It is not really green energy

Are Industrial Wind Turbines Green?

How does construction of an industrial wind turbine affect rural land?

Consider the White Pines Wind Project planned for Prince Edward County.  Each IWT consists of a concrete foundation, 100-m steel tower, a bus-sized nacelle containing the gearbox and electrical generator, and three 45-m long rotor blades.  The tower is anchored in a platform of concrete and steel rebar, in this case “an inverted ‘T’ configuration with a diameter of approximately 18 m.  An area approximately 23 m x 23 m will be excavated, and the foundation is anticipated to be 3 m deep.”   It’s estimated that construction of all 29 turbines will require 290 deliveries of the above-ground components and 1060 deliveries of concrete.  This does not include the aggregates needed for 16.7 km of access roads. (White Pines Construction Plan Report)  Industrial projects on this scale have an obvious and lasting impact on a rural environment.     9186751 – shutter stock ID #

How efficient are industrial wind turbines?

Efficiency in electrical production can be measured in terms of both installed capacity and land usage. Due to the intermittency of the wind, IWT production varies seasonally, daily, and even minute by minute.  Most IWTs operate annually at 25% of total capacity.  Efficiency falls to about 17% in summer when wind availability decreases. As IWTs age and rotor blades become dirty and deteriorate, they lose efficiency.  After 20 years, they operate at 9-13% of capacity. (Ontario Power Authority) By contrast, Canadian hydro production averages 60% of capacity depending on stream flow, reservoir size, and other water usages. Efficiency may also be compared in terms of the land required for an electrical facility.  Although each IWT occupies an acre of land for its base and access road, it uses the wind energy from approximately 50 acres of surrounding land.  Consequently, per unit of electricity, IWTs need 100 -10,000 times the land area compared to conventional resources.  (Prof. Nathwani, Ont. Research Chair, Public Policy for Sustainable Energy Management, University of Waterloo) Nuclear power provides the most extreme comparison.  Between 1,300 and 2,000 wind turbines and over 90,000 hectares (900 sq km) are equivalent to one nuclear station such as Bruce A G3.   Image from–nuclear-lobby-blasts-renewable-power.

Does Ontario need wind-generated electricity?

Ontario often has more electricity than it needs.  According to the Auditor General’s report (December 2011), 86% of wind power was produced in 2010 on days when Ontario was already a net exporter.  But in order to accept the power into the grid (as the Green Energy Act mandates) Ontario’s electricity system operator sometimes had to spill cheap hydro or bypass hydro turbines when it could not redistribute the power to other utilities.  If Ontario ratepayers were “lucky,” some other province or state bought the power; if “unlucky”, we had to pay to have it taken off our hands.   The only other solution is to pay for curtailment of electricity production, but the Auditor General estimate the cost at $150-225 million a year.

Does wind energy reduce greenhouse gas emissions?

Since wind is intermittent, IWTs are not a dependable source of electricity for baseload power.  They need backup generation from conventional plants (principally gas and hydro).   When natural gas plants are powered up and down, they burn fossil fuel less efficiently, emitting more greenhouse gas (GHG) than they do when running consistently.  Countries like Germany that have had IWTs for more than 20 years have seen NO DROP in carbon dioxide emissions.

In Ontario nearly 80% of electricity comes from hydro or nuclear – neither of which generate emissions. Natural gas, the next largest sector, accounts for about 15% of our electricity mix.   Given the need for backup, wind power will not significantly reduce GHG—or global warming.

Just how green are industrial wind turbines in Ontario?

Let’s put aside the facts that IWTs are undependable, inefficient, and unnecessary.  Consider the direct environmental impacts:  trees (the lungs of our planet) are removed, species at risk are threatened, concrete bases and roads destroy habitat, and the sheer number of turbines and miles of connecting transmission lines leave a huge land footprint.   How is this justifiable?

What are some emission-free alternatives to wind power?

Both new and old technologies can provide an energy-secure future:

• Hydro is the best immediate alternative, and there is enough undeveloped hydro power in Northern Ontario to meet our needs for decades (Prof. MichaelTrebilcock, Prof. of Law and Economics at University of Toronto).

• Sustainable buildings are increasingly being constructed using small turbines, solar panels, green roofs (or walls), and geothermal systems.  These can work in urban centres as well as rural areas.   image # 78007030

• Retrofitting existing buildings will improve their sustainability.

• Educating consumers about ways to conserve electricity will drop demand levels.

• Research on new technologies will lead to effective forms of electricity generation and storage.

  1. When the turbines are no longer in use the land is unproductive and the mess of concrete, steel and other materials used in their construction left behind see California and Hawaii for abandoned turbines. Stop using land instead see what happens if built in cities like in parks, headlands etc.

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