Solar Panel Production. Coking Coal (Metallurgical Coal) is combined with Sand to produce Silicon. The end product is Silicon, Carbon Monoxide and CO2. Note for simplicity I left out a few steps.

2021 COP26 Climate Conference Hosts Authorise a New Coal Mine

Guest essay by Eric Worrall

Britain, the host of the upcoming COP26 climate conference, is getting slammed by climate activists for authorising a new coking coal mine in the politically sensitive national electorate of Whitehaven. But environmentalists should be celebrating – coking coal is an essential ingredient in the production of silicon for solar panels.

Climate change: Minister rapped for allowing Cumbria coal mine

By Roger Harrabin
BBC Energy and Envrionment Analyst

The government’s climate change advisors have rapped ministers for allowing a new coal mine in Cumbria. 

They say the site will increase global emissions and compromise the UK’s legally binding carbon budgets. 

They warn the decision could undermine its leadership of the vital COP26 climate summit in Glasgow in November. 

The new deep coking coal mine was agreed by Cumbria County Council and the government previously said it did not want to intervene

Environmentalists have reacted with astonishment and disbelief, saying the carbon from burning coal is clearly a global concern.

John Sauven, from Greenpeace, said: “It’s extraordinary that anyone still believes burning coal is only a local issue and has no global impacts.

“Let’s hope China doesn’t take the same view or the world will be toast. It certainly isn’t setting the global leadership on climate that the prime minister says he’s aspiring to.”

Read more:

I’m surprised environmental groups are complaining so loudly about a new coking coal mine. How do they expect Britain to start manufacturing solar panels, without a supply of coking coal?

Large quantities of coking coal, or metallurgical coal, is an essential chemical ingredient for producing new solar panels. The coal is chemically combined in a furnace with sand, where it strips away the oxygen, converting sand (silicon dioxide) into pure silicon, the raw ingredient for silicon solar panels. In the process the coal chemically combines with the oxygen ripped from the sand, carrying the oxygen away as Carbon Monoxide and CO2.

There is another process which starts with sand and aluminium metal in place of coal, but I’m guessing there is a reason this isn’t the predominant process.

If greens want the world to go solar, the world is going to need a lot of coking coal like the new mine in Cumbria will supply, both for the initial transition and for ongoing maintenance.

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Joel O'Bryan
February 1, 2021 2:08 pm

Anyone who’s been paying attention understands by now that Climate Change has nothing to do with Climate (nor CO2), only about Change. A change that concentrates political power into the hands of elites and destroys a prosperous middle class with socialism.

February 1, 2021 2:15 pm

Because Harrabin could not give a toss about CO2 or whether China makes the solar panels instead with all their coal.

All he cares about is destroying the UK’s capitalist economy

Reply to  paul homewood
February 2, 2021 10:03 am

Raw materials aside, the latest (vast) Chinese solar panel factory is entirely solar/hydro powered…

Richard Page
Reply to  griff
February 2, 2021 12:42 pm

Link please?

Reply to  griff
February 2, 2021 1:00 pm

Hydro generation has long been know to be able to supply large amounts of electricity. That’s why it is so hated in so many places.

Reply to  griff
February 2, 2021 1:27 pm

Yes, links please Griff. Wind and solar combined only supply a tiny 9% of China’s electricity:

Hydro output is fixed, so the extra demand from the new solar panel factory has to come from dispatchable power

February 1, 2021 2:16 pm

Greenpeace are mostly technological nihilists who oppose most technology they do not understand, and they are mostly stone ignorant.

Reply to  Tom Halla
February 1, 2021 2:22 pm

“mostly stoned ignorant.

fix it for you 🙂

David Kamakaris
Reply to  fred250
February 1, 2021 2:26 pm

LOL! Good one, Fred!

February 1, 2021 2:34 pm
Reply to  Brian BAKER
February 1, 2021 3:38 pm

The date on that petition is August, 2020. Is it too late to sign it?

A C Osborn
Reply to  Alan
February 2, 2021 1:38 am

I signed it yesterday.

February 1, 2021 2:39 pm

“Let’s hope China doesn’t take the same view or the world will be toast.”

China has always ignored the same view and increasing production of local coal. China is also building coal fired power stations in China and Africa at a great rate.
I guess the world is toast.(sarc)

Reply to  Mariner
February 1, 2021 5:25 pm

Mariner why do you come on here with your lies? Don’t you understand that China only uses renewables? All those coal planets from satellites are baby milk factories.

Geez where do you get your facts? Is Trump telling you these lies?

