Winds of change prove costly

Proposed wind farm will be subsidized through higher utility rates

Residents of Summerland and Penticton should prepare themselves for a sales job of epic scale — for a wind project of small scale. ZED, or Zero Emissions Development, are proposing to develop two “small-scale” 15 megawatt wind farm projects at Shinish Creek in the mountains to the west of Summerland.

ZED is conducting public consultations in Summerland Nov. 23, and proposes to have the development in operation by 2013. BC Hydro, the BC Liberals and all the big Green supporters will be lining up with the developer to convince you that this is an “environmentally friendly” and innovative project, that will provide jobs and electricity to meet the future electricity needs of the region. If you can’t believe BC Hydro and Christy Clark, who can you believe?

The claims are nonsense in every respect and it is up to area residents to put a stop to this and other “renewable” energy projects that will be proposed in the area. In every jurisdiction where wind farm projects have been developed, area residents face huge increases in electric bills, loss of access to reliable electricity and ultimately losses in jobs and economic prosperity as government is forced to increase grants, subsidies and consumer electric rates. Where wind farms are in proximity to residential areas there are documented health issues to people living near the wind farms.

From Malta in the Mediterranean to Altamont in California, the landscape is littered with decommissioned wind farms, all bankrupt, all eyesores and all funded with local tax dollars. These things have been failing for nearly 35 years. Shinish Creek will be no different. Britain, Germany and Spain — all touted as “leaders” in wind energy — have scaled back, or abandoned their subsidies to wind farms as the true cost and limited benefits of wind power become evident. Their wind farms are going broke, and their people are freezing in the dark as a result of “going green”.

From an environmental standpoint, modern windmills require toxic processes to create the magnets in the turbines, kill far more birds and bats in a season than the Oilsands has in its history. If one believes that carbon dioxide is a pollutant, or driver of climate — beliefs for which there is no evidence — consider the emissions generated smelting the steel, transporting the towers and turbines, building access roads and erecting the power lines to get this electricity to market. Not to mention the environmental disasters, and human rights abuses in China where these turbines and towers will be fabricated.

In terms of energy efficiency, wind farms typically generate between five and 15 per cent of the stated capacity — bear in mind that “capacity” is not guaranteed “output” — that means that in ideal wind and temperature conditions, stated capacity can theoretically be produced. Too cold, too calm, too warm, too windy and the turbines don’t produce any significant output. Expect about 1.5 MW from the Shinish Creek project — and except to discover that BC Hydro has guaranteed the developer a long-term deal whereby you, as a customer of BC Hydro via Fortis, will pay somewhere between eight and 15 times more per kilowatt hour for Shinish Creek power than you do for standard hydro-electricity. You’ll discover we’ll pay more to the developer when the turbines don’t turn — which is most of the time.

Jobs are always a big selling point — but there won’t be many with this project, and bear in mind that every dollar in wages paid for the construction and operation of this, and any wind or solar project, comes directly from your pocket as a Hydro/Fortis customer. Each of your dollars in this project is paid to produce unreliable, expensive and environmentally suspect electricity we neither want or need.

None of the electricity produced in B.C. is produced using coal. We do not generate greenhouse gases generating electricity in B.C. — not that it matters to the climate one way or the other. Wind farms will not reduce our GHG emissions at all. The argument that these wind farms are GHG free is specious and should be ignored.

Were these projects generally, and Shinish Creek in particular, entirely funded by the private capital of the developers and their investors, and were they to compete with existing sources of electricity at the current rates, there would be little opposition. This is not the case. These projects are simply not viable without significant government subsidies, in the form of grants, incentives in the form of tax breaks and market price distortions in the form of “special” pricing deals with our public utilities. The only beneficiaries of these projects are the proponents who pocket taxpayer money. Environment, climate, jobs and innovation are merely smokescreens.

If we allow wind farms at Shinish Creek, it is a matter of time before windmills will pop-up up and down the Okanagan Valley, wherever there’s a breeze, a well connected rent-seeker and a politician.




Mark Walker is the publisher of the Penticton Western News



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