September 22, 2007

Save the Rupert River from hydro and wind power

To members of the Save the Rupert coalition:

I am in complete solidarity with your opposition to yet more destruction of the James Bay region by Hydro-Québec.

I must, however, note that wind power, although it certainly should have been mentioned in the EIA, is not a viable or desirable alternative.

And like big hydro, which was initially considered to be green and turned out not to be, big wind is not green, either.

At $1.5 million per installed megawatt, the alternative wind projects represent perhaps 3,000 megawatts of nameplate capacity. The American Wind Energy Association's "rule of thumb" for onshore wind turbines is that they require 60 acres of clearance for every installed megawatt.

So the alternative to a 135-square-mile hydro reservoir would be 280 square miles of wind turbines.

Along with the impacts of clearing, heavy-duty roads, and massive steel and concrete platforms, the environmental toll would continue with a broad spectrum of noise that disturbs wildlife (and people), and blades sweeping up to 2 acres of vertical airspace at tip speeds of 150-200 mph that kill substantial numbers of birds, bats, and insects.

The adverse impacts of large-scale wind power are increasingly documented, including by some of the groups in the Save The Rupert coalition. Again, like big hydro, big wind can no longer be thought of as green.

Furthermore, wind is an intermittent and variable energy source, which requires balancing by other sources. The ideal partner for wind is hydro. In fact, wind is likely the reason for the Rupert River project. Hydro-Québec recently called for offers to provide 2,000 megawatts of wind power (they received almost 8,000 MW of proposals). If those projects were to be built, adding to the hundreds of megawatts already installed in Québec, they would need new balancing power from another source.

Thus the company's need for new hydro capacity -- not to provide needed electricity (which, as you say, is not in fact necessary), but to make wind viable so that they can profit from the unwarranted perception that it is a green alternative.

Again, wind is not an alternative to the Rupert River project but the reason for it.

I join you in opposing this latest assault on wilderness. And hope that you also oppose the same assault by wind power projects.

wind power, wind energy, environment, environmentalism, human rights, animal rights