The Ottawa Citizen, www.ottawacitizen.com
Gord Miller, Ontario’s environmental commissioner, made an interesting observation the other week: The recent reduction in Ontario’s greenhouse gas emissions is due entirely to industry. In other words, individual households have done nothing to cut energy use.
Perhaps ordinary citizens of Ontario are just greedy consumers, but there’s also the possibility we’ve been lulled into believing there’s no energy issue — that pollution-free “renewables” have solved the problem for us. From a myriad of both private and public sources, the message seems to be that clean technology is our salvation.
Time for a reality check. Consider wind power, one of the most celebrated sources of renewable energy. The province boasts that nearly 1,100 million watts (or megawatts) of electricity can come from the many wind turbines scattered around Ontario, and that more is coming. The province has signed a $7-billion deal with Samsung to build and install turbines, and we pay a preferential price for electricity from wind.
All this wind power means less reliance on coal and gas, right? Not so fast.
Remember last Wednesday, that brutally hot day? Around lunchtime, the wind turbines that on paper can deliver near 1,100 MW were actually producing only 14 MW. That still sounds like quite a lot, until we compare it to the day’s peak demand of 24,660 MW. Wind was supplying less than one-tenth of one per cent of the province’s demand, which is pretty feeble. Coal and gas supplied 600 times more.
Wind is fickle. Sometimes it blows, sometimes it doesn’t. And the times it tends to ease off are frustratingly on those stifling summer days when we need it most, the days when Ontario’s power demand is at its highest.
We’re not sure whether there’s a technical term for wind too light to turn those expensive turbines, but sailors have a good word for it. They call it dead air.