Intermittent, unreliable, weather-dependent wind power is not the best idea for a city that says it is serious about acting to help the environment
Below is an excerpt from our submission to the City of Ottawa for its new Official Plan on why industrial-scale or grid-scale wind power is not a good choice. Our chief concerns are: reliability of the power source; cost; safety; and, impact on the environment.
Reliability of power source
We are unaware of any review of the Ontario experience with wind power as part of the electricity supply since 2006 and, significantly, since the Green Energy Act in 2009. This is an important omission as the experience has been problematic, and resulted in multiple recommendations from Auditors General as to the sort of analysis that ought to have been done, but was not.
As part of the necessary review of the Ontario experience with wind power since 2006, it is essential to do a cost-benefit analysis for wind power, and to prepare a full and honest estimate of what the costs would be for the people of Ottawa, and the taxpayers of Canada who are apparently going to be asked to help pay for these plans.
The fact is, wind is not a reliable source of power. In a Commentary prepared for the Council for Clean & Reliable Energy, author Marc Brouillette said this:
“Wind generation output is inherently intermittent as it depends on Mother Nature. For example, in 2015 Ontario’s wind farms operated at less than one-third capacity more than half (58%) the time. That means 70 per cent of wind energy was produced in the remaining 42 per cent of the time…Indeed, wind output over any three-day period can vary between zero and 90 per cent of capacity.”
He went on:
“Seasonally, Ontarians’ energy use is highest in winter and summer and lowest in spring and late fall. This is almost a mirror image of wind [power] production patterns”.
In short, wind might be somewhat useful as part of a mix of power supply, but it cannot be relied upon. Although there is a popular statement that wind replaced coal as a power source in Ontario, that is completely false: coal was replaced by the refurbishment of nuclear plants with natural gas being used to meet short-term, peak power needs.
Wind turbines are intermittent sources of power that are not aligned with grid requirements.
Again, a cost-benefit analysis that justifies this in terms of actual effectiveness in climate action will be mandatory.
We ask, has the City carried out any investigation that would allow it to plan for power outages and power shortages? This situation is occurring now in jurisdictions in Europe and the UK, where a move to mostly wind and solar has resulted in a severe shortage of power, such that the outlook for the coming winter is nothing short of grim. Can Ottawa not learn from these situations and conduct proper planning so as not to endanger its citizens?
Ontario’s power grid is designed for a stable supply of power, not intermittent surges and shortages.
A recent court decision in the State of Minnesota was the result of a cost-benefit analysis. In ruling that the proposed wind power project should not proceed. In her , Judge Louise Dovre Borkman relied on information from the state’s public utilities analyst coordinator, who said that “wind and solar capacity does not always translate into available energy because those resources are unpredictable and uncontrollable—the wind is not always blowing and the sun is not always shining.”
A critical factor in the decision was a statement in Minnesota Statute §216B.2422, subsection 4(3) saying that due to the “intermittent nature of renewable energy facilities” there could be an impact on the cost of energy.
“In fact,” the Judge wrote, “as Minnesota Power illustrated in its EnergyForward , the output from those resources can ebb significantly even over the course of a single day. When that happens, or customer demand increases, Minnesota Power must increase output from more reliable resources, like coal or natural gas generators, or purchase power on the regional market.”
The Judge noted testimony from a consulting expert on energy who said that adding more wind power would leave the power company “doubly vulnerable to market pricing, both to sell surplus energy into the market when prices are low and to buy energy when prices are high.”
The final conclusion was that a “wind or solar alternative is not in the public interest” because the costs are higher.
In short, Ottawa’s choice of large-scale, or grid-scale wind power will be a high impact on the environment and electricity consumers for little benefit.
In a recent article in the Financial Post, economist Dr. Jack M. Mintz emphasized the need for honest accounting of the costs of climate policy, and he used the Ontario example:
“Despite implementing various cost-reduction measures the Wynne government was saddled with expensive sole-sourced contracts for wind and solar electricity awarded by the McGuinty government. Those subsidies were put on the backs of Ontario ratepayers who saw their electricity bills jump.”
As for the choice of wind power, Dr. Mintz noted:
“Governments generally do not understand and certainly cannot predict the evolution of technology so should not try to pick the ‘winning’ technologies themselves. They should instead put a price on environmental damage”.
In the Pathway Study on Wind Power in Ottawa, the author stated that because the Ottawa-area is a low wind power resource, financial encouragement would be needed to attract wind power developers. That means subsidies; that means higher electricity bills.
In a Commentary for the Council for Clean & Reliable Energy on energy costs, author Marc Brouillette stated that “Renewables-based DER systems in Ontario could cost 60-percent to 230-percent more than an alternative nuclear-based DES option. These higher costs have the potential to increase ratepayer bills by 10 percent to 20 percent.”
In its 2016 annual report, the Ontario Association of Food Banks wrote about energy poverty and connected poverty to Ontario’s electricity bills:
“Since 2006, hydro rates have increased at a rate of 3.5 times inflation for peak hours, and at a rate of 8 times inflation for off-peak hours. Households across Ontario are finding it hard to keep up with these expenses, as exemplified by the $172.5 million in outstanding hydro bills, or the 60,000 homes that were disconnected last year for failing to pay. In rural Ontario, the effects of the rising cost of hydro can be felt even more acutely. According to a recent report, rural Ontarians can expect current hydro bills to increase by 11.5 per cent by 2017, on top of their current hydro costs, which are already higher than those in cities or larger urban areas.”
In short, wind power generation cannot withstand any cost-benefit or impact analysis (which is why the developer proponents never want them done). If Ottawa wants to take action against climate change and to benefit all aspects of the environment, fostering wind turbines throughout our countryside is not the right choice.
OTTAWA WIND CONCERNS