Wind Energy and YOU

I may be a bit quieter for the next couple of weeks while I work on a new article about wind power, this one about the issues around siting wind turbines or wind farms in and near Toronto. We have one (at the Ex) and if Toronto Hydro gets the results they want from the anemometer off the Scarborough Bluffs, we could have a bunch more. This ruffles all of the usual feathers.

But where exactly are we supposed to build them? Everyone likes renewable energy–and every opponent of any given wind project I’ve interviewed has said that at least once, so it must be true–but somewhere else, apparently. The technical siting constraints are considerable: you need to have enough wind; you need to have enough space; you don’t want to build it in a migratory zone for birds or bats, and you don’t want to chop down significant habitats to construct them. So you might think empty country is better–but then how do you connect them to the grid? Miles and miles of transmission cable aren’t exactly environmentally friendly, plus you lose more electricity in the lines the farther it has to travel. From an economic perspective and from certain environmental perspectives, producing electricity where it will be consumed makes sense. Just like growing food where it’s going to be eaten.

I have no answers yet, and twenty-five days to come up with some and put them in a well-written and persuasive article. Wish me luck.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the issue of mixing wind turbines and cities. Would you want one in your backyard? Close enough to see it in the distance from your kitchen window? Are they modern works of art or eyesores? If you live in Toronto, what do you think about the WindShare turbine at the Ex and Toronto Hydro’s hoped-for plans off the Scarborough Bluffs? Where should they go, and why?

3 thoughts on “Wind Energy and YOU”

  1. In the UK, some of our big wind farms are out to sea. Not very far out to sea – you can see them from the land. But I guess far enough out so the noise isn’t a problem. Personally, I think they are very beautiful machines and certainly no worse than electricity pilons, which we have accepted all over the countryside.

    There’s quite a significant wind farm up the road from me. Swaffham is a small market town, not a city, but there might be something in the story of how the wind farm came to be there which might be of use or interest: http://tinyurl.com/q7q3qk

    However, it’s my understanding that the technology is such that wind isn’t likely to be a major player in any future 100% renewable energy utopia. You just need too many windmills.

    1. Awesome, thank you for the link.

      The UK is a different example for wind b/c your connection to a large grid is so tricky–you need to either have your own back-up generation or connect to the european grid, which has technical challenges. But Ontario doesn’t have that problem as we are already deeply connected to a substantial continental grid. Wind variability is less of an issue here–not a non-issue, but not as much of an issue as it is for an island nation. That said, no one technology will be “the answer,” and I’d argue that looking for the one technology that will fix everything has been part of the problem. Personally, I’d like to see an energy future with lots of different technologies playing different roles. Some big, some small, some local, some dispersed.

  2. Did I ever tell you that my dad manages nuclear power plants? Yeah. He’s worked in nuclear his whole life. Well, he retired a few years ago. He is not at all talkative so I don’t know very much about it. I do remember him talking about all the issues they had with neighbors. I wonder if, uh, wind farms might be able to learn from managers of nuclear power plants regarding community & local/state gov’t relations?

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