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The answer to green energy is not blowing in the wind

Colby Cosh on the problem with a radical plan to push green energy


 

Tobias Schwarz / Reuters

They call it the Energiewende—Germany’s dual “energy transition” away from nuclear power and toward renewable electricity sources. The Germans do have a way with euphemism: “Transition” is a polite word for what could really be called a revolution. After the Fukushima nuclear disaster of early 2011, Europe’s leading economic power, already a leader in switching its industrial base to solar and wind, took a leap in the dark; its government abandoned plans to continue depending on aging nuke facilities as a crutch for the experimental, intermittent new inputs to the grid. Chancellor Angela Merkel and her cabinet are sticking to their plan, and the German public is behind them. For now. Even though you’d think they would have learned that war on two fronts isn’t easy.

Wind-power advocates used to uphold Germany as the super-country of the future, and it still is, if you are in favour of wind generation for its own sake. The amount of German electric power supplied by wind is approaching 10 per cent of national demand, even as big North Sea projects meet with unexpected technical and environmental delays. The German government has guaranteed a high, fixed, long-term feed-in tariff for renewable energy projects, including wind turbines. That has encouraged an explosion of infrastructure, much of it from small firms and local co-operatives. If you’re a wind-power provider, especially a nerdy “small is beautiful” one, it’s a picture of paradise.

But the state, ever keen to preserve the country’s industrial might, protected big factories and raw-materials processors from the costs, and passed them directly to consumers. Ordinary Germans face the highest electricity prices in Europe, and they went up 20 per cent this fall. Germans, according to a blistering Aug. 26 cover story in Der Spiegel (it’s German for Maclean’s), will pay $27 billion just this year for electricity that would otherwise have a market price of $4 billion. The poorest citizens of the Federal Republic are seeing fixed incomes and welfare cheques devoured by the year-over-year price hikes, and hundreds of thousands are without power altogether.

If the goal is to get the lumpenproletariat to pay some attention to energy efficiency in the home, then an economist might count this as a feature rather than a flaw. It might be better for national welfare to get many thousands of average Germans to turn down the brightness on their computer screens than it is to stop work in a steel mill. The problem is that German greenhouse-gas emissions are increasing. They went up by 1.6 per cent in 2012, and the energy ministry admitted, “More coal was burned to generate electricity and more gas was used to heat homes.”

With domestic nuclear capacity dwindling by design, Germany is being forced to hang onto old, inefficient coal and gas plants, whose capital costs were paid up decades ago, to cover the inevitable gaps in wind production. And the grid regulator does not see that changing, certainly not between now and the final 2022 nuclear cutoff. If Der Spiegel is to be believed, old-line energy companies getting ready to mothball old fossil-fuel facilities have been getting panicky letters asking them to keep everything shipshape in order to address wind and solar production slowdowns.

There is an admirable Gordian-knot quality to the Energiewende, whose total costs are expected to exceed $1 trillion over time. (It is often compared in its economic scale to German reunification.) If nuclear power as we know it is destined to be politically unthinkable in the future, it is certainly in the spirit of environmental change to cover the costs and face the social difficulties now rather than handing them off to future generations.

But there are limits to selfless sacrifice. The Energiewende is predicated on a better-connected German grid, with new power lines whisking wind megawatts from the north coast to the southern industrial core. Yet NIMBY-type resistance to both new onshore wind turbines and to new transmission infrastructure seems to be growing: Everybody loves the idea of renewable energy, but nobody wants the stuff that comes with it to spoil the view from the local Schloss.

And this is to say nothing of the electrical interconnections with neighbours like Poland and the Czech Republic, who say that periodic German cross-border dumping of excess renewable power is messing with both their own grids and their domestic markets. European energy integration is already relatively poor, thanks to traditional political barriers. Making things even worse would be a major unintended consequence of the Germans’ iron determination to eliminate nukes and promote renewables at the same time.

