There's a supposedly "progressive" blog called Wind Concerns Ontario that has caught my attention in recent months. It exists for one purpose and one only, to decry the Ontario government's development of wind turbine power.
I've found WCO kind of weird. If you believe what is posted there, Ontario's wind power programme is the greatest hoax ever. Wind turbine energy is, we are told, horrible - inefficient, unworkable, costly, utterly destructive of the environment. It attracts a flock of the faithful who, typically, turn out to be rural folks who don't want windmills in their backyards.
Garry Wise of Wise Law Blog initiated a discussion on wind turbine power that generated the expected outpouring of horror stories. One commenter lamented that a wind turbine had supposedly caused a young child to get a bloody nose. Another said it did nothing to reduce carbon emissions because it was so unreliable all the coal-fired electricity plants had to be kept running full bore anyway. On and on and on.
If you read my post yesterday on "epistemic closure" this is a perfect example. WCO presents every possible bit of information it can glean on wind turbine power so long as it's negative.
Now let me begin by saying that I don't have a dog in this fight. I have nothing whatsoever to do with wind energy nor am I threatened by the prospect of some mega-turbine landing in my backyard. I also have nothing to do with the fossil fuel industry that's potentially threatened by alternative energy options.
But I do have experience. About four or five years ago I had to travel to Ontario for a reunion in Muskoka. While there I stopped off for a few days to visit a relative in Leamington. On Day 2, I went to the emergency ward thinking that I'd developed pneumonia. I didn't want to go to the reunion if I was seriously ill. I was treated and given a couple of tests. Eventually the physician came in to announce I didn't have pneumonia but I had developed a bad case of asthma.
I asked the doctor how a non-smoker, 56 years old could suddenly, out of the blue, develop asthma. He said "welcome to Ontario." Apparently the air quality was so foul that I contracted asthma and had to be put on a steroid puffer and pills.
I can recall driving to Toronto and gazing at distant stands of trees that should have been green but were, instead, grey. I saw the CN Tower, or at least the silhouette of it, through the smog. It took me about six months after I got back to the island before the asthma disappeared.
When I got home I mentioned the asthma thing to my neighbour. She told me her nephew, an incredibly fit Coast Guard lieutenant and daily runner, had exactly the same experience when he was sent on a 2-week training course to Toronto. He had to be hospitalized with asthma, he was put on steroids, he too took about six months after getting back to recover fully.
Now, when I engaged with all these wind power opponents at Wise Law Blog, it quickly became apparent they wanted to stick with fossil fuel-generated electricity. One advocated "clean" natural gas which is somewhat better than coal but only so long as you don't have to think about shale fracked gas and the groundwater nightmare that causes. Not one of these critics had a viable alternative. When pressed they just set up straw men and knocked them down.
That kid with the nosebleed that somebody told somebody about? Kids get nosebleeds. Without any proof that wind energy had anything to do with this kid (if he even existed) and his nosebleed they latched on to it as conclusive proof of the evils of wind turbines. Say what? And exactly what do they think is happening to this little bugger's lungs from successive summers of inhaling toxic air contaminated by carbon emissions? Oh, we won't worry about that. Epistemic closure says to ignore any facts that don't suit the narrative.
As I have explored these anti-wind power sites (there are several) I've found a feature common to the climate change denialist community. They simply take whatever they can get and throw it all into the mix. The climate change denialists offer up a melange of lunacy. Some say global warming exists; others say it's a hoax. No matter. Some say it's natural, others say it's sunspots. On and on and on. As long as you speak against it, you're okay. It matters not in the slightest that one's theory is inconsistent with or even contradictory of the others. The more the merrier. As I mentioned to my friend, Scruffy Dan, when you have 16-people in a room, each espousing a different reality, what you actually have is an asylum.
The wind power witch hunters indulge in the same sophistry. They go from kids with nosebleeds, to no reduction in carbon emissions, to utterly punitive and industry destroying costs. Curiously enough, a lot of the sources they cite lead back to the fossil fuel industry. But what they scrupulously avoid is the slightest mention of the other side.
At the head of the "other side" I'll put German Chancellor Angela Merkel. She's a PhD physicist and I'm guessing she won't be knocked off stride by woeful tales of some kid with a nosebleed. I receive periodic reports from Chancellor Merkel's climate change advisory panel, the WBGU. It turns out that Germany is a leading nation in the development of wind turbine energy. Now the wind power witch hunters maintain that the German experience has been a total disaster. They're lying.
They're lying at least if you believe that hotbed of leftie radicalism, Bloomberg Businessweek. Here is part of a story BB ran back in April about Germany's wind turbine experiment:
"Since 2002, Germany has doubled its capacity to generate wind power and has 21,000 turbines producing 7.5% of the nation's electricity. That compares with only about 1% in the U.S. The use of wind has lowered wholesale electricity prices in Germany by as much as 5 billion euros some years, says a study by Poeyry, a Helsinki-based consultant. Spanish prices fell at an annualized rate of 26% in the first quarter due to surging wind and hydroelectric production.
Since October 2008, the abundance of wind power has led to periods where German customers were paid rates that sometimes reached 500.02 euros ($665) a megawatt-hour, or about as much power as used by a small factory or 1,000 homes in 60 minutes.
One solution: Tying power markets together, allowing temporary surpluses in one area to flow toward electricity-poor zones. That's now done between the Netherlands, France, and Belgium; Germany plans to join them on Sept. 7.
Storing electricity may be another fix. In Scandinavia, Danish wind power pumps water into Norwegian and Swedish reservoirs; the water is later released to drive hydroelectric plants. Until there's more integration like that and better transmission grids, expect more Germans to sleep with the lights on.
The bottom line: As wind power generation grows, it can create regional surpluses of electricity. That makes power prices fall, hurting wind profits."
Yes, European wind profits have dropped but so what? That didn't stop IKEA from just making a huge investment in a wind farm. And, as for the cost of electricity dropping, do you think fossil fuel is going to be getting any cheaper?
And then there's China, the People's Republic of. They're going massively into wind turbine power. Why? Because they're easily duped? You pull a supposed hoax of this magnitude on the Chinese you wind up with a bullet in the back of your neck.
There's more, a lot more. Unfortunately the Wind Power Witch Hunters are so swept up in the erotic throes of NIMBYism and so entrenched in epistemic closure that none of this is going to matter to them. But if you're not one of those WPWH types, at least approach wind turbine power with an open mind. Don't buy into their nonsense because there is another side to this story, one they're not going to mention.