried to the plant on a forty kilometre long conveyor belt. The coal seam it comes from is 100 meters thick and large enough to power Hazelwood for over 500 years.

Per square meter, the Hazelwood Power Plant and mine produces an average of 32 watts. This means that at 218 watts, the Bald Hills Wind Farm will produce almost seven times as much electricity per square meter, utterly trouncing Hazelwood in the energy density sweepstakes. And while Hazelwood is horrible, it’s not the only coal plant that does badly. According to the Australian Wind Energy Association, Australian coal requires about 2.7 times as much land per unit of electricity produced than wind power. As the average capacity of Australian coal plants has been dropping, they are probably doing even worse than that now.

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About the Author

lives in Adelaide, South Australia. Now that his secret identity has been revealed he is free to admit he first became interested in renewable energy after environmental mismanagement destroyed his home planet of Krypton. He is keenly interested in solar energy and at completely random intervals will start talking to himself about, "The vast power of earth's yellow sun."

  • Ronald Brakels

    After looking into it further I see that the $400 million dollars in health insurance payouts I mentioned in the article applies to all Victorian State Electricity Commission workers and not just those at Hazelwood. So while Hazelwood was a big offender, it wasn’t the only offender. I apologise for the mistake. It was a bad mistake, but not as bad as say incorporating asbestos into a smoke flue at a coal power plant.

    • Jenny

      What’s all this toxins I hear about in the manufacturing process of solar panels, of course it is not Hazelwood power station, it solar panels that produce large quantities of toxins that causes pollution in the atmosphere leading to dangerous climate change.

      • Ronald Brakels

        Yes, it’s all a plot. Those smokestacks on Hazelwood? I photoshopped them on. And you know those smokestacks on solar panels that you can’t see? Well that’s because I photoshopped them all out. While you were sleeping I actually crawled into your retina and erased your ability to see them. And you know all those smokestacks that aren’t on PV manufacturing plants? I photoshopped them out too. Of course, now that you know this you’ll need to be “collected”. Some nice young men in clean white coats will be coming for you soon. But don’t worry. We always need plenty more involuntary labour down at the unicorn rendering plant which is the world’s only actual source of silicon. (And to think, I have the world convinced it comes from sand.)

    • Greg

      It will be MUCH larger than 400M. Just Hazelwood alone.


  • Edward

    What I don’t understand about use people yet you enjoy the benefits of coal power and at the same time want too get rid of them. Isn’t not the fact the coal generator produces your electricity that powers your lightbulbs powers your computer, your air-conditioner and your refrigerator, and lets not forget, the massive amount of power that is required to run the Internet that you freely yack on about. Confess to me right now the servers run on coal energy isn’t it not. The reality of the situation is somewhat contradicting, yakking on the Internet claiming grid solar power will save the planet, yet you joy the benefits of coal power energy to support your claim. Stop knocking Hazelwood power station which is providing the populations energy needs with based load energy, and which grid solar power is not providing any of the nation’s energy needs. Grid solar power is a total failure.

    • Ronald Brakels

      (Pssst! Hey everybody! Edward thinks that this article is about solar power! And he also thinks we have grid solar power in Australia! And I think he may want to marry Hazelwood Power Station. Each according to their own heart, I say. He should just be careful he doesn’t get asbestos in his lip.)

      • Tim

        You have to admit that Edward has a great point here, we have not reached a stage where renewable energy will do away with Coal power stations. regarding the asbestos issue, just be careful about that one, as we all drive cars which had asbestos breaks up to a few years ago, and still imported from China today on cars before we point the finger at anyone.

        • Ronald Brakels

          Be brave, Tim. I know Hazelwood Power Plant is scary, but if you admit that it’s the least efficient coal plant in Australia that doesn’t mean it will come and get you. It’s firmly stuck to the ground.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Perhaps Edward makes his living off of people with respiratory illnesses….

      • Linda

        Well regarding the comments Edwards made, I could not contradict that in any way, it’s true that I still run on coal energy and it’s true that the Internet runs off coal energy as well, we can’t have it all our way all the time.

        • Ronald Brakels

          Linda, I probably hate Brisbane and its accursed inhabitants even more than you, but I still think we should try to keep it above sea level.

      • Ronald Brakels

        I think Hazelwood Power Plant would appreciate an engagement ring with a large diamond. After all, it’s all carbon.

      • danny

        Why then did the Chinese company reportedly dumping toxic waste into the ground, killing wildlife and endangering human health its from solar panels.

  • Nice piece…… thanks….

    • Ronald Brakels

      Glad you enjoyed it.

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