On the web: For more Colby Cosh, visit his blog at macleans.ca/colbycosh


 

The answer to green energy is not blowing in the wind

  1. I quit as board member of the Northern Alberta Solar Energy Society when they started promoting wind technology. These huge, ugly looking, ungainly behemoths, are a blight on the landscape and produce a rather insignificant amount of electrical output considering the sizable investment required to integrate them into the existing electrical grid.

    • Yes, but Jack Layton thought windmills were virtuous, and Jack was never ever wrong about anything, was he?

      • Maybe you didn’t hear but Jack Layton died.

        • That’s why I used the past tense, in case you didn’t notice.

    • In Ontario they are finding they have no reliable method to keep them lubricated so the ongoing maintenance costs are sky rocketing… when the vanes and the bus sized generator 20 stories up topples over due to metal fatigue or fire 20-25 years from now expect a new industry to pop… Windmill Tower Condos: get that circular living room you’ve always wanted with a great view over the other 100 now derelict windmills doting Lefthanded Nowheresville Saskatchewan. The horror.

      • Ok, without defending wind power specifically, do you have any reason to believe the towers are actually going to degrade to the point of collapse?

        • Do a Google search for turbine collapse. It isn’t such a “rare” event. The most recent examples include blades dropping off a newly commissioned project in California onto the desert floor, and a turbine (also newly erected) that collapsed in Ireland. The list of structural failure is growing. Time, corrosion, will add even more examples. Ontario recently had a fire in a 7 year old turbine (Goderich area) that required an emergency removal of the weaken structure.

          • Not to mention what the Germans call “Iesabwurfen”, or “icethrowoff”

        • Have you ever driven around rural Ontario? Do you think these 20-30 story windmills are the first to be built? No… 3 generations ago our great-grandparents dotted the landscape with “small scale” water pumping windmills all over the place that worked for about 25-30 years… then the water tables dropped, the mechanics broke down… metal fatigue… environmental degradation. And those were of course infantile setups compared to these high tech tax payer funded white elephants which require and will increasingly require GIANT amounts of upkeep. But where will their operators squeeze their profits out of? Out of the maintenance budget. So they will degrade… like anything and we’ll be left with large cement pads topped by 20 story white steel towers. The perfect external shells to build condos or bunkers in. Just saying.

          • Upkeep = jobs! Beats chemotherapy due to coal fallout, and sealing radioactive waste from incidents so common that they have their own scale. Still, solar power cuts out the middle man of wind. Aerogel up and Zenith your street.

          • “Chemotherapy due to coal”?? You don’t know what the he!! you’re talking about.

          • Yeah… just what the hard working people of Ontario need another overpaid, politically motivated, “who you know matters than what you know” quasi-private, government granted sole-sourced contracted-out unaccountable monopoly to complete subsidized make-work orders on decrepit foreign technology… that worked so well at E-Health, Ornge, the 407, OPG, etc,etc,etc

    • no, I’M metropika!!

  2. The decision to not refurbishing aging nukes and mothball aging coal fired plants was made some number of years when the coalition gov’t included the German Greens. But, it is important to recognize that this was prior to the boom/glut of shale gas through fracking.

    It seems to me that this was in the era of Putin using threats of curtailing natural gas exports from Gazprom through main lines that serviced eastern Europe, as a political tool (extension of the Ukraine/Georgia threats).

    So, in addition to the green concerns, some of this investment in wind and solar with very favourable feed-in rates was made within the context of security of supply. Lots learned in the interim. And energy economics have changed also.

    • Security of supply would be far better assured by refurbishing the coal and nuclear plants, since wind is unreliable and completely non-dispatchable.

      • Odd, as Ontario has just reached a deal to dispatch wind power when not needed. It must be a miracle.

        • You should look into the terms of the deal. Often, wind power producers have to pay somebody to take the power they’re producing if there isn’t demand for it. If you’re suddenly producing 1000 MW surplus, you may have to get somebody else to take generating capacity offline to avoid crashing the power grid. This is not an uncommon problem for Denmark, which essentially pays Germany to take surplus power during some of their winter storms.

          • As the case with nuclear. In fact the wind dispatch agreement is modeled on the nuke agreement, which costs the province more money overall.

