Worried about wind?

So much misinformation has been spread about wind turbines that many reasonable people don’t know what to think. As one reader wrote:

“Hi Dianne, … I  wondered if you could direct me to reliable sources on the benefits / risks of Wind Turbines. I live in West Grey with lots of wind, but many here are against Wind Turbines – most likely due to lack of reliable information. Would appreciate any direction you can provide.”

Personally, I think that wind is far safer than conventional electricity sources like nuclear, (shale) gas and coal. And the more I learn about wind energy, the more beautiful I find the turbines. Here are some sources that I have found to provide reliable information about wind energy. Some address the claims that have been made about noise, health and safety, while others have not found these to be major issues:

Overviews

Hermann Scheer’s book Energy Autonomy, on why locally produced energy sources are so important to our future prosperity and freedom. He says:

For 200 years, the industrial civilization has relied upon abundant and cheap carbon combustibles. This dependence however has led to dangerous consequences. For one part it is the insecurity of depending on the most unstable region of the world, -the Middle East-, aggravated by the imminence of the peak of oil, an each time larger shortage, and the scale of the prices. For the other part, the consequences of continuing to burn combustible fuels are potentially catastrophic, as shown in the acceleration of climate change.

Despite this all, there is a solution; the transition to renewable energy sources and a decentralized distributed generation of energy, a model that has been proven technologically, comercially, and politically, and that Dr. Scheer shows exhaustively in this book.

The advantages of renewable energy are so clear that the actual resistance to it deserves a diagnosis. Scheer proportions it with detail, showing why and how entrenched interests are opposed to the transition towards renewable energies and what can be done to get rid of these obstacles

Paul Gipe’s Wind Works, a US pioneer of renewable energy. See especially his page on Noise, Health and Safety.

Health Agencies

Australian National Health and Medical Research Council Public Statement on Wind Turbines and Health, and their June 2011 symposium. The Public Statement concludes:

“The Statement concludes that there is currently no published scientific evidence to positively link wind turbines with adverse health effects. Therefore it is recommended that relevant authorities take a precautionary approach and continue to monitor research outcomes.”

Ontario Medical Officer of Health report on the alleged health effects of wind turbines, which concluded:

while some people living near wind turbines report symptoms such as dizziness, headaches, and sleep disturbance, the scientific evidence available to date does not demonstrate a direct causal link between wind turbine noise and adverse health effects. The sound level from wind turbines at common residential setbacks is not sufficient to cause hearing impairment or other direct health effects, although some people may find it annoying“.

Environmental defence groups

Blowing Smoke: Correcting Anti-Wind Myths in Ontario – by OSEA and Environmental Defence

The Real Truth About Wind Energy – Sierra Club

World Council for Renewable Energy

Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment

Governments

Denmark is the world leader in wind energy. Denmark aims to have renewables (biomass and wind) supply one third of its total energy needs by 2020, and to be completely independent of fossil fuels by 2050. By 2020, wind power is to provide more than 40% of electricity, up from 19% in 2009. Here is its analysis of why and how, including the superiority of wind over nuclear power, and the key role that electric cars can play as partners to wind farms.  By September 2009, Denmark had already installed 3166 MW of wind power, of which 424 MW are off-shore.  Denmark has a population density of 128/ km2, compared to 3.4 in Canada. According to the Atlas of Canada, most of Southern Ontario is less dense than the Danish average.

Germany is making a massive switch to renewables, including wind, and away from nuclear, because of the ongoing Fukushima nuclear disaster.

Iowa Energy Center, which has helped to propel Iowa to the highest per capita wind use in the US.

Community power groups

The community power guidebook, by the  Ontario Sustainable Energy Association, which consists primarily of community owned renewables.  And OSEA’s  resource page

Community Power conference archives: email info@ontario-sea.org for free access.

Alliance for Renewable Energy

Windshare Cooperative

Industry Associations

CANWEA (Canadian Wind Energy Association):

 

Comments

  1. Pat Jilesen

    Dianne,
    I run a small business in Bruce County. Along with many other small business owners, trying to keep my costs down is very important to me. One of those MAJOR costs is energy (electricty bill).
    With the cost to the Ontario Government to buy wind power at $0.19/kw (nuclear $0.07), how can I find this to be a sound fiscal policy to believe in. Its actually incredibly irresponsible. That price, $0.19, represents poor planning and an ideaology that needs some thought. We’re not all Lawyers who can afford such high hydro bills.
    Your input would be appreciated.

    Thankyou
    Pat

    • DSS

      Hi, Pat,
      Thanks for this excellent question.
      I also run a small business, and agree that cost control is important. I support the FIT because (among other things):
      1. FIT is a temporary bridge to a renewable energy future which will give us and our children a much better quality of life. It will be phased out as wind construction costs come down, and as the true costs of other types of electricity are recognized.
      2. New wind is both cheaper and safer than new nuclear. Even existing nuclear actually costs us much more than 7 cents/kwh, once we count waste disposal and all financing costs, plus the risk of Fukushima-type disasters. BTW, the wind FIT is 13.5 cents /kwh (not 19): see http://fit.powerauthority.on.ca/sites/default/fil….
      3. The increasing price of oil and gasoline has much more impact on most of my small business clients than the relatively small increases in the price of electricity. Typically, they have more opportunities to reduce electricity costs, through conservation, than to reduce oil-related costs. Plus we are paying heavily, through our taxes, for foreign wars driven by our dependency on oil. As electric vehicles become available, renewable electricity will help reduce our vulnerability to Middle East oil.
      4. Climate change is already having an adverse impact on small businesses and communities in Canada and elsewhere, and it is going to get worse. Renewable electricity helps to reduce our carbon footprint, and the best way to develop renewable electricity is through the FIT.

