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Wind’s dirty little secret: fossil fuel back up essential

JOHN MINER | QMI AGENCY

October 13, 2014

LONDON, Ont. — I’m green, you’re not.The battle to be embraced as the best environmental choice for Ontario’s power supply is getting down and dirty.

Fed up with the wind-farm sector enjoying what it considers an undeserved reputation as a pristine energy supplier, Canada’s nuclear industry — it generates the lion’s share of electricity in Ontario — has launched a public relations assault against wind.

Both nuclear and wind are major players in the power mix of Southwestern Ontario, home to one of the world’s largest nuclear plants — Bruce Power, near Kincardine — and many of Ontario’s biggest wind farms.

“Wind power isn’t as clean as its supporters have claimed. It performs unreliably and needs backup from gas, which emits far more greenhouse gas than either wind or nuclear power,” said Dr. John Barrett, president and chief executive of the Canadian Nuclear Association, in an e-mail to QMI Agency.

The Canadian Nuclear Association hired Toronto-based Hatch Ltd., a global consulting and engineering firm, to compare wind farm and nuclear energy.

Hatch reviewed 246 studies, mostly from North America and Europe. Its 91-page report concludes wind energy over the lifetime of an installation produces slightly less greenhouse gas — implicated in climate change — than nuclear and both produce a lot less than gas-fired generating plants.

But Hatch says it’s an entirely different picture when wind energy’s reliance on other generating sources is considered.

The engineering firm calculates wind turbines only generate 20% of their electrical capacity because of down time when no wind blows.

When gas-fired generating stations are added into the equation to pick up the slack, nuclear produces much less greenhouse gases, the Hatch study concludes.

Its analysis is that for every kilowatt-hour of electricity produced, nuclear power emits 18.5 grams of greenhouse gases. Wind backed by natural gas produces more than 20 times more — 385 grams per kilowatt hour.

The nuclear industry attack on wind might not be a welcome message for the Ontario Liberal government that has justified its multibillion-dollar investment in Southwestern Ontario wind farms on the basis it’s providing green energy.

But its a position that resonates with Ontario’s anti-wind farm movement.

“We share their concerns on this issue and have been speaking about this for years. We have taken advice from engineers in the power industry, who say that wind power cannot fulfill any of the environmental benefit promises made for it, because it needs fossil-fuel backup.,” said Jane Wilson, president of Wind Concerns Ontario.

On the other side of the debate, the Canadian Wind Energy Association said it has had an opportunity to review the Hatch study.

It said there’s no surprise that when wind and natural gas generation are paired that the mix creates more greenhouse gases than nuclear. But when wind is paired with other potential electricity suppliers, the results are different.

“Unfortunately, by choosing to focus on only one scenario, the study failed to consider a broad range of equally or more plausible scenarios for the evolution of Canada’s electricity grid,” the Canadian Wind Energy Association said.
WHERE ONTARIO’S POWER COMES FROM

For the year 2013:
Nuclear: 59.2%
Hydro: 23.4%
Gas: 11.1%
Wind: 3.4%
Coal: 2.1%
Other: 0.8%

For one minute in time:
(Oct. 13, 2014, 8 a.m.)
Nuclear: 65.8%
Hydro: 24.6%
Wind: 5.9%
Gas: 2.7%”

Source: Ontario Independent Electricity System Operator

Read the original article and reader comments here.

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