Fracking to extract shale gas can be less environmentally damaging than installing solar panels or offshore wind turbines, a study has found.
The production of panels and turbines results in greater depletion of natural resources, toxicity to humans and impact on freshwater and marine organisms, according to the study by the University of Manchester.
The study assessed various environmental impacts of energy produced from different sources over their full life cycle, from “cradle to grave”, including the impact of extracting ores for manufacturing, the construction and operation of power plants and their eventual decommissioning.
Solar and wind had a clear advantage over shale gas in terms of their “global warming potential”, measured in grams of carbon dioxide per kilowatt-hour of electricity generated. Solar photovoltaic produces 98g/kWh, offshore wind 13g/kWh and shale gas 477g/kWh.
However, the heavy metals and other toxic elements used in the life cycle of solar panels and wind turbines give them a “human toxicity” rating at least three times greater than for shale.