Turbines damage environment in many ways

by Keith Stelling, Owen Sound Sun Times
Joshua Wise of Ontario Nature (Put wind farms in the right places, Oct. 1) has rightly pointed out the horrific bird kills, including those already experiencing population declines, caused by industrial wind turbines on Wolfe Island where the McGuinty government allowed them to be placed with Ministry of the Environment approval. The Green Energy Act disabled much of the environmental legislation that would otherwise have restricted the siting of renewable energy projects. An essential flaw in the regulations is the “fast tracking” provision for environmental assessments which allows the proponents to submit their own environmental screening report by hiring an accommodating consultant.

Many questions have been raised by biologists as to the scientific rigour of these reports which are routinely rubber stamped by the ministries.

Almost all post operational studies of wildlife mortalities from wind turbines in Ontario have been kept secret from the public, allowing government and industry to contend that wind turbines kill very few birds. Until we have public access to independent mortality studies, we will not know the full cumulative impact.

The damage to the environment, however, goes well beyond the slice and dice effect of the turbine blades. International biologists are observing habitat fragmentation, disturbance and disruption near turbines. Reduced bird and bat abundance at wind turbine sites becomes more pronounced with time. Disruption of ecological links and animal movement corridors results in habitat abandonment. The loss of population vigour and overall density resulting from reduced survival or reduced breeding productivity is a particular concern for declining populations. Major studies include Everaert & Kuijken (2007), Kingsley & Whittam, (2005), Stewart, Pullin, & Coles (2006), Manville (2005), Kunz et al (2007), among many others.

The industry continues to claim that it avoids placing turbines near sensitive habitats. However, Wolfe Island is not unique. Far too many projects have been constructed, approved or proposed near critical ecosystems which support threatened species, provincially significant Areas of Natural and Scientific Interest (ANSIs) and provincially significant wetlands — e.g. Ostrander Point, Arran Lake, Point Pelee National Park and coastal wetlands associated with Lake St. Clair among them. With its inadequate regulations and guidelines governing the siting of renewable energy installations this flawed act is urgently in need of revision.

Mr. Wise says “those who say no to wind mustn’t forget that they are saying yes to other, potentially more harmful forms of energy”. He warns that risks to wildlife are much less from wind than from coal, gas, oil etc. Did his research overlook the link between wind and coal in Germany and wind and gas in Ontario?

European experience has demonstrated that coal plants cannot be closed in exchange for non-base load wind energy. Electricity generation professionals have pointed out the practical complications of adding intermittent and unpredictable wind energy to the grid. Stability can only be maintained by running polluting fossil-fuelled plants inefficiently on standby to back up all potential wind production. That is why Germany, which has installed over 20,000 industrial wind turbines, has increased CO2 and other GHG emissions and new coal plants have had to be built to compensate for the destabilizing effect of wind energy. Ontario is building more gas plants for this same reason.

The Irish Electricity Supply Board (ESB) National Grid study of installed wind power in Ireland (2004) concluded: “The evidence shows that as the level of wind capacity increases, the CO2 emissions actually increase as a direct result of having to cope with the variation of wind-power output”. Similar reports corroborating this conclusion include the Tallinn Technical University study (2003), the Rhine-Westphalia Institute for Economic Research study (2009), and the Bentek study (2011). Bennet & McBee were the first to assess systematically the emission reduction performance of wind generation based on hourly generation and emissions data from Colorado and Texas. The Bentek study shows that previous claims were “significantly overstated and that actual CO2 reductions are either so small as to be insignificant or too expensive to be practical”.

Those who say yes to wind mustn’t forget that they are saying yes to other, potentially more harmful forms of energy. Ontario Nature’s feeble plea to “keep the green in green energy by putting wind farms in the right place” overlooks the obstinate fact that a renewable energy source which requires fossil fuel as a backup is hardly green in the first place.

