Wind Power and Guildwood

Sun, 19 Apr 2009, 16:44

For hundreds of years, man has harnessed the power of wind. Look at the Netherlands, for example. Wind power was used hundreds of years ago to pump water and grind grain. Although windmills are most commonly associated with that country, they can be found throughout northern Europe.

Wind mills at Kinderdijk
Wind has been used for power for centuries.

Today, wind provides a substantial amount of power in several northern European countries. But instead of pumping water or grinding grain, wind turns the blades of electrical generators.

In North America, wind power is a small but growing source of electrical power. As the true costs of hydrocarbon based energy are understood, our society must look at clean alternatives, such as wind and solar power. When looking at the costs of energy, one cannot look only at the retail price. That price rarely takes all the environmental costs into account. For nuclear power, the cost of dealing with the radioactive waste is not factored in. And for hydrocarbon based power, such as coal, gas, and petroleum, the unnacounted costs include the effects of climate change caused by the increased level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Clean sources of power, such as wind and solar, seem like obvious choices. Most people want the environment protected, but many people seem to believe that others need to make the necessary changes. The problem affects everyone on the planet. As a result, everyone needs to take part in solving the problem. No one person or community is special enough to be spared from our shared responsibilities in this matter.

Recently, I learned that the Guildwood Village Community Association voted to oppose the wind generators proposed for the middle of Lake Ontario, at least 2km off the Scarborough shore. I can't say I was surprised at that decision, since NIMBYism is very strong in this community.

Frankly, I am dumbfounded by the opposition to this form of clean energy generation, and by the clearly ridiculous objections. If you took even a portion of their arguments seriously, you'd think the very existence of the bluffs were in danger! But to quote Bob McDonald, host of the CBC science radio program Quirks & Quarks: "Allow me to clear up some misconceptions about modern wind turbines: They do not make noise, they don't kill birds and if they are sitting two kilometers off shore they're not intrusive on the landscape".

Let's see what Ian Harrington of the David Suzuki Foundation has to say: "It's interesting to note also that the number of birds that have been killed by windmills (mostly of an older design) is minuscule compared to the numbers of birds killed by high buildings, power lines, and even house cats. And, of course, global warming from fossil-fuel use will kill many more birds than wind power installations."

Will the GVCA next come out against house cats?

Is there any concievably plausible argument against wind generators in Lake Ontario? Some argue that there's not enough wind to make wind generators cost-effective. Some argue that, in general, wind is not a sufficiently reliable source of power. But consider hydrocarbon based energy. As demand for energy increases, production must keep pace. Unfortunately, the time will come when demand outpaces production, and the retail price for such power will skyrocket, and availability of such power will likely be spotty. Even if wind power were not economical today, there will certainly come a time when it will be. It would be better to be prepared in advance rather than be caught short when the crunch comes.


path: /Toronto | permanent link to this entry

the city