Wind Concerns Ontario is a province-wide advocacy organization whose mission is to provide information on the potential impact of industrial-scale wind power generation on the economy, human health, and the natural environment.
Received by email today, a response to our letter of June 19.:
Thank you for taking the time to share your kind words of congratulation. It is an honour and a privilege to continue serving this great province as Premier.
I have noted your comments on behalf of Wind Concerns Ontario and have shared a copy of your correspondence with my colleague the Honourable Glen Murray, Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, for his information.
My colleagues and I are committed to building a brighter future for all the people of Ontario. We understand that being fiscally responsible is fundamental to our future, and that building a fair and inclusive society is at the heart of a more prosperous Ontario. These are the principles that will guide us as we work with you, and all our partners, to make Ontario a better place to live, work and raise a family.
When it comes to building opportunity for the people of Ontario and securing our province’s future and well-being, my colleagues and I want to hear everyone’s voice and listen to everyone’s input. That is why I am grateful for your ideas and suggestions.
Thank you again for your kind words. Please accept my best wishes.
Toronto’s Exhibition Place Turbine Part 2: investment in a green future or financial sinkhole?
In Part 1, Parker Gallant revealed that the mythology around the iconic Toronto waterfront wind turbine doesn’t hold up to scrutiny. Yet, the venture was presented as a way to invest for a green energy future. Parker Gallant dives into the numbers and comes up with a different truth.
How well did Toronto Hydro Energy Services Inc. or THESI management perform in choosing the Exhibition Place turbine as an investment? It’s in the best interests of both ratepayers and taxpayers in Toronto to know! I attempted to review the logic behind THESI’s acquisition to see if it made economic sense. In 2011, I emailed several questions to CEO and President, Anthony Haines, copying several Toronto politicians—I was ignored.
Next, I used the FOI (freedom of information) process; the response to my application was a request for hundreds of dollars to answer these questions.
1. How much is THESI paying per kWh?
2. How much was THESI’s investment in WindShare?
3. What is the current depreciated value?
4. How many kWh of power has WindShare delivered?
After exchanges with THESI’s Executive Vice President, Paul Sommerville (formerly with the Ontario Energy Board) and getting the runaround I gave up and went to the Ontario Privacy Commissioner to seek mediation. This was ultimately successful and I finally received the answers I sought but the information came via major Bay Street law firm Borden Ladner Gervais, not from Mr. Sommerville. “Transparency” is apparently not a watchword for THESI’s executive—they will run up legal bills to avoid directly answering pertinent questions that may prove embarrassing!
The answers to the four questions were:
1. $111.30 per MWh (or 11 cents per kWh)
2. $1.1 million
3. Depreciated to $350,816.26 as of December 31, 2013
4. Approximately 9,000 MWh.
Not as advertised
On the last question, I assume that the power delivered was to the December 31st, 2013 date so the claim is that the last six years of operation produced more power (annually on average) than was delivered during the initial five years of operation. I suspect this was/is an exaggeration but in any event, the turbine either operated at 15.6% of capacity @ 600 kw or 14.1% @ 660 kW or 12.4% @ 750 kw—nothing close to the original claims.
Looking further at the answer to payment per MWh, the 9,000 MWh delivered over the 11 years would have generated $1,001,700 or approximately $91K annually. That would barely cover the depreciation (assuming a 20-year life of the turbine) and leave nothing for maintenance or interest, let alone the ability to pay a dividend to the investors. As well, the cost to THESI is fixed at 11.13 cents per kWh without considering the negative return on their investment—that would put the price per kWh well over 20 cents.
Trekking into TREC So exactly how was THESI management convinced that the Exhibition Place wind turbine was a worthwhile investment? From all appearances THESI were never in it for the money as a presentation by Brian Iler on March 20, 2013 to the Co-op Zone Legal Network, described WindShare as follows:
“II. Example 1: WindShare Financing
Early grants from Trillium Foundation
Partnership with Toronto Hydro: TREC did the work, TH paid invoice for 50% @ fmv. Staff were paid far less than fmv, so these first two elements were substantial financial resources.
Offering to members ~$800K – Preference shares with a variable dividend; member shares were also sold for a nominal amount to give membership rights.”
Iler noted that TREC (Toronto Renewable Energy Co-op) incubates renewable energy co-ops. This is about “community power. WindShare was not a financial success.” (My emphasis)
From all appearances “community power” in the mind of Brian Iler and those involved in TREC is all about securing taxpayer and ratepayer funds which truly involves the community—the community just didn’t have a choice. The Offering Statement for the original shares in WindShare contains interesting information confirming the receipt of a Government of Canada forgiveable loan of $150K and a $495K repayable loan from TAF (Toronto Atmospheric Fund) a Toronto taxpayer-owned foundation. TREC has also received considerable grant monies from the Trillium Foundation (well over $200K), TAF (over $400K), Toronto Hydro (compensation for TREC staff), and an unnamed “Foundation” via the share offerings in WindShare who purchased shares on behalf of the Daily Bread Food Bank and another charity.