Reply to  Derg
February 1, 2021 9:24 pm


Reply to  Writing Observer
February 2, 2021 3:30 am

🤓 indeed

Reply to  Writing Observer
February 2, 2021 8:09 am

baby milk factories should have been a giveaway.

Reply to  Mariner
February 2, 2021 8:08 am

I like toast. Especially with jelly.

Reply to  MarkW
February 3, 2021 5:05 am

What?!? A glutenivore?

Oh! The humanity…

February 1, 2021 2:45 pm

Actually, the conference is in Glasgow, so under independence, its got nothing to do with it as Cumbria is in England.

Walter Sobchak
February 1, 2021 2:54 pm

They would rather have the coal mined in China, coked their, and used there so they can pretend that solar has no environmental downside.

It is all about their feelings.

Reply to  Walter Sobchak
February 2, 2021 8:09 am

They would rather the coal be mined in China, so that China can benefit, rather than the UK.

February 1, 2021 3:01 pm

Let’s hope China doesn’t take the same view …

Best laugh I’ve had in a week.

Pat from kerbob
Reply to  commieBob
February 1, 2021 4:01 pm

Yes, I thought that was the stupidest line in a stupid piece

February 1, 2021 3:16 pm

I’m sure you can run blast furnaces off of Solar Panels. Don’t worry.

Reply to  Eric Worrall
February 1, 2021 4:41 pm

I have this memory from childhood of a mining engineer telling me that, if you ground up rock fine enough, you could make it explode. Am I misremembering?

Reply to  commieBob
February 1, 2021 5:07 pm

Coal especially. The material still has to undergo combustion, however.

Things that we don’t think of as being combustible like flour or aluminum can be very explosive if finely powered because they react with oxygen if dispersed and given a spark.

Reply to  commieBob
February 1, 2021 5:56 pm

Most near surface rock is already oxidised so will not combust. Sand is oxidised silicon.

Mineral concentrates of metal sulphides will spontaneously combust under the right conditions.

Aluminium powder can detonate:

Reply to  commieBob
February 2, 2021 8:10 am

Anything that can oxidize, can be made to oxidize a lot faster when you increase the surface area.

Reply to  Eric Worrall
February 1, 2021 4:59 pm

It’s not very easy to reduce the particle size as it’s pretty hard (6.5 on moh scale) and has a tendency to form protective silica surfaces that make combustion difficult if the size is big (not like coal which emits flammable volatiles on heating). On the other hand, powder in the micron range under the right conditions can be a blast.

Eric Stevens
Reply to  Tom
February 1, 2021 3:44 pm

Better still is running electric arc furnaces off solar panels or windmills. Have you ever seen a big arc furnace in operation? They must be just about the roughest electric power customer on earth. The thought of windmills particularly makes the mind boggle. See Wait until they lower the electrodes. Dont have the sound too high.

Pat from kerbob
Reply to  Eric Stevens
February 1, 2021 4:00 pm

I have worked for 26 years with a company manufacturing electrical equipment outside pittsburgh. Nearby is the Alcoa research center and apparently they have a couple 50MW pulse power supplies they charge up and run periodically.
The grid is not terribly strong out in that burb and when they fire up those big rectifiers the grid voltage deforms mightily as it contorts to form the voltage harmonics to allow the current harmonics to flow.

You’d really want such plants on a captive power system with as high of short CCt as possible to limit the voltage distortion

Reply to  Tom
February 2, 2021 10:06 am

You can certainly use green hydrogen – as in this news item ‘Svenskt Stål AB (Swedish Steel or SSAB), which is headquartered in Sweden and partly owned by the government of Finland, announced that it would make substantial investments to accelerate the transition of its steel furnaces to using emissions-free, renewable hydrogen.’ (I’m having problems posting links: apologies)

UK steel plants involved in scrap melting for steel production do use electricity, with some attempt being made to use renewable energy…

Richard Page
Reply to  griff
February 2, 2021 12:47 pm

Then all we’ll need is more electricity. Lots more electricity. So much more that there simply isn’t enough land or room in the sea for the solar and wind farms. So nuclear it is then, Griff – glad to see you’re fully on board with providing more nuclear power plants in the UK.

Reply to  griff
February 2, 2021 1:08 pm

Since getting hydrogen to play with is very energy intensive, replacing coal with hydrogen means a much higher total energy usage.

Lorne Newell
Reply to  Tom
February 3, 2021 3:49 am

LOL. Can you imagine the size of the solar array to accomplish that???

February 1, 2021 3:17 pm

Idiotic as usual, knowing nothing about anything, but telling it’s bad.

