Monday, September 19, 2011

McGuinty's green energy deception - Article by Janice Middleton

McGuinty's green energy deception


Posted 2 days ago
Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty is spinning the deception of his political career and he's betting the beautiful and historic shorelines of Great Lakes Ontario, Huron, Superior and Erie that voters won't catch onto the truth about wind and solar power until after election day on Oct. 6.
McGuinty's Green Energy Act, the centerpiece of the Liberal's re-election campaign, is anything but. The 2009 bill, pushed through the Ontario legislature in just two and-a-half months without public consultation, is costly, unproven and undemocratic. The legislation which stripped municipalities of their control over renewable energy projects, facilitates 20-year contracts with foreign energy companies to proceed with installing up to 13,500 industrial wind turbines, each about 49 stories high with blades the length of eight school buses -- years before they'll actually be energy producers for the province.

If you haven't seen them take a drive south to Lake Erie along historic Highway 3 between Blenheim and Leamington. On a windy day, "The sound is like a freight train," says Dave Benson, Heritage Coordinator for the Municipality of Chatham and Kent. "A modest house is worth 30 per cent less and a million-dollar property is unsaleable." Are they ugly? You bet. Texan billionaire T. Boone Pickins, a heavy investor in wind power, has said he won't put any turbines on his 68,000 acres. On a gorgeous fall day the rolling hills of golden fields east of Lake Huron rival Tuscany. Imagine turbines over Tuscany.

Yet, McGuinty talks proudly in television election ads of 900 turbines installed so far. However, with the exception of one Lake Ontario project, the power's not going anywhere. Wind farms along Lakes Huron and Erie are not, as yet, on the grid. While this is talked about locally, few Ontarians are aware that the turbines are mainly just gigantic lawn ornaments. Repeated calls and e-mails to Liberal MPP Carol Mitchell (Huron-Bruce) were not returned.

Statistics provided by the Ontario Power Authority (OPA) indicate that of 11,571 applications current for wind turbines, 3,165 contracts have been signed, 2,266 are under development and just one -- Wolf Island with 86 turbines -- is in commercial operation. It could be many years and as much as $40 billion of taxpayers dollars being spent to upgrade the nuclear power plants before most of the turbines can be plugged into the power grid.

Since wind power, referred to by OPA as an "intermittent source," is mixed in with megawatts provided by oil, gas and water, (about 16% of Ontario energy demand in August 2011) it's hard to know exactly what percentage of the province's power needs are actually provided by wind. However, wind plans are ambitious. The Canadian Wind Energy Association (Canwea) says on its website it "believes wind energy can satisfy 20 per cent of Canada's electricity needs."

"It's all a series of lies," says John Laforet, president of Wind Concerns Ontario (WCO). Wind and solar energy is neither clean nor efficient, he says. "What is really disturbing is that it appears this Liberal government is operating in a culture of willful blindness at the most senior level including the Ministers of Environment, Health and inside the Premier's office."

WCO is a coalition of 53 grass-roots citizens groups across 38 Ontario counties and districts, which presides over regular meetings in various communities across the province. WCO has launched a website www.windyleaks.comto release and feature what it calls "revealing documents through
Ontario's fall election campaign to educate voters on the Ontario Liberals' dishonesty on the impacts of industrial wind turbines." At WCO information sessions, charts are displayed showing that since each turbine is backed up by a gas generator for when the winds don't blow, which is up to 40% of the time, there is really little or no reduction in carbon dioxide emissions.

Armed with information about how wind turbines kill wildlife, make people sick, destroy property values and don't cut greenhouses gases, WCO speakers talk up the unpleasant side effects of renewable energy projects. The nasty part of wind power includes how the Wolf Island turbines on the Bay of Quinte on the north shore of Lake Ontario west of Kingston kill scores of bats and birds. And, in Prince Edward County, turbine installers have asked for permission from the Ministry of the Environment enabling them to kill the rare Blanding's Turtle if necessary. In the pristine wilderness of Lake Superior north of Thunder Bay, several thousand trees are to be clear-cut to make way for wind turbines.

