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Replacing Coal with Solar Takes Less Space and Less Energy!

Don Blankenship’s – Massey Coal, subject of the book “Coal River”, is the operator of a “cut and fill” mining operation in West Virginia, where the Clean Water Act’s protections for “blue line” seasonal streams are ignored by mountaintop removal — with the debris and toxic waste dumped into valleys, blue line streams, and toxic overflow pouring onto neighboring properties and into common streams and rivers.

Powder River Rail Loop

It’s bad, bad, bad. Moreover, it’s dangerous. And, it’s unneeded.

Even worse, the miners are going back down into mines despite the lamentable and preventable deaths.


Here are the 100 largest coal mines in the USA. The very largest is:

“1 North Antelope Rochelle Mine/Powder River Coal Wyoming 97,578,499 tons high-quality coal per year.”

Here’s the blurb about this coal mine, “NARM”:

“105 km southeast of Gillette, Wyoming, U.S.A…the world’s largest surface-strip operation. The owner of the mine is Peabody…the largest private-sector coal company in the world. Its operations provide coal that is used to generate 10% of the electricity generated in the U.S. and approximately 3% of the electricity generated throughout the world. It exports coal to 15 countries and over 350 power and industrial plants.
“The Powder River Coal Field area has experienced natural coal fires throughout the recent geological history and because of that the lands have been held as sacred by early Native Americans. Coal was re-discovered in Wyoming by the Fremont Expedition of 1843. Commercial mining began with the arrival of the railroad. Since 1988 Wyoming tops the list of the largest coal-producing states in the U.S.
“The North Antelope Rochelle Mine began operation in 1983 and produces the lowest sulfur coal in the United States – 0.2% sulfur at a heat value ranging from 8,600 to 8,800 Btu per pound. The operation employs three draglines along with five overburden truck-and-shovel fleets. During 2007 the company erected a new dragline and completed an in-pit crusher/conveyor at North Antelope Rochelle. The coal is hauled by truck to one of three hoppers at the complex, where it is crushed and ultimately conveyed to 15,000-ton silos for loadout on unit trains.
“The operation employs 1,080 people and annually provides the local economy with $63 million in wages and benefits.
“North Antelope Rochelle’s industry-leading safety and reclamation practices have been recognized with numerous awards over the past four years. ”

“The North Antelope Rochelle Mine is one of America’s largest coal mines, … Remaining coal reserves dedicated to the mine cover nearly 28000 acres…”


The Peabody Coal North Antelope Rochelle Mine (“NARM”) is the largest coal producer in the USA.

It produces about 100,000,000 tons of coal per year; each ton of coal has about the same energy as between three and six barrels of oil. Each barrel of oil contains the energy equivalent of about 1700 kWh.

Each ton of NARM coal contains no more than 10,000 kWh of equivalent energy, perhaps half that, but let’s use the top number.

Hence, the entire NARM operation produces coal with an energy content of
10,000*100,000,000 kWh per year, or 1,000,000,000,000 kWh per year (10 to the 12th, or 10**12).


Each acre is about 4000 square meters. Sunlight falling on one acre is 4000 kW. Solar panels would retrieve 800 kW per acre at 20% efficiency. Per day, that’s 4,000 kWh; per year, that acre of solar would produce 4*365 thousand kWh or 1,400,000 kWh.

1,000,000,000,000 kWh total energy (10**12) in the coal divided by 1,400,000 (1.4*10**6) kWh of solar energy per acre yields . . . about 70,000 acres, an area about 100 square miles, or 10 miles by 10 miles (640 acres per square mile).

Sounds like a lot, right? But:

The current NARM mine works is at least 2000 acres; there are roads, rail lines, loading docks, draglines, and about 28,000 acres of mineable open-face coal in seams 100 ft. deep up to 400 ft. beneath the surface, extending for many miles in each direction from the current works, and reserved for future despoilation.

