8,000 Wind Turbines on an Area Larger Than Gotland Required for LKAB's Fossil-Free Steel by 2040

By: Thomas Ström 6/21/22

We at NTEX support a transition away from fossil fuels and are in favour of alternative energy sources. However, those of you who read my blog know that I personally am not a great advocate of wind power.
There are loads of things that can and should be questioned, not least when it comes to the wind farms that have been built, are being built, or are being planned to be built. By chance, I came into contact with electrical engineer Johnny Steen, who is of the same opinion. He is far more experienced and well-informed than I am.

In an email I received from Johnny Steen, he draws my attention to a feature in SVT Nyheter Norrbotten (see link below). In the feature, it is stated that Swedish mining company LKAB, in its efforts to produce fossil-free and green steel, will become Sweden's largest consumer of electricity. By 2040, demand is expected to increase from the current 2 TWh to 50 TWh per year.

“We need fossil-free electricity quickly, so there is really no alternative to wind power,” says Jan Moström, CEO of LKAB to SVT Nyheter Norrbotten.

Against this background, Johnny Steen has been interested in learning how much resources, materials, etc. that are required to build wind farms that will produce 50 TWh per year. To begin with, he has requested public documents from the existing wind power projects Markbygden outside Piteå, and Vattenfall's Blakliden-Fäboberget in municipalities Lycksele and Åsele.

Studying these documents, Johnny has uncovered is how much construction material was used, how much it cost, and who supplied everything needed in these projects. He then compared these figures to what will be needed to produce 50 TWh of wind power per year.

Naturally, the figures Johnny has reached are staggering, and that they will in turn have an enormous impact on nature.

This is what Johnny Steen writes based on his findings:

“In order to produce 50 TWh of energy with wind power, you have to count on 8,000 wind turbines to begin with. With that amount and some help from the weather gods, you can reach 50 TWh when the wind is optimal and the turbines are running at full capacity. But this only happens one-third of the year. The other two-thirds of the time, the energy has to come from some other source.”

“So, let's count the feedstock needed above and under the ground to produce 8,000 wind turbines. It will require about 3,500 km2 of land, which compares roughly to Gotland's area of 3,184 km2.”

“In addition, below resources will be required to build these wind turbines:

4.4 million cubic metres of concrete = 10.5 million tonnes of concrete.

320,000 tonnes of rebar.

100 million tonnes of crushed rock. (It takes about 25,000 tonnes of dynamite to blast these volumes loose).

4,700 miles of cable trenches to be dug.

3,700 miles of new roads must be built.

1.6 million tonnes of cement. At Slite, Cementa produces 2.1 million tonnes per year.”

On the basis of these figures, Johnny Steen poses the following critical questions:

a) Which Sámi villages will be the ones paying the price? 3,500 km2 is big, even for Norrland.

b) From which areas/mountains will 100 million tonnes of crushed rock be blasted? What will the Sámi communities have to say about that?

c) Who will deliver the rebar? It is not produced in Sweden.

d) All this work will be done with diesel powered vehicles. I suspect this will lead to immense CO2 emissions.

e) Where will the cement be delivered from? Will Cementa in Slite be allowed to increase their production from 2.5 to 3.7 million tonnes?

f) And finally, what energy source will be used when the wind is not blowing?”

Here you can read the Swedish news feature in SVT Nyheter Norrbotten.