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Letter writers ask First Nations people to reconsider Island wind development
To the Expositor:
We have just found out that wind turbines are being built on Manitoulin Island’s McLean’s Mountain. These turbines will be 700 ft. (213 meters) high, 500 ft. (150 meters) higher than the tallest white pine industrial turbines on Manitoulin Island. These turbines hurt the land, animals and people while producing relatively little power at a significant cost to our environment. Please reconsider your decision to build wind turbines in this wonderful pristine land of ours which cannot be found anywhere else in the world. Once the turbines are erected, they will probably be a permanent fixture of our land, more will follow, and it will change us and our land forever.
The sacred land.
We sailed the North Channel of Georgian Bay in Lake Huron with our children when they were very young. The overwhelming beauty of the place captivated us; the distant horizons, the granite mountains that have been here for billions of years and good winds with light diffracting off the ripples on the clear clean water. It looks like we won’t be sailing here with our grandchildren after the land is spoilt and the views that have been here for so long will no longer be seen by humans. It looks as though our children are to be the last generation of humanity to experience the natural beauty of the Canadian Shield.
We can’t understand how the wise people of the First Nations of this amazingly vast beautiful land not only condone, but actively participate in the desecration of their lands and the destruction of trees, wetlands, animals and their habitats, and the vistas that their ancestors have viewed for perhaps 50,000 years. An interconnected network of these towering turbines seems to be strikingly dissonant with Native Canadians’ spiritual connection to these sacred lands. Are we mistaken in feeling dread and sadness over what is to come? Is it a good thing that these lands will be changed forever by the erection of these spinning steel giants?
When almost a hundred smaller wind turbines (only 400’ high) were built on Wolfe Island near Kingston we found ourselves looking at an industrial landscape where there once was a clear horizon, and we lost interest in the city and now sail up out of Little Current. People on Wolfe Island suffered a lot; many became sick and many moved elsewhere. Neighbour fought neighbour; some were paid significant sums for installing turbines on their land and others had to live with the sights and sounds that these turbines produced. We anchor in the Benjamin Islands and wonder at the vistas before us and how they will change as wind turbines are built here.
Even the TV personality David Suzuki is in favour of wind power, and he opened the project in M’Chigeeng. We have listened to him espousing the virtues of ‘green energy’ and the sacredness of nature for many years, so we may well be wrong in our understanding of the overall cost benefit of these turbines. When we heard that turbines were coming, we started reading literature on the pros and cons of turbines and are unable to come to the conclusion that this all makes sense. When we put aside the simplistic statements from green advocates, we can only conclude that wind turbines are not effective in producing cheap reliable power with a small environmental impact. We were surprised to learn that wind power seems to be bad for the environment as well as for people and so we would ask you to reconsider your permission to build wind turbines on your land.
We have listed below the main issues from reports that we have read:
Wind power relies on gas turbines for backup.
When the wind doesn’t blow strongly enough, the power has to be produced by another source. It is presently not economically feasible to store the excess power generated when it is not needed in the power grid. The best way of producing power quickly if the wind suddenly dies is using a gas turbine which is essentially a jet engine fuelled by natural gas. Since wind power is only reliable about 30 percent to 40 percent of the time, these gas turbines must be used 60 percent to 70 percent of the time. A wind farm of about 100MW like McLean’s Mountain produces as much power as a 30-40MW conventional power plant which can operate all the time. Any new wind capacity that is built should have the equivalent amount of back-up power built. In fact, it seems that “wind power” is the wrong term—it should be “natural gas power.” The extraction and burning of natural gas leads to greenhouse gas production that we should minimize. Also, natural gas has taken hundreds of millions of years to form, and it will eventually run out. It has many uses other than generating heat for electricity production. Should we burn it up as quickly as possible to produce electricity?
Reliance on wind power may increase greenhouse gas production overall.
Proponents of wind turbines argue that wind power is better than other harmful forms of energy such as burning fossil fuels or even nuclear power. But as we discovered, there has to be a backup, and that involves the burning of fossil fuels. The extraction of natural gas particularly by fracking can produce significant amounts of methane, a greenhouse gas about 20x more powerful than CO2. Some studies, including those using data from Colorado and Texas, show that as the level of wind capacity increases, the CO2 emissions actually increase, and in the best case, CO2 reductions are either so small as to be insignificant or too expensive to be practical.