          • Actually nuclear power can be cut back from full output simply by producing steam instead of electricity, and that can be done very quickly.

          • Essentially because they’re pi$$ing (steaming off) away far more generation even at half the cost of wind. Grid operators refer to schizophrenic wind as “nuisance” power.

        • No, the term ‘dispatchable’ refers to the ability to call upon it when it is needed, and have the power come on line in short order.

          • No, it refers to the ability to be turned on OR off. With wind you get power sometimes when you don’t need it because that’s when the wind is plowing. With nuclear you get power when you don’t need it because it is a very slow process to turn a plant off. Both deals are to deal with the situation where you have power you can’t use.

          • Either way, you can’t turn wind on when you need it or off when you don’t. It’s not dispatchable. You can’t get on the phone and call for an extra Gigawatt as demand creeps up.

            Wind power is on when the wind is blowing and off when it is not, irrespective of the demand load on the grid.

            That makes it unreliable, since you have no idea when it’ll be on and when it’ll be off.

          • Look up the definition of the word, dipstick.

          • (sigh) you only want to turn it off or on in order to match the demand load.

            Wind turbines are not susceptible to being turned on or off by request. They turn on or off by themselves without regard to whether the system needs power.

            Thus, not able to be dispatched by the dispatcher.

            That’s why wind and solar power require backups, usually these days by gas turbines that are dispatchable, and can thus be turned on in less than a few minutes if called upon.

            A generator being turned on or off is just the mechanism whereby power is dispatched.

          • Nukes are in exactly the same boat. In fact all power sources are intermittent to some degree. Bruce 2 had to be backed up for about 2 years when it was being refurbished. But you’re just spouting talking points. Go look up what “dispatchable” means.

          • From

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dispatchable_generation

            We can read:
            “Dispatchable generation refers to sources of electricity that can be dispatched at the request of power grid operators; that is, generating plants that can be turned on or off, or can adjust their power output on demand.”

            Which is exactly as I have explained.

            BTW, I have never suggested that nuclear plants be dispatchable. They’re good for baseload because they’re reliable, and almost always produce the power required except for (usually planned) outages.

            Wind is useless as base power AND useless as dispatchable power.

          • In most definitions of the term wind is more reliable than nuclear because it is hardly ever down for more than a couple of hours at a time. Bruce 2 was down for two years and didn’t work to capacity for 17 years beforehand.

            But it isn’t really a contest. The point is that all the issues that effect wind effect other power sources as well. So they can’t really be used as an argument against wind. And that’s why CC’s article, and Der Spiegal’s, come across as an anti-wind knife job.

          • Wind delivers, on average in North America, almost 15% of its rated capacity.

            Nuclear power generates 95%

          • Wind turbinesa slices and dices all sorts of birds and insects. Every windmill has a road to it that results in all sorts of roadkill. They are ugly. Each winmill will undergo a major overall on a regular basis to keep it functional. Every windmill has a concrwete pad that ook a lot of enrgy to produce and covers up productive land that can no lionger be productive. Windmills take energy from the environment and the end result of millions of windmills taking out that wind energy from every corner of the world they are built on is unknown, but likely not a small thing. Wind mills suck.

          • Sorry for all the spelling errors. Not used to having no spell check.

          • Wind farms are the best source of energy for wildlife including birds: global warming and air pollution are the big threats.
            http://barnardonwind.com/2013/02/15/how-significant-is-bird-and-bat-mortality-due-to-wind-turbines/

            Wind farms reduce greenhouse gases; real world results in Texas, the UK and Australia prove this is true. Industry standard, full lifecycle analyses for all forms of energy find that wind turbines pay back their carbon debt faster than any other form of generation.
            Every MWh produced by wind energy eliminates 99.8%+ of the CO2 that would have been generated by shale gas or coal, as they are first to be eliminated from the grid as generation sources. As the full lifecycle analyses show shale gas has 50 times the CO2e and coal has 100 times the CO2e per MWh, that’s a lot of global warming gases that are eliminated with every MWh of wind energy.
            http://barnardonwind.com/2013/03/05/wind-energy-reduces-green-house-gas-emissions/