Keith Stelling, Southampton

21 thoughts on “Turbines damage environment in many ways

  1. On the point of the harm being done to nature by wind turbines, I cannot recall a single article
    demonstrating this as effectively as this one, in particular coming up with specific data and sources. But now, after the election, it’s obvious that this is somewhat like preaching to those already converted, at least in the country. How can we get this article in the Toronto papers, the TV media and the internet? Otherwise the wall of ignorance that now insulates the cities will only
    be breached after the damage is done. Perhaps we need some ” constructive obstruction ” of the
    organizations that are supposed to protect our natural heritage and are largely silent. Conservation authorities, Niagara Escarpment Commission and most NGO’s that are supposed to protect this natural heritage seem more concerned with protecting their organization and their jobs. They exist largely on public money and donations. Maybe we should look more closely at
    that money flow and try to stand in its way.

    • Yes, the tax free international transfer of money by ENGOs should be investigated along with their Canadian federal tax exemptions as charities and non-profits. But this a federal matter to be dealt with by MPs. It is important to push this matter.

  2. ADT, I suspect the cost of energy will ultimately determine the outcome


    Guess what? Electricity prices have gone through the roof. The average U.K. household bill is a tad under $200 per month, and so the thermostat goes down. It’s pretty chilly there for much of the year, and a cold house has consequences. A study just came out today on the health costs of what they call “fuel poverty”, commissioned by the Energy and Climate Change Secretary (don’t we need one of those?), Chris Huhne. Bottom line: the chill from green taxes is now killing more Brits per year than car crashes.

    • Yes, but the problem lies with that word “ultimately”. What do we do with all the ugly
      5oo foot posts which, because of contracts now signed, may still be driving us ultimately into bankruptcy?

  3. “Those who say yes to wind mustn’t forget that they are saying yes to other, potentially more harmful forms of energy.” The inefficiencies caused by IWT production increases the demand for more energy to be produced than if IWTs were not producing. It is far more practical and cost efficient to produce power to meet only consumer demands. To produce additional power just to smooth out highly variability wind production and then sell both the additional power and wind power at a loss or worse pay someone to burn the power away is not economical and has high environmental cost. Keith Stelling is capturing the main reason we should not have IWTs. IWTs are a waste of time and effort if to produce power for the gird.

  4. A few years ago I read that Denmark started using IWT in 1970’s not to save the planet but because they had no source of energy of their own. Russia was threatening to shut off their gas, and their options were limited.

    • During the Cold War Western Europe was afraid that the old USSR would cut off their energy supplies.

  5. Then there is the additional environmental damage done by thousand of kms of transmission lines that need to be built.

  6. But what about the fact that Brits heat with gas and oil? How does that make their hydro bills go up?

    • Chris, a large percentage of homes in England have no central heating. In these they heat rooms, not the whole house. Much of that is done with electric heaters.

    • Brits don’t heat with oil by and large. It takes electricity to run the furnace motors just as it does here. Then you have many homes with electric heat and most with electric appliances. They don’t use hot air/forced air furnaces for heat as we do. Some have gas fireplaces.

      • Many wealthy there do have wood burning fireplaces with wood supplied from their estate lands. Wood is scarce in Europe. Canada has lots of wood. Ordinary people would burn coal in their fireplaces.That is if they are still allowed to burn coal.

      • Well if this keeps up, England’s energy poverty combined with financial meltdown. Ever see christmas carol with Patrick Stewart. The accountant had frozen fingers and wanted to put another piece of coal on the fire. Scrooge stopped him then yelled “poke it poke it” to make it burn hotter. That will be circa 2014.

  7. Someone on this site gave a link that lead to this. They raise many similiar points
    Large wind-power installation generates a significant subsidy-addicted industry
    turbines may make more than 2,000 km2 of land unfit for human habitation. This is 6% of the Dutch land surface,
    The key issue is whether a responsible government can wreak havoc in the landscape and in society in order to generate less than 10% of our electricity or satisfy between 1 and 2% of our total energy demand.

