Some things Never Change: Old news about Wind Energy, Same Old Problems
If one is to believe the constant and consistent views emanating from CanWEA, AWEA, and all the other WEAs (wind energy associations) from around the world, wind energy is great: wind is free, wind is non polluting, wind is non-evasive, wind turbines are ascetically pleasing, wind turbines are a tourist attraction, wind does not kill as many birds as cats, noise from wind turbines doesn’t cause health problems and wind turbines don’t cause property values to fall and above all wind development creates jobs.
The CanWEAs of the world tell us to look at Germany, Spain or Denmark as prime examples of their preaching. The latter of course is the modern birthplace of electricity generation from wind turbines and hosts two major manufacturers; Vestas and Siemens. According to a recent article Vestas and Siemens together employed slightly more then 12,000 people in 2010. Now if one travels back a decade ago, another article “The Danish Dilemma” published in 2002, reported that there were almost 14,000 people employed in the wind turbine manufacturing sector in Denmark. At the end of the year 2000 Denmark had installed wind capacity of 2300 MW and at the end of 2012 this had grown to 4,162 MW yet the number of jobs had dropped. Despite the foregoing evidence from the “birthplace” of the modern wind turbine market, CanWEA in their “WindVison 2025” paper, was forecasting 52,000 jobs if Canada would simply target the 20% level of production they alluded was the amount of electricity the Danes generated from wind turbines. The trouble is the Danes only consume about 7% of the electricity generated from wind turbines and the rest is exported at cheap prices because it generally presents itself when its not needed. Germany is the main beneficiary of that cheap power and sells expensive power back to the Danes when those wind turbines are fallow.
Many of our ruling elected politicians actually believe the rhetoric from the CanWEAs of the world about job creation, emission free renewable energy, particularly when wind turbines are mentioned. The Ministry of Energy has consistently ramped the job numbers up in their press releases beginning from the day former Energy Minister, George Smitherman claimed Ontario would create 50,000 jobs by the end of 2012 through the the Green Energy Act. The last press release that spoke about jobs was from current Energy Minister, Chris Bentley dated December 14, 2012 where he claimed 28,000 jobs had been created. Trying to find those jobs however is impossible whereas examples of jobs reputedly created and then lost are quite visible. One example is WindTronics where the Provincial Liberals handed them a grant of $2.7 million in September 2009 but by March 2012 they had left Ontario to do their manufacturing in Michigan. Another is Siliken who closed their Windsor solar manufacturing plant in May 2012 and yet another is DMI who closed their tower manufacturing operation in Fort Erie. Collectively those three closures represented 600/1,000 jobs which this writer assumes are still included in the 28,000 claimed by Minister Bentley.
Of course the falsehood about job creation is only one aspect of renewable energy and for rural Ontario the bigger issues relate to health and the effect on property values when those turbines suddenly pop up. The WEAs of the world all claim no effect is felt for either of those issues but from the dated “Danish Dilemma” report it would appear that those claims have been around for well over a decade. The wind proponents, using their wealth, have managed to hide the negative news from the gullible politicians. The following is an excerpt from that decade old Danish report that shows those effects on health and property values have been around for quite a while:
In addition come complaints from the immediate neighbours of wind turbines, electricity consumer organisations, and knowledgeable and less knowledgeable citizens. There are warnings to solicitors and estate agents about reduced property values close to turbines (LNtV, 2000a) and also mounting protests against specific site developments (Andersen, 2001a). In this country of only 5.3 million people, over 600 complaints to the Environmental Complaints Board about wind turbines were submitted between 1998 and August 2000, of which 60 cases were upheld. In rural areas, most complaints related to impacts mainly associated with aesthetic and environmental considerations, shadow cast, glinting effects and noise, although a few cases were concerned with infringements of local regulations (Pihl-Andersen, 2000).
The IWTs being erected in Ontario would dwarf most of the 6,200 turbines (Danish Energy Agency) that were then located in Denmark at the start of this century and germinated those 600 complaints. Those 6,200 turbines had a total rated capacity of about 2,400 MWs meaning their average individual capacity was less then 400 kWs or only 50% of the iconic 350 foot 700 kWh Exhibition Place turbine. Their height was approximately 50 metres (195 feet) which is less then half of most 1.5 MW turbine heights. The 2 MW or 2.5 MW industrial wind turbines being erected throughout Ontario are taller still; reaching over 500 feet in many installations. To put the latter in context for people in urban communities, the City of Toronto has only 28 buildings taller then 500 feet.
Now for many people in Denmark the problems caused by those [little] wind turbines back in the late nineties led to regulations being established by some of the Danish counties as the following excerpt from that “Danish Dilemma” report indicates:
“In an assessment of the location of a turbine in the landscape an evaluation must be made of the interaction between the turbine and landscape elements such as churches, burial mounds, characteristic landscape forms and the distance to groups of buildings”]. Turbines may no longer be erected within 500 metres of dwellings.”
So even though some Danish counties were establishing 500 meter setbacks over a decade ago, for wind turbines half the height and a quarter of the capacity of current IWTs, the best Ontario’s politicians and bureaucrats could come up with for setbacks was 50 meters more!
It becomes painfully obvious that the concept of research never crossed the minds of those Ontario bureaucrats or their Liberal political masters when they were rushing to set Ontario’s ratepayers up; to reward the developers, cause health problems, reduce property values, kill birds and bats, damage our tourism industry and drive our electricity bills up! In Denmark over a decade ago they even upheld 10 percent of the complaints submitted, whereas in Ontario thousands of complaints are simply ignored by the Ministries of Health, Natural Resources, Environment and Energy.
At least the residents of Denmark have retained some democratic rights unlike Ontario where we have seen ours exorcised by the current authoritarian government.
February 5, 2013