Fair or Foul?

In Ontario there’s starting to be a great deal of interest in the wind energy industry in the media.  Initially, like most people, reporters were inclined to report favorably about the industry.  As the projects have gone in and people have started doing research and finding out how the benefits are illusory and the costs substantial, there’s been a shift in the media coverage.  In an attempt at presenting both sides of the story, Jonathan Sher has written an article that was published in a number of Ontario newspapers, in this case the Peterborough Examiner.  The article itself is not badly written for someone who is new to the discussion, but he gives far too much credence to people who, after all, have a financial stake in the industry.

In it, at the bottom, he includes eight reasons why wind “works”.  They are listed below, along with my take on each of them.  Needless to say, those benefits, when looked at closely, either disappear or are nonsensical.


-Environment-friendly. Sher certainly has a strange sense of friendly.  We know turbines destroy habitat, kill birds and bats, result in new roads in to pristine areas and mountain ridges being blown away.  This doesn’t even count the effects on the neighbors.  Nor does it count the substantial costs of all the new transmission lines.  And for no CO2 emissions savings.

-Less fossil fuel on windy days. Apparently Sher has never actually looked at the numbers.  I have, and it is pretty clear that Ontario does not lessen its use of coal or gas due to wind production.

-Cheapest renewable energy. Certainly it is cheaper than solar.  Not sure about tidal.  Probably more expensive than biomass.  But so what?  We should beggar ourselves while the rest of the world continues business-as-usual, making us less able to continue improving our environment?  Certainly we can lower our usage, but no amount of renewables will produce the energy needs of 6 billion humans.

-Long-established technology. If so, then why does the industry keep saying they only need subsidies until the technology is developed?

-Relatively quick to build. This one is true.  Is this a benefit?  I’m not sure that the neighbors would agree that this is a good thing.  On a macro scale it just means that the government can blow through a lot of our money quickly and developers can get rich quick.

-Growing industry brings jobs. For the few in the industry this is true.  For everyone else, it is a job killer.

-Source of income for landowners and towns that host them. This is true for the landowners.  It is not true for the towns.  Real estate valuations for the turbines are set at pennies on the dollar, and the loss of property values will eventually lead to losses in local revenues.

-New conventional plants are costly too. Not like wind turbines, which get huge subsidies – larger than any other source – and still the cost to the ratepayer is high.

Original Link to the article.

Backup Link in case it goes dead.

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