No case for wind energy in Alberta

Medicine Hat News

With the province having given Medicine Hat the approval to build a wind farm, the decision as to whether to proceed now rests with city council. Our aldermen should pass on this one.  As it stands, the proposed wind farm will cost about $25 million to build and would potentially supply enough electricity to power some 3,000 homes.

Wind power, of course, has been in the news for quite some time. There are wind farms sprinkled across southern Alberta and Montana.  These wind farms, however, owe more to government promotion than they do to economics. Wind-generated electricity is one of most expensive forms of power generation around.

Ald. Ted Clugston, chair of the city’s energy committee, admits as much. As he noted on Thursday, natural gas prices would have to be at $10 a gigajoule to make this proposal economic.

Clugston is in favour of building the wind farm and argues that we need to look at it as a long-term investment.

The problem, though, is that even over the long term, wind-generated electricity makes no sense.

Natural gas is currently selling for well under $5 per million British thermal units (MMBtu) and market analysts forecast that its price will be just above $7 per MMBTu by 2035 as expressed in 2009 dollars.

In other words, there is no point in the next 25 years that the wind farms will ever generate a profit, let alone break even.

The problem, as we know all too well in Alberta, is that new processes to extract shale gas have changed everything. There is a massive glut of natural gas on the market and more natural gas in ground than we know what to do with.

In the U.S., utilities are looking to bring on more natural gas fired electrical stations and even with that increase in demand, say the analysts, it will hardly make a dent in the supply.

Alan Poirier is the managing editor of the Medicine Hat News. Contact him at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

24 thoughts on “No case for wind energy in Alberta

  1. What I don’t like about this article is that it bases it’s views on energy by todays prices. Sure an energy source like natural gas may be in abundance today (making it relatively cheap) but that doesn’t mean that we should squander it. We need to think about future generations.
    We shouldn’t use valuable resources like oil, gas, coal based on it’s current supply/demand ratio. It should be managed to last us hundreds, maybe thousands of years.
    Taxes on finite energy resources should go up, encouraging its conservation. No one needs a V8 SUV and or a 5000sqft house (or both for that matter)
    This article is typical of an energy rich province like Alberta.
    For Alberta, oil and gas are resources to sell off as quickly as possble to multinationals, for short term gain in taxes and employment leaving them with a long term mess and that’s how they are going at wind with the same attitude.

  2. Less than 200 years ago people were using beeswax and animal fat as light sources. Wood was a maoir source of heat.

    It’s doubtful that today’s energy sources will still be in use 200 years from now. So there is no need to worry about running out of our present supply of fossil fuels.

    Trying to scare people with “green” propaganda that we will run out of fossils fuels is just so much garbage.

    Using centuries old wind turbine technology won’t cut it either as these require fossil fuel backup.

    Thank goodness we have ample natural gas supplies to compete with wind turbines or we would really be in trouble.

  3. Wind on the grid replaces nothing and does not provide an additional power source. Wind power cannot be expected with any certainty to be on the grid in the next minute so power from another source must be online or moved off and then be ready to go back on. This is not a savings and not replacing anything. If more power is needed on the grid don’t look at wind.

  4. In all due respect Joseph, your totally wrong in your last paragraph.
    Albertans are Canadas`lead province in conservation of their natural resourses.They know full well that gas,oil,coal etc.are finite,
    and selling them off as quickly as possible, to your so called multinationals for short term gain is last thing they would do!You either didn`t understand the article,or you`re a pro wind McGuilty
    Fiberal. Alberta has by far Canadas`best provincial governments for the past 40+yrs. Unlike Ont. they don`t re-elect Liars & Theives.The point being made was that wind needs gas for 100%
    back-up, and like Ont.& everywhere else in the world wind power is
    unreliable,obscenely expensive,& a total waste of money.
    Are you suggesting they should go ahead, with dirty wind,( lack of) power?Wind power is idiotic.It`s simple. Like a Liberal voters mind!
    And who are you, to say what other people should drive, or the size home they need or want to live in? My 6400sq.ft. home is more energy efficient than most Because it`s properly built by top builders, my sons & I! And after nearly being killed in a head-on crash (NOT my fault) in aug.09,I`ll be driving my v8 full size SUV for the balance of my days with O guilt, thank you very much!

