Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Pacific breezes


Big Island, Hawaii
Courtesy Hawaiian Electric Light Company

This is a guest blog by Roger Short

Imagine idyllic Pacific islands where the wind is consistent, the climate is wonderful, tourism is its biggest business and where both the stable government and the island's citizens are in favour of renewable energy, particularly wind power.

A pipe-dream you might say - but such a place exists today.

Are there turbines up and running and are there more planned? You betcha!
Will there be significant work on the grid to accommodate the renewables? You betcha!
Will the existing coal and heavy oil fuels be replaced over time? You've guessed it!
Are developers, government and citizens working together to take advantage of this opportunity? Right again!
Have tourist numbers, real estate values and public health suffered? No!

How would these islands compare with Southern Ontario?  Beauty is in the eye of the beholder but, to most, there is no contest.

And where is such an impossible dream, you may ask?

The Hawaiian Islands of course.

More details to follow.


Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Reader Beware!



This is a guest blog by Robert Knox

Go to the Ontario Wind Resistance web site, that is the former Wind Concerns Ontario web site. Scroll down to the bottom of the page. You will find a feed that appears to be connected to Ontario’s Independent Electricity System Operator’s (IESO) web site. The feed reads as follows, with the numbers changing hourly:
Total demand: 18250 MW (4:00 PM EST - Dec. 19, 2011) ** Total generation: 18978 MW (Dec. 19 - 15:00-16:00) ** Excess generation: 728 MW ** WIND: 1003 MW: 5.5% of demand, 5.3% of generation, 137.8% of excess generation
If you click on the header it will take you to a link to a web site “aweo.org-Industrial Wind Energy Opposition” which turns out to operated by an American wind opponent, Eric Rosenbloom.
The “feed” is made to look like part of the official IESO web site but it is not. “Deceit” you cry. “Liar! Liar! Pants on fire” you mutter.
You would be wrong.
All the information about demand and generation is correct including the level of electricity Ontario’s system generated between 3:00 and 4:00 PM on December 19, 2001.  The difference is that IESO doesn’t monitor wind generation as a portion of “excess” or “shortfalls”. It is irrelevant. The IESO only cares that the supply is there when Ontario’s consumers need it.
IESO balances the “[…] supply of and demand for electricity in Ontario and then directs its flow across the province's transmission lines.” It doesn’t matter the source of the electricity, only that the system is in balance. Of course, IESO cares passionately about “excesses” and “shortfalls” within the system.
So what’s going on?
Wind opponents, including Ontario Wind Resistance, Wind Concerns Ontario and aweo.org-Industrial Wind Energy Opposition want you to believe that wind generation is a problem, that it is not reducing carbon emissions, that is effectively waste.
They also want you to think that, somehow, wind creates the “excesses” and “shortfalls”, that they wouldn’t exist but for wind.
Of course, that isn’t true.
What is true is what this site said recently: electricity produced by wind turbines is helping to reduce carbon emissions from Ontario’s power system using a “fuel” that is totally renewable and costs nothing.
What’s wrong with that?
Nothing, but wind opponents don’t want you to know it.    

Monday, 19 December 2011

The health issue from Oz


Here's an interesting story from Australia. It comes to us from Ben Courtice at Yes to Renewable Energy. The original article ran in Adelaide Now.

  Oz and Canada have a lot of similarities and one of them is the issue of wind turbines.  This article explores the notion that claims of adverse health effects are not necessarily the root cause of people's resistance to wind farms.  It concludes by saying that a research project is warranted.

We agree.  Ontario has such a research project under way at the University of Waterloo School of Public Health.  It is headed by Dr. Bigelow and Dr. McColl; and includes a team of health professionals.  Unfortunately, the Chairman of Wind Concerns Ontario has gone on record saying that nobody should participate in the study.