At a project in Ripley, several residents who signed contracts with Enercor to install wind turbines on their land found they couldn't live with the swoosh noises of the rotating turbine blades, signed buyouts (with gag orders attached so they can't reveal details of the agreements) and fled to new homes. A former dean of medicine at the University of Western Ontario, Dr. Robert McMurtry, says he has identified 135 cases of illness related directly to the industrial wind turbines and is calling for a study of the health impacts of wind turbines.

Is a renewable energy project that requires bigger nuclear generators really green? Tim Butters, spokesman for the Ontario Power Authority, says wind and solar energy can't reach its potential without revamping and expanding the province's nuclear generating stations, which now provide 56% of Ontario's energy needs. "The modernization of Ontario's nuclear fleet is an important element of the province's long-term plan. To achieve this, the province's electricity system plan has identified that the modernization of the fleet will entail the refurbishment of 10,000 MW of existing nuclear capacity at the Bruce nuclear generating station and the Darlington nuclear generating stations as well as the procurement of two new nuclear generating units at the Darlington site (on Lake Ontario)."

Has McGuinty put the cart before the horse? Hydro One last month asked the Ontario Energy Board for a six-month exemption from meeting deadlines for assessing and connecting small renewable energy projects. Complaints poured in after more than 12,000 solar panel operators, whose projects were approved, are waiting to be connected to the grid. So far, just under a third of 18,000 solar panels are providing power, says Hydro One.

In February this year the solar operators got letters from Hydro One advising them that they wouldn't be connected to the power grid for lack of capacity. Their expectations of a 12% return on their investment, receiving 20 years of payments for the green power from their solar panels is on hold. In late August, Energy Minister Brad Duguid offered to allow about 1,500 rural Ontario families who have ground or roof mounted solar panels to relocate the units at their own expense to another place that might be able to provide grid attachment. "A crazy-sounding idea,"' said one retired farmer who bet on green energy.

The Liberals have come under fire by the Progressive Conservatives and the New Democratic Party for making a multi-billion-dollar deal with South Korea's Samsung Group. The government did not seek competitive tenders before awarding a contract that guarantees taxpayer-subsidized revenue for 20 years for 2,500 megawatts of wind and solar energy.

Despite the fact that Ontario's energy distribution system is years from being able to handle the extra megawatts, under the Liberal plan, wind and solar proponents, the manufacturers, installers, and contract holders maintain turbines and panels are going in anyway.

For example, in Goderich, Capital Power has announced it signed a power purchase agreement with the OPA to install 150 more wind turbines to the current 22 within Ashfield Colborne Wawanash Township. The project is expected to cost nearly $1 million--with no date of grid access established.
Ontario has branded itself as a world leader in renewable energy offering high prices for solar and wind power. The Liberal's Feed-in Tariffs incentive program guarantees energy producers above-market prices for their power for 20 years. The rates for solar range between 44.3 cents and 80.2 cents per kilowatt hour. Wind energy producers are offered 13 cents per kilowatt-hour. The McGuinty offer says it has attracted $20 billion in investment commitments and a promise of 20,000 jobs. So far, media reports indicate a fraction of investment and jobs have been realized. McGuinty's office and the local members of provincial parliament haven't responded to e-mails asking for details.

The PCs promise they'll cancel the Samsung deal if they win the election on Oct. 6. They will also scrap 1,800 contracts Ontario has signed with developers, causing investors to put wind-solar plans on hold. The NDP has said, if elected, the party will re-examine the Green Energy Act and will alter legislation to place renewable energy projects under public control.

All told, says Laforet, about 200,000 people in the rural counties along Canada's Great Lakes shores are being tossed under the bus for the so-called greater good of the future power needs of the province's 10 million population. "And there's no word of a health study."

The writer is a St. Marys-based journalist, former Globe and Mail Report on Business editor, has been both a reporter and editor at several of Canada's largest dailies and holds a Master of Journalism degree from Carleton University.