      Does this help answer your question?
      Dianne

  2. zach

    Hi Pat,

    I am not Dianne, just another avid reader of this blog. The cost of energy is not always reflected the in consumer cost as billed. For example, different types of energy require different financial capital costs to construct. According to the book 'Nuclear Waste Management in Canada:Critical Issues and Perspectives', the newly privatized AECL (Atomic Energy of Canad Ltd) is responsible for 12% of the federal debt. The Clean Air Alliance has published a pamphlet called "Stop a $35 Billion Nuclear Handout" and claims that if the cost over runs, debt retirement charges, and other issues with the fuel cycle (building a deep geological repository for waste) the cost is actually upwards of $0.37 /kw. It is available for free download at http://www.cleanairalliance.org/

    another wonderful source of Ontario specific information is a report co-authored by the Pembina Institute, and Greenpeace (kinda bias I know, but the information is compelling and makes a point that more established sources of energy compete with alternatives which drive up the price of alternatives and that once a better analysis is conducted, there is a strong case for alternatives as a mainstay and not a 'boutique' form of energy)

    the above is discussed in the following article on rabble, 'The True Cost of Nuclear in Ontario' http://rabble.ca/blogs/bloggers/campus-notes/2011

    I think you are right Pat, that all energy options need to be evaluated in a framework that takes as equitably as possible the interests of the stakeholders as Ontario must transition or renew its current energy infrastructure. One last thought, 50% of Ontario's energy comes from Nuclear. With the Pickering Station set to retire soon the province is faced with the potential to undertake a huge centralized cost to refurbish or construct new reactors and this cost is not as much reflected in the cost to the consumer through electricity billing but as addition to the governmental debt load. These are just my two cents.

    Z

  3. Hello Pat

    I can completely understand how you might be confused about the costs associated with electricity. It is complex and there is tonnes of misinformation floating around out there. Here are a few things that should help clear things up:

    1. You are comparing apples to apple sauce. One is the procurement of new power and the other is old power that is approaching the end of its useful life. New nuclear or even re-furbished nuclear will cost more than $0.07 and its questionable whether $0.07 is even the real price of the old stuff since we are still paying the debt retirement charge and there is still no solution for the waste except to keep it on site and wait until a solution is found. Never mind the security risks, health risks, etc. associated with the full supply chain of atomic energy.

    1. Moody’s investment services estimated the cost of a new nuclear plant at about 15 cents per kilowatt-hour, while new small hydro is about 12 cents per kilowatt-hour and new natural gas-fired electricity can cost more than 11 cents per kilowatt-hour. Meanwhile, 13.5 cents per kilowatt-hour is being paid for wind power under the Green Energy Act. We should expect this price to drop during the FIT review that is scheduled to start up any day now.

    3. The FIT only pays if power is being produced. Since pretty much all of the projects are not online this means that new wind, solar, hydro, etc. isn’t costing us anything yet. What is costing us is the rebuilding of our grid infrastructure and old power generation that needs replacing whether we choose a dirty or green energy future. You may want to take a read through the Environmental Commissioner’s post regarding the cost of both renewables and conservation to the rate payer and where things are going $ .004 of the $ .13 per kwh we pay <a href="http:// (http://www.eco.on.ca/blog/2011/03/22/the-true-cost-of-renewable-energy-and-conservation/)” target=”_blank”> <a href="http://(http://www.eco.on.ca/blog/2011/03/22/the-true-cost-of-renewable-energy-and-conservation/)” target=”_blank”>(http://www.eco.on.ca/blog/2011/03/22/the-true-cost-of-renewable-energy-and-conservation/).

    The price for new generation is going to cost us. We should make sure that we understand the value associated with the costs. Re-industrialization, jobs, local economic development, cleaner air, reduced emissions + power at a rate better than most other forms of new generation seems pretty good. Within a portfolio of conservation and renewables and our older sources of power it seems fantastic.

    Regards, Kristopher

  4. Oat

    The increase in electricity prices is not solely because of solar and FIT. Investments in transmission stability (remember the 2003 blackout) account for roughly half of the energy cost increase.

    That Nuclear price hides the government subsidies, and fails to attach any price to nuclear waste disposal. Additionally, we can bring add smaller scale renewables to our grid much faster than any new nuclear capacity.

    I would respectfully argue that properly pricing electricity to encourage conservation, and moving away from dirtier sources of energy generation is sound planning.

  5. Pat Jilesen

    Ok. So now its 42 weeks later. The auditor general has stated that wind energy is a direct cause of increased electricity rates in Ontario. We also see that coal has been replaced by nuclear, not wind. We also see that wind power generation is unreliable, non-dispatchable and requires co2 emitting back-up generation as a result. We also see that Ontario had the chance to allow a private company, Bruce Power, build new, clean air nuclear, yet decided to let government(taxpayers) fund a new build instead!? Green energy jobs are fleeing Ontario each week, and soon many more businesses will leave due to high energy prices(projected to be the highest in N.A.) Time for a re-think, don't you think?

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  1. […] future which will give us and our children a much better quality of life. It will be phased out as Wind construction costs come down, and as the true costs of other types of electricity are recognized. […]

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