Spotlight on wind farm health woes



THE Federal Government should fund a large research project to determine the impact of wind farms on health.
That's according to Nicoleta Raluca Dorobantu, a researcher at Adelaide's University College London.
While the negative health effects of wind farms are being cited as reasons to stop their development, there is no scientific basis for the claims and some evidence countering it, Ms Dorobantu says.
Ms Dorobantu is presenting her research in Adelaide today at the Royal Institution of Australia (RiAus).
She has examined the 1014 submissions into this year's Senate Inquiry into the Social and Economic Impacts of Wind Farms.
Ms Dorobantu found claims of adverse health consequences from wind farms were the most common reason for objections.
She said this argument had been confined largely to Australia, the UK and the U
Objections to wind farms operating for four decades in Europe had been focused mainly on impacts on property valuations, wildlife and landscape.
"Wind farms have been operating in Europe for a very long time  ...  I noticed that the main reasons for concern were their impact on property valuations, wildlife and the landscape," Mr Dorobantu said.
"The main issues of concern that I identified (in the Australian submissions) were actually related to the health concerns.
"This health issue was followed by procedural justice, so people were concerned about the way in which developers engaged with them over the lifetime of a project."
Ms Dorobantu said the health concerns had gained prominence just over the last couple of years, and were specific to anglo-saxon countries.
"In the rest of Europe, in Denmark, Sweden et cetera, the health concerns haven't been raised yet, even though the industry is maybe 40 years old," she said.
Ms Dorobantu said most of the concerns about health came from anecdotal evidence.
"There are some scientific peer-reviewed studies that actually contradict any direct link between wind turbines ... and the health effects on people living close by."
She said the government and industry should achieve a consensus on steps to scientifically research the alleged health impacts.
"I believe there should be a large, high impact research project to explore the issue and clarify all aspects related to this," she said.
Ms Dorobantu said there should be an investigation into groups opposing wind farm developments to ensure those objecting were impacted.
Her study also found people had concerns about the way wind farming companies communicated with communities on projects.
"There should be an investigation into that to see if all of these small opposing groups are actually genuine."
Ms Dorobantu is one of nine students from the inaugural University College London Masters of Science course who are presenting their research at the RiAus.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Who's who at WCO?





Well, we promised you a follow-up to our post regarding the flare-up during and after the Wind Concerns Ontario (WCO) Annual General Meeting (AGM).  There was obviously some miscommunication during and after the event.  We weren't privy to all the intrigue but it appears that some kind of schism occurred.  This is not unusual, of course, in volunteer organizations.

First of all, a post by Parker Gallant on the weekend of the AGM was mysteriously removed within hours of being posted.  His post was a blistering set of accusations against the Ontario Liberals.  I'd repeat them, but they might be part of a libel suit and so I don't want to be seen as promulgating libel.  Mr. Gallant is a member of the WCO Board and so the removal of his essay might be more about the schism than it might be about any legal challenges against WCO.  However, we'll have to wait until the next year to see if his essay re-appears on the promised new WCO website.

Secondly, the windconcerns.com website has been replaced by Ontario Wind Resistance (OWR).  All references to WCO seem to have been scrubbed.  Frankly, though, it's a great re-branding and very much in keeping with the tone of the original website.  It'll be interesting to see how the two websites evolve.




Saturday, 17 December 2011

Does wind displace carbon dioxide emissions?








Does wind displace CO2 in the electrical power system?  Simple question.

On the surface, here's the simple answer:

Since electricity can't easily be stored, whenever wind blows (or the sun shines on solar panels or snow-melt cascades through a run-of-river hydro generator) then some other generating source must be throttled back.  In Ontario, it's the job of the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) to issue commands to various generators to maintain that balance.  It's called dispatch.

Normally, the IESO will throttle back the generator with the highest variable price (called the marginal generator).  It's critical to understand that the IESO uses the variable price, not the full price that would include capital costs.  For renewable energy, that price is based on the generator's variable cost which is essentially zero in the short run.  For fossil fuel generators, that price is based on fuel value.  

Therefore, when a renewable energy generator ramps up, a fossil fuel generator ramps down.  So, when wind goes up, coal or gas use goes down.  After that, it's simple math to figure out the CO2 impact.  And that's where you see claims that a KWh of wind displaces x tonnes of CO2.  That's also why x is different for every jurisdiction.  Each jurisdiction has a different coal/gas mix.

Now it gets slightly more complicated:

What is being displaced, coal or gas?  If the IESO is optimizing the system purely on price to the consumer, the fuel most frequently displaced (at least historically) is gas because its fuel cost has been higher than coal.  It's a bit of a toss-up right now.  However, in Ontario, coal versus gas is less relevant because the government has intervened in a couple of ways.

1. In 2009, it placed a coal price adder on power generated from coal.  The government owns OPG, so this was simple to do.  The coal price adder was simply a form of carbon tax.  The concept worked for awhile until the recession knocked demand down and the adder became an inadequate deterrent for OPG to not burn coal.
2. It then placed a CO2 tonnage limit on OPG with the limit dropping every year.  At some point that declining tonnage limit was simply translated into a generator unit shutdown schedule.

