Friday, 7 December 2012

Wind supporter takes shot at wind fighters

Wind supporter takes shot at wind fighters
The Kincardine News
Dear Editor,
Our family attended several council meetings in the past because we truly care about our community and the many issues that determine our future.
My children do not really like to come because of the hostile behaviour from some citizens and propaganda language being used when it comes to wind energy.
They know that the term "industrial" as an adjective for wind turbines is the result of a series of focus groups financed by one of the Koch brothers as part of his opposition to a proposed offshore wind project near Cape Cod.
At times we too feel misrepresented by our council and citizen representative but that is part of the process in real life.
To attack a fellow citizen in public is just another step to divide our community.
Please pick up the phone or even better go to the person that you feel has done something wrong and speak directly to him or her in a civil and rational manner. I know from experience that it can resolve many misunderstandings and lead to a better society.
There were times when I felt as though the radio might be the safest way for me to express my views about renewable energy. Many friends of wind in Ontario are thinking that the greatest health hazard related to wind energy is speaking out in support for wind energy!
ReNew Canada published a comprehensive report on wind energy in Ontario last year. Its conclusion states " Wind Concerns Ontario could not adequately provide evidence to support its claims." It has used material out of context, provided facts without support, and has firmly put the burden of proof on the proponents of wind rather than having to prove its own statements."
Look at the big picture of energy options that we are being offered right now, join hands, compromise and start developing a plan together!
Jutta Splettstoesser

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Doing well by doing good

Private sector can act to cut energy use without waiting for government
Published on Monday December 03, 2012

The full story is here.

Mike Pedersen 

Moving toward a low-carbon economy was high on the agenda of policy-makers prior to the financial crisis and ensuing global recession. Priorities shifted with these events, but a series of announcements this fall suggest this shift may have been temporary.
Ottawa announced it is making progress in meeting the carbon emission targets set out by the Copenhagen accord. The British government launched the world’s first investment bank with the sole purpose of “greening the U.K. economy.” And in his victory speech, U.S. President Barack Obama spoke about the “destructive power of a warming planet.” The mention was brief, but for a nation still reeling from the extreme force of Superstorm Sandy — something the mayor of New York City directly linked to climate change — the message was clear.
More pronouncements and policy discussions will follow the UN Climate Change Conference being held in Doha. Yet in the immediate term market forces continue to influence energy use. High energy costs and the slow-growth economy are motivating Canadian companies to become more energy efficient. Indeed, the Carbon Disclosure Project, which asks the country’s top 200 publicly traded companies to provide information on their emission reduction strategies, reported on 140 initiatives that generated annual savings this year — an increase of 32 per cent from the previous year. By serving their private interests, companies are also advancing the public good.
That’s been our experience at TD. Becoming the first North American-based carbon-neutral bank imposed a discipline on us to do more with less — in effect, boost our productivity. At the same time, we have reduced the amount of greenhouse gases we add to the Earth’s atmosphere.
Three strategies underpin our initiative: use less energy, use “greener” energy, and “offset” the remaining emissions with high quality carbon credits.
The second and third strategies proved to be catalysts for a number productivity gains. Simply put, the additional cost required to use greener energy or offset our emissions made the status quo too expensive. In turn the business case for achieving greater energy efficiency became more compelling.
This has led us to create “net zero” energy branches in both the U.S. and Canada that are designed to produce at least as much energy as they use. We have also implemented energy efficiency projects across our operations, including construction of a more energy-efficient data centre for our North American operations.
Overall, we have reduced our North American greenhouse gas emissions associated with energy usage by 4 per cent, even though we have increased our real estate footprint by 24 per cent. We are on target to reduce carbon by one tonne per employee by 2015 — a 28-per cent reduction from our 2008 baseline. This represents substantial cost savings.
Additionally, new revenue streams have been tapped — partly due to the expertise we have gained in reducing energy consumption and purchasing offsets.
For instance, renewable energy financing now stands at over $2 billion, and we have been able to introduce innovative small-scale renewables financing products in the retail market.
Ironically, back in 2008, our motivation to become carbon neutral was based in part on the assumption that widespread carbon pricing was imminent. Our timing was wrong, but we fortunately stuck with our conviction that the dynamic between energy and environment would eventually change the way our customers live, work and play.
Given the re-emerging interest in creating low-carbon economies, are we now in a better position to adapt to some form of carbon pricing? To be sure, we are far more familiar with both the principle and practice.
However, in Canada, policy clarity is still evolving. For example, the different provincial systems already in place can create conflicting obligations for companies.
This could impede investments in technologies critical to emission reduction, according to a paper recently produced by the Canadian Council of Chief Executives — a long-time proponent for consistent carbon pricing across the country. Echoing this position, more than 100 global corporations, including some of the world’s leading energy companies, have called on policy-makers to develop an “unambiguous global carbon price.” It’s also important to take into full account the economic impact any pricing system would have on any given region or industry, so not to place inappropriate burdens on them. Economic and environmental goals are not mutually exclusive. Indeed, they are integral to each other.
Yet Canadian businesses need not wait for any national plan. Nor are they. An overwhelming majority of respondents to the Climate Disclosure Project have integrated emission reduction initiatives into their business strategy. Companies can advance the public good while serving their private interests. This prolonged period of slow growth requires organizations to maximize savings to reinvest and grow. They must also find new revenue streams to offset the economic headwinds. Going carbon neutral has helped us achieve both goals through lower energy usage and operating costs, product innovation and fewer greenhouse gas emissions.
Mike Pedersen, Group Head Wealth Management, Insurance, & Corporate Shared Services, TD Bank Group

Saturday, 1 December 2012

The Wizard from Oz

We have always admired the work of Professor Simon Chapman, professor of public health at the University of Sydney.  He has taken a strong stand against tobacco and is now shining a light on the effects of the fear/uncertainty/doubt (FUD) campaign being waged by many wind opponents.

