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Mine Powered By Reused Turbines — Next FUD, Please

From 2020, the Port Gregory garnet mine, in Western Australia, has been 70% powered by a hybrid power plant consisting of a 2.5 MW wind farm (composed of reused wind turbines) and a 1.1 MW solar farm with a 2 MW/0.6 MWh battery. Australia-based Advanced Energy Resources (AER) is providing the infrastructure. AER is a renewable energy developer, generator, and electricity retailer in Western Australia with expertise in sourcing and supplying pre-used wind turbines from Europe. Background information on GMA and AER can be found in this article.

Having found a solution to the FUD around wind turbines ending up in landfills, the next piece of FUD has now emerged — millions of birds are being killed by wind turbines! Wind turbines are ugly and ruin the view! I must thank our readers for the great responses, and thoughtful comments that were made after my last article on the reuse of wind turbines in remote West Australian mines. I will include a selection below in case you missed them — especially the ones that dealt so effectively with the FUD machine.

GMA is working towards running its Port Gregory operations using 100% renewable energy and has plans to electrify its vehicle fleet to further reduce emissions and operating costs. It is expected that the business will benefit from uninterrupted power supply and lower electricity costs. GMA will also reduce greenhouse gas emissions by lowering its carbon footprint by 5,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide per annum.

“The project is part of GMA’s commitment to sustainability where we take meaningful steps to limit our impact on the environment. This is one of the ways we care for the well-being of our employees, customers and communities,” said GMA CEO  Grant Cox.

Port Gregory is located 6 hours north of Perth by car. It is described as a beachside village. Tourist highlights are its pink lagoon, exposed reef, spring wildflower scenery, and settler history, complete with convict-era buildings and shipwrecks. There is plenty to do, including: swimming, diving, and fishing.

“With its five kilometres of exposed reef forming a natural harbour, Port Gregory is a sheltered aquatic playground. From the safe swimming beach to the water-skiing area, there’s something for everyone. Launch and anchor your boat. Scuba dive in the clear waters. Explore the reef. Try your hand at offshore fishing, or drop a line off the jetty — rock lobster is a local favourite.”

Sadly, now that the question of wind turbine blades going to landfill appears to have a solution, other objections are coming to the surface. What about the millions of birds killed by wind turbines? Better facts and context on this matter are provided by “Wind turbines are responsible for bird deaths. In the USA, three major studies estimate bird deaths from wind turbines, placing the annual death toll at 100,000 to 450,000. In the UK, some 10,000 to 100,000 birds are killed by wind turbines annually.

“These figures are not totally negligible, but they pale in comparison to how many birds are killed by collisions with buildings (around 1 billion bird deaths per year in the US alone) and cats (around 1 to 4 billion bird deaths in the US alone).

“That means wind turbines kill just 1/2,500 to 1/10,000 of the number of birds killed by cats and buildings. So overall, wind turbines are not seen as a significant threat to bird life, so long as efforts are made to keep turbines away from migratory routes and other areas that feature high concentrations of bird life.”

Should we be talking about banning buildings and cats? Next FUD, please!

Some preventative measures were suggested by one commentator on my last article: Radar-based maps and migration forecasts could save birds from spinning turbine blades. Just painting the blades a range of colours has been shown to be effective. One Tasmanian wind farm has shown that it is commercially viable to use AI and cameras to predict the flight paths of endangered species and turn the blades off if a collision is likely.

In Australia, our previous government was against wind turbines because they ruined the view (so was Donald Trump with his Scottish golf course). But one reader responded: “telling a young person you don’t want wind turbines because they ruin the view is like telling a cancer patient, you’re against chemotherapy because you think bald people are ugly.”

And another explained: “The only explanation I can think of is that people assume that whatever the amount of pollution is that’s being created by fossil fuels or any other status quo capitalist activity is ‘normal’ and that we’ve been living with it all our lives without any harm. So, they don’t need to know what the amount is. Whereas any new activity is an unquantifiable added threat and therefore unnecessary.”

And Hazel did the math: “I did the mining calculation the other day on solar vs. coal. The result: 1 kg mined quartzite makes PV which produces 59 MWh electricity over its lifetime; 1 kg mined coal makes 2.7 kWh electricity.

Now let’s look at the waste issue. One 15 MW Haliade X has 65 ton of fiberglass in the blades. That’s the hardest part to recycle. With 60% capacity factor, it generates 79 GWh per year. Over 30 years (lowball estimate), that’s 2.36 TWh or 36 GWh per ton of fiberglass — assuming it’s all waste.

“Now let’s look at coal. Generation of 1 MWh produces 84 kg ash waste, so that’s 11 MWh/t waste.

“So wind turbines produce 30,000 times more electricity per ton of waste — and that assumes zero recycling of the blades.

“As always with these things, running some numbers shows that renewables are vastly superior in environmental impact.”

A comment from Steve S: “This is such an excellent example of smart thinking and being frugal simultaneously! Even with the shipping, refurb and handling costs they are paying a percentage compared to brand new and delivering clean power for years afterwards. Talk about knocking down the ROI a lot faster. The turbines available on the used market will also increase in size & ability as the existing ones are also upgraded on their schedules.

“I can see a whole new sub-sector here where companies go out and evaluate decommissioned turbines for refurb and taking those which are acceptable to refurb and redeployment elsewhere around the world. There are a great many places globally that could take advantage of this lower cost option to meet their more immediate needs.

“Another piece of foolish FUD dismissed, thank you David.”

And thank you, Steve.

Next FUD please!


Featured Image: The Garnet Edge 

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David Waterworth is a retired teacher who divides his time between looking after his grandchildren and trying to make sure they have a planet to live on. He is long on Tesla [NASDAQ:TSLA].


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