Enough is enough: Wind industry needs to go on offensive in 2013

windprotestersWhen Health Canada announced in July that it would study the relationship between wind turbine noise and health effects, the government said it was responding to questions from residents who live near wind farms.

“As always, our government is putting the health and safety of Canadians first,” read a Health Canada statement, which outlined the research approach it would take, while stating that the results would be published in 2014.

John Andrews, president of IPC Energy, a wind energy developer based in Mississauga, was surprised by the move.

The modern wind turbine has been in commercial use since the 1970s. Surely others, especially the Europeans, had more experience than a late-comer like Canada. If turbines were bad for us, wouldn’t the red flags have emerged in Germany and Denmark? Or are Danes and Germans genetically different from Canadians?

By the end of 2012, there was expected to be 280 gigawatts of wind capacity installed worldwide — equaling roughly 140,000 average-sized wind turbines. Even so, a comprehensive study released in early 2012 by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health concluded “there is insufficient evidence that the noise from wind turbines is directly causing health problems or disease.”

But that’s not what really bothered Andrews. After all, the more studies the merrier to prove that wind turbines are, in fact, as benign as your electric toothbrush, cell phone or SUV. What raised his ire was the fact that the federal government has yet to do a comprehensive study on the oil sands and its effects on human health.

In a letter to federal Health Minister Leona Aglukkag, Andrews asked a simple question: Why the double standard?

Aglukkaq’s response, in a letter dated Aug. 16, stated: “The provinces and territories have the designated authority for determining and mitigating potential health impacts within their jurisdictions for any resource development.

“Health Canada has not undertaken any studies as to the impacts to health from the oil sands developments, as these potential impacts fall within the jurisdiction of the province or territory in which the project receives approval.”

But wind is a natural resource, too. And electricity generation is provincial jurisdiction. Shouldn’t the same reasoning apply to the potential health impacts of wind turbines? Aglukkaq didn’t address this. Indeed, she left out any mention of “wind” in her response to Andrews.

It’s only fair to mention that wind energy isn’t without its problems. The turbines do make noise, becoming an annoyance to some if not properly located. There’s no question that some wind developers need to be more responsible.

Wind turbines do kill birds, but at about the same rate as nuclear power and far less than coal plants, buildings, communications towers and cats.

The wind farm construction process does temporarily kick up dirt on roads, like any infrastructure project.

The turbines don’t generate electricity on demand, but this is manageable with new wind forecasting technologies and when used in combination with demand-response, other forms of generation and smart grid tools, such as energy storage.

For some, they do spoil the view.

But this is a form of electricity generation that emits zero pollution and requires zero fuel. Shale gas extraction using hydraulic fracturing methods is contaminating drinking water in the U.S. northeast. Pollution from fossil-fuel power plants and vehicle tailpipes continue to impose a heavy burden on our healthcare system. Oil pipelines are springing leaks. Offshore oil rigs are running aground in sensitive Arctic waters. The Arctic is melting far faster than our earlier worst predictions. Coral reefs are dying off at an alarming rate. Biodiversity is rapidly dwindling.

There’s plenty to be concerned about in the world — both near and far — and for those of us inclined to speak out, there’s plenty to protest. Given the above, which is a mere sample of humanity’s reckless footprint, it’s perplexing that that a certain segment of the population chooses to treat the wind industry as its punching bag.

Busloads of anti-wind protesters routinely hijack municipal information sessions and council meetings, shouting down wind-industry officials and slinging profanities. The Power Workers’ Union continues to run advertisements that criticize wind and sugar-coat nuclear and coal power.

In July, one anti-wind protester allegedly pulled a shotgun on a London wind-farm worker who was sitting in his vehicle. It hardly made the news. Can you imagine if that happened to an oil sands or nuclear worker?

My own writing about wind issues has also been attacked, having twice been the subject of a complaint to the Ontario Press Council, which tossed out the matter both times.

The Environmental Review Tribunal has been inundated with appeals from wind-farm opponents, who claim turbines harm human health and that a moratorium should be placed on their development. The appeals typically go nowhere because of lack of evidence.

One opponent has gone so far as to argue that wind farms should be disallowed not because it will harm health, but because certain individuals believe wind turbines will make them sick.

By that standard, we should put a moratorium on . . . well, everything.

It’s because of all this that I believe the wind industry, which employs thousands of people in Canada and is an important and growing contributor to our economy, will and should start hitting back in 2013.

Enough is enough.

NOTE: And for those looking to debunk the claims of those against offshore wind, you may want to check out this excellent blog post by Mark Lynas.