Itdoesn't add up...
February 1, 2021 3:48 pm

Harrabin has been on a one man crusade against this mine ever since it was approved. He has managed at least 4 front page stories on it so far. You would think that the BBC was a campaigning “charity”, not a broadcaster. Which of course, it is.

John Bell
February 1, 2021 3:52 pm

I’ve seen a few such furnaces in the USA, in goes hard wood chips, coal, and Georgia quartz stones (gravel), and it takes TONS of amperage to make it happen, there are 3 huge electrodes in the melting pot, the facility is right next to a coal fired power plant, lots of electrons on hand.

John Bell
February 1, 2021 3:58 pm

Making silicon that way is not pure enough for solar panels, too much iron and sulfur in the mix, it is for alloying steel. Pure silicon is made differently.

Reply to  Eric Worrall
February 1, 2021 5:15 pm

Yeah, high purity silane (SiH4) is often used in the semiconductor industry. It’s like methane with Si in place of C.

It’s also pyrophoric. I did a little lab work with it and it would ignite as soon as it hit air. We’d run excess silane outside through 1/8″ tubing into a bucket of water to help keep the exit of the tubing free from plugging as the combustion product is silica.

Reply to  Eric Worrall
February 1, 2021 10:28 pm

Are you sure that wasn#t MDMA?

David Stone CEng (Elec)
Reply to  Eric Worrall
February 2, 2021 9:30 am

This silicon is used to make silicon steel, used in magnetic circuits of motors and transformers etc. The excess carbon content is not a problem in steel making. Silicon used for semiconductors is extremely pure, and even a few atoms of carbon occasionally would be a disaster. Pure silicon is not a metal, and is only a semiconductor after doping with other materials, it is an insulator when pure. In most semiconductors (transistors etc.) it is a single crystal which is defect free (no dislocations) produced by a zone refining process, although some kinds of solar cells can be made from polycrystaline silicon.

Reply to  David Stone CEng (Elec)
February 2, 2021 11:13 am

Slight correction. You stated “Pure silicon is not a metal, and is only a semiconductor after doping with other materials

Now, it’s been 35 years since Tech School, and I have been known to be wrong (Just ask the wife, it’s her job to keep track of that and inform me when I am, which is often).. BUT..

Actually, pure Silicon, by itself, IS a Semiconductor material, it has 4 electrons in its outer shell. The same is true for Germanium and Carbon.. They are all Partially, or Semi Conductive. An insulator has 8 electrons in its outer shell and a conductor will have 1 electron. I believe they use Silicon because of its abundance in nature and it’s a sturdy material, think of it as glass. Carbon and Germanium are more fragile and would be more difficult to handle during manufacture. I’m a repair technician in the Semiconductor industry at a major global manufacturer. I’ve worked from 4″ up to 12″ Silicon wafers. When they break, it acts just like glass.

But, to make it an Active Semiconductor, they “Dope” the Silicon to make it more or less conductive. Doping with Boron makes a Positive (P) material. Doping with Arsenic makes a Negative (N) material. Combining the Positive doped (P) with a Negative doped (N) section, makes a PN junction, a basic diode. The P and N materials together form a depletion zone. Engineers can play with the configuration and makeup of the depletion zone to make the magic we know of today in out constantly connected world, from LEDs to every super computer.

Well, that’s my understanding of it. I’m not versed in the periodic table and atomic structures, but that’s what they taught us back in Electronics school, over 35 years ago. But check with my wife (see above) she’ll let you (and everyone) know if I’m wrong. 🙂

Carry On…

February 1, 2021 4:47 pm

Activists slam the organizing country for opening a coal mine, but why do they not slam the participants (delegates, media, …) who intend to FLY to Glasgow? Or are the participants all going to Glasgow by sailboat?

Reply to  Peter
February 1, 2021 5:28 pm

Greta went to a conference by boat 😉

Richard Page
Reply to  Derg
February 2, 2021 5:17 am

Or did she? Hmmm.

Paul C
Reply to  Derg
February 2, 2021 9:53 am

With a greater “carbon footprint” than flying – given that several crew had transatlantic flights to join the diesel powered yacht. I presume the galley operated on propane too.

Richard Page
Reply to  Paul C
February 2, 2021 12:50 pm

That’s the usual set-up; cooker, oven and fridge all running off a gas cylinder.

February 1, 2021 5:32 pm

They should re-schedule and move to another country using the cancel culture that would have been applied against Trump in this situation.

February 1, 2021 5:34 pm

Could someone get photos of the jets lined up there for the elite attendees?