So, clearly, coal was being taken out of the system.  The number of TWh (a TWh is 1,000 GWh or 1,000,000 MWh) of energy from coal went from 23.2 TWh in 2008 to 12.6 TWh in 2010. [source: IESO]. It was replaced by new sources of renewable energy (predominantly wind at 2.8 Twh).  Plus natural gas and imported hydro for the times when the wind doesn't blow.  OPA contracted for a few 1000 MW's of natural gas generation and Hydro One built a 1100 MW tie-line to Hydro Quebec to accomplish this.

Simple math would suggest that the reduction of energy supplied from coal would exactly match the increase in energy derived from wind plus natural gas plus imported hydro.  Not quite.

Now it gets complicated:
If you want to skip the details, just go to the end of this section to see what the experts say.  Otherwise, here we go.
Claims have been made by many anti-wind or pro-fossil fuel advocates that all the theoretical displacement of CO2 is lost by the need to keep backup fossil fuel generators running.  The argument typically goes like this:

1. Assume a 100 MW wind farm.
2. That wind farm will need a 100 MW gas turbine to back it up.
3. That gas turbine will cycle up and down in an inverse relationship with wind.
4. In doing so, it is typically running at a fraction of full capacity, where its CO2 output per kWh goes through the roof.
5. In some cases, at low wind speeds, wind actually causes a net increase in CO2 output.

Let's take this apart, line by line.

1. You don't have a 100 MW wind farm.  You have a network of wind farms, rated in total at closer to 1500 MW, connected to an electricity system.

2. The 1500 MW wind network will need backup for the summer peak when wind is at its seasonal low.  Solar will be at its seasonal high, though, so as solar expands, less backup is required.  And if tie-lines to Quebec are strengthened, then even less backup is required.  However, some gas capacity will likely be needed, especially since Pickering nuclear capacity starts coming off line in about 5 years.

3. The electricity system already has enough spinning reserve to cover the largest contingency in the system.  In Ontario, that's the loss of a Darlington unit - roughly 900MW.  Depending on the time of day and week, that reserve could be Ontario hydro-electric (Ontario actually has quite a bit of stored water), Ontario gas, Quebec hydro-electric via the tie-line; or gas turbines.  Any variations in wind plant output will be handled by this and other reserves.  The IESO has done this sort of balancing for years and they're very good at it.  Renewable energy increases the variability somewhat, but it's manageable.  After all, today, the variability in the output of wind is less than the variability in demand that occurs hour-to-hour during the day.

4. The only way that this concept comes off the rails is if the backup is unresponsive (this is called a low ramp rate).  Hydro-electric is very responsive but there may be times when it's not available and thermal generation is required.  Historically, only peaking gas turbines had that kind of ramp rate (and they were inefficient) but modern combined cycle gas turbines provide the necessary CO2 efficiency and high ramp rates.  Tom Adams, the energy watchdog, used to worry about gas turbine ramp rates but he's revised his thinking (he's still against wind turbines, I believe, but he's changed the basis of his argument).

5. I think that I've proven that item 5 is impossible.  If one wants further proof, though, just look at the hourly generation factors for gas turbines - at the unit level.  You have to get beyond the IESO data and look at individual turbines.  For example, Greenfield GS has a rating of 1005.0 MW, but it is actually composed of 3 gas turbines plus a steam turbine (the complex is called a combined cycle gas turbine, or CCGT).  If you look at the output per turbine over the course of the day, you'll see that they typically come on at over 70% of each turbine rating, sometimes in sequence and sometimes all together.  This is because the operators don't want to run at inefficient levels and because the IESO is able to dispatch it's turbine fleet as discrete units.  In other words, they don't say "OK, everyone run at 30% output".  Instead they say, "OK, you three run full out, you seven standby".

So, what's the answer?

If this explanation isn't  sufficient, maybe the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) can help. The IEEE has collected numerous studies by utilities around the world and they all point to the same conclusion.  In an article  in the Power Engineering Society Journal, they demonstrate that only 4% of CO2 displacement is lost by a need for backup. 

If you want to listen to more experts from Ontario's power system, go to Glen Estill's wonderful blog.


Friday, 16 December 2011

Would you know FUD when you see it?





Collingwood Enterprise Bulletin
December 14, 2011
Letter to the Editor by Robert Knox

Click here for the letter.


On December 2, 2011 you published a colourful and impressionistic letter from Lorrie Gillis of Flesherton (What’s it Like). According to Ms. Gillis, people who find themselves living near wind turbines in rural Ontario are suffering terribly and are forced leave their homes.

Ms. Gillis is a wind opponent. She wants your readers to be afraid of wind turbines, uncertain about them and their impact on people and to doubt the government’s renewable energy policies and its commitment to the well-being of people in rural Ontario.

Ms. Gillis’s is using a standard propaganda tactic, known as FUD, to spread fear, uncertainty, and doubt among your readers.

