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It’s Time for the Anti-Wind Groups to Stop Shouting and Start Listening — So sayeth the Toronto Star

No dialogue in battle over wind energy

Anti-wind side shouts but industry can’t hear a thing.
David Israelson — Toronto Star — April 3, 2013

Toronto will witness a minor political spectacle this week that’s getting rather pointless — Ontario’s wind energy producers are meeting and the opponents of wind power are organizing a protest.

“We’ve had enough of THE BIG GREEN LIE (the protesters use a lot of capital letters) . . . TIME FOR MARCHING. THE WINDOW OF OPPORTUNITY IS OPEN FOR US,” the protest organizers say.

Inside the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, the wind energy producers are holding their fourth annual Feed-in Tariff Forum April 3-4 — 600 participants will discuss new wind technologies and the changes in the formula Ontario uses under the 2009 Green Energy Act to pay the producers for electric power.

What’s wrong with this picture? A lot.

For one thing, the debate between supporters and opponents of wind power is not a debate — it’s a non-dialogue, with one side shouting constantly and the other side pretending it doesn’t hear anything.

The wind producers seem to think that, by some magic, the anti-wind people will eventually come to see reason and go away.

And the anti-wind people seem to think that if they shout louder and louder, and serve up sketchy data, the public and the Ontario government will take their side and abandon clean energy solutions, especially wind.

Wouldn’t it be better if we all looked at some facts?

The wind producers do have problems. For example, there’s a high cost for getting clean energy going under Ontario’s Feed-in Tariff.

It was set up in 2009 to give renewable energy producers — mostly wind and solar — a jump start by guaranteeing them 20-year access to Ontario’s electricity grid.

Ontario now produces up to 1,500 megawatts of wind energy — enough to power Mississauga. Over the long term, that’s probably good public policy, but the power comes at inconvenient times — too little when everyone is plugged in and too much at night when most people are asleep and not at work.

Ontario ratepayers pay for the surplus on their hydro bills as a global adjustment. The Independent Electricity System Operator, which monitors supply and demand, says the cost could go up to $200 million if the agreements with wind and solar producers aren’t revised.

The other problem Ontario’s wind producers have is a perception that they haven’t worked enough with local communities in choosing sites for wind projects. The opponents have a point — Premier Kathleen Wynne herself has acknowledged that the process needs to be changed so that communities are more involved.

The big problem, though, is that none of this reasonable, respectful approach to addressing these concerns seems ever to be enough to satisfy the anti-wind lobby.

They say the noise and the swooshing from Ontario’s 900-plus windmills makes people who live near them sick and damages their local environment. Windmills look ugly to the opponents, kill birds, and they don’t just ruin communities — they ruin everything.

But is this true?

There have indeed been complaints from residents who live near wind farms that the noise bothers them and makes them feel ill. Yet time after time, appeals launched by anti-wind protesters get dismissed, in Ontario and elsewhere, for lack of evidence.

Indeed, a study by public health Professor Simon Chapman from Australia’s Sydney University suggested that “wind turbine sickness” may actually be caused by people talking about it, rather than the windmills themselves. The more people hear that windmills will make them feel ill, the more it happens, Chapman’s study suggests.

As for birds, wind turbines kill fewer than coal or nuclear plants. In January, the journal Nature Communications reported that cats may kill as many as 3.7 billion birds each year in the United States alone.

Wind power is not perfect. In some locations it’s not always appropriate.

But it is an increasingly important part of Ontario’s energy mix. And with U.S. President Barack Obama’s stated commitment to step up the fight against climate change, it’s in step with North America’s energy future — a form of power that emits zero pollution and operates with zero carbon footprint.

The wind producers certainly have some explaining to do, and some bridges to build to communities. But it’s time for the anti-wind people to stop shouting. Fewer of us are listening.

David Israelson is a Toronto writer and communications consultant.

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5 Comments on “It’s Time for the Anti-Wind Groups to Stop Shouting and Start Listening — So sayeth the Toronto Star”

  1. Snowball April 3, 2013 at 7:48 am #

    This gentleman is very uneducated in wind power issues.
    I’ll be happy to talk to you about the serious illnesses that are driving people from their homes with every new project that starts up. Better yet, why don’t you talk directly with some of the families today instead of pre-emptively pigeonholing them and supporting Chapman’s garbage report.
    You can do a lot with the power of a large newspaper but we will continue to protect our homes and our family’s health. Your perception of the problem is way off.
    Wish we had a newspaper for a platform but they seem to be all taken (in) by green policy supporters.
    The truth always gets out one way or the other.

  2. WainfleetWAG April 3, 2013 at 7:55 am #

    The Reporter must be an idiot? He hasn’t researched his topic, the proof being the reference to the Australian “it’s all in your head” professor. The energy mix argument is bogus: where is it writ that it should be? Obama says so? That president is out of his depth. The article is full of bromides and nonsense arguments. Not fewer are listening, more Star reporters are talking nonsense. I’m surprised the article doesn’t mention the Toronto Mayor!

  3. jdavek April 3, 2013 at 9:25 am #

    The leftist Star is notorious for supporting everything from electing the McGinty Liberals to Green Energy. Case in point was Tyler Hamilton, their “Green Dream Flunkie” who constantly wrote columns extolling the vitues of green energy and how we should be saving the planet. This article from a total idiot, David Israelson proves my point. Yea, our property values go to nothing, people are getting sick, the power is intermittent and virtually useless, but “we’re shouting too much”. How simplistic can you get??

  4. marti 11 April 3, 2013 at 5:29 pm #

    how terribly unfortunate that the paper does not require their reporters to search out ALL the pertinent facts BEFORE going to print. he is not informed, perhaps the writer has some vested interest, does he, himself, in fact, have one of these murderous corrupt inefficient non recyclable industrial wind turbines in his yard? remaining ignorant within the media is a shameful act.

  5. 1957chev April 3, 2013 at 5:36 pm #

    It is a shame that the reporter did not take the time to do his research. This is a scam, that has been backed by the government, gives no real benefits, and yes, does make people sick. Chapman is not a doctor, and has been discredited by intelligent moral professionals, who know he is being paid to swear to the wind companies lies. For a so-called reporter, Isrealson is very uninformed about the subject he has chosen to write about. Perhaps the wind company could use a guy with such a slanted view of reality. He is obviously trained in twisting the truth. He is suggesting, as the wind industry does, that industrial wind turbines turn decent, moral, honest, nature loving rural residents, into lying, immoral, anti-green, hypochondriacs. They also claim that these same turbines turn greedy, lying, destructive, cheating, politicians and windpushers, into honest, moral, upstanding, tree huggers. Gimme a break. Get your facts straight, Isrealson. You have NO idea what you are talking about.

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