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  • Writer's pictureGregory Andrews

Fact over Fiction: Koalas, Coal and Wind Farms

Updated: Jun 21

Myths often cloud the truth when it comes to renewable energy in Australia. Social media is full of posts alleging wind and solar farms kill koalas and destroy ecosystems. But the reality and data paint a very different picture. Far from being a foe, renewable energy is part of the solution to saving our species. Contrary to what climate change denialists would like us to believe, it's not wind turbines but coal mines and gas projects that pose the greatest threat to our cherished koalas. Here's a deeper look into why new technologies like wind and solar have much lower environmental impacts than coal and gas.

Lower Life-Cycle Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Wind and solar exhibit markedly lower life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions than coal and gas. Data and analysis from the Union of Concerned Scientists, for example, shows that life-cycle emissions from the construction, transporting, operation, decommissioning of wind farms are 70 times lower than those for gas and coal. As renewables increasingly replace fossil fuels, supply chains will further decarbonise and this difference will increase further.

Water Conservation

Wind and solar require minimal to no water for their operation. This contrasts sharply with fossil fuel and nuclear technologies that rely on and affect water resources. Fossil fuel and uranium extraction and processing pollutes water bodies and consumes large quantities of water, straining supplies vital for agriculture, drinking and native species and ecosystems. Renewable energy's negligible water use helps preserve water.

Biodiversity and Ecosystem Health

Renewable energy projects are required by law in Australia to reduce, avoid and offset negative impacts on local wildlife, habitat, soil and water. A growing body of evidence exists on how wind and solar installations minimise negative environmental impacts and support wildlife. Different strategies and technologies can reduce adverse impacts and enhance local ecosystems and biodiversity. The Kipeto Wind Farm in Kenya, for example, shuts down if endangered birds approach within one kilometre of the turbines, and the Carrizo Plains Solar Farm in California has improved habitat to support local endangered species.

Durability and Recyclability

Renewable energy projects have lifespans that can significantly exceed those of coal and gas. Solar photovoltaic (PV) systems, for example, can remain operational for 40 years. The panels on the roof of my house are guaranteed for 45 years. Renewable energy equipment is also much more readily recyclable than coal, gas and nuclear facilities which are polluted with toxic chemicals. Materials in solar panels, wind turbines and batteries are valuable. This incentivises their recycling. Durability, coupled with recycling and repurposing, contributes to a significant reduction in waste and mitigates the environmental footprint of renewable energy systems compared to fossil fuels.

To sum it up, the evidence is clear. All energy systems have an environmental impact. But the impacts of renewable energy are significantly lower than those of fossil fuels. The biggest threat to Australia's koalas is climate change, not wind or solar farms. The same goes for all our precious biodiversity. Renewables are an important part of the solution to saving our species.

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David Hudspeth
David Hudspeth
Jun 11

4 Corners a parade walk of of locals resistant to change, passionate ecologists, veering to pro nuclear, and teaming up with pro coal MPs...whut? ,and bad faith political actors campaigning against wind farms. Biodiversity loss is also a major threat to humanity. On Nuclear, the idea it should be an either or proposition or end the roll out of renewables is nuts. Calls to halt renewable roll out including wind farms utterly unreasonable given the grave risk from climate change. On that I hope everyone will read the latest Quarterly essay from Climate Scientist and IPCC Author Joelle Gergis on climate risk and the limits of adaption in Australia. Calls for all projects to avoid areas of high biodiversity mak…


Christine Bennett
Christine Bennett
Mar 31

Hello Greg

I am a strong advocate of renewable energy, however BLADED wind turbines are a concern. You mentioned bladed wind turbines that are shut down when birds are spotted within one kilometer. This is not an automatic feature of the Kipeto wind farms. It relies upon a 'spotter' to shut the farms down. It is not a practical option for Australia or for most nations that utilise bladed wind turbines. Ornithologist, Prof. Gisela Kaplan, has written of the disastrous effects of bladed turbines on birds in her book: Don Quixote’s Windmills ch. 12 in Thinking about Animals in the Age of the Anthropocene. (eds. M. Tønnessen, K. Armstrong-Oma and S. Rattasepp) pp.284-305.

There are models of wind turbines that…

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