Energy Act details must be scrutinized

Orangeville Citizen, www.citizen.on.ca

I have been receiving flyers in the mail and seeing ads in this and other papers trying to interest me in installing a solar panel system in order to “make money from the sun”. The Province’s Green Energy Act guarantees that any producer of “green” electricity, no matter how small, can be allowed to connect to the electricity grid, and sell power to the electric company. Sounds very progressive, very “democratic” and fair, right? Perhaps a great concept in the ideal world…. until you look closely at the details and weigh the consequences of such a plan.

The Hydro company will pay me approximately 12 times more for my “green” electricity than I pay that same Hydro company for “their” power (whether it is “green” or not…think about that one!). All secured in a 20 year contract. This works out to be a pretty darn good investment, with payback period of around 6 years, and a yearly return of between 14% and 17%. There are thousands of people and companies lining up to get in on the deal.

The trouble is, to my way of thinking, if I sign up to get my “share”, there will have to be other people who will pay me for the privilege (and for the fact that I have money to invest, and land and a building to install the panels on). Because where does this extra money come from? It comes from other users of electricity and the taxpayer. So my decision to profit from a government’s foolish policy is based in a selfish short-sighted attitude that does not care for my neighbours.

My following this course of action will force other people to pay more for their electricity. These other people are likely to be people who are not as comfortable as I am, and how can I feel good about forcing them to pay more? And this is exactly what is happening in our province today.

I received my Hydro bill last week to see an enclosure that announced that the kilowatthour rate has gone up and the delivery rate has gone up. We have the Green Energy Act and the Province’s (lack of a sound ) Energy Plan to blame for that. It seems far too few people want to make the connection between the rising rates and this push for “green power” (I love the colour green and I love the natural world, but I am SO tired of this expression!)

But what about the laudable concept of doing less harm to the planet by choosing smarter energy sources, like wind and solar, you may ask? And shouldn’t we be willing to pay more for these less harmful approaches? Well, sure, if they worked (without bankrupting the province). The problem is that they don’t work as promised, or not very well at least.

All of the wind and solar capacity that we put into the grid through these taxpayer subsidized programs will have to be (and are being) backed by the traditional power plants (gas peaker plants are being forced on Oakville and the Holland Marsh).

Often the wind does not blow, and every day, predictably, the sun does not shine. Our need for electricity may rise and fall daily, but that need is always there, ‘round the clock.

A friend of mine told me how he was considering a solar power system too. Attracted by the lure of the Province’s plan, he and his wife looked into the idea, and concluded that since, in effect, his neighbours would be paying him, that it was not really an idea that he could support. For him it made more sense to build his own “grid” and to wean his dependence on the industrial production of power. That is how wind and solar power can work. On the small scale, with individuals lessening their dependence on the industrial grid, and cutting their demands on that grid. Congratulations to he and his wife for having the marvelous insight and firm principles to refuse that selfish path. The trouble is that there will be way too many people willing to go for it, and he, and I and all of our neighbours will be paying the price.

Dennis Sanford, Melancthon Township

19 thoughts on “Energy Act details must be scrutinized

  1. Re “Energy Act Details must Be Scrutinized”: Solar energy is most available in summer and during the day, when power companies pay a premium to buy power from other sources. Over twenty years, power companies will be paying even more to buy power during peak times, so I think solar (micro)FIT has better economic argument than wind. (Plus solar panels on a neighbor’s roof is a lot less annoying & harmful to wildlife than a wind turbine in his backyard!)

  2. There is a lot of hype about how much money can be made or saved by a home owner by going solar or wind attached to the grid. A wind or solar system at a size considered viable for the gird connections is expensive to implement and operate plus needs qualified experts. Hiring someone to do maintenance or fix panels or wind turbines will reduce investment. Getting returns to break even with luck and more luck is supposed to be between 7 to 10 or more years, depending on the system. Some systems will need to be replaced by then so you can start all over again. Upgrades, breakage or malfunctions are most likely to happen with electrical components. For most it will not be an “investment” but another bottomless hole that is attached to the house.

    Hopefully it does not cause the roof to leak or damage property as that adds to your loses and insurance rates. For grid management supporting traditional power will be required so no expectation can be made that any power produced reduces the need for reliable power sources. Getting off the grid is a solution, but the limitations of producing power on your own from wind and solar, with the required battery array will soon reduce one’s expectations on what wind and solar can produce. Don’t expect to be running an electric hair drier every day unless you have a gasoline generator. Most people don’t want additional responsibilities especially if they are most likely to lose money.

