Energy accident deaths

Kim et al. looked at over 4000 energy accidents.

The full article can be read here:

In their Figure 2b they show the number of fatalities by energy type, normalized by MTOE. (Wiki tells us that TOE, a tonne of energy equivalent, is approximately 42 gigaojoules or 11.6 megawatt-hours.)

Wind     1764.2
Hydro     540.6
Nuclear    14.2
Coal       11.6
Oil         8.4
Biomass     4.7
Nat gas     2.5
Solar       1.9


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In terms of the frequency of energy accidents, Figure 1 shows that coal is the most frequent to incur an accident within our sample, accounting for more than half of accidents (2,428 accidents), followed by oil (890 accidents) and wind energy (339 accidents). Most energy accidents have occurred in the three previous decades, a possibly paradoxical finding (energy systems are often presumed to get safer over time) until one considers that society is producing massively more energy each decade than it did before. A consequence is a greater number of energy accidents in absolute terms, although the jump of accidents in the 1990s is likely explained by a spike in coal mining accidents in China, rather than any other energy system.


In terms of severity, accidents at hydroelectric dams were the most fatal, accounting for 67 percent. In terms of cost, nuclear power accidents are by far the most expensive, accounting for 62 percent of damages.


Those are the numbers reported in the study, but I have a few problems with their results. I’ll accept the figures for wind and hydro, but nuclear looks to be too high, based on other studies I have seen. Also, the reported number for solar looks to be too low. Actual fatalities related to solar are, I believe, somewhat higher.

Just looking at solar for now. Table 3 in the study says the total number of solar related fatalities is only 8 deaths? This number is repeated in Figure 1b. I find it difficult to believe that only 8 people have ever fallen off a roof and perished while installing solar panels. See the following link.

From the link: In the 2020 US Bureau of Labor National Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries report, the data shows roofers accounted for 111 of the 5,333 fatal injuries that occurred in 2019. This is up 15% from 2018’s figure of 96.

So, in 2019, over 100 roofers died on the job in the US. Granted, not all of those roofers were installing or maintaining solar panels at the time, but I’m willing to guess a certain percentage of them probably were. And that is just one year. But this study in the OP says a total of only 8 people have ever died related to solar energy installations? This is repeated later in the report in the graphs shown in Figure 4.

The following link shows wind, solar and nuclear all about the same in terms of risk, and are all very low compared to fossil fuels.

  • Pete

You did not read the basis for the study. Table 3 shows the number of solar related accidents to be 8 and the number of fatalities to be 9. The study is looking at major energy accidents. Home roof top solar panels are not major energy facilities and not considered major energy accidents. Most major solar energy facilities are located on the ground at solar farms.

Major nuclear accidents are 178 and fatalities are 4,856
Major wind accidents are 339 and fatalities are 130
Major solar accidents are 8 and fatalities are 9
Major coal accidents are 2,428 and fatalities are 55,414
Major oil accidents are 890 and fatalities are 26,215
Major nat gas accidents are 289 and fatalities are 4,090