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specialreport

Fairor foul? WIND ENERGY:
To some, it’s a green saviour.
Operating

Being built
To others, a villian dressed in green. Up for
Jonathan Sher approval
QMI Agency
To fans pointing skyward, it’s
a superhero lifting Ontario into a
cleaner, more prosperous future.
To critics, it’s a villain dressed
in green by an industry seek-
ing profit and Liberals seeking
another term. Prince Wind Farm
The collision of forces has pro- (198.0 MW)
pelled the fight over wind energy
to an ever-fevered pitch, one
being fought in towns and ham-
lets across Ontario.
In Chatham-Kent, residents
raised legal pitch forks to chal-
lenge plans for a massive wind • Is there an untoward relation-
farm by Suncor Energy, the first ship between wind companies
approved under a new regime and the Liberal government?
that pays a premium to suppliers The link between wind tur-
of renewable energy. But officials bines and the closing of coal
in recession-battered Windsor plants is tenuous, experts say.
were joyful with plans for a Wind power was a bit player
Samsung plant that will make as Ontario lowered its reliance
turbines, a celebration repeated on coal to 6% last year from 18%
days later in Tillsonburg. in 2003.
To the north, in Drayton, That d ro p ca m e ma i n l y Embridge Ont. Wind
police watched as protesters because gas-powered plants Farm, Underwood
took over what was to have been were built and nuclear reac- (182.0 MW)
tors brought online, said Kim
a meeting to provide informa-
tion about a wind farm proposal Warren, who manages wind Ripley South
WHY WIND
by Nextera Energy Canada. energy brought into the Ontario (76.0 MW) CAN BE FOUL
The battlefield stretches even electrical grid for the agency
Kingsbridge
•R  un at only 12% to 15%
into the Great Lakes, where cot- that looks after the grid’s work- Amaranth
(40.0 MW) capacity in summer.
tagers and residents are fight- ings, the Independent Electricity (200.0 MW)
ing proposals for offshore wind System Operator. •C  an't feasibly store excess
farms from eastern Lake Ontario Most wind turbines planned Bryan electricity on windy days.
Wind Project Wolfe
near Prince Edward County to in the province’s energy plan • Must be backed by conventional
(64.5 MW) Island
the self-proclaimed sunset capi- won’t run until after 2014, when (198 MW) power sources.
tal along Lake Huron. the last of the coal-fired plants
is targeted to be closed, Warren •Q  ueen's Park took away right
All told, there are 53 anti-wind Port Burwell of towns and cities to stymie
groups in 32 counties — num- said, and it’s possible to close (99.0 MW) projects
bers certain to grow as the ruling coal plants without wind energy.
Gosfield •G  rassroots revolt by those
Liberals roll out plans to double That’s also the view of an Wind Project
power from wind turbines in the advocate of wind who’s direc- (50.4 MW)
fearful of effects on health and
next year alone. tor of renewable energy for the home
So when Ontario’s energy Pembina Institute. Kruger Energy Chatham Wind Project (101.2 MW) • Tourism may be hurt by
minister ventures on to the land- “You could replace coal 100% offshore turbines.
Talbot Wind Farm (99.0 MW)
scape he does so armed with with natural gas,” said Tim Weis.
“We’re not replacing coal capac- • Integrating with grid costly
arguments and this one tops his Raleigh Wind Centre (78.0 MW)
list: Wind energy will be the hero ity with wind.” • L ess promise than solar as a
Experts say wind can’t replace Kruger Energy (101.0 MW) long-term replacement for
that slays coal-burning plants.
“We owe it to ourselves and coal plants because it isn’t avail- fossil fuels.
to future generations to get out able to power turbines for much
of the time. Last year, turbines be paid 13.5¢ a kilowatt/hour RENEWABLE ENERGY STANDARD OFFER PROGRAM
of dirty coal, to clean up our air. for onshore turbines and 19¢
The impact of doing that will be produced 30% of their capac- Contracts in
ity and less than half that in for offshore, even though prices commerical operations
the equivalent of taking seven
million cars off of Ontario roads summer when demand peaks. paid for electricity this year have
Contracts under
WHY WIND
and highways,” Energy Minister Since demand peaks on spe- averaged closer to 4¢.
• Ontario will still need just as
North East development WORKS
Brad Duguid said. cific days, wind can’t be relied x1
upon to meet that demand, much conventional capacity • Environment-friendly.
But experts say the role of because renewable sources are
coal-slayer is not being played by Sharma said. • Less fossil fuel on windy days.
But while wind won’t close intermittent.
wind power — that wind is play- • The province’s transmission • Cheapest renewable energy.
ing, at best, a supporting role to coal plants, it will have a posi-
system already is near its limit • Long-established technology.
driving forces whose credentials tive effect on the environment,
experts say. so new wind farms will require Central
are far less green. • Relatively quick to build.
They say the Ontario of the O n days that w ind pro- major investment to move the x1
future won’t have coal plants duces energy, the Independent electricity.
