Common sense needed to remedy hydro situation

Former Environment Minister Laurel Broten & her gimmicky Flick-Off campaign

by Jeff MacGuire Arnprior EMC News

EMC News – The natives are restless and it appears Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty and the governing Liberal party is slowly waking up to that fact.

The rapid rise in electricity costs for consumers in this province has finally burst the Grits’ bubble.  We are told by the so-called “experts” that the current government is simply passing along hydro rate increases that should have been implemented years ago.

Years of mismanagement has left Ontario’s electricity system in structural and financial chaos. The more recent decision by the McGuinty Liberals to close coal-fired plants to suit their “green” agenda has simply exacerbated an already bad situation.

Now Ontarians are feeling the pinch and frankly conservation isn’t the answer. Most people I know are doing their level best to reduce their use of electricity. But with delivery charges and other “historic” issues the main reason for the cost increases, cutting back won’t do much to assist individual customers.

To make matters much worse, instead of revisiting the matter of traditional electrical generating methods – coal-fired and nuclear power – this government is intent on furthering their green objectives.

Wind and solar energy are “best sellers” in terms of winning votes – or at least the Liberals evidently feel they are because they have been working hard to sell both methods of electrical generation to Ontarians.

For example, wind turbines are becoming a more common site in North America. They’ve been used in wind blown places like the California desert for a long time but are now making their way into the eastern United States, Canada and Ontario.

Wherever turbines are due to be installed, controversy quickly follows. Witness the much maligned installation on Wolfe Island near Kingston. Or a planned “wind farm” near North Gower in rural, south Ottawa.

They are gigantic devices with massive blades which have upset residents who live close to such installations. Many say they are “a blight on the landscape” and there is also some evidence of health problems related to exposure to the waves of energy transmitted from these huge, whirling machines.

Solar farms are somewhat more passive and placed on scrub land, that isn’t much use for farming, they seem harmless enough. The Ontario government is encouraging people to install solar panels on their homes and property. They are even soliciting excess power from large-scale solar developments on private land, in hopes of adding the electricity to the provincial grid.

You might even be able to pay your mortgage, or better, by installing the panels and selling power to the province make a little on the side as well.

I know some people who are “off the grid” because they chose to go solar and install batteries which store the excess energy generated by the sun. Those I have spoken to couldn’t be happier. They aren’t saddled with the sudden increase in hydro payments most of us are.

But is this practical for the majority of people? And more importantly, is electricity generated by solar and wind cost-efficient on a larger scale?

Judging by virtually everything I have read on this subject – and I have read a great deal – there are big questions about that.

On a larger scale solar energy is big business for some companies who are seeking sites across Eastern Ontario and across Canada.

The initial cost of installing solar panels is expensive although some are clearly willing to try it in hopes of saving money and perhaps even generating income.

As for wind power, large scale developments can only be established after months and years of lobbying and hard work by large companies. Gaining approval isn’t easy as we have seen in our own province recently. People, especially neighbours, are skeptical and highly resistant, partly due to unknown factors such as the potential for damaging the health of individuals.

We have also spoken to many people in Europe, particularly the United Kingdom, about wind turbines which are in extensive use there and have been for many years.

Most we have spoken to give them an immediate thumbs down. People in Britain are tired of seeing turbines spring up on so many pieces of vacant land, or standing like behemoths on the horizon, seemingly everywhere.

One of the largest such developments in Europe is planned for the estuary of the River Thames, on the east coast of England. In fact wind farms located in shallow waters, just offshore, are common in Great Britain. And for my money they are ugly!

Outside of aesthetics, the argument against turbines is simple. They add very little to the electrical generating capacity of the countries where they are now commonplace. In Britain for example wind turbines contribute less than three per cent of the electricity which flows into the national grid. And remember, there are thousands of these giant beasts everywhere!

At first blush we weren’t offended by the sight of turbines. We first saw them in wind-swept Cornwall, England in the mid 1990s.

Now my wife and I are tired of the things. They are everywhere in the UK. We just saw a huge development in rural Scotland in August which, from our point of view, scarred an otherwise tranquil and beautiful landscape.