Gary Pearse
February 1, 2021 5:46 pm

Actually, although silicon is abundant high quality quartz/quartzite (99.5%+ SiO2) is required. The best material is coarse lump ore and ideally it is reduced using a large diameter carbon arc electrode and graphite crucible furnace.

Along with its companion, oxygen, which makes up more than 50% of the earth’s crust, silicon is largely combined with other elements such as K, Na, Al, Fe, Mg, Ca, etc., forming the aluminosilicate suite of rocks and as such is largely unavailable to silicon manufacture.

For computer chips, high quality fused quartz, fiber-optic cable and other technical products, essentially 100% silica with a few ppm impurities is needed. The raw quartz sells for US$5 to $12/kg!

February 1, 2021 5:49 pm

These clowns have yet to realise that weather dependent power generation is the greatest boon ever for the mining industry.

The demand for steel, copper, concrete, fibreglass, glass, epoxy resins, rare earth metals, coking coal and a myriad other inputs will grow exponentially until they wake up.

BHP is running a massive advertising campaign in Australia on the need to mine iron and copper. The ad tells us that every wind generator requires 4 tonne of copper. No wonder the big miners have infiltrated the lobby groups in support of the “green” agenda. The “green” agenda replaces war as the most avaricious consumer of manufactured goods ever conceived.
If that doesn’t bring a tear to your eye you’re not a greenie.

At some point there will be a realisation that these things absorb more energy in their manufacture and installation than they can ever produce while supporting a sustainable society – simply put they are UNSUSTAINABLE.

February 1, 2021 5:49 pm

Does anyone know what the ideal temperature of earth is supposed to be?….and the ideal CO2 level? Does CO2 in the atmosphere block any of the IR from the sun reaching earth? Is there a redline in temp that must not be crossed? Does the IPCC have the answers?

Reply to  Anti_griff
February 1, 2021 7:40 pm

Doesn’t matter what the ideal temperature is. It is stuck between -2C and 30C for the foreseeable future until the orbital geometry moves from where it is now.. With land masses in their present position and current orbital geometry, the average surface temperature is about the arithmetic mean of the two limits.

It appears more CO2 is better; greener, high crop productivity, higher forest productivity but that component has not been exploited particularly well.

CO2 plays zero direct role in Earth’s energy balance at present level. Its impact on greening is more significant and that alters land temperatures.

Go back to first point – temperature is stuck where it is so question is irrelevant.

IPCC is a religious organisation. It has the answers that any religious organisation has; those answers are whatever soothes the souls of the true believers. They also crucify heretics like all good religious organisations.

February 1, 2021 6:04 pm

This: Environmentalists have reacted with astonishment and disbelief, saying the carbon from burning coal is clearly a global concern.
John Sauven, from Greenpeace, said: “It’s extraordinary that anyone still believes burning coal is only a local issue and has no global impacts.
“Let’s hope China doesn’t take the same view or the world will be toast. It certainly isn’t setting the global leadership on climate that the prime minister says he’s aspiring to.” – article

Aside from being completely brain-dead about China, these people are completely out of touch with reality. The statements and others they’ve made clearly that they think they can control a planet that has a mind of its own, when they can’t.

February 1, 2021 6:34 pm

There has been NO CLIMATE CHANGE in Glasgow this century.

Reply to  fred250
February 2, 2021 4:52 am

Q. What do you call 6 weeks of rain in Glasgow?
A. Summer.

“There are two seasons in Scotland: June and Winter”

Both from the great Billy Connolly.

CD in Wisconsin
February 1, 2021 6:50 pm

Coking coal is used in steel making too…

“..Metallurgical coal, also known as coking coal, is used to produce coke, the primary source of carbon used in steelmaking…”

……steel that is used in making wind turbines. I imagine that quite a bit of CO2 is emitted when making steel just as it is when making solar panels. These green energy people are either very stupid or deliberately deceitful…..or both.

I am still waiting patiently for someone in a position of power, influence and authority in Washington to come along and finally put a stop to all of this. I don’t know when or if it will ever happen.

Peta of Newark
Reply to  CD in Wisconsin
February 1, 2021 8:01 pm

Yes CD in Win – and that is where the Cumbrian Coke is headed.
It would appear that nobody here has visted the BBC link – which does make it very clear that the coke from this proposed mine in Cumbria is going to make steel.

That is just a nit-pick tho. Steel is required just as much as Silicon these days and in much greater quantities – most relevantly in battery-electric-vehicles.

The cases of those batteries (certainly of the classic 18650s) are steel and I’m fairly sure, because of the wight of the batterries, only steel would be any use in the construction of said vehicles.