  5. Barbara wrote:
    “Less than 200 years ago people were using beeswax and animal fat as light sources. Wood was a maoir source of heat.

    It’s doubtful that today’s energy sources will still be in use 200 years from now. So there is no need to worry about running out of our present supply of fossil fuels”

    Why do you think that todays energy sources won’t be in use (200 years from now) if we’re not going to run out?

    Do you disagree with a need to conserve the energy that we have today? I think that it would be cheaper and more ethical to conserve than to keep living like we are today and hope that we won’t ever hit “peak oil”

    Two years ago we discovered that the magic number for oil was $140/barrel. It caused food price fluctuations, increases in raw material costs, increases gas/diesel and it’s all tied together. It won’t be pretty if we hit $200!

    If we cut our fossil fuel usage in half, we could double our energy reserves. I know that I don’t want my children and future grandchildren stuck in a quagmire of energy starvation because our generation lacked forsight. We have the means, but we were lazy and selfish.

    That’s what this article says to me. It’s only a matter of time, when everyone switches to natural gas (because it’s cheap) that the price of natural gas will go up. It’s called supply and demand and supply will eventually run out.

    ..and who are these market analysts that forecast natural gas to be at $7 by 2035?
    It’s impossible to forecast so far into the future, with all that’s happening in the world today. Analyst’s can barely predict 1 year into the future.

    Wind turbines, solar etc are an logical result of this addiction to energy. We want to keep up our living standards at any means possible and the perception is that “green energy” will allow us to do that is false. We need to conserve, make do with less etc. Tax energy, make it more expensive so we use less! Canadians are the biggest energy hogs!

  6. An Industrial Wind Turbine is not a way to conserve. They are oil eating machines themselves, have a limited lifespan and rely on other forms of energy production to carry the real base load. They are destructive to wildlife and are harmful for human habitation relative to their proximity. They use up large amounts of land and need roads to access and maintain them. They are not useful when there is no wind and harmful when there is.
    Wind or solar should only be used on a personal, not industrial basis. In no way would a factory rely on such intermittent power, nor I as a consumer.

  7. Douglas wrote:
    “And who are you, to say what other people should drive, or the size home they need or want to live in? My 6400sq.ft. home is more energy efficient than most Because it`s properly built by top builders, my sons & I! And after nearly being killed in a head-on crash (NOT my fault) in aug.09,I`ll be driving my v8 full size SUV for the balance of my days with O guilt, thank you very much!”

    With all due respect Douglas, a 6400sq ft home (using similar technology) is not more efficient than a 1800 sq ft home. In fact, it’s 3.5 times less efficient because you are heating/cooling more space.

    It’s unfortunate that our greed will someday cause food shortages in developing countries like we saw 2 years ago. We’re also setting a bad example for countries like China and India who feel they are obliged to waste as much energy as the developed world has over the last century making conservation an even tougher sell in this global economy.

  8. Joseph:

    “With all due respect Douglas, a 6400sq ft home (using similar technology) is not more efficient than a 1800 sq ft home. In fact, it’s 3.5 times less efficient because you are heating/cooling more space.”

    Can you explain why you changed “most” to “a” and then did a simplistic calculation that had nothing to do with what was stated?

    What Douglas stated is completely plausible — if math and engineering calculations can be believed. But maybe there is a “new math” that we should learn?

    Here — some light reading for you…

    Is it just college students who don’t know how to evaluate scientific and engineering issues?

  9. When energy is highly taxed this leads to inflation with much higher food prices. Just look at the increases in food prices the past couple of years. Very hard on the poor and working poor.

    In order to maintain our present standard of living in Canada we need affordable energy for all.

    Joseph,have you read anything on the U.K. energy poverty problems created by very unwise U.K. energy policies?

    Ontario is pursuing the same energy polices as the U.K. and will end up in the same situation with the same problems.