The Offering Statement carried some interesting forecasts on revenue and profit which have not come to pass despite all the taxpayer/ratepayers funds thrown at TREC for the project. When TREC officers were out selling the shares they used a PowerPoint presentation which on page 9 offered these reasons to invest in WindShares: “1. Earn a financial return, 2. Earn a good financial return and 3. Earn a good financial return for many many years”! The presentation also had a disclaimer warning investors!
TREC is still trying to launch a 20-MW wind turbine development referred to as LakeWind near Kincardine and again they lie about the number of homes that could be powered. The claim is 3,000— that would require the turbines to operate at 71% capacity.
Despite the obvious inability of TREC’s management to “incubate” a viable renewable energy project without taxpayer, the media holds them up as a great success. The taxpayer and donor-funded TVOntario show The Agenda frequently invites TREC’s Executive Director Judith Lipp as a spokesperson for the renewable energy advocates.
While the “iconic” Exhibition Place wind turbine that WindShare erected with help from THESI costs each of the 701,000 Toronto Hydro ratepayers only 15 cents annually, the truth is, its impact is much larger. It played a key, emblematic role in the politicization of the electricity sector through the push for renewable energy and ultimately the Green Energy and Green Economy Act and that in turn was a major factor in the costs for average Ontario ratepayers individually of hundreds of dollars annually, and collectively in excess of $100 billion over the next 20 years.
TREC’s founders will go down in history not only for the Toronto turbine but also for their part in the biggest rip-off ever of Ontario’s taxpayers and ratepayers.
July 4, 2014
The opinions expressed are those of the author and may not represent Wind Concerns Ontario policy.
Exhibition Place wind turbine: the iconic and the inept
If a pollster surveyed Toronto residents asking if they had ever seen a “wind turbine,” most of them would respond that they had—it’s at Exhibition Place. The 91-meter turbine on Toronto’s waterfront has become “iconic.” Built in 2002 by the WindShare Co-operative, with an initial capacity of 750 kilowatts (since reduced to 600 kilowatts), the little wind turbine has been the subject of many articles and news stories, and a handy backdrop for former Premier Dalton McGuinty’s “photo ops.” WindShare bills it as “Canada’s premier wind turbine.”
The turbine has played a role in university theses for students seeking degrees in environmental studies. Most made incorrect assumptions, probably based on the information they gathered from the co-operative that fostered the turbine. One such thesis, written by a University of Waterloo student, claimed the Exhibition Place turbine would produce “1,400 MW hours of energy per year (enough to power approximately 250 homes).”The truth is, those 250 homes would actually require 2,400 MWh annually (9.6 MWh X 250 homes = 2,400 MWh) not 1,400 MWh, and second to achieve that level of power generation, the turbine would have to operate at almost 46% of its maximum capacity—that’s well above the norm of 29-30% for turbines today. But claims like that were regularly produced by the proponents and seldom dispelled or even questioned.
Co-op Week also used the same figures of 1,400 MWh and the 250 homes, proving that not much effort went into understanding its capabilities. Co-op‘s 2004 article on the WindShare turbine opened with: “It’s hard to miss the huge wind turbine revolving in the sky at Exhibition Place on Toronto’s waterfront. But less obvious is the dramatic story behind its evolution.”
To describe the Exhibition Place turbine as “huge” today is a stretch. It is a pinwheel compared to the 1,200 much bigger turbines (up to 3 megawatt/MW capacity and as tall as 500 feet) that are now throughout rural Ontario. But its impact on Ontario’s political scene has been significant: it has served the Liberal politicians well as an emblem and icon for their unfounded endorsement of large-scale renewable power generation, well before the creation of the Green Energy and Green Economy Act.
WindShare Co-operative, a “for-profit wind power co-operative” was incubated by TREC (Toronto Renewable Energy Co-operative) and is co-owned by the WindShare co-op members and Toronto Hydro Energy Services Inc. (THESI). The latter is of course wholly owned by the City of Toronto taxpayers and is the local distribution company delivering electricity to 701,000 captive ratepayers. TREC’s website claims the turbine is 94 meters high with a capacity of 660 kilowatts, so even the proponents are not clear on its basic specifications. TREC’s website also still claims it will produce enough electricity to power 250 homes.
WindShare members purchased 16,000 shares in $500 blocks as investments to raise $800,000; while they have all probably written off their investment by now, many of them were recently named on a plaque at the base of the turbine. These names will be familiar to anyone fighting the erection of huge industrial wind power plants in Ontario’s quiet rural communities. They represent the cadre of people that pushed the Green Energy Act onto the unsuspecting public via the McGuinty Liberal government.