That, I’d venture, is where Eric should have vented his ire – this coke going into steel-making and that steel going into electric cars and their batteries
Or even, High Speed Railway lines – the contemporary Soup-du-Jour

Not far from Whitehaven, just up the coast, is Workington

Workington being the home of the Bessemer Converter

Dave Andrews
Reply to  Peta of Newark
February 2, 2021 8:43 am

Yes and if they didn’t open the mine they would either have to import the coke from abroad or import the steel and lose manufacturing ability and jobs in the UK,

John Law
Reply to  CD in Wisconsin
February 2, 2021 5:41 am

You will need to rig an election!

Richard Page
Reply to  John Law
February 2, 2021 12:53 pm

Unsurprisingly enough, that has been suggested as an explanation for some past incidents!

Smart Rock
February 1, 2021 7:52 pm

The amount of coke used in making silicon is small compared with what goes into smelting iron ore to make iron.

I keep reading about steel making in electric-arc furnaces. Minimal “emissions” they say, but they tend to gloss over the fact that the furnace feed is either steel for recycling or pig iron. You just can’t make pig iron from oxide iron ore without something to suck up the oxygen in a blast furnace. Also, there is typically limestone added as a flux to react with the silica that’s present to varying extents in iron ores, and it of course gives off CO2. The actual reduction of iron oxide is done by CO from burning the coke. Iron making has an all-round, huge “carbon footprint”.

I have the impression that British Steel Ltd. (now owned by a Chinese company, naturally) has been outsourcing its carbon footprint by buying pig iron from China. Perhaps this new mine means that the country that invented the blast furnace might be making some of its own pig iron again.

Reply to  Smart Rock
February 2, 2021 5:06 am

Iron making accounts for 8% of the world’s CO2 emissions. (Cement manufacture is another 8%)

There are currently 2 economical methods for producing iron:

  1. The blast furnace, (then basic oxygen furnace route for steel conversion).
  2. Direct reduction using a reducing gas made from methane or coal e.g Midrex Process (then electric are furnace for steel conversion)

Worldwide production figures for steel manufacture using those two iron production methods are 1.5 billion tonnes and 100 million tonnes respectively for a total of 1.6 billion tonnes.

Non-CO2 emitting methods are primarily research and too expensive for mass production.

Reply to  Smart Rock
February 2, 2021 10:45 am

Scrap steel does not magically show up at electric arc furnaces without fossil fuels used in transport. The same goes for shipping wood pellets across the Atlantic to “green” steam plants in Europe.

Vincent Causey
February 2, 2021 12:21 am

This was mentioned in Michael Moores documentary, the fact that you need coal to make solar panels. If the UK government had any sense, they would make this fact known in a very energetic way.

Reply to  Vincent Causey
February 2, 2021 4:33 am

Good point, I have to admit that I had no idea that this was part of the process for producing the silicon. I will help in making sure that this thought gets spread on a few of the lefty sites.

February 2, 2021 1:00 am

I was walking my dogs through a local Hampshire wood the other day and down the side of a rather large solar farm. I often walk past it musing on the fact that it is built in folds in the hills and so, sometimes, in winter over half the farm doesn’t get full sunlight (when its shining) until well after 10am.
On this particular walk it was particularly overcast, very little wind and it was hovering at just about 0C. Most interesting bit was the snow lying everywhere several inches thick. So how much electricity is generated in a high-pressure zone, when its overcast, cold and with snow with people’s heating cranked up???

Eric Vieira
February 2, 2021 4:30 am

One small addition: the “ultra pure sand” isn’t really sand (which contains much too many impurities) but quartz which also has to be mined and crushed with a high energy price tag.

February 2, 2021 6:40 am

Meanwhile oil binging is going on in the area….

Shell Binges on North Sea Crude With Oil Prices Powering Higher (

Andy Pattullo
February 2, 2021 7:58 am

“Let’s hope China doesn’t take the same view or the world will be toast”

Now that really is funny. Where do they think the solar panels, steel and concrete are coming from?

Reply to  Andy Pattullo
February 2, 2021 8:17 am

Didn’t I read something recently about there being huge increases in the amount of coal that was being mined in China?

Richard Page
Reply to  MarkW
February 2, 2021 12:55 pm

And used domestically as well, I do believe. I may have heard a very similar thing.

Rich Lambert
February 2, 2021 9:06 am

Another source of coke is petroleum refining.

February 5, 2021 3:51 am

In The UK Metro article about this it emphasises the production of steel for wind turbines not the production of solar panels. And James Hansen is leading the outcry. They need to maintain the myth that solar panels are made from sand and wind turbines grow naturally out of the ground and both are 100% green.

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