Tyler Hamilton, author of Mad Like Tesla, writes weekly about green energy and clean technologies.

12 thoughts on “Enough is enough: Wind industry needs to go on offensive in 2013”

  1. Absolutely, the wind industry needs to go offensive, and the first target should be those pesky species at risk. There are 57 Bald Eagle nests in Ontario taking up valuable room that are needed for wind turbines. Thank goodness Florida based wind company Nextera and their trusty MNR sidekicks have decisively taken the the bull by the horns by removing the nest of a Bald Eagle that threatened a wind turbine. http://ontario-wind-resistance.org/2013/01/05/wind-turbine-company-nextera-mnr-destroy-bald-eagle-nest-habitat/
    Stomping out NIMBY behaviour in this manner will definately help ensure the success of the wind industry in Ontario, but we need to go much further and FINISH the job. Taking a page out of Nextera’s book I suggest that any NIMBY homeowner that complains about a wind turbine should have their home and their immediate family’s home bulldozed without compensation. This may sound harsh but we cannot afford to let “a certain segment of the population chooses to treat the wind industry as its punching bag.” Remember the ends justifies the means, and you can’t make an omelette without breaking some (Bald Eagle)eggs

  2. @Dan Wrightman.
    You are absolutely correct. It’s not enough that green projects are exempt from the endangered species act or that democratically elected local governments have had their powers unilaterally eliminated to fast-track FIT projects. And those pesky humans who complain about their health because of wind turbines hundreds of metres away, well, forget them too. They don’t count. We need to get more aggressive and start expropriating private land and put up more solar panels and larger windmills. We need to forget about democracy when it comes to FIT programs. The end goal is too important.

  3. Well put Dan! In fact, I’m really looking forward to the day that Southern Ontario has almost no birds or bats left in existence. Less bird poop to clean off my car. Less worrying about a bat getting caught in my hair when I’m outside at night. Good thing we don’t need those pesky bats to help keep the insect population under control. Wait…..

  4. Well said Tyler. I sense a touch of sarcasm. We dont need health studies for the oil sands, if Albertans are content tearing up FN land, poisoning their water, food sources, and any means of livelihood and when they come to our cities we excoriate them and throw them in jail. No prob. They deserve it. The only thing is that their arc of devastation is so vast that they now threaten other parts of the civilized world if not possibly tipping us all over the precipice. See here on this side of the country, we are not a one trick pony. We have not become so dependant on one resource or industry as to protect it to the hilt rejecting all forms of scientific inquiry that suggest that other options might seem more prudent. There is a reason we call them fossil fuels. Pretty soon Alberta is going to need to build a museum for itself because every indicator and statistic I have seen shows a pattern of growth for benign energy sources and decline for those that threaten us. Pipelines seem to be allowed to expropriate land and a pipeline accident will either ruin your land or blow it up.

  5. @KL
    The concept of “benign energy” is fallacious. Everything comes with a cost including so called green windmills. That was Dan’s point. That is my point. Birds and bats are dying and few environmentalists have spoken about the need to protect species. Rural inhabitants are suffering to produce power for urban dwellers. There is nothing benign about windmills. They are ugly. They are inefficient. They kill. Now the gov’t MNR is moving bald eagles to make room for them. Qui bono? Rather than all this focus on energy PRODUCTION, how about we discuss a solution to phantom power consumption over the next ten years? A goal of 50% reduction in phantom power consumption would eliminate the need for all future windmill development. BTW, Ontario already has excess energy and the excess energy is being subsidized by ON taxpayers and supplied to neighboring jurisdictions. Does that make sense? On another matter, statistically oil pipelines are the safest method to transport oil – that fossil fuel that makes plastics for medical devices, phones, computers, cars, etc., etc. By fighting the oil pipelines, rather than pushing for double hull pipelines or other technology improvement, so-called environmentalists are actually encouraging the use of oil tanker cars (railway) which are not as reliable and safe.

  6. @ Francesco – agreed about the need to reduce energy consumption, but in the end, we still have schools, hospitals, industry and our homes that need electricity. No argument either that we need fossil fuels for producing all the stuff we love – plastics, cars, clothes, medicine, fertilizers – the list is endless. We should not be burning them however – climate change impacts are affecting birds much more significantly than most other causes combined.