Her letter could be true but its not. It is just a story.

There is no evidence that wind turbines have any serious impact on people’s health. A recent Environmental Review Tribunal came to this conclusion based on a review of current evidence.

There are upwards of 3000 people living within 2 kilometres of Ontario’s 700 to 800 operating wind turbines without any problem. The same is true for thousands in other countries.

The fact is there is no scientific, medical, or technical evidence to support Ms. Gillis’s story.

Your readers should not believe me any more than they should accept Ms. Gillis letter at face value.

They should make their own judgement based on the reality of the wind turbines that are producing renewable energy for us now with positive impacts on the communities where they are located.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Who's who in the WCO zoo?




Wind Concerns Ontario seems to have concerns about its webmaster.  As of December 12, 2011 the site has been shut down.  That's actually too bad, because we always admired its timeliness, its look and its comprehensive information (albeit from the dark side of the force).  I believe that it was run by Maureen Anderson and she deserves credit for the dedicated work.

Initially, this message was posted:

********

Site will no longer be updated


Due to a threat of legal action, this site will no longer be updated.  For more info, please contact: 
wco-board@googlegroups.com


*********

Now, this message is posted on the link:

********

Site will be undergoing some changes



This website will be shut down as of December 15, 2011 for retooling.  It will open up in the New Year under the domain http://ontario-wind-resistance.org 
Bookmark the new address and I hope to see you then!

**********

Today, John Spears posted this item in The Star:

The Star
December 13, 2011
John Spears

The website of Wind Concerns Ontario, which lobbies against wind energy, has suspended operations because of mysterious legal issues.
The website has posted an enigmatic note stating: “Due to a threat of legal action, this site will no longer be updated.”

But Jane Wilson, the president of Wind Concerns, says there are no imminent legal threats hanging over the organization.
Wilson said in an interview that the website is run by a volunteer, who may have misunderstood some discussion at the recent Wind Concerns annual meeting.
Wind Concerns had been considering a more professional approach for its website in any case, she said.
“We’ll be going off air for a brief, brief time while we get a new platform going,” she said.
Wilson said she hasn’t spoken to the volunteer who runs the website: “I don’t even have her phone number.”
“I don’t know why she put on ‘the threat of legal action,’ because no one’s suing us,” Wilson said. “We’re not having any problems that way.”
The website volunteer had not attended the annual meeting, and had some questions about financial matters, Wilson said.
“It was suggested to her that questions about what had gone on at the annual general meeting was not something that should be on the website,” Wilson said.
“It was suggested that rather than making these questions more dramatic than they needed to be, she could discuss it with someone else.”
Wilson said the questions involved the cost of certain items, but wouldn’t elaborate.


*********

Searching for a possible reason for the mysterious and rapid shutdown, we took a look at earlier postings.  Sure enough, there were two photos taken at the WCO AGM posted on Saturday, the day of the AGM, practically in real time.  Based on the embedded data, they were taken on someone's Blackberry.  The photos are shown here:



If you click on the photos, you can open them in your browser for a closer look.  I can identify four individuals, I believe.  How many can you identify?

What probably caused the most furour, though, was the Agenda slide that included an item that appears to say:

Emergen[cy] ..... to the agenda
(Eric G[illespie]

My interpretations are in [ ].

Mr. Gillespie has been involved with WCO in a legal capacity and so my interpretation is that they were going to talk about some form of legal emergency - pure speculation, of course.

And, if the webmaster is a volunteer, then does that mean that Ms. Wilson and others are something other than volunteers?  

Inquiring minds want to know.  More to follow.







Sunday, 11 December 2011

Melancthon council seeks cap on wind turbines



This sounds like a pretty sensible idea.  We're assuming that Council is looking at an average density over the entire municipality, as opposed to one turbine per a specific square mile. Melancthon has approximately 120 square miles of land within its borders.  Using the suggested rule, Melancthon would be able to restrict the number of turbines to 120.  As the article highlights, they are currently host to 111 turbines with the possibility of a further 60.
We wonder what the landowners associated with those proposed turbines think about the idea?  The population of Melancthon is approximately 3000.

