Wind and solar power aren’t as environmentally friendly as green energy activists often claim, according to a new study by scientists at Uppsala University in Sweden.
Researchers noted that wind turbines and solar panels are made of non-renewable resources that have to be dug out of the ground. Both solar and wind power use a lot of land and water, leading to habitat destruction. Additionally, hazardous materials like sulfuric acid and toxic phosphine gas factor in heavily in solar panel manufacturing. Modern wind turbines are also highly dependent on rare earth minerals mined primarily from countries with poor environmental records, like China.
“[It] is not obvious that the production of wind turbines and solar cells is sustainable, that the materials have been sourced in a sustainable way, or that the industries are capable of recycling the technology in the future,” Dr. Simon Davidsson, the earth scientist who authored the study, said in a press statement. “Renewable energy technology can lead to reduced emission of greenhouse gases, but for a complete analysis we need to make sure the whole production chain is sustainable.”
Davidsson notes that recycling the materials used to create solar panels or wind turbines is extremely difficult and that both types of power plants have relatively short operational lifespans.
Environmental groups like the Center For Biological Diversity (CBD) have already begun opposing wind and solar projects due to their environmental impacts.
CBS has pursued legal action to block the creation of solar-farms out of fear that they would encroach on 32 endangered desert tortoises and that sunlight-concentrating panels act like super-heated death-rays for birds, killing tens of thousands of them per year. The same group has even sued to prevent the construction of environmentally friendly housing.
Government officials have also blocked solar and wind power plants due to local environmental impacts. California officials blocked a solar power plant from being built in the Mojave Desert, because they were concerned that it would inconvenience a species of sheep that wasn’t even endangered. If the plant had been constructed, it would have generated about 264 megawatts of electricity. The project had previously been approved by federal authorities and would have pumped about $30 million into the local economy.