Category Archives: Miscellaneous

Three Strikes

Opponents of wind energy have three strikes against them.  I reflected upon these strikes while I was preparing for the discussion following the local showing of Windfall. These three strikes have nothing to do with the merits of their case, which if anything are growing stronger over time.  Rather, they have more to do with human nature.   The three strikes are:

  1. We are the bearer of bad news and people don’t like to hear bad news.  Especially when it shows they’ve been scammed.  We’re telling people that putting up wind turbines won’t solve any problems.  Compare this with proponents, who promise that wind turbines are a painless cure-all.
  2. There’s no money to be made opposing wind energy.  There’s a ton to be made proposing it.  Governments are throwing billions of dollars at the industry, which in turn has attracted large international corporations along with a host of rent-seeking NGO’s.  Aside from The Donald in Scotland, I don’t know of any significant financial backers for the opposition.
  3. Wind energy has been so successfully marketed and is so intuitively wonderful that we are forced to show how useless it is, rather than the proponents having to show how wonderful it is.  This requires facts, which in turn require details and numbers.  Unfortunately the attention span and numeracy of the public isn’t well-suited to discussions involving details and numbers.

For an example of how the playing field is tilted against the opposition take a look at a recent debate about Ontario’s Green Energy Act on TVO’s Agenda with Steve Paikin.  There were 4 guests.  Two were ardently pro-wind:  Tim Weis is from Pembina, a think tank that gets lots of corporate and government money, and  Deborah Doncaster is from the Community Power Fund, which gets its money from the government.  One was nominally anti-wind:  Ross McKitrick is a professor at Guelph and gets no money to support his opposition.  One was properly neutral: Paul Acchione, representing the Ontario Society of Professional Engineers.  He was the lead author of their study regarding surplus base generation, about which I posted.  As he said, they are professionals and take money from anywhere.

The very first question that Paikin asked of all the participants concerned Ontario’s reduction of coal and was that a good thing for the environment?  A softball indeed, and the two proponents predictably said it was a wonderful thing.  The engineer was more measured, saying simply that the government had been successful at implementing its plans.  McKitrick started off expressing surprise that the other three never mentioned any numbers, and went on to show how the numbers indicated that the reduction in coal had no measurable impact on Ontario’s air quality.  I was reminded of John McCarthy’s:  “He who refuses to do arithmetic is doomed to talk nonsense.

The remaining 30 minutes goes on in a similar vein.

  • The proponents who are well-funded (just look at Penbina’s office in the background) and make their living off of being proponents, and who are full of slogans but never quote any real numbers.
  • The engineer, who quotes real (and quite damaging) numbers, but stays away from any policy criticism.
  • The opponent who makes no money from his opposition and has reams of numbers to support his observations.

At least the opponents have one thing in their favor: the reality of what wind energy is doing to the grid, the environment, the neighbors and our pocketbooks.  Conveying that reality to the public is proving to be quite the task.  As Mark Twain commented: “A lie will go round the world while truth is pulling its boots on.

Windfall at the Little Art

The movie Windfall is showing at the Little Art Theatre in Yellow Springs Ohio and I’m scheduled to lead a discussion on the movie and wind energy in general afterwards.  To help with that discussion I’ve created and gathered up some material which is displayed below.  If you are looking for a quick summary of my observations about the industry this collection might be useful.

First, the handout.

Little Art Theatre Windfall showing, April 7, 2012

Thank you for coming.  Details on these points and more are at

Fracking.  Windfall mentions wind displacing gas.  Operationally this is generally true.  Over the longer term wind’s variability starts excluding base load coal and nuclear.  This in turn forces an increase in gas usage to fill in for when wind isn’t blowing.

Emissions.  The industry has never demonstrated that wind energy has saved emissions.  All of the government and industry claims about emissions savings are based on models which ignore wind’s affects on the existing grid, of which there are two major ones.  (1) Wind’s variability and the inability to store electricity make the rest of the grid work harder, thus raising emissions. (2) Backing traditional generators down to accommodate wind makes them less efficient and raises emissions.  Shutting generators completely down causes problems when the wind dies.  Actual measurements and studies of real grid operations indicate that any savings are either very small or even negative.

