Many opponents blowin' in the wind

Many opponents blowin' in the wind

Postby Oscar » Sun Aug 12, 2007 10:13 am

Many opponents blowin' in the wind ... ntID=17742

Sudbury Star editorial August 6/2007

Canadian governments are getting on the wind-power bandwagon in a big way, but when it comes to building a wind turbine in the backyard – literally, in some cases – opposition quickly materializes, even among some environmentalists who say they support wind power.

Bottom line – wind hasn't yet caught on, and may not in the foreseeable future, to the degree that environmentalists originally hoped.

Wind power proponents see it as an environmentally friendly way to provide steady power at a fixed cost, and it reduces the reliance on fossil fuels, which are never environmentally friendly. Opponents say the giant turbines kill birds, are unsightly and noisy and they are not energy efficient. Add to that: even if wind power is good, having to actually look at wind turbines is unacceptable.

The federal government is subsidizing wind power, and so is the province. The Ministry of Natural Resources' goal is to boost energy from renewable resources – which includes wind power – by 10 per cent by 2010. It is no coincidence that the governing Liberals want to close the province's coal-fired power plants by 2014.

The ministry says wind energy is the fastest growing form of energy in the world.

So what's the problem? Why are some people on Wolfe Island, near Kingston, opposed to a major wind power project? And why is uber-environmentalist Robert Kennedy Jr. opposed to a major wind project off Cape Cod, even though other highfalutin types – such Theodore Roosevelt IV – support it? Even Canadian songbird Anne Murray complained about a wind power project on the Northumberland Strait, where she has a cottage.

The answer – it's in their backyards. And when that happens, all those warm and fuzzy green ideals fade to black.

Kennedy, for example, argues the wind project off Cape Cod – where the family's Hyannisport compound is located – will be noisy and unsightly, it will kill birds and hurt recreational shipping so much that tourism will lose $1 billion in revenues.

Wind farms, like mines, are not built where they're convenient. They are built where the resources are, so you put wind turbines where the wind blows. In Ontario, the MNR has determined that is the northern and eastern shores of the Great Lakes, Hudson Bay and James Bay.

The ministry's site says turbines kill two birds per year and the noise is equivalent to a refrigerator. Energy Management Inc., the company behind the Cape Cod wind project, says the turbines will appear half an inch high on the horizon, so they won't be unsightly. And shipping won't be a problem, the company argues, because the turbines will be sufficiently spaced.

On Wolfe Island, it was birds again, and wetlands, and noise, and unsightliness.

There are close to 80 wind farms operating in Canada and that number is expected to top 100 within five years. The potential uses for wind power vary. The Wikwemikong Unceded Indian Reserve is studying the potential for a project at Point Grondine on the shore of Georgian Bay. American Barrick, the world's largest gold producer, plans to spend $40 million to build a wind farm to provide power to its projects in Chile.

Yet Energy Probe's Tom Adams noted that a study of 14 federally subsidized wind farms shows 12 have failed to meet forecasted production. He notes wind production has had some successes, but there is a lot to learn before it becomes economically viable on a grand scale.

And therein lies the issue. A German wind power company recently experienced a power outage that affected 10 million people throughout Europe. A lot has been learned from that little hiccup.

There is a lot to learn about wind power, but without a commitment to projects that will yield operational knowledge, wind power may never really take off.

Which makes one wonder whether the consumption-oriented North American public will ever be willing to give up its comfy, energy-consuming lifestyles to put up with a little hum, a few dead birds and the horrible spectre of churning turbines.
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