  3. Any intermittent source of power should be regulated to private, non critical use, and has no business being part of the standard grid. If you want to invest in solar on your roof, pay for it yourself and keep it to yourself.

    If you can get your home off the grid without harming people, the environment or the economy, god bless you.

  4. I agree. Intermittent power is a waste of our money. Why should we be expected to pay so much more for an unreliable power sources? What big business will agree to that? Dalton McGuinty is killing the confidence of manufacturing even more.
    I checked my Hydro bill as well. 1/3 is for the actual electricity, 2/3 for its delivery! Those transmission lines crossing all over Southwestern Ontario will be mighty expensive.

  5. lots of opinions with few facts. The green energy act is creating Billions of dollars of private spending in Ontario on Wind and Solar systems. This is NOT tax dollars, this is corporate and private investments. Most of the money going into large solar and wind farms and yes, generating new jobs in a new industry. This is far more than the subsidies that will be paid out especially the very small amount to homeowners who are willing to put up tens of thousands of their own money to do a good thing.
    You don’t have the information to see the big picture. The government needs to do a better job explaining there are major financial benefits to Ontario to outweigh the subsidies/tariffs. Shame this information is so hard to come by unless you work in the industry.

  6. Dear Confused:

    Do not be shy.

    Write an article explaining these benefits that are kept SECRET by the Wind industry. Do not be afraid to educate us. But first, read through the viability section to see if we have people capable of analysis.

    Also, consider explaining why the details of all the benefits are kept secret. It is a shame that the information is not shared.

    I will be surprised if you bring anything new and of value to the table that is not already known by the technical people on this forum — whether they be medical, science, economists, bankers or engineering types.

    If you feel that we lack facts — please supply them.

    However, before you come to a shooting war with a dull knife, read my “Watts with the Wind” paper in the viability section. I will be pleased to debate the issues with you.

    Read some of the other papers — be prepared to meet the authors with facts.

    Respectfully.

  7. We as citizens should have a say as to how our electricity should be provided. The McGuinty government has not involved us.
    He created a Green Energy Act to enforce the inclusion of Industrial Wind Turbines as an electrical source.
    There is no public input as to whether we would like to pay more for this unreliable source of energy. This is his plan, and it is a failure economically, environmentally and is undemocratic.

  8. We have years of information and documents that prove without a doubt that this “Green Energy Agenda” is nothing more than a total destruction of a Rural way of life!

    I suppose the next thing you’ll tell us “CONFUSED” is that the Cap and Trade Bill is good for us and the HST will save us from financial ruin!

    Please save your pathetic comments for Smitherman, McGuinty and all the other so called “politicians” who are bound and determined to ruin this once great Province!

    Shame on you, you uniformed fool!

  9. confused, if you follow Europe, you’ll know government commitments for 20 years aren’t as stable as people would hope.

    If you followed Ontario’s electricity history, you’d know in the 80’s and early 90’s we had big dreams of plentiful cheap clean power. In fact by 1994 we were producing 129 GWh with essentially no GHG emissions – which was over 85% of production that year, but last year we only used 139 GWh.

    It was just expensive, and we’d gone into enormous debt building it.
    So by 2000 we’d gone heavily back to coal.

    The only difference now is that we have 25 years of expensive contracts instead of 25 years of paying of debt.

    If it isn’t affordable, it can’t be green for long.

  10. “The rain in Spain falls mainly in the plain.” ..and the subsidies are falling through the floor as well.

    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/06/17/spain_sustainability_scam/

    “Dead broke Spain can’t afford to prop up renewables anymore. The Spanish government is cutting the numbers of hours in a day it’s prepared to pay for “clean” energy.”

    ““We feel cheated”, Tomas Diaz of the Spanish Photovoltaic Industry Association told Bloomberg. But it’s undoubtedly taxpayers who have been cheated the most.”

    And the consumers…??? Do they feel cheated?

    Maybe they should continue hooking Diesel Generators to their “Solar Farms” — at least they generate night time electricity too then….. Maybe the consumers will feel better about “Solar Diesel”.

    Couldn’t happen here — could it?

  11. Confused,

    Has it ever remotely crossed your mind that perhaps the government has it’s own agenda and what they are telling you may not be totally true?

    Have you investigated the jobs claim and where it came from? Did you ever consider that perhaps there is more to the story than what the McGuinty government wants you to believe?