Birds and Bats.  They try to minimize bird deaths with cars, buildings and cats, and also pretend to support the idea of proper siting.  In reality they will put their turbines wherever the government will allow them, and so far very little seems to be off-limits: the Great Lakes, IBA’s, known migratory routes, public lands and so on are all in play.  Some iconic species are threatened: raptors (eagles, owls, hawks, falcons, vultures, even condors), cranes, prairie chickens etc.  Bats are already under pressure from WNS, and the numbers of bats killed by turbines has been extraordinary.

Noise and Health.  Almost all the comparisons (refrigerators and quiet libraries) are created with models.  Actual measurements are rare, and generally show the models are optimistic, sometimes by significant amounts.  Wind turbines generate a characteristic noise that is more disturbing to neighbors than just about any other source.  Complaints are coming in from around the world, sometimes at large distances – up to several miles.  The ever-changing noise causes sleep disturbance and a host of other significant issues that end up translating into health problems.  The industry quotes a number of studies that claim there are no “direct” health effects, which lets them off the hook for all the indirect (but very real) effects.  None of these quoted studies has ever actually gone into the field and interviewed victims or their doctors.

Property Values.  The industry quotes a handful of studies that show no loss in property value.  All of these use regression analysis instead of comps and repeat sales.  All of them actually show losses, but the wide variance in house prices and relatively few sales leads to statistical insignificance and thus the claim.  Actual experience indicates a 25-40% loss in areas around wind projects, and sometimes a total loss.  Developers generally refuse to sign any property value guarantees.

Financials and Jobs.  The industry would not exist but for subsidies and mandates.  The number of jobs is overstated and the loss of other jobs due to higher energy prices is not calculated.  All independent studies, from several countries, show more jobs lost than gained.

Next, the slides.

Chatham-Kent Part 2

About a month ago I created a series of Google Earth maps of the installed and proposed wind turbine locations across southern Ontario.  I took a snapshot of the turbine locations in Chatham-Kent and posted it on this site.  It got a lot of notice, including a couple of comments (#’s 7 and 12) from one Mike Barnard that the pins were misleading and out of scale to the actual size of the turbines.  He is correct, given that in Google Earth the pins are a fixed size with respect to the screen and not the underlying scale, so the size of the pins has no relation to the size of whatever it is they are marking.  But before Mike crows about “telling us so” let’s do a little calculating.

First, the picture I showed in the earlier posting wasn’t complete.  Trying to get an accurate count of what projects are in the pipeline is surprisingly difficult, made more difficult by the constant buying and selling of projects and the sense of secrecy that always seems to accompany the wind energy business.  Below is my latest picture, which has roughly another hundred turbines that weren’t on the earlier one, and which now includes Essex County.  And I still have little confidence I’ve got them all.  Please click to enlarge.


Second, note that most of the pins are grayed out, as they are too packed in to all show up.  As an example, in the red rectangle above there are maybe half-a-dozen yellow pins.  Upon zooming in, we see that there are quite a few more actual turbines.  Just to short-circuit any complaints about me choosing a particularly egregious example, this area was chosen only because it shows the location of the 7 turbines the Chatham-Kent council wants to have eliminated from the Erieau project.

Third, while the size of the turbines may be smaller than the pins (they are actually about 1/4 the size of the pins’ stickers), their noise and visual impacts are somewhat larger than the pins show.  I measure the pins to be about 2km across.  The visual impacts, especially in the flat C-K terrain, extend for at least 10km.  So there will be no place in that entire area where you will be out of sight of multiple turbines.  There will be no place where you will be able to see the night sky without blinking red lights.  The noise impacts depend on the weather, but often will extend to further than 2km.  I doubt there will be any place in that entire area where you will be entirely free of their noise.

Fourth, I’m not showing the off-shore proposals.  Just imagine the Canadian sides of Lake St. Clair and eastern Lake Erie filled about as densely as the on-shore picture.  I do have a picture of the proposals if you don’t believe me.  For now there’s the moratorium on turbines in the Great Lakes, but let’s not kid ourselves – there was an earlier moratorium that was lifted as soon as the election was a memory, and I doubt it will be any different this time around.