His recent submission to the Australian Senate Inquiry into Renewable Energy (Electricity) sums up his motivation nicely:

I have long had a scholarly interest in risk communication. In particular, I am
interested in significant, high-risk health problems which are under-rated by the
public (eg: smoking), and in low-risk putative health problems which are overrated
by some members of the public causing them to worry, panic and
sometimes express symptoms. It is my view, for reasons set out below, ["below" meaning the balance of his submission] that concerns about the health effects of wind turbines fall into the latter category.

Recently, he published an op ed piece in "The Drum", the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's on-line news channel.  You can find the full edition, including over 400 comments and active links here:

28 NOVEMBER 2012
Fanning fear: the wind farm nocebo effect


Most wind farms around the world have no history of complaints, but the few that do
have seen the local area targeted by external activists who spread panic. Simon Chapman reflects
on the nonsense claims of anti-wind farm activists.

Later today, the Senate will release the report of a committee into a Private Senators' Bill
examining the proposal that wind turbines should not be accredited if the sound emitted
exceeds 10 decibels of the background noise at any time, measured within 22 metres of a
The Bill was proposed by Democratic Labor Party Senator John Madigan and independent
Senator Nick Xenophon. Both have form in expressing opposition to wind farms.
Like Don Quixote who tilted at windmills, Madigan previously claimed (PDF) he was
fighting a "sinister" and "dangerous" industry and Xenophon believes turbines affect brain
No one following the latest historical example of what is quite plainly technophobic
Luddism has any doubt that the tabling will see a minority report that the proposed
standard be adopted. The bill will be defeated on party lines, with the Greens supporting
the Government. But it has provided a conduit for a Niagara of mostly boilerplate protest
material from the tiny but highly organised opponent groups.
While the bill is purportedly about noise levels in the audible spectrum, the focus of many
fear-laden submissions has been around the sub-audible low-frequency noise - infrasound -
that wind turbines (and pretty much all machines) create. While studies have shown (PDF)
that Australians living near the coast or in cities are constantly subject to far greater 'doses'
of infrasound, apparently the sort emitted by wind turbines has a special flavour that
causes a never-before-seen medical condition.
"Wind turbine syndrome" is a term coined in a self-published book by a US small town
doctor who personally opposed a wind farm proposed near her property. Tellingly, the
term does not appear once among 22 million papers indexed by PubMed, the US National
Library of Medicine's repository of peer reviewed research published in acknowledged
With now 217 diseases and symptoms claimed to be caused by exposure to the subaudible,
low frequency infrasound emitted by wind turbines - some by as little as a few
minutes exposure - there are undeniable and rhino-in-the-room size clues that complaints
are psychogenic: "communicated" diseases spread by the nocebo effect. This is where
dramatically and repeatedly suggesting to people that something is likely to make you ill,
triggers claims and sometimes symptomatic illness in a minority of people.
Most wind farms around the world and in Australia have no history of complaints, and
most of those which do, have seen the local area targeted by external anti-wind farm
activists who spread panic and tell frightened locals to report anything they might
experience to their doctor. The activist groups even provide symptom menus to assist
Wind farms have existed in Western Australia for nearly 20 years, yet no company
operating over there has ever received a health complaint. Significantly, there are no antiwind
farm group operating in the state.
By contrast, here's a case study of how complaints can get going on the east coast.
In early October 2010, residents of Leonards Hill in central Victoria were encouraged to
attend a presentation in Evansford, given by an unregistered doctor, Sarah Laurie, who has
become Australia's high priestess of wind farm anxiety. Laurie believes (PDF)that
turbulence from wind turbines can "perceptibly rock stationary cars even further than a
kilometre away from the nearest wind turbine" and told a meeting (PDF) in 2011 that
spending a night near wind turbines can cause "just about everybody ...every five or ten
minutes needing to go to the toilet."
In the same week, the Australian Environment Foundation, a deceptively named climate
change denialist group, arranged a protest meeting at the opening ceremony for the
beginning of works on a two turbine, 2,000 shareholder community-owned wind farm at
Leonards Hill, near Daylesford. Banners with "Wind farms make me sick" were prepared
and some 50 people (mostly out of towners) attended the protest, which was reported in
the local press.
In November, Laurie was reported in local newspaper The Advocate as saying "If I were
living right there I would be very concerned. I would be beside myself..." Scary stuff.
In early December 2010, the president of the Landscape Guardians told the Australian
"I've been on medication for the last five years just fighting this." The wind farm had not
even opened but the president was already worried sick.
In mid August 2011, the Ballarat Courier reported that Leonards Hill received its first
health complaint from a 57-year-old woman with sleep problems. She described the sound
of the two turbines, half a kilometre away, as at times "like a jet engine". (Like hundreds
of thousands of Sydney residents, I've lived right under the Sydney fight path for 22 years,
and I've spent time around wind farms. The comparison is nothing less than ludicrous).
The next day, the Landscape Guardians president went public as the second health
complainant about the wind farm.
Those who study the dynamics of psychogenic illness place the communication of scary
information front and centre of this psychogenic/nocebo process. Early next year, a leading
international psychology journal will publish findings of a study that will add important
new evidence to this debate.
The study took healthy volunteers and exposed some to information from the internet
designed to prime them to expect that infrasound from wind farms could make them
experience symptoms. They labelled this group the "high expectations" group. Another
group were not exposed to such information (the "low expectations" group). Both groups
were then exposed in a laboratory to both real and "sham" (fake) infrasound. The high
expectation group reported a significant increase in symptoms during both exposure
sessions, while there was no increase in symptoms reported in the low expectation group.
In Canada an anti-wind farm group took a wind company to a local tribunal, with a
cavalcade of complainants emotionally detailing their health problems. The tribunal agreed
with the wind company that the medical records of all complainants going back a decade
should be presented. These would reveal how many of the victims had a prior history of
the problems they now complained about. The case then collapsed, with the complainants
protesting that this was too onerous a requirement.
All social groups, workplaces and organisations have individuals with reputations for
whinging and negativity. So perhaps unsurprisingly, a recent British study found that
"negative orientated personality" traits predicted unexplained non-specific symptoms
among residents near a wind farm, and not actual noise.
Ten years ago, the media was full of anxiety that mobile telephone towers would bring
down plagues of diseases on those around them. Local governments passed nonsensical
regulations allowing towers on factory roofs, but nowhere near sporting fields, schools or
even nursing homes (where most residents had highly limited life expectancy anyway).
The predicted epidemics of brain cancer never happened, there are more mobile phones
than Australian residents and the anxiety disappeared.
Todays's expected report will contain the equivalent nonsense about wind farms. It will
make interesting reading 10 years from now.