  10. David, what Douglas stated (with his 6400sq home example) was misleading because he was comparing a new home with R-20 + technology to older post war era (i’m presuming) homes. What he should have done is compared apples to apples, new homes to new homes.
    Why not build an energy efficient 1800sq ft home when all a small family needs is 1800sq ft or less? Why squander all of that R-20 technology on more square footage? He could have saved himself thousands of dollars on heating costs.

    I think you’ve got me all wrong. I’m all for fighting wind turbines and other expensive green energy but if we do away with the Green Energy Act, I would like it replaced with some type of convervation policy that makes real cuts in energy consumption/waste. We have the technology to do so but…

    Maybe if Douglas had built himself a 6400 sq ft, R50, passive solar, geo thermal house with a Chevy Equinox or hybrid vehicle in the carport would I be impressed.

  11. For those who love Wind Power… if you really want to “Save the Planet” there are more productive things to do than install Wind Turbines.

    We will follow your lead… 🙂

    “From Mongabay: Scientists in the Netherlands have discovered that insects produce significantly less greenhouse gas per kilogram of meat than cattle or pigs. Their study, published in the online journal PLoS, suggests that a move towards insect farming could result in a more sustainable — and affordable — form of meat production.”


  12. I hate to put so many posts under the same topic…

    But one of the points that seems to come up many times is “Behavior Modification” — and it’s always for our own good.

    If you think along those lines I recommend that you read this BBC article before you push the concept too hard!

    The Link:

    And a short excerpt:

    “TOWNSEND: I was making a speech to nearly 200 really hard core, deep environmentalists and I played a little thought game on them. I said imagine I am the carbon fairy and I wave a magic wand. We can get rid of all the carbon in the atmosphere, take it down to two hundred fifty parts per million and I will ensure with my little magic wand that we do not go above two degrees of global warming. However, by waving my magic wand I will be interfering with the laws of physics not with people – they will be as selfish, they will be as desiring of status. The cars will get bigger, the houses will get bigger, the planes will fly all over the place but there will be no climate change. And I asked them, would you ask the fairy to wave its magic wand? And about 2 people of the 200 raised their hands.

    ROWLATT: That is quite shocking. I bet you were shocked, weren’t you?

    TOWNSEND: I was angry. I wasn’t shocked. I was angry because it really showed that they wanted more. They didn’t just want to prevent climate change. They wanted to somehow change people, or at very least for people to know that they had to change.

    ROWLATT: I noticed early on in my year of living ethically that all sorts of the advice you get from greens has little if anything to do with tackling global
    warming. Organic food, for example, is often more carbon intensive to produce than super-efficient industrial agriculture; locally produced goods can sometimes have a higher carbon foot print than imported goods. Greens are concerned about these other objectives because the environmental movement has been around a lot longer than the climate issue indeed most of its preoccupations and themes predate it, says the sociologist Lord Anthony Giddens. ”


    It’s nice to argue for people to change their ways or their thinking. Do we really know there is a benefit?

  13. Many Ontarians have already reduced their energy consumption about as far as they can.

    Further reductions in Ontario energy conservation will have to be forced through higher energy prices and/ or taxes. This could destroy the provincial economy.

    Just living in this cold Ontario climate requires much more energy consumption than in warmer climates. Also requires vehicles that will operate in cold weather and navigate icy and snow covered roads.

    Joseph,check out what happened to the small European cars in the U.K. during the cold, icy and snowy weather they have just been through.

  14. David,
    Townsends smart little anecdote is overly simplistic and in my view condescending.
    If he was a fairy who could minimize carbon at the flick of a wand and people could use as much energy as they wanted, we would probably have more wars over energy, more mining disputes with aboriginal groups, more deforestation (reducing biodiversity), more deadly accidents (as the rich drive bigger and bigger vehicles vs the rest of us) etc etc
    Just concentrating on one slice of the problem isn’t going to solve the greater world problems. Excess carbon is only one sympton of our way of life.
    These “hard core environmentalists” were maybe not so naive after all.

    There is always a benefit from changing our living patterns (to less energy consupumtion per capita). Before the Europeans came to this continent, this land was in balance, balance with nature, resources, respect for the land etc We should aim for the same. We would have more fish, cleaner air, lower costs, better suburbs, the list goes on and on….but no because natural gas is cheap right now. Oops!

