A longtime rural resident, I use my 60 plus years of life learning to opinionate here and elsewhere on the “interweb” on everything from politics to environmental issues. A believer in reasonable discourse rather than unhelpful attacks I try to give positive input to the blogesphere, so feel free to comment upon rural issues or anything else posted here. But don’t be surprised if you comments get zapped if you are not polite in your replys.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Rose Coloured Glasses

I recently heard Elizabeth May once again repeating the anti nuclear message of the Green Party calling nuclear power “a sink hole” regarding money. Its hard to disagree with that, but what are the alternatives? In the same interview Ms May promoted wind power as one of the alternatives but given that wind power projects are receiving several times the price per Kwh than are “conventional” powers sources, is this any less of a sinkhole? I note that one recent solar project just coming on line is getting 40c per Kwh (guaranteed for some years) for its output whilst the current price for “conventional” is less than 20% of that! What price are you prepared to pay for what may be an unreliable source of power? Whilst many of us in rural areas can (at considerable capital cost) become somewhat self reliant, how many apartment dwellers in the city have any viable alternatives? Are you ready to pay 5 times as much for the same amount of hydro, are you prepared to buy “dirty coal” power from the U.S. when wind and solar cannot keep up? The questions are many and the answers are not easy but those rose colored glasses seem to be obscuring many folks view of the future!

As someone who believes that we must indeed embrace new technology and move away from old polluting methods of hydro generation I never the less have great difficulty in the “ra, ra wind and solar is the answer” crowd who have yet to satisfy my question as to where does the power come from on a cold, dark, windless night.
Do you prefer damming of rivers, run of river generation, gas fired generation, clean coal, or some other form of generation each of which comes with its own problems, opponents and supporters. I know, I know, conservation is a big part of this debate and I agree with those that say we are wasteful but we must be REALISTIC in our desire to improve things. Just because due to the “downturn” and the closure of many manufacturing plants demand has recently reduced we cannot expect the demand for hydro to remain low, the electric car is coming, the hydrogen car (requiring hydro to generate hydrogen) is coming, hopefully industry (even producing wind turbines and the like) is coming and all these things will require power. Very few of these “requirements” will be limited to a sunny or windy days so get real folks, wind and solar is a great PART of our hydro supply but we still need a great deal of base supply that we can rely upon.

One thing I will agree with Elizabeth on, and that is the need to reduce the impact of wind farms upon our rural communities, this is a case of where the few are bearing the brunt of the move to wind power - to benefit the many (mostly urban) users. The use of more “offshore” installations makes a great deal of sense to me, less impact upon individuals (particularly rural individuals), all but eliminates the visual pollution across the countryside and places them where generally the wind is the greatest. Of course the usual objections will come from both the “developers” re cost and the “environmentalists” re wildlife but each and every means of generation and each and every location for said project will have the same consideration. Is the heath and welfare of a nearby family any less important than that of the birds, fish or other wildlife that will be affected in varying degrees by each and every wind turbine, solar array, power plant or hydroelectric installation? Its where we each find the balance acceptable is the question and it is important that we do so in a logical way based upon ALL the information not upon one-sided “spin” from one group or another.

That’s my view, many will not agree, some will call me “not green”, but the debate must continue without those “rose colored glasses”!

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