Simon Chapman is professor of public health at the University of Sydney. He tweets
@simonchapman6. View his full profile here.
© 2012 ABC

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Nepean MP hijacks Jubilee Medal program to push political agenda


On November 22, 2012 Nepean MP Pierre Poilievre presented four Diamond Jubilee Medals.  

The Diamond Jubilee Medal was struck to commemorate the Queen's 60th anniversary of her accession to the Throne.  Nominations are handled by Members of Parliament, Provincial Lieutenant Governors and Premiers; plus a number of Non-Governmental agencies.

This presentation, at Kars, ON (a small village in the MP's riding) carried the theme of honouring "rural champions".  Those rural champions deservedly included Glenn Brooks (a local municipal official who served for over a decade and advocated for farmers), Paul Mussell (a local comedian who pokes fun at rural life) and Mrs. Marion Newman (a local teacher who volunteered to promote Agriculture in the Classroom). 

Unfortunately one of the medals was tarnished by being awarded to an anti-wind activist via a number of her political allies.

Jane Wilson, the recipient, is (or certainly was) Chairperson of the North Gower Wind Action Group ever since a project was proposed in her area.  She is the current head of the anti-wind group Wind Concerns Ontario.

Lisa MacLeod is the MPP for the riding.  It appears that MacLeod is part of a PC campaign to take Ontario's energy system back to the virtual stone ages.  It is now PC Leader Hudak's stated policy to place nuclear energy over any other sources of electrical power generation in Ontario, while reversing all advances in renewable energy by repealing the Green Energy Act .  They intend to replace renewable energy with nuclear power based on a lop-sided tender.  Nuclear supplier 1 would compete with nuclear supplier 2 but neither would be required to compete with wind, gas, hydro or solar - because nuclear would lose every time based on cost and risk. 

Put another way, nuclear would be guaranteed a price premium that ratepayers would be required to pay for decades.  Even as the whole world turns away from ridiculously expensive nuclear power (not to mention safety issues revealed by Fukushima), the PC's want to return to the 1970's.

Pierre Poilievre is the MP for Ms. Wilson's riding.  He was somewhat late into the wind turbine fray but joined on when the federal Conservatives's joined in the provincial anti-wind fight a few years ago.  At some point, the provincial PC's and federal Conservatives in Ontario realized that they had a common cause.  They could disrupt the provincial Liberals' wind file.  Perhaps these Conservative ties also had a hand in Health Canada's unprecedented $2 million study on the possible health effects of wind turbines, even though 17 other studies had found no connection.  For their own purposes, they ignored the fact that the University of Waterloo had been conducting an identical study for many months in Ontario.  