Orangeville Banner
December 07, 2011
Bill Tremblay

How many turbines are too many for a municipality? That’s the question Melancthon council hopes the province will some day answer.
The township’s council recently approved a resolution asking the province to set a limit to the number of industrial wind turbines within a municipality.
“Somewhere, somehow, there has to be a system that says enough is enough,” Mayor Bill Hill said. “Hopefully, it opens a dialogue door.”
In search of support for the cap, Melancthon forwarded the resolution to its fellow Dufferin County municipalities, Grey County, the Inter-Municipal Turbine Working Group, as well as the ministers of energy, environment, municipal affairs and housing, agriculture, and Premier Dalton McGuinty.  Mulmur and the township of Ashfield-Colborne-Wawanosh have supported the resolution.
Hill added council would seek an audience with provincial ministers at a conference this February.
“We’re trying to get some control back, or input back into this process,” Hill said. “We’ve tried many different things that haven’t worked.”
Melancthon is currently home to 111 turbines and as many as 60 more windmills may be constructed within the municipality.
“We’ve done our bit. Somewhere along the line there has to be some way we can say enough is enough,” Hill said.
The resolution asks for the cap to be based on a municipality’s size and create a one turbine per 2.5 sq. km restriction.
“It’s not really scientific, it’s based on a turbine per square mile,” Deputy Mayor Darren White said. “We tried to look at not limited too much area and not preventing too much future development.”
Industrial turbines require a setback of at least 550 metres. White said the turbines, combined with the setback, are limiting the opportunity for new development.
“If you look at an aerial map we are substantially covered already,” White said. “Every community needs to be able to grow.”
Hill added he would like to see the resolution included in the province’s review of the Feed-in Tariff program (FIT) that is currently underway.
The Ministry of Energy has issued a call to Ontarians to share their thoughts on the program.
Ministry of Energy spokesperson Paul Gerard said the FIT review would give municipalities’ opportunity to help shape the future of renewable energy in the province.
“The FIT review will consider local consultations,” Gerard said in an email. “The review will build on the success of the program and continue to ensure long-term sustainability, transparency and predictability for industry and investors.”
White, however, believes the province is not listening to municipalities’ concerns.
“They are not willing to talk about a cap or any planning authority for the townships whatsoever,” he said.
“I’m willing to sit down and talk to them and listen to their logic and they can listen to my logic. Hopefully, we can work from there.”

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Carbon emissions - biggest jump ever recorded

We try to keep the content on this blog targeted on wind issues - and specifically on wind issues in the Ontario Highlands.  However, our belief in wind energy is based on a belief that the world is facing a carbon crisis.  Every once in awhile, we run across a jaw-dropper that reminds us why we went down this road.

Today was one of those days.

Thanks to Climate Progress by Joe Romm for his story, and for the Global Carbon Project for the underlying data and analysis, and the NY Times for interpreting the data.  It's the NY Times story that is repeated below.





Click on the image above for a larger image

December 4, 2011

Carbon Emissions Show Biggest Jump Ever Recorded




Global emissions of carbon dioxide from fossil-fuel burning jumped by the largest amount on record last year, upending the notion that the brief decline during the recession might persist through the recovery.
Emissions rose 5.9 percent in 2010, according to an analysis released Sunday by the Global Carbon Project, an international collaboration of scientists tracking the numbers. Scientists with the group said the increase, a half-billion extra tons of carbon pumped into the air, was almost certainly the largest absolute jump in any year since the Industrial Revolution, and the largest percentage increase since 2003.
The increase solidified a trend of ever-rising emissions that scientists fear will make it difficult, if not impossible, to forestall severe climate change in coming decades.
The researchers said the high growth rate reflected a bounce-back from the 1.4 percent drop in emissions in 2009, the year the recession had its biggest impact.
They do not expect the extraordinary growth to persist, but do expect emissions to return to something closer to the 3 percent yearly growth of the last decade, still a worrisome figure that signifies little progress in limiting greenhouse gases. The growth rate in the 1990s was closer to 1 percent yearly.
The combustion of coal represented more than half of the growth in emissions, the report found.
In the United States, emissions dropped by a remarkable 7 percent in the recession year of 2009, but rose by just over 4 percent last year, the new analysis shows. This country is the world’s second-largest emitter of greenhouse gases, pumping 1.5 billion tons of carbon into the atmosphere last year.
The United States was surpassed several years ago by China, where emissions grew 10.4 percent in 2010, with that country injecting 2.2 billion tons of carbon into the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide emissions are usually measured by the weight of carbon they contain.
The new figures come as delegates from 191 countries meet in Durban, South Africa, for yet another negotiating session in a global control effort that has been going on, with minimal success, for the better part of two decades.
“Each year that emissions go up, there’s another year of negotiations, another year of indecision,” said Glen P. Peters, a researcher at the Center for International Climate and Environmental Research in Oslo and a leader of the group that produced the new analysis. “There’s no evidence that this trajectory we’ve been following the last 10 years is going to change.”
Scientists say the rapid growth of emissions is warming the Earth, threatening the ecology and putting human welfare at long-term risk. But their increasingly urgent pleas that society find a way to limit emissions have met sharp political resistance in many countries, including the United States, because doing so would entail higher energy costs.
The new figures show a continuation of a trend in which developing countries, including China and India, have surpassed the wealthy countries in their overall greenhouse emissions. In 2010, the combustion of fossil fuels and the production of cement sent more than nine billion tons of carbon into the atmosphere, the new analysis found, with 57 percent of that coming from developing countries.
Emissions per person, though, are still sharply higher in the wealthy countries, and those countries have been emitting greenhouse gases far longer, so they account for the bulk of the excess gases in the atmosphere. The level of carbon dioxide, the main such gas, has increased 40 percent since the Industrial Revolution.
On the surface, the figures of recent years suggest that wealthy countries have made headway in stabilizing their emissions. But Dr. Peters pointed out that in a sense, the rich countries have simply exported some of them.
The fast rise in developing countries has been caused to a large extent by the growth of energy-intensive manufacturing industries that make goods that rich countries import. “All that has changed is the location in which the emissions are being produced,” Dr. Peters said.
Many countries, as part of their response to the economic crisis, invested billions in programs designed to make their energy systems greener. While it is possible those will pay long-term dividends, the new numbers suggest they have had little effect so far.
The financial crisis “was an opportunity to move the global economy away from a high-emissions trajectory,” said a scientific paper about the new figures, released online on Sunday by the journal Nature Climate Change. “Our results provide no indication of this happening.”