    The result is the opposite deviation! Actual data (rather than model studies) from Denmark thus show: Wind does not save fossil fuel, therefore does not reduce CO2 emissions.

    the considerable gap between aspiration and reality

  8. These were the original links

    “A 300 MW nameplate windpark near Schiphol on August 28, 2011, a normal windy day, during 21,5 h would have increased the amount of natural gas needed for the electricity production of 500 MW with 47150 m3 gas. This would have caused an extra emission of 117,9 ton CO2 into the atmosphere.

    The wind projects do not fulfill ‘sustainable’ objectives. They cost more fuel than they save and they cause no CO2 saving, in the contrary they increase our environmental ‘foot print’.

    A decision to invest thousands of millions Euros in the construction of wind developments ‘to save fossil fuel and to reduce CO2 emission’ is irresponsible. There are no savings, THERE IS LOSS!

    We do not consider it likely that more knowledge of the factors influencing the present outcomes would change our results appreciably. ”

    From Ireland as well

    • As Brenda mentioned yesterday,the issues of renewable energy go back in Western Europe,Denmark,to the 1970s and farther back than this. This was the Cold War era and renewable energy was to be a means of protection from the old USSR cutting off energy supplies. Then ideology and politics took over these issues. Canada faces no such threat of having its energy supples cut off. No need for useless renewable energy here

  9. “Using wind data from a normal windy day in the Netherlands it will be shown that wind developments of various sizes cause extra fuel consumption instead of fuel saving, when compared to electricity production with modern high-efficiency gas turbines only. We demonstrate that such losses occur.” from the link on David Libby’s comment above is a comment capturing the reality of having IWT produced power on the grid.
    Any author using hourly output values do not have the information needed to capture the significant inefficiencies caused by including IWT produced power on the grid. Real time data are needed as IWT production changes minute by minute. Those minute to minute power production changes are not suitable for the grid. At times a dumping of electricity is needed to keep the grid stable. Dumping as in off the grid in any means possible, which is not always selling at a loss but includes running energy consumptive machines to do nothing more than burn energy off the grid or switch off reliable power supplies that will continue to produce power to go back on line in any future minute. Dealing with minute to minute power fluctuations, made worse with the inclusion of IWT is not only costly but not very green.

  10. Zen Said:

    Any author using hourly output values do not have the information needed to capture the significant inefficiencies caused by including IWT produced power on the grid.

    Excellent! 😉 Get me that data — I’ll analyze it. But let me point out that even the hourly data shows clearly that they are a waste of money and unproductive… Further, I would like to point out that analyzing the minute by minute or even the instantaneous data would be like eating an entire omelet made of bad eggs before announcing that it tasted terrible… i.e. — not necessary to make a point.

  11. Ontario Nature’s feeble plea to “keep the green in green energy by putting wind farms in the right place”

    I would like to see a “right place” or a “right site” — would it be more productive for IWTs than those that provide the current abysmal performance record? Would that “right place” do less environmental damage? Would it kill fewer bird? If so, how so? Enlighten us, please, as to this “right siting” methodology. Nothing vague now, mind you! Clear precise instructions are needed!

    Nothing feeble about that comment — it is complete capitulation to the notion that they don’t have a clue — yes, that’s right, Joshua (and even his organization) is clueless. It is a “Peace in our time” statement — very Neville Chamberlainish — a man who was “very keen on the idea of peace” — much as Joshua is “very keen on the idea of green”. Neither party has a clue or had a clue as to how to achieve their objectives and supported entirely the opposite of what was required.

    Unless Joshua and his partners in crime can show us the process to “right site” useless, unporoductive gear and environmentally damaging gear they are doing nothing more than making noise to fill a perceived vacuum — an action somewhat akin in value to siting a wind turbine to provide “needed” electricity for Ontario. Both actions are useless — no need to contemplate either. Shades of Jon Bennet and Sierra Club.

    Save us from those who would save us!

    • I understand. Wind turbines make absolutely zero sense from an energy, or economic perspective, so we shouldn’t be advocating to build them anywhere. Those of us who have argued for development in Toronto or Ottawa South do so in frustration, knowing that there is not the slightest chance of that happening. Still it does point out the hypocrisy of advocates like McGuinty and his cabinet colleagues and that is not altogether a bad thing.

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