Mr. Poilievre maintains a website.  Here are some examples of how the three have collaborated:

What this constitutes is an unholy alliance of the federal Conservatives and provincial PC's and Wind Concerns Ontario, at the very least in Nepean.  The provincial PC's played off the NIMBY attitudes of urban weekenders who threw their farmer neighbours under the bus.  The federal Conservatives also threw their farmer constituents under the same bus.  In the picture below, you'll see a small bunch of wind protesters plus their MPP, Lisa MacLeod (left, in the black suit with the capri slacks),  their MP Pierre Poilievre (centre, in the open neck blue shirt holding the sign) and Jane Wilson (right, in the black top and slacks).   We suspect that there weren't a lot of local farmers in the picture (farmers seldom wear sandals), plus farmers like the fact that turbines provide income and don't disrupt farm operations.


We don't think that a Commonwealth Medal should be so brazenly exploited politically. 

This is especially true with a medal that typically celebrates genuine volunteerism towards the most vulnerable members of society. And, whether they want to accept it or not, Wilson and her anti-wind gaggle do not qualify as vulnerable members of society. Thousands of rural Ontarians are lined up to participate in the clean energy economy; hundreds of farmers are staying on family land thanks to the clean energy economy; and dozens of rural communities have seen millions of dollars in much-needed economic benefits thanks to the clean energy economy.

There are so many people who are investing their reputations and their personal finances to advance renewable energy - including most of the country's top banks.  Developers risk hundreds of millions of dollars in projects based on a 20 year contract with the Ontario people.  They get paid off the meter, i.e. by the kWh.  If they spend too much on their projects, if they misgauge the energy potential of their site or if their technology under performs, they take the hit and go bankrupt.  

This is in stark contrast with nuclear operators who receive forgiveness when their projects go over budget - and they go over budget EVERY SINGLE TIME.  Ontario is still paying off their stranded debt .

In our opinion, it's the real risk-taking pioneers, the landowners, the developers and the municipal leader and politicians who have stepped forward to clean up this province's ancient electricity system who deserve the Medal.  They bring much to the rural economy - in fact, they have saved many family farms and contributed income to rural economies.  

What have wind opponent's done?  Nothing.  Absolutely nothing, other than creating hysteria and political mischief.  And yet they get a medal. 

What's wrong with this picture?

Sunday, 25 November 2012

A little turbine eye candy

This beautiful picture, posted by Anna Paulowna on Flickr illustrates how wind turbines fit into the rural landscape.  If you look closely, you'll see that here are plenty of residences quite close to the turbine sites.  Startling colours, geometric precision and responsible energy production courtesy of the Dutch.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Diagnosing Ontario’s Christmas Pony Syndrome