  15. Joseph,

    Three things that have increased the human life span are:
    1. Sewer systems
    2. Clean drinking water sources
    3. Heating sources in cold climates so that people don’t die from the cold.

    Heating sources require ample supplies of affordable fuel to prevent energy poverty and even death.

  16. This is actually funny!

    “We would have more fish, cleaner air, lower costs, better suburbs, the list goes on and on”

    By what mechanism would this be possible Joseph?

    When the Europeans first permanently settled in North America in the latter half of the 15th century, the total global human population was a scant 480 million! There was a reason why vast areas of the planet, including most of North America were unpopulated by humans!

    Global human population today is fast approaching 7 BILLION! All those hungry mouths pretty much preclude a return to the utopia to which you elude.

    Strangely enough, if humanity is provided a meaningful existence, our population will over time, naturally decrease to the point where it may well cease to be viable. Why do we know this? Because governments in the industrialized world subsidize families thru taxation strategies. Were this subsidy to end, the simple cost of living for most would make children unaffordable thereby reducing and eventually eliminating human population growth in the industrialized world.

    I know this to be true because I am a parent and my family benefits from these taxation strategies every year. Even with both myself and my wife in professional careers, we could not afford both our children and the house in which we all live without these taxation strategies.

    What is needed is for the masses to markedly increase their collective intelligence such that they can get a firm grasp on reality. Hopefully, at least in democratically governed jurisdictions, the government will benefit from this new-found reality check as well.

    Until such time as this happens, we will continue to be subverted by our own ignorance with the result being the world in which we are currently living!


  17. BTW Joseph…

    About a billion years ago, the earth was apparently completely covered in ice. This condition has been given the name “snowball earth” You can look it up. Why I am mentioning this is that at the same time as the earth was basically frozen solid, atmospheric CO2 was many times today’s concentrations just as has been the case for fully 80% of the entire fossil record which goes back to that time. Atmospheric CO2 HAS NOTHING to do with global temperatures! It never has and never will for one irrefutable scientific reason: The infrared absorption spectrum of CO2. You can look that up as well!

    If you are as truly concerned about anthropomorphic CO2 as you would like to have us believe, I have an immediate solution, not only for you but for all who hold this absurd view: STOP EXHALING!

    I think YOU are just one of the masses that is in desperate need of a reality check!


  18. First Nations people had a very difficult life. It was not utopia but a life of hardship.
    Sometimes whole villages died from cold and/or starvation during severe winters.

  19. Oil hit records of $140/bbl due to commodity manipulation by Goldman Sachs and others, NOT because of supply and demand!

    There is no “shortage” of oil as of TODAY yet we are all paying $1.10+ per litre because the BANSKTERS are playing fast and loose with a non regulated Commodities Market!

    This is the next big Bubble that will burst shortly due to these financial criminals!

    Food Prices are on the rise, Wheat prices on the rise, in fact all commodity prices are being “flim flammed” out of control by the very people who are running the Federal Reserve along with all the Banks such as the Bank of Canada, Bank of England Bank of Spain, the IMF among many others who are all “manned” by ex GS “Greed is Forever” idealogues …………… has nothing to do anymore with supply and demand!

  20. I must admit that innovative new ideas to fight the dread CO2 monster are always good… Takes this stellar effort — please…


    A Saskatchewan farm couple whose land lies over the world’s largest carbon capture and storage project says greenhouse gases that were supposed to have been injected permanently underground are leaking out, killing animals and sending groundwater foaming to the surface like shaken-up soda pop.

    Cameron and Jane Kerr, who own nine quarter-sections of land above the Weyburn oilfield in eastern Saskatchewan, released a consultant’s report Tuesday that claims to link high concentrations of carbon dioxide in their soil to the 8,000 tonnes of the gas injected underground every day by energy giant Cenovus in its attempt to enhance oil recovery and fight climate change.

    “We knew, obviously, there was something wrong,” said Jane Kerr.


    Foamy water — good to the last drop!

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