So my thanks go to Mike, for giving me an excuse to update the picture, along with the incentive to explain the picture with more clarity.

Chatham-Kent Projects

It is often said that one picture is worth a thousand words, and often that is true.  And words don’t do justice to the wind turbine build-out going on in the Chatham-Kent area in southern Ontario.  So I’ve gathered up the coordinates of the wind turbines for a number of projects and placed the turbines on Google Earth with kml files.  The picture below shows the spread south from the 401 to Lake Erie, and even the picture doesn’t do it justice.  There are 462 push pins on the picture, one per turbine, and many of them are not visible in this overall picture. Upon request I can send the kml files so you can import them into your Google Earth to get the entire effect as you zoom on in.  The picture below is clickable, thank goodness, but even that doesn’t really show everything.The yellow mass is roughly 100km long and 20 wide at its widest, and aside from the empty section SE of Chatham it is pretty much saturated with wind turbines.  Also, I know there are more turbines north of the 401 that I’m not showing, so if anyone out there can get me some of those turbine locations (or tell me where to look) I’ll add them to the picture.

One thing I discovered as a result of creating this picture is that there are 8 turbines within 300m of the 401 itself, with the closest just 155m away – almost as close as the turbine is tall.  I wonder how much insurance they carry.

UPDATE, March 21, 2012. There’s now a follow-up to this posting.

It Was Only a Matter of Time

The anger of mostly rural communities towards those who would foist wind turbines upon them is not well appreciated by those who aren’t facing that prospect themselves.  But just imagine, if you can, your reaction to an industrial activity that was noisy, surrounded your home, and was potentially working 24 hours every day.  So noisy that the activity made it impossible to sleep, for days at a time.  So disruptive that your family was suffering.  I, for one, wouldn’t blame someone who resorted to violence – like shooting at the blades until they stopped turning.  After all, the noise from the turbines is a form of violence upon the neighbors, is it not?  And when you are in your own home it is difficult to retreat any further.

I personally would draw the line at violence against people – like the project construction workers.  But the anger is there, just waiting to erupt at the slightest provocation.  In Mexico that anger finally erupted.  One person killed, a construction worker, and 20 injured.  The whole story isn’t out yet, and may never be determined, but there apparently have been threats in both directions.  What is clear is that this wind project, like most others, has been forced into this locale by people who live far away and will profit from it.

Links: Original Story [Backup Link]

Update, November 14, 2011.  Amnesty International has gotten involved, and these stories give more details about the events there.

Links: Amnesty International Story [Backup Link]

Ontario’s Offshore Moratorium

On February 11, 2011, late in the day, Ontario announced it was initiating a moratorium on all offshore wind energy projects.  For Ontario this would include all projects in the Great Lakes along with smaller freshwater bodies.  The announcement was quite a surprise to proponents and opponents alike, and was almost certainly timed to get buried by Mubarek’s stepping down in Egypt earlier that same day.  Since stories about the moratorium appeared in 10 of the leading Canadian news outlets I don’t think their plan worked very well. Continue reading Ontario’s Offshore Moratorium

Ashbee Writes Again

If you’ve been over to the Noise section of this site and looked at the complaints from Ontario, no doubt you noticed the Ashbee/Lormand situation, where they were bought out after the noise levels were discovered to be way above the Ontario limits.  She cannot talk directly about her buyout, but she can still write a serious letter. Imagine what it would be like to be in her situation, and then be demonized by your own government.

RF Interference

I’m not a big tv watcher or radio listener, so I personally don’t care very much about interference. I’ve read any number of accounts where TV and wireless internet reception has become a problem, but I haven’t followed up enough on these reports to tell if the problem is very large or not.

There is, however, a problem with wind turbines and Doppler radar. The NWS radar outside Buffalo has been getting interference from turbines 30 miles away, interference that cannot be easily filtered out, as it appears to be moving. There’s also been problems in the midwest, where storm and tornado warnings are quite important. Continue reading RF Interference