“I’m not being alarmist. That’s
West of • Growing industry brings jobs.
largely because the province is Electricity System Operator rolls
back use of other energy sources, why the government said a 46% London Bruce •S ource of income for
landowners and towns that
ramping up energy from nuclear x5
reactors and natural gas. with coal and the gas the first to increase (on hydro bills) the next x 13 GTA host them.
be cut back. five years,” Sharma said. x 13 x1
“The significance (of wind)
As the number of turbines Advocates of wind power say x1 •N ew conventional plants are
will never be equal to nuclear its costs should be placed in costly too.
or gas. Even if wind wasn’t grows, so will the ability to ease
there we could eliminate coal,” up on the use of fossil fuels. context — that Ontario needs Niagara
new sources of energy and trans-
said London Hydro CEO Vinay But extra energy from wind
mission that will be costly even if
x3
Sharma. isn’t always good, and to under- x5
there is no wind added.
The gap between rhetoric and stand why, you need to know the
basics of Ontario’s electric grid. “The prices are going up. WIND POWER
reality is being seized upon by
protesters and the opposition There’s more capacity for elec- Period,” Weis said.
So if rate hikes are inevitable, years ago drafted speeches for Mike Crawley.
IN EUROPE
Tories hoping to unseat the tricity in Ontario than the prov- Europe is 20 years ahead
ince needs because a contin- Ontarians should get the best Duguid when the latter was a “We do know influential
Dalton McGuinty government. bang for the buck by building a minister-in-waiting in Ontario’s people have the ear of the Liberal of Ontario, where wind makes
“Our members are committed gency is needed because some 2% of electricity.
power sources will be off-line. green industry, wind advocates municipal affairs ministry. party. Has that affected policy
to go door-to-door and do any- say. “He sold his soul for a seat at decisions? I’ll leave it to the
The goal of the system opera- • Wind makes 5% of Europe's
thing we can to throw out Liberal the cabinet table,” LaForet said. public to decide,” Yakabuskisaid.
tor is to match the supply to the Robert Hornung, head of electricity, more in Denmark
incumbents,” said John LaForet, the Canadian Wind Energy As for L iberals, LaForet His comments left Duguid (20%) Portugal, Spain and
head of an anti-wind umbrella demand. Too little and there are
blackouts. Too much and the Association, said wind energy was one until recently, serv- bristling: “Does that mean if Germany (+10%).
group called Wind Concerns outpaced other energy sources ing as riding president in someone engages in the political
Ontario. grid must rid itself of the excess • I n 10 years, wind will supply
or risk surges that can knock out last year in Europe and the U.S. Scarborough-Guildwood until process they are not allowed to up to 17%, more in Ireland
Wind farms squander tax dol- With the world expected to resigning in early-2009 to pro- make a living after?”
lars, destroy landscapes, devalue a power supply. (36%), Denmark (31%),
Ontario can find itself with invest $1 trillion the next decade test the Green Energy Act. Now The approval of wind proj- Greece (25%), Netherlands
property, kill birds and bats and in wind, Ontario should grab its he says he thinks the Liberal ects is done independently of
cause health problems anti-wind too much electricity — as was (24%), Spain (22%) and
the case about 50 times last year share. party and green energy compa- the Ontario Power Authority, he Britain (21%)
activists argue. About 1,300 wind-related jobs nies are intertwined, pointing to said.
The fight raises questions and it forced Ontario to pay • An industry association
American states and big Ontario have been created in Ontario, Elections Ontario data showing Duguid also challenged Hudak
about the future we want in Hornung said, mostly to operate nearly $250,000 in contributions to come up with his own energy projects that by 2050, Europe
Ontario. users to take the excess, Weis will get half its energy from
said. the turbines. this year and last to the Grits plan, something he hasn’t done
• Will wind energy drive out coal “This is a tremendous chance from wind and solar companies. yet, though Yakabuski says work wind.
and improve air quality? That’s not the only cost of wind
and its variability, Sharma said. for Canadians,” he said. He’s not the only one making is underway. •C  oal isn't being phased
• Just how much will the quick Duguid warns Conservatives accusations: so is Tory energy The lack of an alternative out; countries must reduce
expansion of wind power cost As wind power grows, those who
operate gas-powered plants can are primed to derail a key indus- critic John Yakabuski (Renfrew- should leave Ontarians wary, emissions but not to
and how will we pay for it? try. Nipissing-Pembroke), who Weis warned. eliminate specific sources.
• Will wind create an industrial be expected to hold back more,
and while that has an environ- “The biggest threat to our has questioned the connec- “What’s concerned me about •S  keptics warn that increasing
base for a province that’s lost ability to . . . create thousands tion between Liberals and the opposition is that no one has
much of its manufacturing and mental benefit, it also has a cost wind above 10% or 15% will
— in Texas, the government has of clean energy jobs is undoubt- International Power Corp. put forward and costed an alter- either prove costly because
the auto sector that anchored it? edly (Conservative Leader) Tim Canada, which proposes build- native plan.”
• Can we depend upon the vaga- had to pay penalties to investors of needed backup or risky
in such gas-powered plants. Hudak,” he said. ing 26 turbines in Grey County because of outages.
ries of wind to be the backbone His words don’t resonate with and is headed by a former head jonathan.sher@sunmedia.ca
of an energy system that eventu- There are other costs, too:
• Producers of wind energy will lead protester LaForet, who of the Liberal Party of Ontario, twitter.com/jsher@lfpress
ally replaces fossil fuels?