We don’t look forward to seeing that situation develop in our country or worse still in our own backyard.

I have written previously about the large wind farm which sprang up at Brainardsville, New York in the Adirondacks, not far from Malone, a couple of years ago.

At first it was a curiosity to see turbines in this beautiful part of upper New York State. Now we detest the sight of the things when we drive through that part of the northeastern U.S. If we lived there we would be among the many who are lobbying against the things and there is an intense effort to have them removed from what I have read.

In Britain coal-fired electrical generation has gained traction once again because of improvements in how efficiently coal can now be burned. In recent times modern methods have dramatically reduced emissions and made coal a more practical means of producing power.

Obviously nuclear is a much vilified means of electrical production. There are obvious safety considerations involved and therefore many people are scared of it.

Nuclear power generation has to be respected, but in real terms there have been relatively few serious accidents – thank goodness. Of course another Chernobyl is always a possibility and makes us shy away from using a powerful method of generating power.

I am an advocate of taking a fresh look at coal-fired plants, especially given modern science and especially considering the dilemma we so clearly face in this province and this country.

We have to do something and coal-fired is probably the fastest and safest way to improve our electrical generating capacity in heavily populated Ontario, not to mention the rest of Canada.

As for the Ontario government, the increasing stream of letters to the editor in newspapers these days has to be viewed as another setback for an administration which is coming under increasing fire over its electricity-related programs and policies.

Smart meters, skyrocketing delivery charges, along with such things as regulatory and debt retirement charges already had hydro customers in Ontario reeling. Then, on July 1, the McGuinty government introduced the hated Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) and promptly added that to our electrical bills.

It is all too much for most of us and some people have clearly been pushed over the edge by this unexpected, added expense. The complaints have reached tidal wave proportions, so much so that the premier has announced his administration will look at ways of cutting the costs for seniors and low-income earners who, obviously, are among the hardest hit.

What about the rest of us? We don’t want these higher costs either. I don’t know anyone who does.

With a provincial election now just one year away the polls show support for the Liberals dropping like a stone in water. The Progressive Conservatives, despite their own organizational issues, have benefited massively.

The cry “anyone but McGuinty” is rising in crescendo and is giving the opposition parties in Ontario renewed hope and growing confidence.

It is time for practicalities and common sense to push aside the green lobby and get Ontario back on track in this important department.

If you have any comments or questions for Jeff Maguire, he can be reached by e-mail at: jeffrey.maguire@rogers.com

11 thoughts on “Common sense needed to remedy hydro situation

  1. Jeffery:

    I do not disagree with the gist of your piece However, the great deal if information you have read was perhaps the wrong information or at least not entirely accurate.

    Although it is true that many like you and me see wind turbines as a blight on the landscape and yes there is ample empirical evidence to support the assertion that they are harmful to both man and beast, the main failing of wind is the fact that on average, it doesn’t produce usable power at least 75% of the time. As a commercial energy source it quite simply is not viable -period. The other issues that many harp upon, with good reason, are entirely secondary to this fact. The damn things don’t work!

    I agree fully with your assertion that coal does not necessarily deserve the demon status it has been given for the very same reasons you provided. You assessment of nuclear energy however, is entirely based on the myths surrounding the scientifically invalid manner that humanity has approached this energy source. For purely political reasons I might add. (now where have we heard that one before?)

    Obviously, you are an avid researcher with above average intelligence which I have no intention of insulting. Thusly, research this: Integral Fast Breeder Reactors.

    I have been a student of all things energy for over twenty years. I can assure you, the discovery of this decades old technology changed forever everything I thought I knew about “green” energy.

    Enjoy…

    Respectfully…

    Sean Holt.

  2. Common Sense needed to resolve Hydro problems… What an interesting idea…!!!

    First Point: There are times when I believe that sense is not common…

    Second. Even if “Common Sense” did exist… would it help with the following?

    Do we need 150KV lines? Higher voltage? Where?

    How much additional transmission capacity do we need to handle our current generation capacity?
    What is the cost of adding distribution lines for Solar? For Wind?

    Is it worth adding transmission capacity for Solar and Wind? What is the payback period.
    What is the value of a high voltage three phase network?

