Protect the wind turbines

Our generation is no stranger to climate change.

We have grown up hearing about the growing hole in the ozone layer, the melting icebergs, the smog that blankets our cities, and the filth feeding into our oceans.

In recent years, we have seen the push for alternative energy sources in response to these issues. We have seen the development of renewable energy technology such as solar panels, wind turbines, and hybrid vehicles. But these are far from integrated in our communities.

I recently took a course on environmental ethics, and this is how the contention around wind turbines (yes, there is contention) first came to my attention.

I’m not someone who is super environmentally conscience or who follows the developments in environmental technologies. But taking the course did prompt me to feel very strongly about the subject of wind turbines.

For the course, we watched a film called The Age of Stupid. It featured a man who was pushing wind farms in Europe, hoping to help communities reduce their carbon footprint. But many people protest them — passionately I might add — to ensure they are never built.

According to the film, the main reason people oppose wind farms is because it will ruin their picturesque view, which they want to preserve for their grandchildren.

Perhaps this film is a little biased; after all, its purpose is to prove that we have the means of stopping climate change, but choose not to and allow it to worsen. But its message is true: we have the technology that could significantly decrease our carbon footprint as a species, but we are hardly taking advantage of it.

The reasons people have for opposing wind farms don’t get much better from here.

One problem is that wind doesn’t blow consistently, making it an unreliable energy source. I argue that some renewable energy is better than none.

The blades can be hazardous to animals, especially birds. But if we continue on our current path of polluting the environment then all species are going to have bigger problems in the future than some turbine blades.

Turbines also create a sound that averages around 60 decibels, so it can be a nuisance if it’s too close to your house. But so are train tracks and busy roads.     As for the complaint that the view will be ruined; if you continue to protest renewable energy technologies there won’t be a picturesque view for future generations to enjoy at all.

Yes, turbines may be an inconvenience, even a nuisance. But as a species we need to start looking at the bigger picture.

As university students, it is difficult for us to feel moved by this call for renewable technologies. These solutions are expensive; we’re not about to buy a hybrid car or install solar panels on our rented house. But one day we might be able to, and maybe we should be starting to make a habit of choosing better options now.

Invest in a bike and take the extra time to travel to places. Don’t drink out of plastic water bottles, especially when you go camping, go out and buy larger jugs of water and fill up your metal bottles.

Use a clothesline. Encourage your parents to not care so much about their lawn.

Buy more food locally and take the time to go into St. Jacob’s.

It’s not about having the money or the knowledge. It’s about making conscious decisions throughout your day and taking the time to care about something a little bit bigger than yourself, even if it might occasionally be a nuisance.

21 Comments

  1. Go do some research and find out about what happened in Germany where, as a result of a mad dash to windfarms their carbon emissions have actually gone up. In the UK we are building more nulear plants to supplement the disastrous cancer of Windfarms that achieve nothing significant in terms of carbon reduction and are costing us a fortune. The con has been exposed and corporations are making a fortune from your parents tax dollars by duping well meaning people like the author. Please please do your research before blindly destroying the environment with towers of steel for no good reason.

  2. Well said Steve. I have always been environmentally conscious. I recycle, reuse and when camping (regularly) always use mountain stream water. I have solar panels on my roof and am almost self sufficient in food but I object to the windfarm scam. A farm with a turbine to supply its needs is fine but when you scale up the turbine, you also scale up the losses and costs. Wind turbines can never produce anything like enough electricity to offset the vast amount of concrete concrete and other materials used in their construction….. and did you know the blades are NOT recyclable? Have you seen the sheer devastation being created by getting the special materials for their construction in China? Furthermore, they are usually built on moorland, peat bogs and forestry land, land that has been cleared of carbon fixing trees. My local windfarm has drained the bog upon which it is built. Not only did it fell a forest but has also destroyed vauable peat bog, releasing not only carbon but also Methane to atmosphere. It will NEVER cover it’s footprint costs in either generated electricity or susbidy, paid from consumert bills. I care about people as well as teh environment; people who cannot afford to heat their homes because fuel taxes and subsidies raise the price out of their reach. Think about the elderly who live soley on a pension. Unnecessarily high prices KILL them. Is that what you want Marissa? I don’t.