Paul McKay
November 07, 2012

The 19th Century American writer Henry James once acidly observed that many people believe they are thinking when they are in fact merely re-arranging their prejudices. He could have been talking about electric power politics in modern Ontario, where a pernicious, widely prevalent belief which defies all facts is hiding in plain sight. It is this:
For the past century, our politicians, the press, captains of industry, and the public have almost universally assumed – with the certainty of a deeply embedded prejudice – that we are entitled to cheap, reliable, abundant power that miraculously appears at the flick of a switch from some distant, benign source. By “cheap” I mean a price far below the actual cost of production and delivery.
Indeed, when Ontario’s charismatic crusader Adam Beck launched what became North America’s first public electric utility a century ago, he assured rapt audiences from Niagara Falls to northern Ontario that an “Electric Aladdin” would instantly appear to fulfil each and every consumer wish. Better still, Beck vowed, future prices would inevitably, magically descend in inverse relation to how much power consumption climbed.
Beck might as well have told his adoring audiences they could have all the cake they wanted, but eat it too, save money, and lose ten pounds in the bargain. What could be sweeter? For the next 80 years, Ontario’s power demand doubled every decade as each premier promised an electric future that looked like the electric past, except magnified in scale and minimized in price.
Huge hydro dams were constructed. Giant coal plants were commissioned, including the largest on the continent at Nanticoke. A fleet of reactors at Pickering, Bruce and Darlington was ordered at breakneck speed. But fatefully, the steeply escalating, highly debt-leveraged capital cost of each new reactor was only blended into the average system generation cost after it was built and started sending juice into the grid.
So the cost of the 20 new reactors was masked by cross-subsidies from six dozen older hydro-electric plants making penny-per kilowatt-hour power, and from cheap but filthy coal plants. And in true Ponzi scheme fashion, the day of debt interest reckoning was always pushed far into the future. All this meant the retail power “price signal” was always decades behind reality. What could be sweeter?
Ontario was still addicted to this fiscal confection when Mike Harris added another thick layer of alluring icing in 1995. He ran for premier on a public promise to freeze power rates for his entire term – without first daring to look at Hydro’s books. He won huge, and kept his word. Four years later our provincial utility effectively became bankrupt under the weight of $38 billion in publicly-owed debt.
It did not require a forensic accountant to discern that Ontario’s nuclear fleet – which then provided almost 70 per cent of grid energy – was the chief cause. Or that this vast debt grew because Ontario industries, commercial enterprises, and consumers were not being charged the actual cost of producing and delivering this new atomic power. In effect, Ontario Hydro’s business model was to lose money on every kilowatt-hour sold, then hope to make the losses up in volume.
So what was the response? The politicians, press and public simply re-arranged their prejudices. The $38 billion in Hydro debt was deftly scattered and buried in several government ledgers. For the next four years, precisely none of the stranded nuclear debt was paid down by the Harris government.
That meant cumulative debts, interest payments and peak electric demand climbed further. Worst of all, the resulting low-ball power rates postponed energy efficiency investments at heavy industries, office towers, factories, farms, hospitals and homes. At the same time, spending on transmission and distribution upgrades and maintenance was cut to the bone. That left every power user exposed to future rate hikes, and grid breakdowns.
Then the blackout of August, 2003 rocked the province. Ten lost days of productivity cost the province an estimated $6.4 billion, largely because our vaunted nuclear fleet was acutely vulnerable to a cascading series of grid failures that began in Ohio. They were among the first to fail, and the last to come back on line.
Fast forward to the 2011 election. Premier McGuinty set the bar by announcing a $1 billion per year plan to subsidize the subsidies already embedded in consumer power bills. Large industries got their own sweet $450 million “rebate” deal. But this was petty political potatoes for Tim Hudak, who vowed to return the province to the “cheap” good old days when Ontario Hydro blithely borrowed billions to build nuclear plants, and ran filthy old coal plants flat out. Andrea Horwath vowed to cut everyone’s power bills further, with a package of just-in-time promises couriered in from Never-Never Land.
I recite this brief history because in my view it shows that the biggest obstacle to attaining the 21st Century power system Ontario needs is the century-old culture of feckless flummery embedded in our political discourse, our civic mindset, our power sector bureaucracies and unions, our large industry lobby groups, and the press and pundit class.
For those wishing a rough translation of “feckless flummery” think of the “emperor has no clothes” parable. Only in this case, it is our electric empire no one wants to say is naked, or broke in every sense of the word. So here is the main political problem, plain and simple:
Ontario is addicted to being promised cheap, instantaneous, risk-free, reliable power. Despite easily available evidence proving this is akin to promising every child a pony for Christmas, virtually all our politicians cravenly comply during each election cycle. In recent times, the only honourable exception has been Green Party leader Mike Schreiner.
Yet every place in North America or Europe, with a comparable nuclear-heavy generation mix, charges far higher prices for power than Ontario. In virtually all cases, the utilities there also have high debt levels, and poor reliability records. Worse, as the reactors age these problems magnify.
Ontario is not exempt from this reality. Even the best station in our nuclear fleet, Darlington, proves the point. It was originally slated to cost $3.4 billion, but went almost $11 billion over budget and took a decade longer to build than planned. These costs were originally justified on the basis of a 30-year asset life and amortization. But remarkably that has since been stretched – just like Pinocchio’s nose – to 40, then 50, then 60 years by OPG accountants.
Nobody at the time mentioned that mid-life Darlington reactor pressure tube transplants would cost at least another $10 billion, leave four 850 Mw units comatose for several years each, and compel consumers to pay premium prices for prodigious amounts of replacement power.
Worse, no impartial authority has calculated how many billions more it will cost to de-commission 20 fiercely radioactive reactors at Pickering, Bruce and Darlington once they are retired. But Hydro-Quebec’s estimated cost of dismantling its single CANDU reactor during the next 50 years is $1.8 billion.
So just dismantling the Ontario reactors may cost almost $40 billion. It will cost untold billions more to dispose of the latently lethal nuclear wastes the Ontario reactors will produce. Meanwhile, during the past 12 years Ontario ratepayers have paid $20 billion to service the $20 billion stranded nuclear debt that was due on Mike Harris’ watch. Some $12 billion still remains owing, and likely won’t be paid down until 2018 at the earliest.
You don’t need to take my word that this has put our provincial utility, once again, at the edge of a fiscal cliff. An April, 2012  analysis by Standard and Poors concluded OPG’s bonds would be rated ‘bbb’ – that’s barely above junk status – if repayment was not guaranteed by the province. Yet the province itself has been threatened with downgrades by credit rating agencies because of a long-term debt exceeding $270 billion, and a current annual deficit of $14.4 billion.
So this is like Portugal promising to cover off the debts of Greece. Yet astoundingly, the province is on the verge of allowing OPG to borrow and spend $26 billion more on new nuclear plants, despite a baseload surplus, despite no transparent, contractually binding “all in” cost quote from sole supplier SNC-Lavalin, and despite the harrowing lesson of Fukushima.
It took such a tragic, costly event for the Japanese political system, its press, and the public to see the hidden dangers of reliance on a power technology which merely appears to be the cheaper choice. In no small irony, Japan has recently replicated Ontario’s feed-in- tariff model to help salvage its crippled power system and economy with green power. In the first few months, an estimated $2 billion was committed to build new green generation there, including 1,000 Mw of approved solar projects.
The Japanese too suffered from an addiction to unexamined prejudices, including the fiction that atomic power and its apostles could deliver cheap power. No 21st century power technology can. Every one is expensive. Some generation is expensive and safe. Some is expensive and latently lethal. Some technologies put all the costs and risks on current consumers, while others dump them on our grandchildren. Some rely on tiny but explicit subsidies, some on huge covert subsidies.
The question is: Will deception, dissembling and debt evasion remain normalized? Or will our politicians dare to start telling the truth about this in public, and thereby put a higher value on both electricity and civic honesty?
Only then will Ontario start actually thinking with clarity about how to build a sound 21st century power system, instead of re-arranging reckless prejudices falsely packaged as prudent planning.

