Wind Turbines – To be relics of past green dreams?

Questions about wind power
By Lloyd Brown-John, Special to The Windsor Star
 
As more wind turbines mushroom from fields in Essex and Kent counties, we should ask a few questions.

In case you have not noticed, you already pay for alternate renewable energy. Check your hydro bill under the heading “regulatory charges.” The fine print reads: “Includes the costs associated with funding the Ministry of Energy and infrastructure conservation and renewable energy programs.”

This is the line on your bill just above “debt retirement charge,” a legacy of the last effort by a then-Conservative government to provide Ontario with alternate electrical energy.

Wind turbines in particular are being splashed across the countryside because, like the 1898 Yukon Gold Rush, there’s lots of gold in them thar’ wind turbines.

Yet, are they as green as the promoters — including the provincial government — would have us suppose?

Ontario’s Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) provides a daily summary of both demand and supply sources of Ontario’s electric power. On any given hot summer day Ontario consumes anywhere from 24,000 to 25,000 MegaWatts of electricity. Ontario’s generation capacity runs at about 26,860MW. During peak demand, Ontario imports about 1.7MW per hour.

Every degree increase in temperature translates to an additional 380 MW of demand.

On the supply side, about 37 per cent of our electricity is derived from nuclear sources; about 14 per cent from hydro; 20 per cent from natural gas; 20 per cent from coal; about five per cent from other sources; and, one per cent from wind turbines. There some 300 organizations buying and selling in Ontario’s wholesale electricity market.

The current crop of wind turbines being splashed across southwestern Ontario is almost an archaic technology. They are highly inefficient compared to other forms of wind turbines. They are great at producing electricity at night when demand is low. And, because so many are located so far from peak demand areas (such as the GTA) they are inefficient in terms of delivery of electricity.

As the price for electricity increases, the cost-effectiveness level at which new technologies may enter the market is reduced. Thus, some new technologies which will emerge full-blown in the next 20 to 30 years eventually will place current wind turbines into the category of dinosaur technology.

Over 100 years ago, Nikola Tesla experimented with transmission of electrical power without wires. Several companies in the U.S. are actively pursuing Tesla’s idea. Concepts such as energy scavenging or energy harvesting already gather microwaves into electrical energy. Both RCA and Nokia have demonstrated technologies that harvest energy and which can be used to recharge mobile phones.

To paraphrase Bob Dylan, “the technologies they are a changin’.” Battery-operated cars and now battery-operated aircraft are making their appearances.

None of the above technologies are likely to solve the ever increasing demand for electricity in Ontario but they are harbingers of a future wherein wind turbines in particular will stand as monuments to an obsolete technology.

That probable outcome then leads to a further, practical, question. Who will bear the burden for dismantling all these wind turbines? Of course, the taxpayer will bear that burden eventually but that is an issue which certainly does not need to be a concern of short-term policy decisions. Will those reaping golden profits from wind turbines cover demolition costs?

It is possible that the green energy gold currently being vigorously pursued by investors will turn out to be fool’s gold for taxpayers as technologies increasingly leave wind turbines as relics of the past green dreams.

lbj@uwindsor.ca

2 thoughts on “Wind Turbines – To be relics of past green dreams?

  1. Does anyone have a dollar figure on how much monies is actually being spent (total costs*) with the aforementioned supply reference “one per cent from wind turbines” or how much does this one percent amount to in dollars and cents. In other words does the supply produced, daily, out weight all the expenditures.

    * My thoughts, how much money is our provincial government spending or have spent in trying to sell the public on these wind turbines, I would hope that the Auditor General takes into consideration all costs, administration, labor, benefits, communications , cash grants, give a ways and the list could go on.

    From what I see thus far, the government is operating in the red over this particular renewable energy source, as it serves no purpose for the amount that it supplies. However, if the energy source that serves no purpose, that will never serve purpose, could have a dollar tag attached to it, it might be better understood by the public of how much of a waste of money this so called source, really is?

  2. Three years ago, Dwight Duncan let it slip to the CBC that his government was commiting $30 Billion towards funding the subsidies for wind power. This was up on their website for several days and then suddenly and mysteriously that particular paragraph was deleted.

    I called the Ministry of Energy and they would not verify one way or the other. Just the old talking point babblygook about how this is not a subsidy but rather just the price set for wind power. (Like the eco-fees were not really a tax)

    They refused to give me any dollar figure.

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