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.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Wind Wars

As some urban dwellers in Ontario rail against a gas fired generating station intended to provide power for their area continuing to be built in their neighborhood despite election promises to move it, the war between rural communities and wind farm advocates also continues. The difference is that a gas fired plant provides power 100% of the time and a wind turbine perhaps 30% of the time, the gas plant provides power within the community in which it is built whilst the wind farms covering large areas of rural land are intended to serve primarily the needs of distant urban communities, the urban area has sufficient population to provide objectors with enough 'clout' to make politicians at least listen whilst the rural populations are but a whisper in the wind!

Much of the problem that has arisen is purely due to the “Green Energy Act” which removes any meaningful control of the location, size or even very existence of wind farm projects from both the local population and their local councilors, it overrides any land planning, environmental or atheistic considerations that would normally be part of the planning process. It is not that wind power is all bad, just that (as I have said before) its ability to provide relief from using other forms of hydro generation is severely limited until and unless high capacity storage solutions are part of such projects. That such an intermittent source of power should find strong support from large corporations is not a surprise given the governments guarantee price (for 20 -25 years) of the electricity that is generated at what is currently many time the going rate for hydro.

MPP Chris Bentley the man in charge of this file “promises to listen to suggestions about how to make wind turbines more acceptable in rural areas. But Ontario’s new energy minister, who doubles as the Liberal government’s point man to make peace with rural Ontario, says science shows turbines pose no health risk and he has no plans to let their location be returned to local control.”
Given that “Another 2,000 turbines have been approved.” I don’t thing there is going to be too much “ peace with rural Ontario” any time soon! Do the math, at a typical 500m spacing that is another 1,000sq km of rural Ontario covered with these things, and proponents of the projects wonder why rural dwellers oppose such developments. We wonder what would be the reaction were every park in Toronto had a wind turbine erected in it .........!

Since it seems that the fish and urban folks have more clout than either the birds or rural folks and have stopped the proposals for offshore wind farms its seems to me that other forms generation such as tidal / wave action projects should be considered. The latter may well be suited for the great lakes given that being relativity shallow they develop a great deal of wave action with little excuse. Ice may create some limitations in fresh water locations but I suspect that it would be at least as viable as wind. The long term answer would, at least given Icelands experience with it, seem to be geothermal however as of yet I have seen little appetite in Canada to develop such high capital cost ventures. It remains to be seen whether the change from a majority to a minority government will mean any changes to Ontarios GEA that will encourage other innovative and perhaps less intrusive way of supplying our power hungry society.

It is not that any of these types of energy supply should not be part of our system but that consideration must be given to both the impact upon the environment AND those living near such installations.
And thats the way it looks from my neck of these rural woods!

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