After years of a relatively stable political and regulatory environment, the utility sector in Ontario could face growing challenges. As generation costs potentially rise above and ultimately test the political ceiling (10% increase of the total bill annually), it may be difficult for the utilities to pass these costs onto the ratepayers. As a result, the following are possible negative outcomes: (1) a rate freeze whereby incremental costs are not recovered or (2) costs that could only be recovered over a long period of time. In either event, profitability for the regulated utilities would be impacted and could result in a negative rating action

Paul  McKay

Mr. McKay is the author of "Electric Empire: The Inside Story of Ontario Hydro" and six other books, and was the 1990 recipient of the Atkinson Fellowship in Public Policy.

He produced a Toronto Star series on national environment issues, worked as senior policy advisor to the Ontario Minister of Energy (1990-91) and was a director of IPPSO from 1992 to 1997.

He is also a green power project developer (small hydro and solar) , an award-winning investigative reporter specializing in environment and energy, the 2005 recipient of the Pierre Berton writer-in-residence program, and a past director of OSEA.

Saturday, 17 November 2012

You're out of touch with reality ....

...when Steven Colbert covers you in The Colbert Report.  Steven talks about Wind Turbine Syndrome in this broadcast from November 7, 2012.

Click here or go to

Industrial strength dog whistle

A dog whistle  is a signal that ordinary humans can't sense because its frequency is above normal hearing.  It's also a signal used in political campaigns to denote subtle messages being transmitted to bigoted voters.

In the wind turbine news arena, the term "industrial" is the dog whistle of wind opponents.  "Industrial" is never used in scientific literature although it's being introduced into the faux scientific literature.

Where did the term "industrial" originate as an adjective for wind turbines?  Was it the Press?  Or the scientific community?


It was the result of a series of focus groups financed by one of the Koch brothers as part of his opposition to a proposed offshore wind project near Cape Cod.

According to E&E Publishing, September 24, 2007, in an article regarding the Industrial Wind Action Group (IWA):

Money matters

One of the biggest and best-funded wind-power opponents is a NIMBY group, the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, which was founded in 2001 to oppose Cape Wind, a 130-turbine project to be sited about five miles off Cape Cod.
In 2005, the latest year for which figures are available, the alliance took in almost $3.3 million in donations, including $1.1 million from oil magnate Bill Koch, the founder and president of the Oxbow Group, a holding company focused on energy development. The alliance employs four lobbying firms, spends about a third of its take on legal fees, pays its president $114,000, and just opened an office in Washington to lobby during the federal review process.
Freelance journalist Wendy Williams, co-author of a book about the Cape Wind fight, said IWA's focus on the word "industrial" was drawn from the Nantucket Sound alliance. "The phrase 'industrial' was the direct result of focus groups," she said. "It frightened people who thought they lived in a pristine environment."

Frightened.  Just another component of the Fear/Uncertainty/Doubt campaign being waged by the wind opponents in Ontario.

Friday, 16 November 2012

More noise from Nissenbaum

The following is a post on by Mike Barnard.  It is referring to a recent paper by Nissenbaum, et al in the journal Noise and Health. The question being asked on Quora is  "How reliable is this study?".

Summary:  Its reliability is very low.  This is a flawed and misleadingly titled study by long-time anti-wind lobbyists.
  • It mistakes correlation for causation, and overstates correlation
  • It downplays or ignores long-understood impacts of both bias and impacts of change in creating annoyance
  • There are significant unstated conflicts-of-interest, biases and allegiances to an anti-wind lobbyist group among the six authors and reviewers
  • One of the authors has been actively involved in creating anti-wind bias and annoyance in these sites for years
  • It should be considered against the 17 major world-wide reviews to date which have found no health impacts from wind generation.

  1. The study overstates causation and correlation, and understates the impact of bias of the studied groups.

    a.  Nissenbaum et al are overstating the strength of the correlation that their data shows. In contrast to the conclusions, figures 1 and 2 show a very weak dose-response, if there is one at all. The near horizontal 'curve fits' and large amount of data scatter are indications of the weak relationship between sleep quality and turbine distance. The authors seem to use a low p-value as support for the hypothesis that sleep disturbance is related to turbine distance. A better interpretation of the p-value related to a near horizontal line fit would be that it suggests a high probability of a weak dose response. Correlation coefficients are not given but should have been to indicate the quality of the curve fits. Intrinsik points out an additional failing of the report:
    Although there was a statistically significant difference between the mean PSQI scores in the near (7.8) and far group (6.0), it is important to remember that both of these average scores are greater than 5, which would qualify both groups as “poor sleepers”. When one examines the reported “% of PSQI score >5” no statistical difference between the near and far groups was found (p=0.0745).

    b. As the Intrinsik assessment points out:
    Given that the relationship between noise from wind turbines and health concerns is the fundamental premise of the study by Nissenbaum et al., it is surprising that the authors gave such little consideration to collection of actual sound data measurements at the study participant homes. The use of post-hoc sound data, visually obtained from figures in reports, is not scientifically defensible and should not have been used to draw conclusions about the findings of the questionnaires with distance from turbine locations. [16]

    c. Intrinsik also points out the misleading title of the study, another case of overstating conclusions available from the data:
    We also believe that the title of the paper “Effects of industrial wind turbine noise on sleep and health” is not supported given the nature of the data presented. No evidence with respect to sound level (noise) and its effect on sleep and health has been presented in this paper  [16]