Friday, 9 December 2011

Saskatoon says no health effects from wind turbines



I found this story interesting, especially because it includes direct quotes from Carmen Krogh, member of The Society for Wind Vigilence, a group closely affiliated with Wind Concerns Ontario.  I've underlined Ms. Krogh's comments.

Saskatoon wind turbine project sparks debate over possible health effects;
Canadian Press - Dec 08, 2011
SASKATOON - Saskatoon Light and Power has released reports by doctors and other experts saying there are no health effects expected with the Tall WindTurbineProject.
There have been public concerns expressed about windturbine low frequency sound, or infrasound, and shadow flicker, the visual effect caused by sunlight passing through windturbines.
Company spokesman Kevin Hudson says concerns raised in other parts of the world over windturbines and health are caused by sites with inadequate setback from residences.
But he says at a distance of 300 metres, the sound is no longer perceptible.
He says at the Tall Wind site, the nearest residences are half a kilometre away.
Saskatoon Light and Power admits that it will take nine years for the Tall WindTurbineProject to pay itself off, but says they are projecting $5 million profit on the following 11 years.
The Saskatoon WindTurbine Coalition held a public information meeting earlier this week, bringing in about 100 people.
Researcher Carmen Krogh spoke on the negative health impacts of windturbines.
Krogh classified most of the symptoms under what she called "annoyance," which she says results in stress and sleep problems, among other issues.
There's a sensation that people have a hard time describing, which is an internal vibration or pulsing in the body or different organs," said Krogh.
Krogh admitted that the evidence found in studies "didn't demonstrate a direct link" and acknowledged the scientific view that the symptoms are psychological.
"But that doesn't matter; these are still harmful symptoms," she added.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Did Ontario AG rely on discredited Exxon-funded study?




Adam Scott
Environmental Defence

I was going to write about this, but Adam did a much better job.  Adam rightfully says that the AG's report accords the oil industry reports a credibility that was manifestly undeserved.  By doing so, the report seriously diminishes the AG's credibility - at least on this issue.

Environmental Defence
December 05, 2011
Adam Scott

Here's the post.


We are not in the habit of criticizing the hard-working Ontario Auditor General (AG), but were disturbed today to see his apparent reliance on a series of widely discredited oil industry-backed reports attacking the value of "green jobs". 
 
Page 118 of the Ontario AG's 2011 Annual Report, released today, states that:
A 2009 study conducted in Spain found that for each job created through renewable energy programs, about two jobs were lost in other sectors of the economy. 
 
While not properly referenced, it would appear the AG's report is referring to the infamous "Spanish Jobs Study" from 2009.  The study was created by a libertarian think tank tied to the American Enterprise Institute (AEI). The AEI is partly funded by oil companies Exxon Mobil and the Koch Industries Inc – major funders of climate change denial campaigns worldwide.
 
The "Spanish Jobs Study" report didn’t actually show that any jobs were lost, but simply implied this through a highly discredited methodology. The U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory explains the false methodology here. The study has also been called into question by the Spanish Government itself, and the Wall Street Journal. The study’s author, Gabriel Calzada, was a keynote speaker at the Heartland Institute’s climate change denial conference in 2009.  
 