  3. The author is the culprit of intuitive rather than critical thinking. Wind turbines sound like a good idea on the surface but when examined, you realize it’s nothing more than inefficient, unreliable, non-dispatchable , intermittent, source of power that does nothing towards our energy issues. The claims that renewable energy make should have been vetted through the scientific methodology. This has never been done. Instead the author judges and accuses citizens who are trying to protect their homes, their health and their environment, while she never questions the repercussions this technology is having. These include, but are not limited to , job losses from crowding out of cheaper forms of conventional energy generation, indirect impacts on upstream industries, additional job losses from the drain on economic activity precipitated by higher electricity prices, private consumers’ overall loss of purchasing power due to higher electricity prices, and diverting funds from other, possibly more beneficial investment.
    Ontario through the aggressive Green Energy Act is generously subsidizing and effectively mandating that renewable electricity be used.
    We are providing for 20 years, through feed-in-tariff rates, production costs well above the cost of conventional electricity generation. Photovoltaic receives by far the largest financial support (more than 8 times the wholesale price). Germany by 2008 had the largest installed PV capacity in the world, which leads us to believe that their FIT program was a success. But installed capacity is not the same as production or contribution. The amount of electricity produced through solar was a negligible 0.6% in Germany in 2008 at a cost of $12.4 billion. In the U.S. the total net cost is estimated at $73.2 billion for panels installed between 2000 & 2010.

    You may say this is important in order to reduce C02 & the effects of AGW. Using the cost of ¢41.82/kWh for PV and assuming this displaces fossil fuel, the cost of C02 abatement would be $1050/ton. European emission trading schemes offset C02 at $13.4 (Euro) /ton – 53 times cheaper than solar. Renewable energies are thus among the most expensive GHG reduction measures.
    Had the author examined the experience in Germany by Rheinisch-Westfälisches Institute she would have found the “gov’t support has failed to ensure viable and cost-effective introduction of renewable energies and instead has resulted in massive expenditures that show little long-term promise for stimulating the economy, protecting the environment or increasing energy security.” “ Germany’s subsidization regime has exceeded avg. wages with per-worker subsidies as high as $240,000/ job.” I find it very sad that our young people in University seem only interested in pandering to a visceral satisfaction that something is being done based on a perceived issue that has been well crafted by organizations with vested interests (ie.your tax dollars in their pocket) like CanWEA who use intuitive (not scientific) solutions that wind turbines (and other renewables) will bring meaningful reductions to GHG’s.

  4. While I know your heart’s in the right place, Marissa, you are as wrong as wrong can be about wind turbines. I grew up in the 60’s and have done a lifetime’s worth of fighting to save the environment. I’ve protested to save the whales, save the eagles, save the trees. I’ve signed enough petitions and written enough letters to politicians to fill a small library. And what I’ve learned over the past 40 + years is that if you want to know what’s really going on, follow the money.

    In the case of the wind industry, multi-billion dollar corporations have figured out that if they call something ‘green’, people will automatically assume it’s good for the planet. Our best bet to help the planet is through conservation. That has been the message since the 60’s but unfortunately, people go for the quick fix, like blanketing valuable Ontario farmland with 500 to 600 foot tall industrial machines. It’s far easier to sit back and believe that this will solve the problem, rather than practicing true conservation.

    You touch on this topic briefly in your last few paragraphs. Believe it or not, past generations were far more efficient at conservation than households today. We recycled milk bottles, pop bottles and paper grocery bags. We all hung our laundry outside on the clothesline. We drank water from a cup or thermos, not a plastic bottle. Small appliances were built to last, not to be replace every time they break down because it costs more to fix them than to buy new ones.

    Lights were only turned on when needed, not during the middle of the day. When you left a room, you turned the lights off. Driving through subdivisions these days most houses are lit up like Christmas trees. It’s such a terrible unnecessary waste of our resources.

    Please do more research into wind turbines. They are not the benign energy solution you think they are. They cause massive damage during production of their parts. Vestas (the wind turbine manufacturer) states in an internal report that one ton of toxic and hazardous waste is created with the production of each turbine blade. ONE TON per BLADE! That’s an astounding amount of toxic waste. Where do you suppose that gets disposed of?

    Denmark is just now finding out that because most of a wind turbine is made of hazardous materials, they cannot be dumped or burned without creating devastating environmental damage. The massive concrete base is too big and expensive to dig up, so they cover it over with some dirt and leave it there to leach into the soil for the next thousand years. The land can never again be used to grow trees or to farm crops.

    This is just the tip of the iceberg, but I’m respectfully asking you to please do further research on this most ungreen, unclean, unreliable, inefficient and very costly form of energy. The net destruction is not worth the meager amount of power that we get from them. By the way, yesterday when energy consumption in Ontario was over 18,000MW, all of the wind turbines in Ontario were only contributing 55MW.

