May 11, 2009

Toronto Star attacks citizens, shills for industrial development

In an article in today's Toronto Star ("Noise protesters howling about windfarms"), Tyler Hamilton reports:
At the moment, however, there's no convincing evidence that wind turbines located a few hundred metres from a dwelling negatively effect health, [Energy and Infrastructure Minister George] Smitherman said. A 2008 epidemiological study and survey, financed by the European Union, generally supports that view.

Researchers from Holland's University of Groningen and Gothenburg University in Sweden conducted a mail-in survey of 725 rural Dutch residents living 17 metres to 2.1 kilometres from the nearest wind turbine.

The survey received 268 responses and, while most acknowledged hearing the "swishing" sound that wind turbines make, the vast majority – 92 per cent – said they were "satisfied" with their living environment.
That survey is available here. Only 26% of the nearby turbines were 1.5 MW or above, and 66% of them were smaller than 1 MW -- whereas the turbines being built now are typically 2-2.5 MW. Furthermore, only 9% of the respondents lived with an estimated noise level from the turbines of more than 45 dB, which is the maximum level recommended by the World Health Organization to ensure that the inside level is 30 dB as required for sleeping.

In other words, the survey does not in fact support the view that the turbines being built in Ontario should not be farther from people's homes.

Small wind energy expert Paul Gipe writes in the comments to the article:
There are 74,000 wind turbines in Europe, some 5,600 in Denmark alone. And contrary to many myths, the Danes, German, French, Spanish and others are continue to install thousands more every year.
Again, most of the turbines in Denmark are half the size of those being installed today. And it is a simple fact that Denmark has not added any new wind capacity since 2003. (See Danish Wind Energy Association.) Meanwhile the Spanish industry ministry just last week issued changes to limit the expansion of wind energy. Germany's wind still represents less than 10% of production, and France is just starting to push big wind. People are pushing back in all of these places: see the European Platform Against Windpower.

Finally, the reporter of the Star article, while readily questioning the direct testimony of dozens of individuals about the health effects of wind turbine noise, mentions without question "the positive environmental role that wind power plays in the battle against climate change and air pollution". Where is the data showing this? Where is this reporter's skepticism about that side of the story?

Wind industry advocates like to note, for example, that from 1990 to 2006, Germany's CO2 emissions decreased 13.7% (click here for the latest international data from the Energy Information Administration of the U.S. Department of Energy). Most of that, however, appears to be due to cleaning things up after the unification of east and west. From 1998, when industrial wind energy began to be installed in earnest, CO2 emissions decreased only 1.6%. Considering just Germany's extensive effort to insulate roofs, that figure doesn't suggest much benefit coming from big wind.

In part 2 of this article, published the next day, Hamilton writes about Denmark, "In some years, when CO2 emissions rise slightly, it has little to do with wind." Yet without embarrassment, he presents any drop in emissions as having everything to do with wind! In fact, Danish energy trade, and thus domestic CO2 emissions, varies dramatically year to year. In the same table cited in the preceding paragraph, we see that emissions decreased 16.3% from 2003 to 2005, although no new wind capacity was added in that period. From 2002 to 2003, the last year that wind capacity was added, emissions increased 16.2%.

Again, it is hardly courageous to avoid questioning those with power and to only attack those without.

wind power, wind energy, wind turbines, wind farms, environment, environmentalism, human rights