    Given that the authors themselves admit that they can't construct a dose-response curve, their conclusion that wind farms affect sleep is surprising:
    In their paper Nissenbaum et al. state that noise emitted by IWTs can affect sleep. However, their results do not support this statement. In fact, the authors state that “The data on measured and estimated noise levels were not adequate to construct a dose-response curve...” and no statistical analyses were conducted to assess this supposed relationship. Therefore, we do not believe that Nissenbaum et al. (2012) show any statistical difference in overall “poor” sleep quality or sleepiness between the groups. [16]

    d.  The studied communities, via agitators such as Nissenbaum, have developed strong negative attitudes to wind farms.  As this study shows, this is a much better predictor of the effects Nissenbaum is claiming than any actual noise from wind farms. [4]  

    Intrinsik goes further and asserts the conclusion that the authors, if unbiased, would have found from the data, that the study groups were annoyed by changes in their environment and self-reported health impacts arose from annoyance with the change:

    The authors pointed out that visual cue and attitude towards wind turbines“are known to affect the psychological response to environmental noise”.While this may be true, visual cue and attitude by themselves have been shown to be stronger drivers of psychological responses than a wind-turbine specific variable like sound itself (e.g., Pedersen 2004). Therefore, a conclusion that can be drawn from this study is that the self-reported health effects of people living near wind turbines can be likely attributable to physical manifestations from an annoyed state, rather than a wind-turbine specific factor like noise. Indeed, the weight of evidence in the wind turbine and human health literature points to a causal relationship between self-reported health effects and annoyance, which is to say annoyance brought on by the change in the local environment(i.e., a decrease in amenity) that wind turbines represent (Knopper and Ollson 2011). [16]

    e.  The authors' treatment of bias is poor, stating without evidence that accounting for selection and reporting bias would make their conclusions stronger, not weaker.

    f.  The sample size is small as is the control group (many studies have small sample sizes; this makes this less authoritative, not worthless in and of itself.)
  2. The study group has undisclosed biases influenced by one of the authors.

    This is not Nissenbaum's first study of the Mars Hill or the Vinalhaven wind farms.  He ran studies there in 2010 and 2011 as well, using a format pioneered by anti-wind folks in the UK and then by Nina Pierpont, creator of Wind Turbine Syndrome. [3], [9] The a-scientific studies are so poorly constructed that they are guaranteed to make people ascribe new symptoms to wind turbines, and to take completely ignored minor symptoms and turn them into major complaints. These studies have pre-loaded the biases of these study groups, making it difficult to accept the the conclusions of this better structured study.  The data this study is based upon is not new data, but data that was obtained several years ago that has been presented at the ICBEN conference in London (UK) over a year ago and has been presented as part of anti-wind farm submissions, which is not unusual, but the data and the conclusions Nissenbaum et al have been putting forward has been strongly criticized in the past. [10] For example, a 2012 Massachusetts expert panel had this to say about the conclusions:
    details of how homes were identified, how many homes/people were approached, and differences between those who did and did not participate are important to know. Without this, attributing any of the observed associations to the wind turbines (either noise from them or the sight of them) is premature. [16]
  3. The authors' pre-existing bias is not disclosed or accounted for.

    Jeffery Aramini is the person most often interviewed in newspaper reports but the study is co-authored with Michael Nissenbaum and Christopher Hanning.  

    a. Aramini has maintained a lower profile than Nissenbaum and Hanning, but is on the Advisory Group of an anti-wind lobbyist group, Wind Vigilance. [11]  
    b. Nissenbaum is a long-time anti-wind activist and also a member of the Advisory Group of Wind Vigilance. [1] 
    c. Hanning is a long-time anti-wind activist as well, who has been writing anti-wind papers that have not been able to get into even low-impact, peer-reviewed journals and is also on the Advisory Group of Wind Vigilance.[2] [12] 

    Fronting with the lower profile Aramini in newspaper interviews appears to be a convenient way to disguise the deep and long-standing bias of the authors.

    The authorial bias can easily be detected by the inappropriate use of the emotionally laden "industrial wind turbine", a term which was selected and focussed grouped by anti-wind lobbying organizations associated with the Koch Brothers.[14]  Neutral language includes "wind turbine" and "wind turbine generator". 
  4. The thanked reviewers have unstated biases and conflicts-of-interest as they are paid anti-wind experts who have a long history of directly testifying against wind energy.

    a. Carl Phillips is relatively new to this group, having been asked to leave his post at an Alberta university for taking tobacco industry money and remarkably finding that tobacco products were much less harmful than people thought.[6]  He has found a new source of funds in anti-wind lobbying.  As he says on his blog, Ep-Ology:
    I knew what answer I was going to present from the start. So when I wrote my COI [conflict of interest] statement, I did not hesitate to describe, matter-of-fact, that I do work as a testifying expert on behalf of communities fighting the siting of local wind turbines.
    b. Rand not only testifies, his firm gains revenue from measuring sound near wind farms for complainants and to assist litigation. [7]  Rand, in any event, 
    c. James has been testifying for fee against wind farms since 2006.[8]  

    Phillips and James are both members of the Advisory Group of Wind Vigilance as well.  The three thanked are bolstering their court room pitches, and cannot be considered credible unbiased assessors. If they are the only peer reviewers, this is grounds for retraction. As their conflicts and pre-existing biases are unstated, this too is grounds for serious concern.
  5. Noise and Health is a rarely referenced journal of low impact.