  12. “Solar diesel” is easy to do (if you don’t do something obviously stupid like produce solar power at night) so who is to say it is not happening here right now. The power produced from industrial wind turbines is measured by a meter in a process similar to measuring power for house consumption. What should be a concern is that most if not all industrial wind turbines are also connected to the grid to power all electrical components including the power generator and that is not metered. Pressing for information from those that should know came up with; the power used by industrial wind turbines “is not measured” because it is “not that much”. No one can explain exactly what “not that much” is. Most of us would agree that many homes should qualify as “not that much” yet home owners are still expected to pay, though it appears wind companies do not. Yet another ongoing subsidy we give the wind companies as well as the means to pay them to “wash dirty electricity” through their system. A consistent source of power from a turbine should be a strong clue as wind speed is not constant and therefore it is impossible for power produced only from wind to be constant.

  13. Spain has a lot of problems. I suspect that paying too much for power had a lot to do with the problems.

    What could it be like here in a year or so?

    See the Spain is Dying series – in 3 parts
    http://article.wn.com/view/2010/06/18/IMF_downplays_Spains_economic_woes_Roundup/

    The clips are only for those with a strong stomach…

    Some of it is pretty unsettling.

    Green Energy is not the only reason for Spain’s Economic Collapse, but it definitely fueled the disinter.

  14. glad to generate so much discussion. If only that could power our houses. For the record, I was responding specifically to the comments as they relate to solar. I actually agree with you on wind.

  15. Amazing amount of misinformation on both sides.

    Facts of life……

    Wind turbines energy is more expensive and solar is a complete joke. Period.

    Wind is good but it DOES impact on people who are close it. I have spend a lot of time going door to get a small 10Mw project underway and have never met so many people sprout military grade hypocrisy. They LOVE wind energy….on someone else’s back yard. From all the people I have spoken too, several would “fight them to the death” while several loved the idea of wind even if it was 550 meters from their home and derived no income.

    The nonsense and myths about wind turbines are laughable. Yes, they make noise and you need to keep them several hundred meters away from people homes. No, you can’t hide their size and THAT is the biggest issue I encounter. Everything else about vibrations and dizziness is pure fabrication. I even had someone tell me that he could hear turbines from 10km away. I suggested that he may have some dog genes in him.

    Yes, they kill a few birds and several bats. On the other hand, have any of you gone to see how many dead birds are around the guy wires of antennas? And they are FAR more of those then turbines. Have any of you paid attention of how many birds are killed by cars on rural roads? Look at the side of the road and you will be surprised. Any of you want to guess how many birds are killed by pesticides? Big buildings? Towers of all types? So yes, the kill birds but we kill o lot more of them with everything else we do.

    As for “job creation”. That’s nonsense. There is a few weeks of activity putting in the roads/cables and then a another week or so erecting the turbines. That’s it. The “added” job numbers are fabrications. A turbine needs 8 man days of maintenance a year. That’s it. These “65,000” permanent jobs are pure McGuinty fantasy.

    In the end, I think that turbines are good IF they are place on good wind sites and there is cooperation of farmers. Amazingly, when all share in the profits, nobody has any problems with them. On the other hand, overpaying for the electricity they produce WILL cause more hardship for those who can’t afford it and it WILL cause the loss of manufacturing jobs.

    If the price was 10 cent range or less and if they were put in the right locations, then it’s all good. Anything less and it’s joke.

  16. Insider:

    A lot of good points and I don’t really take too much issue with what you posted.

    Some people are much more sensitive to low frequencies. If you are not sensitive to the low frequency sounds — then I can understand your reaction. The fact that there are no empirical studies where people collect real world data is an issue. I have read every study I can find on noise and possible side effects. At best the work is a mish-mash of re-hashed student reports, wild guesses and calculations based on the preceding. It doesn’t wash. There is an issue. In case you ask, I do know how to read those studies.

    Is there a”right price” for wind power? I differ with you on the idea of 10 cents per KWH. It is worth no more than spot power on a demand basis. This is due to the limited availability. The Southern Ontario wind grid is highly correlated. That is the reason that the power appears so variable. It makes the power worth the price at the time it is availabble, if it is wanted.

    More turbines in the south are unlikely to change this and positioning turbines in the North (Thunder Bay) will simply create a differently correlated group — but transmitting that power south is pointless. So there is little possibility for smoothing.