    Would we be better off with a High Voltage DC transmission network? Where? Capacity?

    Why all this fuss about power factor on small appliances? Is it not just beneficial to adjust power factor for heavy loads?

    Will TOU (Time of Use) pricing actually shift power usage for consumers? At what price and social cost?

    Of course all of this is “common sense” and the average member here will be leaping up and down and shouting the answers — I’m sure.

    Here is a reference…
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electric_power_transmission

    Rather than just complain I am going to suggest a long term solution. Lets not assign the technology portfolios — including Energy and MOE to high school graduates and lawyers. Let’s assign them to people with technology education — you know — engineers scientists and the like.

    That means that the parties will have to recruit engineers and scientists and put them front and centre as candidates for the technology positions. The sooner the better.

    They should look for technology savvy candidates that can communicate and that have some spine. They do exist.

    If a party cannot put forward such candidates why should they have our trust?

  3. Turbine viability is influenced by geography, some areas experience more wind flow than others.

    I live on the East side of Lake Simcoe, we had a windy fall, windy enough to produce power for 70% of the month of October.

    Mid summer months are admittedly calmer, around 20%. Winter stands at around 40% but denser winter air has more energy potential.

    Southern Ontario is in one of the world’s wind bands. The strongest and most consistent winds are from the West. Choosing a site exposed to westerly winds near a large body of water would greatly increase turbine viability.

  4. Southern Ontario (and the Great Lakes Basin) is one of the few very large areas of the world that experiences extended periods of time with absolutely no wind.

    It is a great place to expose the Industrial Wind Industry false claim that if you build enough of these things – spread out over a large enough area – they are effective, since the “wind must be blowing somewhere – all of the time”…. Not in Southern Ontario – where the entire area surrounding the Great Lakes frequently can and does experience significant periods of calm – especially in summer and usually when the temperatures reach their highest peaks.

    We live IN the Bay of Quinte (part of Lake Ontario) where it seems the wind blows all of the time. In fact, actual data confirms that we are in an area that is barely marginal (according to the MNR Wind Map) for wind power generation.

    As nice as it is – I am not sure it would be prudent to invest billions upon billions into a proven failed technology with little chance of success – thereby destroying the economic foundation of and undermining the social fabric of one of the greatest societies this planet has ever seen – just on Dewey’s say so.

  5. Ah, that word, “viability.”

    Ask the birds and bats how viable industrial wind turbines are.

    We are not the only species on this planet!

    Industrial wind turbines are not viable, never will be viable – because they KILL.

    THEY ARE HARMFUL.

    HELLO!!!!!!!!

  6. Wind production at the existing sites has matched, very closely, the expected output of a GE study done back in 2005.
    Operating, as expected, they have a firm track record of being useless in every way except in harming creatures too close to the structures.

  7. Industrial wind turbines cannot provide much power and the bit of erratic power they produce is most often when we have excesses and no need for power. Exporting the erratic IWT power means other reliable power sources must produce power to stabilize the product enough to sell it. No one buys erratic power. Exporting power when power prices are low or in negative pricing means few others want that power. The losses to Ontario’s economics, environment and people’s health rise with every IWT installed. Who pays for the loss? The working people of Ontario.

  8. Wind is variable in Ontario, but definitely not absent. The variablity is typical for land-locked continental areas. Wind also varies greatly by latitude, being light at the equator and 30 N latitude.

    Quinte might not be an ideal spot, it’s generally constricted and sheltered from the prevailing westerlies. The entire north shore of Lake Ontario may not be ideal for the same reason.

    The wind map at Ontario.ca has placed the great lakes in general in the “excellent” range and smaller lakes like Simcoe as “acceptable”.

    Most land-locked areas don’t have large lakes that allow surface winds to gain speed. For an lakeside industrial turbine to be worthwhile it would have to be placed in the right spot, in addition to wildlife, environmental, residential, infrastructure concerns.

  9. Dewey, if you have any legitimate
    concerns w.r.t. the environment,
    wildlife, proximity to human life,
    there are no ‘right spots’ for IWT’s.

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