    The journal, Noise and Health has a very low impact index of 1.2, meaning that few researchers reference their studies; there can be a variety of reasons for this including poor quality or trivial papers. [5]  The journal may not have sought independent reviewers who would have pointed out the flaws in the article, but may have accepted the reviewers that came with the article as suggestions.  If the journal did not gain separate review, this is a reason for retraction in and of itself.
  6. Wind Vigilance, on whose Advisory Group five of six authors and reviewers sit, has been promoting wind health issues in the absence of peer-reviewed evidence and against 17 major studies' findings for years. 

    As Wind Vigilance is a central theme to this, it would be useful to understand their positions and the degree of evidence behind them:

    Based on a review of the evidence, the Society for Wind Vigilance is satisfied that there is a significant probability of adverse health effects for human subjects living within 2.0 km of land based industrial wind turbines. The Society for Wind Vigilance recognizes the urgent need for further human health research to finalize guidelines for siting and noise levels that will protect human health. In the interim the Society for Wind Vigilance recommends that land based industrial wind turbines be sited a minimum of 2 km from the property line of non participating residents. Distances greater than 2 km will typically be required for special terrain such as turbines on ridges and offshore turbines. [13]

    Bolding is mine to indicate statements which require elaboration:
    1. This statement was released April 2012, six months before the first peer-reviewed paper that found any issues with wind energy and health was published.  In the meantime, 17 major reviews by independent and credible organizations worldwide of thousands of pieces of peer-reviewed research found no issue with wind energy and human health.  On what grounds did Wind Vigilance make the assessment that all of the other studies and the vast majority of medical, engineering and acoustic professionals were wrong?  On what grounds did they decide on 2 kilometers?
    2. "Industrial wind turbines" is the preferred emotive phrasing of anti-wind lobbyists.  It is not neutral language in this discussion, just as "wind farms" is the preferred emotive language of pro-wind advocates (including me).  This language was created by lobbying organizations associated with the Koch Brothers and other astroturf funding undiversified fossil fuel organizations.[14]
    3. The reasoning behind greater setbacks on ridges and lakes is not explained, but given the weakness of the rest of their position, it can only be to ensure that wind turbines will never be seen or heard.  Obviously this is an extreme and foolish position.

    That five of six authors and reviewers of this paper are so tightly associated with an organization with such a strong and strident opposition to evidence-based siting guidelines and wind energy in general is indicative.  That they do not make clear their association, their long-standing bias and their conflicts-of-interest is also indicative.
  7. 17 major reviews have found no health impacts from wind energy

    This single paper must be contrasted to the 17 (to-date) major reviews world-wide of hundreds or thousands of peer-reviewed articles related to wind energy, health and noise which have found no health impacts.  All studies agree that a small subset of people very close to wind farms find the noise annoying. [15]  The best consensus is that the vast majority of health complaints attributed to wind energy are the result of a psychogenic or communicated psychosomatic illness; people are making themselves sick when they are told that they will get sick. [15]

Full disclosure. This assessment was developed with the assistance of:
  • Dr. David Perry -- Dr. Perry holds degrees in electrical engineering and neuroscience from The University of Melbourne and a PhD from the Bionics Institute examining how sound stimulation from a cochlear implant is represented in the brain. Dr. Perry is also on the Board of Directors of community-owned wind project Hepburn Wind in Australia.
  • Richard Mackie - Mr. Mackie is an Engineer with degrees from the University of Auckland and the Australian Graduate School of Management. He is Managing Director of Advanced Energy Consulting (Australia) which does work related to wind energy projects.
  • The Intrinsik professional assessment upon which some of the comments are based was funded by CanWEA (Canadian Wind Energy Association).

[1] Dr. Michael A. Nissenbaum - The Society for Wind Vigilance (
[5] Journal and Academic Rankings (
[6] Tobacco researcher leaves U of A (
[7] Wind Turbines: Published Articles (
[8] Mike Barnard's answer to Wind Power: Is Dr. Nina Pierpoint's "Wind Turbine Syndrome" a real medical syndrome caused by wind turbines?
[9] (
[11] Jeff Aramini, DVM, MSC, PHD - The Society for Wind Vigilance(
[12] Dr Chris Hanning - The Society for Wind Vigilance (
[13] News - The Society for Wind Vigilance (
[14] Turbine foes try to forge national opposition movement (
[15] Wind Power: What might cause people who live near wind turbines to get sick?

Additional references:
[1] Additional background on the authors and the nature of the preceding studies performed by Mr. Nissenbaum here:  A Vet, A Radiologist, And An Anaesthetist Walk Into A Scientific Controversy... (
[3] Nissenbaum paper recycles claims on wind energy and health already found inadequate by courts and expert panel (