    I currently consult for mineral exploration. We use solar and could use wind turbines in the camps. It is ideal for usage there — we have only generators for an alternate source — quite noisy and carrying in fuel can be an arduous task as the roads are tortuous. So in the right circumstance…

    For Commercial and consumer applications I think that Wind Power just does not deliver. If I need a secondary source for instant standby, then as far as I am concerned I will build only the “standby” source.

    Would I fight Wind Power based on medical issues? Not me. As far as I am concerned they don’t deliver, they do nothing for the GHG issue and they cause other environmental problems.

    The GEA is a bad piece of legislation and should be challenged on constitutional grounds. It should never have been passed. It is a solution with no problem to address.

    I think that this group is a lot better informed than you realize. Some of them suffer from wind turbines located close to their residences and hence can be quite angry when they post. I believe that groups like this should always be civil online, but I also understand their anger and frustration. Don’t let that anger and rhetoric be confused with ignorance. It just isn’t so.

  17. Insider: Wind has some applications, but industrial wind turbines, attached to the grid are not an effective use of wind and it is questionable what amount of useable grid power comes from wind. Wind works ok when the bits and pieces of power can be stored in a battery system for later use. The high cost, maintenance issues and reliability start to reduce the confidence of having enough power to help much with isolated high demand industries such as mining. Wind requires too much power on its own to operate so diesel generators would have to be working to keep them working. Isolating wind power would expose how useless wind is in providing much more than an occasional pulse now and then if batteries are not used to store for later use. Getting enough battery storage becomes problematic. Understanding the kinetic energy of wind, the source of energy to make the power, provides an understanding of wind’s limitations in providing a useful power when isolated and no batteries for storage. Check India’s push to use wind, the dismal results and now their push to build coal fired generating stations to provide them with reliable power.

  18. Insider – “Everything else about vibrations and dizziness is pure fabrication. I even had someone tell me that he could hear turbines from 10km away. I suggested that he may have some dog genes in him.”

    Perhaps if you had 24 hr exposure for 3 months, 6 months, or a year, you would also hear these vibrations, because that’s how it works. The more one is exposed to low-frequency noise, the more sensitive and aware of it one becomes. My body is now aware of this noise when approaching the freezers and coolers in a grocery store, when entering a welding shop. I never had this problem before.

    I too have heard vibrations through the ground – from 20 km away.
    Three times I have had to leave my house to escape a resonating environment and on those nights I slept in a house 20 km to the north.
    All three times I was awakened by vibrations coming through the ground from the turbine facility. I know the vibrations are from the turbines because of the cyclic rhythm, a rhthym that is now ingrained in me. The owners of that house told me that they too woke up in the early hours of the morning; at 3 or 4 AM. They just didn’t know why.

    There are times when I thought I would stay at home and ride it out. You never know how long these conditions will last, if the situation is going to stay the same or get worse. A couple of these times I wondered how I survived the night. I don’t know how a young infant, an invalid, anybody who wouldn’t even be able to hold their head in their hands to try and stop it from resonating; I don’t know how they would cope with such intense vibrations of the skull.

    Every day when I arrive home, I am immediately assaulted with low-frequency noise; my head becomes fuzzy, my muscles contract in my legs, my feet, and now my hands. I go to sleep with muscle spasms, with swirling patterns behind closed eyes. I wake up every night with my body in a state of panic, drenched in sweat. The snapping sounds and flashes of light in my brain still happen as I sleep. I noticed last night as I was reading, a flashing white light in the bottom corner of my vision, in rhythm with the turning of the blades, this along with intense nausea and dizziness.

    Every day and every night I can feel the passing of low-frequency sound waves through my house; through my floors, my chairs, my couch, my bed, my basement; through me.

    These turbines now control my life. After 6 to 8 hours of being awake I run out of steam. I manage to last out the day at work in a state of fatigue. I drive home fighting to keep my eyes open. I tend to my dog. I eat supper. I try to sleep, only to have it disrupted again. My weekends are spent trying to catch up on sleep. Somehow I’m supposed to manage my cleaning and cutting of grass on the 2.4 acres that doesn’t sell.

    We are people who live with these turbines. We know what we feel, we know what we hear, and we are trying to alert others about the impending disasters that will no doubt occur with any further construction.

    Do you ever wonder about the increasing reports of avalanches, mudslides, earthquakes?

    Do you ever wonder why we have black bear sightings in southern Ontario this year?

    Considering that people can hear vibrations coming through the ground at these distances, are you not concerned about our environment, the effects on animals, the fish in our lakes?

    Instead of ridiculing the person who told you he heard these vibrations, you should take heed and be alarmed; you should be very alarmed.

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