    All the billions and billions of dollars that have been spent on this pathetic form of energy would be much better spent on a truly clean, green, renewable energy source.

  5. Maybe you should live by a farm of turbines before you dismiss the health concerns people have suffered because of them. Everyone should quite rightly as you say make more efforts to reduce their energy usage. People who live in rural areas where windfarms are being built generally have very low energy usage and the farms are being built to provide energy for urban areas hundreds of miles away. ITs very easy to make judgements about people who are passionately against their home environments being destroyed when you live many miles away. Would you like a turbine or pylon in your back garden without being asked your opinion first. Have you read Dr John Etherington’s book “The windfarm scam?” I’d suggest you do and look at both sides of this argument. Don’t assume that “Green” means good.

  6. Oh, Marissa, you brainwashed child, please break out of your warm and fuzzy renewables cocoon! Take a few shots of reality. Like others responding here, I have the environmental bona fides of being involved in the first Earth Day, fighting to clean up polluted rivers, closing open burning dumps, etc. You enjoy a far cleaner USA because of our commitment. When proliferation of industrial wind power came along, I looked beyond the feel good and here are some results.

    Have you ever suffered the effects of relentless audible noise or low frequency sound waves? I have suffered angina attacks caused by LF sound waves from wind turbines. You likely live nowhere near wind turbines. In the northeast, where I live in Maine, I have seen mountain ridges blasted away, leveled, and scalped to put up turbines as tall as Boston skyscrapers in treasured scenic areas. Do you believe that permanently disfiguring mountains is good ecology? Also, in Maine, we have carefully documented the output of existing wind turbines and the combined capacity factor in 2012 was 24.27%. That is pathetic, when you consider it is an unpredictable, unreliable, non-dispatchable source of electricity. An industrial wind power site has a carbon footprint so huge, that with such a fickle trickle of output, it will never offset with wind generated electricity, the carbon spewed out to put the turbines in place.

    Wind power is not the panacea that dreamers wish it could be. Far from it. It is actually environmentally devastating and has a high cost and low productivity.

  7. End the wind scam!!!

  8. Someone with so little actual experience or knowledge on this subject, should do more self-educating before speaking publicly about it. The visual aspects of wind turbines are NOT the reason why people are fighting them so passionately. The truth is, it is a useless, inefficient, overpriced form of energy, brought about by the greedy politicians listening to the lies and propaganda of an industry with no more concern for our health, than cigarette companies. For your own sake, look into the numbers, and see the reality. Where do you get off telling others the reason why people, you know nothing about, oppose wind turbines? Ignorant, uneducated people like yourself, should step up and buy the homes from the people who, for WHATEVER REASON, cannot tolerate the turbines. Then I will believe you, when you say you know about turbines. Till then, your story is FICTION!

  9. Well said Shellie!!!

  10. Whilst windfarms are not the answer, I suspect that this lies in wave and tide for us here, I have lived next door to coalmines and the like and they are definitely worse. I certainly wouldn’t want to live right next to a power station (coal, gas or nuclear). Should we give a local veto ? It may mean the end of power stations, prisons, reservoirs, all sorts.of things we.need.

    I have always suspected that the real point of wind farms is the subsidy and the rent payed to landowners.

  11. i accept your view about living next door to a coal mine but coal mines provided employment for hundreds if not thousands of their neighbours for years. windfarms provide a few construction jobs for weeks. They also increase energy costs which cripples other industries that might have provided alternative employment.

  12. The climate has been changing since the Earth coalesced! By far the greatest influence on our planet is the Sun and its cycles of radiant output across all frequencies.

  13. Liberals live in a circle. ANYTHING outside of it does NOT exist. It seems to get smaller as time goes on.

  14. Urban populations really don’t understand the issues around windmills because these issues don’t affect them directly…

  15. Excellent place for all university students to start.

  16. Nuclear has come long way in 100 years , fueled every 200 years now,start buildig…

  17. This short video sums it all up pretty well: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Q4cJ0m821g.

  18. Marissa, please watch that video. The gentleman explains in vivid detail how the wind turbines surrounding his home have affected his family’s life and health. This is the truth for thousands and thousands of families who live too close to wind developments. This is the true reason why there is such strong opposition. While some people may be upset about their view being ruined, in fact, it has far more to do with the negative health effects.

    Most people who are against wind energy are actually in favour of green renewable power. But as they quickly found out, once these turbines were built, there are serious issues regarding turbines that needs to be addressed and not just dismissed or scoffed at.