    And yes – wind turbines do kill birds – as you say – nothing is benign. but it is relative to something else that is what is needed as a basis for comparison. That cell phone you are using – it bounces from comm tower to comm tower until the signal finds its way to whomever you may be calling – have you checked out the peer reviewed literature on how many birds the towers kill? you may be surprised that the same regulators that are enforcing (and in some cases not enforcing) the species at risk act and migratory bird acts, are themselves killing those vary same species that they are trying to protect – all of the public radio and communication stations – they are in the same boat. The solution is an easy one too – switch from solid burning lights to blinking lights – maybe if the wind industry funded those changes, the net benefit to birds would be substantial. Throwing out half truths like yours above is half the problem – a little critical thinking never hurts….

  7. Anyone who supports this Bald Eagle nest removal is a phony environmentalist!
    There are only 57 Bald eagle nests in Southern Ontario. Why did one of them have to be removed to make room for a wind turbine? It certainly wasn’t about saving the environment. It’s all about the money folks and anyone who says different is either a fool or a liar.

  8. Good points. It is unfortunate that developers seem to be siting wind farms in contentious locations. I agree that Ontario wastes too much electricity and that wind farms are more inefficient due to more transmission loss due to their remote locations. It is also unfortunate that we are giving away electricity. This is due to poor planning and not doing proper study prior to executing these big ideas. I think we need more comprehensive power sharing agreements with all of our neighbours.
    The Ontario Clean Air Alliance has some compelling ideas such as importing power from Quebec, the OPA pays for every kWh saved that would status quo be consumed, and an agressive CHP and micro CHP strategy that makes businesses more competitive, productive and profitable.

  9. Lets have a real honest look at Big Wind in Ontario.
    The fact that it needed such draconian legislation from the McGuinty Liberals to make it happen was enough to make most teachers blush in shame considering the recent events surrounding Bill 115. I know, because during the leaders debate in Ingersoll, most teachers I talked with at their protest, were surprised at the removal of rights in the GEA. If wind turbines were such good news, such removal of municipal rights wouldn’t be required.
    As for Europe, the idea that this isn’t going on there is laughable and shows a pathetic level of inquiry. Germany is becoming a mess as 600,000 homes have had their hydro cut due to affordibility. The term “energy poverty” only came about recently as a result of this drive to alternative energy. Problems with human health have arisen recently as turbines have moved from being small 500kw , 30 metre high machines to 3mw monsters, 150m in height. Also, wildlife impacts are brought to light as the news that hundreds of thousands of bats are killed from turbines causing their lungs to explode as they get close to the passing blades. The bird carnage is just as common over in Europe as well.
    Finally, the case for turbines in Ontario has not , nor will ever stand up to a cost/ benefit analysis. Not one coal plant has been shut down as a result of any wind installation being put in place. In Aug 2006, Ont reached it’s peak demand ever of 27,005mw. We now have installed capacity, which is considered”green” of approximently 30,000mw not including wind or coal. Currently, we have typical demands of upwards of 24,000mw during the summer. Fact is, wind cannot obtain any serious level of a contribution to our supply mix. We simply don’t need it, and grid operators consider it as nuisance power.
    So why do we have it? Big Wind operates as any other big business. For those who decry the Big Oil companies in Alberta will be interested to know that some of them are operating turbine developments, hoovering up millions in subsidies in Ont. , likely to help finance operations in the oil sands. There’s no altruism here, no saving the planet, no performance reviews to question why these wind developments operate at 20% of their advertised rating,it’s all about the money.
    It’s interesting you bring up Mark Lynas. This is someone who for years hammered away at GM foods. Now, he seems to have done a 180 and has openly apologized for his previous position. His mea culpa on GM foods is to be commended. I would submit that he soon will do the same regarding wind turbines.

  10. Tyler, look on the bright side, at least you get lots of comments when your write positively about wind generation… :-)

    The fact is the anti wind people (AWP) are mostly people who “care more about looks than personallity”

    I live in an area where wind generators are going to be installed and have been visited by many of the AWP. They have been sold on all the “problems” and have little grasp of the big picture.

    The fact that I am the only person in the area with a small wind generator didn’t stop them from thinking I’d be against “industrial” wind generators…

    As for the birds and bats, the only dead ones I’ve ever had on my property were either killed by our cat or flew into our window. They seem to be smart enough to avoid a spinning blade.

    Oh, did I mention that the Darlington Nuclear station is the biggest employer in the area?

    Yes I’m a little jaded. Having lived in Germany (12 years ago) in a small town that has two large wind turbines, I’m just sick of all the BS surrounding this issue here. Let’s get on with it! We have serious issue to address in the next few decades and wind has to be part of the solution.

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