How green is wind power, really? A new report tallies up the carbon cost of renewables

Read the full story in Forbes.

How green is wind power? It’s not a simple question. Of course the wind blows without carbon emissions, but catching it isn’t easy. Building and erecting wind turbines requires hundreds of tons of materials — steel, concrete, fiberglass, copper, and more exotic stuff like neodymium and dysprosium used in permanent magnets. 

All of it has a carbon footprint. Making steel requires the combustion of metallurgical coal in blast furnaces. Mining metals and rare earths is energy intensive. And the manufacture of concrete emits lots of carbon dioxide. 

In the case of wind and solar power, those emissions are nearly all front-loaded. That contrasts with fossil-fueled electric power plants, where emissions occur continuouisly as coal and natural gas are combusted.

It’s a big distinction. But how significant? Analyst Deepa Venkateswaran at Bernstein Research looked into it. 

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