Tilting at windmills

by Rob Bredin, Ontario Matters, Orangeville Citizen

Speaking to Rob McEachern, of McEachern Electric, in Orton some four years ago now, I commented on an apparent up-tick in the number of employees his family firm had then. He said, yes, and that they “were wiring in” some of the new wind turbines.

I wondered about the locals living underneath these and what they thought. Mr McEachern shrugged noncommittally, and with a slight, knowing grin, said that, for some of the farmers whose land the wind turbines occupied anyway, “It is the best crop they’ve ever had!”

From various reports, each farmer or landowner receives — depending on prevailing wind conditions for the month — on average $400 per month per turbine. However, on average again, a turbine only works to about 27% of maximum efficiency due, largely, to aeolian (“wind”) variations, vagaries and fluctuations. There are some days, even in blustery north Dufferin, when there is inadequate wind to move the mighty blades enough to generate electricity.

According to a range of sources, each “green” job in a sector like aeolian electric production costs the provincial government approximately $750,000.

The McGuinty government selected Samsung of South Korea without a bidding process or competition, and signed a $7 billion deal with them in January, 2010, to have them assemble wind turbines and solar panels in Ontario under contract.

Special “feed-in tariffs” (F.I.T.) for these alternate — they have really to be called “alternate” as they a) are unaffordably costly at present, and for the foreseeable future, generally-speaking, b) can be both unreliable and unpredictable, and c) will still account for meeting less than 1% of the province’s energy needs by early-2014, which is the latest target date set by the Liberals for eliminating coal-fired electricity-generating stations entirely here in Ontario — will allow prices in the range of 10-20 times that of the normal, but increasingly expensive nonetheless, hydro-electric rates. And, as Christina Blizzard has repeatedly and comprehensively demonstrated in The Toronto Sun, water has needed to be spilled at Niagara hydro-electric power generation station’s dams several times already this year, on lower-than-average energy demand days, because various contracts ensure vastly more expensive aeolian-hydro must be purchased first, if — and as — it is available, favourable winds permitting.

With the federal election now over, the leader of the Progressive Conservative Party in Ontario, Tim Hudak, has begun to reveal his Party’s platform, and it is clearly his intent to make the ever-increasing cost to families of electricity one of the most prominent issues to voters during the run-up to this October’s provincial election, the majority of whom are struggling with recent, extortionate gasoline prices at the pump as well.

On the central, pressing electricity issue the Premier may be caught looking like the proverbial emperor who wore inadequate underclothes on a particularly breezy afternoon.

Mr. Hudak has pledged to void the “sole-sourced” contract with Samsung, a South Korean industrial giant, which has been contracted to open and operate four fabrication plants in Ontario for solar and wind electricitygenerating appliances, creating — theoretically, wishfully and-sunnily-thinkingly — 16,000 direct and indirect jobs for Ontarians.

Mr. McGuinty, with a keen political weathervane all his own between his ears, is unlikely, however, to be caught with his skirts blowing, as it were. Consummate pre-election finetuning by the ruling Liberals is under way with the announcement, for example, of off-peak rates now available to most Hydro customers by 7 p.m. each evening, meaning that the-running-ofthe dishwasher will no longer have to be a purely nocturnal activity in Ontario. Herein lies the genius of Premier McGuinty. He knows which way the wind is blowing and its estimated strength better than most anemometers.

Or not. Rurally, where he was never going to win a large percentage of the votes by any stretch of a political policy-maker’s fevered imagination, Mr. McGuinty and his minions have allowed a mere 550-metre setback for these massive, disturbing turbines. Lawsuits have begun blowing in from affected rural residents, and many more are appearing as clouds on Premier McGuinty’s political horizon.

And, rural neighbour has been set against neighbour on this issue by the provincial government, too, as the windfall from installing several monster wind turbines on one’s “back-forty”, as it were, has, of course, proven irresistible to many. North Dufferin, in places, is now a veritable moving forest, more upsetting to some locals than the wandering Birnam Wood was in Macbeth.

While trendy eco-fadists in downtown-Toronto may enjoy paying much more for their Hydro, by buying their electricity through toney energy-middleman/guiltappeasers/ electricity re-sellers like Bullfrog Power, for example, we, in remote, rural Dufferin County, know better what comes forth readily of a bull. And Mr. McGuinty, now growing windy five months from an election that may blow in the winds of change, is full of “it.”

And, here, far from the “multitudinous sea” of bright lights of the proverbial big city, we are left to step in “it”, and to endure these soaring eyesores, these mind-numbing wind monstrosities, and to have to do so 24/7.

8 thoughts on “Tilting at windmills

  1. At this point in time Mr. McGuinty would be well advised if he simply changed the amount of set back of any wind turbine (to the nearest house) be moved to a minimum of 2 kms. Turbines could be built on crown land in northern Ontario if need be.

    • Wind co.’s do not want to locate in
      remote areas because the transmission
      infrastructure is too costly, thus hurting
      their bottom line. Winds in N. Ontario tend
      to be marginal relative to the Great Lakes
      proximity. In any event, set backs are not
      an issue. No turbines, anywhere.

  2. “Turbines could be built on crown land in Northern Ontario if need be.”

    Destroying nature, birds, bats and all, would be not a solution. Rather, it would be merely a relocation of these harmful monstrosities.

    As far as “if need be” goes, harmful scams will never be needed anywhere.

    • Hey, let’s put the turbines in the middle of the Boreal forest! Then David Suzuki, the World wildlife fund and the rest of the fake environmentalists can watch as the Pandora’s box they created blows up in their face.

      Turbines don’t belong anywhere. They failed in Europe, they will fail here.

  3. No wind turbines any where would be the correct answer of course. But we are dealing with politicians here who have never been very good at math. Especially when they are handling money other than their own.

  4. I was in Costa Rica this spring. While travelling to the interior (west coast) we drove past a wind turbine installation. It was truly in the middle of nowhere and in quite arid/poor farm country (i.e. they hadn’t ripped up the rain forest, or anything crazy like that). When we asked about the turbines, our driver (a local) pointed out, unprompted, that they were located nowhere near human habitation – as if he was thinking, “who would be crazy enough to do that?.” This had obviously been a consideration when they were installed.

    How dumb/negligent are “we” (i.e. the Ont. Liberals) to place IWT’s in the midst of our communities, when even a third world country has more sense?

  5. As you quoted Farmer Bill
    “Especially when they are handling money other than their own”
    Yes that is our hard paying tax dollars and we are the one’s who do the voting !!!!!! ‘So let’s make the right choice come Oct.

  6. Why put IWTs in northern Ontario when the could be thousand of hydro generation structures at every dam. It is infrastructure. But my question would be that if our infrastructure was as bad as it sounds then why not invest into micro generation from the dams. I say that we are flipping the bill for power generation to be knowingly sold out of province. I can’t type any more. Hope you understand my thoughts. Kinda like why do we buy garlic from china when the govt could subsidize farmers here to buy local or you pay more but unfortunately with power there is no choice. I wish we could buy from china

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