One is Joyce McLean, Director, Strategic Issues at Toronto Hydro. Ms. McLean served two terms as the Chair of CanWEA, was active with Greenpeace, and is firmly committed to renewable energy. The plaque also lists Environmental Defence and the Summerhill Group and connects the two individuals, Rick Smith and Bruce Lourie, involved in those entities. (Smith and Lourie were named as repeat winners in the 2014 Financial Post “Rubber Duck Award” for junk science.)
Others on the list such as Deb Doncaster and Brian Iler played a role in the Green Energy Act Alliance or GEAA, and Glen Estil (former President of CanWEA), Dianne Saxe and Tom Rand (Senior Advisor, MaRS Discovery District) are Toronto-based proponents of industrial wind turbines. Clayton Ruby, a Toronto lawyer (who participated in a false claim against Wind Concerns Ontario) is another name found on the plaque. Two interesting names found on the plaque are Enbridge Gas and the Daily Bread Food Bank.
Curiously missing on the plaque is George Smitherman, despite this honour: “Green Energy Act Alliancepresents Minister Smitherman with an honorary membership in the Windshare Co-operative.”
So how has this magnificent machine performed for the investors, among whom are the people of Toronto?
A review of THESI’s annual reports reveals that the investment in the turbine is not mentioned any time after 2007. And the 2007 report carried only a short mention: “TH Energy/WindShare wind turbine at Exhibition Place has produced approximately 4 million kWh of green energy since 2003.” If you do the math, that 4 million kWh of power that was produced over five years for an average of 800K kWh annually is enough to power 83 homes—not the 250 claimed in so many written dissertations.
Is the Exhibition Place turbine an icon…or a mirage?
July 3, 2014
The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent Wind Concerns Ontario policy.
Tomorrow: the stats on how the wind power investment performed
In his 2008 book Doubt is their product–how industry’s assault on science threatens your health, epidemiologist David Michaels says he got the idea for the title of his book after reading the words of a cigarette company executive. “Doubt is our product,” the executive wrote, “since it is the best means of competing with the ‘body of fact’ that exists in the minds of the general public. It is also the means of establishing controversy”.
Michaels went on to write the following:
…Big Tobacco, left now without a stitich of credibility of public esteem, has finally abandoned its strategy, but it showed the way. The practices it perfected are alive and well and ubiquitous today. We see this growing trend that disingenuously demands proof over precaution in the realm of public health. In field after field, year after year, conclusions that might support regulation are always disputed. Animal data are deemed not relevant, human data not representative, and exposure data not reliable. Whatever the story…scientists in what I call the ‘product defence industry’ prepare for the release of unfavorable studies even before the studies are published. Public relations experts feed these for-hire scientists contrarian sound bites that play well with reporters, who are mired in the trap of believing there must be two sides to every story.
Maybe there are two sides–and maybe one has been bought and paid for.
This scenario is being played out today in Ontario with the wind power industry where not only are health effects from the turbine noise denied, the industry actually claims that wind power saves lives and therefore that the “overall benefit” of wind power supercedes any nagging little negative like people becoming ill from sleep deprivation and the stress and anxiety caused by the turbine noise and vibration. Ontario’s Ministry of the Environment has been complicit in this strategy from the outset: the decision to establish setbacks between turbines and homes was not based on any science at all.
In appeal after appeal, the evidence of health problems is brought forward, and the witnesses so convincing (despite the industry’s highly paid lawyers’ attempts with questions about their mental state) that members of the Environmental Review Tribunals comment on the authenticity of their accounts. In Bovaird v. Director, Ministry of the Environment, panel chair Heather Gibbs wrote in her decision that while the evidence presented did not show a causal relationship, she quoted from Erickson, specifically that “the present situation is closer to the hypothesis generating phase of scientific research than it is to the point where statements can be made on causation.”
In other words, in the view of the Tribunal, there isn’t enough evidence to support the conclusion of “serious harm” (a construct of the Green Energy Act and not a real principle of public health) … but at the same time, there isn’t enough evidence to say there ISN’T.
Today, Big Wind carries on, impugning the testimony of ordinary citizens who have nothing to gain by telling their stories except to have them heard, and presenting experts for hire whose goal is to produce doubt about the science we do have.
This is a shameful chapter in the history of Ontario.
With the report of the tragic deaths of two young men who were working to maintain a large-scale wind turbine in The Netherlands, questions have been raised about the reports of turbine fires, and whether safety issues have been adequately addressed. Among the questions raised was, how do we know how many fires there actually are?