Europe has been building wind turbines for several decades and over 20,000 are installed in Germany alone. CO2 and pollutant production has actually increased in Germany and new coal plants have had to be built as a result of the intermittent supply from wind turbines. A report by the Irish National Grid showed that as the level of wind capacity increased, the CO2 emissions also rose. Denmark produces about 20 percent of its electricity from wind and has subsidized the wind industry for decades, however this wind power has not made a major difference in the country’s carbon dioxide emissions, coal consumption, or oil use.
Wind turbines hurt people.
Several studies have been published that describe the detrimental effect these wind turbines can have on those people who live near them. Close proximity to wind turbines has been associated with poorer health-related quality of life, sleep disturbance, poorer mental health, anxiety, depression, hearing changes, stress, and reduced social well-being.
Wind turbines kill birds. Almost all post operational studies of wildlife mortalities from wind turbines in Ontario have been kept secret from the public, allowing government and industry to contend that wind turbines kill very few birds. Until we have public access to independent mortality studies, we will not know the full cumulative impact. The Green Energy Act disabled much of the environmental legislation that would otherwise have restricted the siting of renewable energy projects. And many issues raised by biologists are routinely ignored by the ministries. Significant habitat fragmentation, disturbance and disruption have been found near turbines. Manitoulin Island may soon join the other areas in Ontario where critical ecosystems have been destroyed. These include Ostrander Point, Arran Lake, Point Pelee National Park and coastal wetlands associated with Lake St. Clair. With its inadequate regulations and guidelines governing the siting of renewable energy installations, this flawed act is urgently in need of revision.
Excess wind energy is exported at low rates.
Without government support, this source of electricity would not be viable. Because wind energy cannot be stored, Denmark exports almost 70 percent of wind energy at below-market rates. Ontario has actually had to pay Quebec and the US $1.5 million to take our excess wind energy.
Pollution from turbine manufacture.
The main component at the heart of the wind turbine is the core of the magnet or ‘generator’ that converts wind, into electricity. Rare earth elements are the most important metals used in the production of these magnets. The mining and refining processes used in the production of these elements pose significant environmental impacts and to produce one ton of rare earth elements, approximately 75 cubic meters of acidic waste water and about one ton of radioactive waste residue are produced. The permanent magnets used to manufacture a three MW turbine contains approximately two tons of rare earths. Producing these metals results in 20,000 cubic meters of toxic gases, 150 cubic meters of acidic waste water, two tons of radioactive waste residue, plus a variety of other harmful dusts and chemical byproducts which have harmful effects. ‘The possible contaminants cause negative effects towards aquatic and terrestrial organisms in addition to humans. Some of the radionuclides and metals contaminants are even classified as human carcinogens by international and federal health agencies. Others possible contaminants increase the mortality rates of aquatic and terrestrial organisms.
Wind turbines on Manitoulin will result in deleterious effects on the natural environment and change the vistas forever that First Nations peoples have viewed for thousands of years. Once these turbines are installed, they will probably be there for centuries, long after they produce electricity.
Wind turbines do produce electricity, but only about 30 percent to 40 percent of the time. A wind farm of 100MW like McLean’s Mountain produces as much power as a 30-40MW conventional power plant which can operate all the time.
Any new wind capacity that is built should have the equivalent amount of back-up power built. Usually gas turbines, which burn natural gas, must be used 60 percent to 70 percent of the time.
Wind power does not appear to result in decreased greenhouse gas production. Therefore the major reason for wind power generation is negated.
Wind turbines are heavily subsidized and landowners receive significant annual income to install turbines on their land which might affect their judgment.
Excess wind energy cannot be stored and is often exported at below-market rates.
The permanent magnets that produce electricity in these turbines use large amount of rare earth metals that produce significant hazardous pollutants.
Wind power hurts people and kills animals and destroys their habitat.Brian and Heather Warr Toronto