The Auditor General also makes reference to two other nearly identical ‘zombie studies’ using the same flawed methodology for Denmark, and the UK. Not one of these reports actually shows any evidence of real job loss. 
 
These are reports mostly used by right-wing republicans and Fox news in the U.S. to discredit renewable energy policies and confuse the public. Their unfortunate inclusion in the Ontario AG's report accords them a credibility that is manifestly undeserved.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Bill 10, the Wind Turbine Abolition Act



The Intellingencer



Bill 10, the Local Municipality Democracy Act, was introduced today as a private members bill by MPP Todd Smith of Prince Edward Hastings.  It might as well have been called the Wind Turbine Abolition Act.  

If you didn't know what the Bill was about, you might think that it was bringing democracy to those poor, small municipalities governed by dictatorial regimes or government appointees.  In fact, it's a Bill that was totally focussed on two or three clauses in the Green Energy Act that govern the control of wind turbines and other renewable energy sources.  The Bill was designed to firmly give that control to the municipalities, specifically those NIMBY municipalities that don't want wind turbines.  Municipalities like Prince Edward Hastings, home to weekenders from Toronto and Ottawa - and MPP Todd Smith. 

John Laforet, former President of Wind Concerns Ontario, posted a blog on the Huffington Post that seemed to read more like a personal biography or CV than a manifesto.  And, why is Mr. Laforet the former President?  On the day before the election he was the President.  A few days later, he wasn't.

Here's an extraction from that blog:

The Green Energy Act has done a lot of damage to communities in rural Ontario. Neighbours aren't speaking, people are getting sick, citizens have been compelled to go to great lengths to resist the fundamentally anti-democratic approach. As a consequence, your government has only been able to approve 12 wind turbines under the regulations that the Green Energy Act brought in over two years ago.
This paragraph is internally inconsistent.  Laforet blames the Green Energy Act for all sorts of damages (e.g. discord, sickness and civil disobedience).  And yet he says that this has come from 12 wind turbines?
  
Sounds to me like symptoms of self-induced hysteria, not turbines.

If you want an in-depth description of how the Green Energy Act is actually stronger than the patchwork collection of municipal bylaws that preceded it, read this document from the Ontario Sustainable Energy Association.

Municipalities under the Green Energy and Green Economy Act (GEGEA) do have significant powers. 
In fact with only 1MW of wind constructed since the Act was passed, those examining the facts should recognize that
large wind developments now in operation were developed under the old Planning Act.

The truth is that the province-wide Renewable Energy Approvals (REA) process is open and transparent, requiring a more rigorous and cohesive process than the red tape heavy patchwork approach of the past.
Unfortunately a few municipalities appear to be hiding behind the province politically, rather than using the
tools and powers provided by the GEGEA.
John Laforet closes his blog by saying:

Tens of thousands of rural Ontarians will be watching on Thursday, I hope for everyone's sake they will see their Premier standing in support of local democracy.
Apparently, there weren't too many people watching, even from MPP Todd Smith's party.  

The Bill was defeated 45-32.  

I don't have the underlying vote count by party but here was the seat count after the election:

Liberal 53
PC 37
NDP 17

Monday, 28 November 2011

Why does (only part of) the CBC hate wind? Conclusion






It's time to wrap up this series with some overall conclusions.  But first, here's a reminder of how this series started.  From September 21 to October 1, Dave Seglins and John Nicol authored the following stories (followed by two on-line polls):

2011 September 21: Wind farm health risks claimed in $1.5 M suit 
2011 September 22: Should there be stricter limits on wind turbines in rural areas? (online poll)
2011 September 22: Ont. wind farm health risks downplayed: documents
2011 October 1: Ontario wind power bringing down property values
2011 October 1: Would you live near wind turbines? (online poll)
2011 October 4: Ontario wind power faces test over property values

To the best of my knowledge, Seglins and Nicol have not covered the wind issue since the election.

Inquiring minds want to know .....

So, why did these reporters cover the story the way they did?  If I was the CBC Ombudsman, I'd ask these questions:

1. How did the story come to you?  

Based on how the stories were written, the interviewees and underlying evidence seemed to have been somewhat pre-packaged.  In other words, the tipster probably sat down with the reporters and laid out their case, offering documents and recommended interviews.