We recall an article in an industry magazine in 2011, which suggests there are enough fires for the industry itself to be very concerned. In the North American Clean Energy article titled Taming turbine fires before they start: it’s when, not if…, author Scott Starr, a director with Firetrace International, states that “Property damage to the turbine and nearby areas from fires reported in the past decade ranged between $750,000 and $6 million.” That’s quite the range.
The range of damages is significant, he reports: “Aside from the imminent hazards of a burning turbine, there is also the risk if sparks, embers, or debris falling to the ground and setting off a wildfire…” Ontario has had experience with that, when a fire in a turbine near Goderich last spring caused debris to be spread over hundreds of meters, as well as noxious smoke and fumes.
Starr outlines the cause of turbine fires: “The most common cause of a turbine fire is a lightning strike—a risk that is heightened by the installation of taller and taller wind turbines. Turbines are now being built that are up to 320 feet high. They’re frequently sited in exposed and high-altitude locations.” In fact, in Ontario, many turbine projects have equipment that will exceed 400 feet in height, and some (not yet built) over 500 feet.
The problem is so significant in the U.S., Starr writes, that the National Fire Protection Association added standards for wind turbines to its 2010 NFPA 850 “Recommended Practice for Fire Protection for Electric Generating Plants.” The revisions include recommendations for the safety of construction and operating personnel.
Wind turbines are usually constructed in locations with restricted access, “placing them beyond the prospect of immediate action by fire service. Even when emergency services are able to respond quickly, few have the equipment capable of firefighting at the height of modern turbines.”
The solution, Scott says, is adequate fire suppression systems that do not require an external power supply, and which can stop a fire before it “can do irreparable damage to the turbine or spread elsewhere.”
“Wind farm fires do happen,” Scott concludes, “and many in the industry suspect they occur far more frequently than statistics suggest…. Many insurers are becoming increasingly concerned and the opinion of many can be summed up by the following statement: ‘Fire. It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when.’ ”
Wind Concerns Ontario has a copy of a fire protection bylaw pertaining to turbines, which can be sent to you by contacting us at firstname.lastname@example.org
I hate to bother you but I’m still waiting for a response to my three letters of September 9th, September 13th and September 22nd. I am becoming concerned about being able to not produce electricity from wind or solar and get paid for it. I sure would like to know if I can be one of the chosen ones. I see that Mike Crawley who used to be the President of the Ontario Liberal Party has done pretty darn good. Those CanWEA people gave him a nice pat on the back in their magazine for getting 700 megawatts of wind turbines up and running so I`m hoping I can have the same success. I will be happy to serve a term as President if that will help make my requests happen. Just let me know, please!
I see you have been very, very busy closing coal plants, raising money for the Liberal Party and visiting the Bruce nuclear plants, so I kind of understand why you haven’t answered me yet but I want to plan for all the things on my “wish list” and really want to know when the money will start coming my way.
I have also been keeping track of all the money you are saving, going back to your June announcement about the reduction in the Samsung contract. You told us that one saved us $3.7 billion; your recent announcement about saving $95 million from closing the Lambton coal plant seems like small potatoes compared to the “billions and billions” you said we are saving by not building new nuclear plants. I did note however that the press release said that the coal plants were costing us $4.4 billion annually so that makes it worthwhile. That sure sounds like they were paying way too much for coal! Good for you for saving us all that money.
I also read that the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) would save $200 million from constraining wind —that is a pretty big number too, which was the subject of my first letter. The new president of IESO also said that profits from exporting our electricity had generated $5/6 billion dollars, which is even more than you said it was generating. But he probably has more details than you do so I guess he is right about that, eh?
You have probably been way too busy to add up all those savings so I will do it for you.
Here’s what I get: Samsung $3.7 billion plus savings of $16 billion by not building new nuclear plants, plus $4.5 from closing the coal plants and $200 million from constraining wind. Add the $6 billion we make from selling our electricity to NY and Michigan —I think that adds up to $30.4 billion.
Samsung Savings $ 3.7 billion
No new nuclear $16.0 billion
Closing coal plants 4.5 billion
Constraining wind .200 million
Exp to NY & MI$ 6.0 billionTotal $30.4 billion
Impressive! I bet Finance Minister Sousa will be thanking you for getting rid of his deficit and handing him an extra $15 billion or so to pay down Ontario’s debt. He owes you big time for saving all that money and should at least treat you to a couple of beers at your local pub near Queens Park.
I think you should hold back on some of those savings however to pay me and the other guys for not generating electricity from any wind turbines or solar panels.
Keep up the good work but please, let me know soon about my offer as I would like to head south for the winter. I heard the electricity rates in Florida are much lower than Ontario’s, especially now that they are going up again November 1st.
The opinions expressed are those of the author and not Wind Concerns Ontario policy.