Wind farm safety in consumer survey: where’s the context?
Yesterday, I noted that the Nanos Research report for CanWEA finished with this quote: “Positive impressions are supported by the perception that wind is a strong energy source for environmentally friendly and safe electricity.”
On page 15 of the Nanos report, the reasons the respondents chose wind power are itemized: 54.5% in the “very good” group rated it as a “Environmentally friendly and sustainable alternative,” while 3.6% in that group rated wind as “safe.”
Dissenting survey respondents said wind was “too expensive” (24.1%), and “unreliable and inefficient” (19.7%). Amusingly, about 28% of the group rating wind as “very good” actually chose it for a variety of reasons that indicate they know little about it. For example, “because of what I have heard,” “I like it, it’s good” etc. As the 18-29 age group and GTA residents are the biggest fans of industrial-scale wind, we might assume a goodly portion of that demographic shared the perception that it is “environmentally friendly” and “safe.”
So, let’s look at some of the findings in respect to those two perceptions. One of the questions asked, found on page 16, is: “Please rate each of the following ways to generate large-scale electricity for communities, industries and businesses on a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is very weak and 10 is very strong.”
The results as summarized were: “Wind electricity is second behind solar power and just ahead of hydroelectricity when it comes to being environmentally friendly.” The term “environmentally friendly” pops up in the report 34 times and the word “safe” or a simile 44 times, whereas the word “noise” only appears twice, as does the word “birds.” (The word “infrasound” never appears.)
Interestingly, the Executive Summary says this: “Many participants openly admitted they lacked context to judge wind power, instead demonstrating an appetite for information about wind projects around the world and more details about controversial aspects such as claimed health impacts.”
The 119-page report fails to disclose how many of the responders represented those who “lacked context to judge wind power”! One wonders why that detail was omitted, and how much that lack of “context” should affect the credibility of the survey!
Had the survey explored the knowledge level of responders as displayed on page 10 under the heading, “Attitudes about Wind,” where it states: “31.7% think that wind generation poses a greater risk to health and the environment than hydroelectric generation” the conclusions might have differed considerably from the 54.5% of the “very good” group, or the casual mention by some of the 32 people in the focus groups who said wind power was “Dangerous for birds and wildlife”.
On the issue of “safety” the question reviewed on page 16 above also deals with safety with this summary of results on page 19 sums up the findings: “Safety is also something that distinguishes the energy sources. Nuclear by a significant degree is considered the least safe (5.2). Wind is seen as the third safest but only slightly less safe than hydroelectricity.”
The claim that wind is “safer” than nuclear is just one area where “perception” and “reality” part ways in this survey. The Nanos Research report to CanWEA notes wind receives high marks for safety, but the truth is human fatalities from wind are not reported or only casually mentioned in the mainstream media when they occur. Caithness Windfarm Information Forum has tracked data on all accidents related to wind turbines since 1980. The number of fatalities as reported by Caithness number over 100, whereas the number of fatalities related to nuclear power globally number approximately 50, including Chernobyl and Three Mile Island. The first nuclear power plant commenced operation in 1954, almost 30 years prior to the data in the Caithness site related to industrial wind developments.
Next, I look at what we should expect the upcoming messaging to look like from CanWEA and the industrial wind developers in the Ontario Campaign, as they try to persuade the doubters and those who “lack context to judge wind power.”