What is unknown is whether the tip came in "over-the-transom" or whether it was introduced by someone the reporters knew.  Beth Harrington is the Communications Director of Wind Concerns Ontario (WCO) and is, or was, also on the Board of the Alliance to Protect Prince Edward County.  She was also a CBC reporter in the 1990's when Seglins was starting his career.  Did Beth Harrington have any influence in introducing the tipster?

2. Why did you print the stories when you did?  

This story cycle seemed to have a well defined beginning and end, and the cycle appeared to synchronize with the Ontario provincial election on October 6.  It also appears that there was a concerted effort to get the story published during the campaign since it was packed into a time frame of less than month leading up to the election.

Some of the documentary evidence was a few months old and had already been published on a WCO website.  

Then, following the election, there was no follow-up reporting on the issues.

3.  Do you have any views on wind turbines that might have entered the story?  

I have absolutely no evidence that this might be the case and I don't believe that either reporter makes a habit of reporting on wind issues.  However, I'm continually amazed that when you dig below the outer skin of a wind story you find someone with a cottage or farm near a proposed wind farm.  I have well over a dozen examples, but that's a blog entry for a different day   So, if I was the ombudsman, I'd ask "Do you or your family have a residence near a proposed wind farm?"

4. Why didn't you dig deeper, cover both sides better?

I haven't analysed the number of words for and against wind in these stories, but they are decidedly anti-wind.  There were the typical calls to the usual suspects (CanWEA, Ministry of the Environment, developers' PR departments) but there could have been so much more.  It's easy enough to find a host landowner.  Pick a turbine and look around.

CBC isn't all that bad
I don't want to leave the impression that I believe that all of CBC is bad.  I listen to and watch CBC most of the time.  I've even donated to groups fighting to keep it alive.  And there are other areas of CBC that have been very pro-wind over the years:

Bob McDonald, host of Quirks and Quarks, first Canadian to be included in Sigma Xi, the most prestigious research society in the US and Officer of the Order of Canada, said this about wind turbines:

The point is this. We Canadians are among the worst energy hogs and highest emitters
of greenhouse gasses on the planet. When a clean alternative comes along, arguing
against it because it looks ugly is like standing on the tilted deck of the Titanic,
complaining about the colour of the lifeboats. Let’s get on with it.

George Stroumboulopoulos, while host of The Hour with George Stroumboulopoulos, provided leadership for One Million Acts of Green and celebrated the wind farm in the Ontario Highlands that is now featured in the Seglins/Nicols critique.


video


David Suzuki, founder of Quirks and Quarks, host of The Nature of Things, ...   Enough said.

However, for some reason Seglins and Nicol missed the boat on this one.

They're not the only media outlet to do the same.  The National Post is not only anti-wind but also proud climate change deniers.  The QMI Agency and the Sun Media network regularly write slanted coverage.  These, however, appear to be errors of commission.  

Then there are the other media channels that get caught up in the controversy and don't do a thorough job - the errors of omission.  I'll put these two reporters in that camp.



Root causes
So, what's the root cause of these errors?  Let's put aside the egregious errors of commission.  They arise from blind ideology, ignorance, denial and even outright support from wind's natural enemies - coal and nuclear power. 

Lets focus on the sources of the errors of omission.  They're harder to discern.

First, the media can be susceptible to tipsters who bring them their stories.  In this case, it was an easy story.  The documents had been mined by someone under a Freedom of Information request, posted on a website and then pointed out to the reporters.  It was probably backed up by a schedule to introduce reporters to real-life "victims".  Easy sound clips and web postings.

Second, wind is a topical issue.  For some reason, some people become quite polarized about wind turbines, especially when the turbines approach within a few kilometres of their bucolic life style .  Even though poll after poll reveals that over 70% of people support wind installations, even in their community, a reporter can always be guaranteed of a good response if they bring up the wind issue.  Talk radio thrives on it as do regional newspapers with their Letters to the Editor.  Editors, publishers and advertisers love it.  One local newspaper even dedicated an entire section to the issue after trolling for advertisers.

Third, is the fact that reporters have less resources than previously to truly investigate an issue and maybe even less motivation to do so.  I don't have much insight into the life of a reporter but those  that I've met are concerned about their ability to truly investigate a story.  Maybe it's a consequence of the internet stealing ad revenue from the traditional media.

Finally, is the question of consequences.  These reporters published a successful story if you measure it by the the numbers of comments - well over a thousand.  It was also successful for the tipster based on the results of the on-line poll results.  It may also have successful for the anti-wind candidates in the election.  They almost won the election.  

Now then, what are the consequences for the tipsters, reporters and candidates when the truth from this series of blogs is revealed?  Up until now, absolutely nothing.

For, as Winston Churchill once said:

" A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on."

So, how do we change that?