Considering the hundreds of miles of rail lines and roads, giant earthmoving and coal-hauling equipment, the staging area and the land required for the 1080 people who work the mine, the total area used by the NARM is at worst comparable, and perhaps larger, than the equivalent area needed to generate the same amount of energy using solar panels.

Perhaps as much as 80,000 acres!

Take about the same land alloted to mining coal at the biggest coal mine in the USA, and you would produce the same amount of electric — without the trains, dragline, coal ash, coal pollution, coal dust, and coal burning!! And without the needless yearly death and injury toll on miners.

Now if this can be done for the LARGEST and most productive of all coal mines, the one that touts “clean coal”, the rest are probably even worse. SOLAR WOULD REPLACE THIS MINE WITHOUT DESTROYING THE LANDSCAPE, WITHOUT NEED FOR REMEDIATION, AND USING PERHAPS HALF THE SPACE ULTIMATELY REQUIRED TO MINE AND REMEDIATE the seam of coal, which extends for dozens, perhaps hundreds, of miles.

Imagine that, instead of giant scoops digging 400′ down into the ground, tearing up land by the hundreds of acres, creating huge toxic sumps, instead…silent construction of pole-mounted solar panels, under which grass and prairie dogs could flourish…coyotes, wolves, antelopes, deer could roam without fear of bulldozers and toxic coal ash.

Solar panels should rather be installed on rooftops, which are already developed, and don’t entail destroying the wilderness; but surely, even a forest of solar panels would be preferrable to the mess created by Peabody Coal.

Why mine the coal? Use the sunlight on the land, if you must, until all our rooftops are solar.

Similar to the argument that, if we had plug-in cars, the energy used to extract and refine oil would, if used to power EVs, carry the EV as far as the REST of the barrel carries a fossil car. Might as well leave the oil in the ground, for all the good of the farce about spending so much energy mining it just to burn it.

Here’s a picture of the “enlightened” open pit, with some idea of a tin part of the square miles despoiled by this mine:


2 Black Thunder/Thunder Basin Coal Company LLC Surface Wyoming 88,584,704
3 Jacobs Ranch Mine/Jacobs Ranch Coal Company Surface Wyoming 42,145,705
4 Cordero Mine/Cordero Mining Company Surface Wyoming 40,033,283
5 Antelope Coal Mine/Antelope Coal Company Surface Wyoming 35,777,489
6 Caballo Mine/Caballo Coal Company Surface Wyoming 31,205,381
7 Belle Ayr Mine/Foundation Coal West Incorporated Surface Wyoming 28,707,982
8 Buckskin Mine/Triton Coal Company Surface Wyoming 26,076,355
9 Eagle Butte Mine/Foundation Coal West Incorporated Surface Wyoming 20,442,963
10 Rawhide Mine/Caballo Coal Company Surface Wyoming 18,418,546
11 Spring Creek Coal Company/Spring Creek Coal Company Surface Montana 17,947,506
12 Freedom Mine/The Coteau Properties Company Surface North Dakota 14,565,631
13 Rosebud Mine&Crusher/Conveyor/Western Energy Company Surface Montana 13,052,713
14 Coal Creek Mine/Thunder Basin Coal Company LLC Surface Wyoming 11,453,546
15 Enlow Fork Mine/Consol Pennsylvania Coal Company Underground Pennsylvania 11,089,475
16 Bailey Mine/Consol Pennsylvania Coal Company Underground Pennsylvania 9,996,038
17 McElroy Mine/McElroy Coal Company Underground West Virginia 9,636,827
18 Navajo Mine/BHP Navajo Coal Company Surface New Mexico 8,905,813
19 Kayenta Mine/Peabody Western Coal Company Surface Arizona 8,024,973
20 Foidel Creek Mine/Twentymile Coal Company Underground Colorado 8,004,176
21 Falkirk Mine/Falkirk Mining Company Surface North Dakota 7,532,993
22 Cumberland Mine/Cumberland Coal Resources LP Underground Pennsylvania 7,321,030
23 San Juan Mine 1/San Juan Coal Company Underground New Mexico 7,046,199
24 Sufco/Canyon Fuel Company LLC Underground Utah 6,946,075
25 Decker Mine/Decker Coal Company Surface Montana 6,871,671
26 Century Mine/American Energy Corporation Underground Ohio 6,843,898
27 Jewett Mine/Texas Westmoreland Coal Co. Surface Texas 6,453,799
28 Absaloka Mine/Westmoreland Resources Inc. Surface Montana 6,390,699
29 Emerald Mine No 1/Emerald Coal Resources LP Underground Pennsylvania 6,343,350
30 Wyodak Mine/Wyodak Resources Development Co. Surface Wyoming 6,015,890
31 West Elk Mine/Mountain Coal Company, L.L.C. Underground Colorado 5,858,789
32 Powhatan No. 6 Mine/The Ohio Valley Coal Company Underground Ohio 5,797,596
33 Robinson Run No 95/Consolidation Coal Company Underground West Virginia 5,627,306
34 Blacksville No 2/Consolidation Coal Company Underground Pennsylvania 5,584,153
35 Mach #1 Mine/Mach Mining LLC Underground Illinois 5,503,665
36 Galatia Mine/The American Coal Company Underground Illinois 5,263,019
37 Dry Fork Mine/Western Fuels-Wyoming Inc Surface Wyoming 5,261,242
38 Loveridge No 22/Consolidation Coal Company Underground West Virginia 5,192,742
39 Twilight MTR Surface Mine/Progress Coal Surface West Virginia 5,167,254
40 Cardinal/Warrior Coal LLC Underground Kentucky 5,108,496
41 Beckville Strip/Luminant Mining Co. LLC Surface Texas 5,093,709
42 Kemmerer Mine/Chevron Mining Inc Surface Wyoming 4,988,841
43 Colowyo Mine/Colowyo Coal Company L P Surface Colorado 4,914,363
44 Elk Creek Mine/Oxbow Mining, LLC Underground Colorado 4,902,633
45 Dotiki Mine/Webster County Coal LLC Underground Kentucky 4,662,442
46 Oak Hill Strip/Luminant Mining Company LLC Surface Texas 4,655,079
47 Center Mine/BNI Coal Ltd Surface North Dakota 4,505,263
48 Mountaineer II Mine/Mingo Logan Coal Company Underground West Virginia 4,187,338
49 Dugout Canyon Mine/Canyon Fuel Company LLC Underground Utah 4,145,406
50 South Hallsville No 1 Mine/Sabine Mining Company Surface Texas 4,054,916
51 Elk Creek Mine/Hopkins County Coal LLC Underground Kentucky 4,033,847
Subtotal 713,921,308
All Other Mines 457,887,361
U.S. Total 1,171,808,669
- = No data are reported.
Note: · Major mines are mines that produced more than 4 million short tons in 2008. The company is the firm operating the mine.
Source: · Energy Information Administration Form EIA-7A, “Coal Production Report,” and/or U.S. Department of Labor, Mine Safety and Health Administration, Form 7000-2, “Quarterly Mine Employment and Coal Production Report.”

US mine production 2008:
1,171,808,669 short tons (1.17 Billion tons)
Source: · Energy Information Administration Form EIA-7A, “Coal Production Report,” and/or U.S. Department of Labor, Mine Safety and Health Administration, Form 7000-2, “Quarterly Mine Employment and Coal Production Report.”

Major U.S. Coal Mines


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  1. 4 Comment(s)

  2. By BernieR on Apr 27, 2010 | Reply

    No estб seguro de que esto es verdad:), pero gracias a un cargo.

  3. By Miato on May 10, 2010 | Reply

    Interesante, no va a continuar con este articulo?

  4. By Serpolaska on May 14, 2010 | Reply

    thanks! :)

    lets write them until they admit it, or stop doing it! i am writing them now!


  5. By Anonymous on Jun 13, 2011 | Reply

    I really appreciate this post. I’ve been looking all over for this! Thank goodness I found it. You have made my day! Thank you again!

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