            Wind farms aren’t ugly: coal plants, coal mines, diseased lungs and smog are ugly.
            http://daryanenergyblog.files.wordpress.com/2012/08/wind_farm_cartoons2.png

            Wind farms are harmless to groundwater and aquifers, and much better than continued mining, shipping and burning of fossil fuels.
            http://barnardonwind.com/2013/03/05/wind-farms-good-for-ground-water-too/

            Firefighters agree that wind farms reduce fire impacts by grounding lightning on ridge lines and providing pre-built firebreaks and access roads for firefighters. The handful of wind turbines that catch fire, however photographically interesting, are statistically irrelevant compare to the roughly 240,000 wind turbines operating day and night, year after year. Wind turbines causing fires is even more statistically insignificant. If you want the causes of fires, it’s smoking, brush burning, kids and arsonists. Wind farms don’t register.
            http://barnardonwind.com/2013/03/01/wind-farms-causing-fires-all-smoke-no-flame/

            Wind farms sit lightly on the land, taking up 1-2% of total area with turbines and leaving the rest available for all the uses it traditionally has, including skiing, hunting, hiking and just sitting there growing trees and looking beautiful.
            http://barnardonwind.com/2013/03/11/wind-farms-co-exist-with-other-land-uses-debunking-the-myth-of-energy-density/

          • Mike Barnard is a well-known shill for the ‘green’ industry. Quoting his blog is like quoting Wikipedia. It holds no merit amongst those who are familiar with his biased views.

          • What possible definitions could you cite to suggest wind is more reliable than nuclear? I’m constantly seeing service trucks at the bases of idle turbines in the Underwood and Melancthon developments. It’s only because individual turbines generate nothing more than a mouse’s phart worth of power that they won’t be missed.

          • Anti- wind knife job? Perhaps you could describe all the wonderful virtues of wind generated power. All the pro-wind (dwindling) faction are in love with the theory of wind as described by those set to profit from it. Yogi Berra said it best;
            ” In theory, there’s no difference between theory and practice. In practice there is.”
            Reality is b-slapping Germany and it’s starting to here in Ont. as well.

          • You’re being obtuse. You’re conflating planned preventative maintenance on a multi-year (or decade) cycle with the ability to produce power to conform with hourly variations in demand. Nuclear power plants are best suited to producing power at a base load, but their output can be varied. More importantly, a nuclear power plant can produce power irrespective of prevailing wind conditions. What’s been killing wind power is the lack of an effective energy storage mechanism. Fix that problem, and the intermittency issue is greatly reduced. The limitations of wind power have been understood for centuries – it’s a prime reason that navies switched from sailing vessels to coal, oil, diesel, and nuclear power.

          • Modern wind turbines tilt their blades to control their output.

          • That’s why GE’s record-setting ‘Brilliant’ 2.5-120 “utilizes the Industrial Internet to help manage the intermittency of wind, providing smooth, predictable power to the world regardless of what Mother Nature throws its way.
            Analyzing tens of thousands of data points every second, the 2.5-120 integrates energy storage and advanced forecasting algorithms while communicating seamlessly with neighboring turbines, service technicians and customers.”
            http://inhabitat.com/ge-unveils-the-worlds-most-efficient-wind-turbine-the-brilliant-2-5-120/

        • Yes, and in the typical illogical style of this Liberal Government, we are paying the wind farms to NOT produce power. In addition to that, we’re building 2500 MORE wind turbines so that we can pay them NOT to produce power also.

          Insanity, thy name is Liberal.

  3. “Der Spiegel (it’s German for Maclean’s)”

    Wait — Maclean’s publishes investigative journalism? Not just couch-potato commentary? Link?

  4. Might be worth refuting this if it didn’t just regurgitate Der Spiegel

    • So that’s your refutation?

    • The reason to compare what’s going on in Germany is because Smitherman was so enamored with the system Germany had in place. Decided to impliment the same in Ont and we’re headed down the same ruinous autobahn. Because liberal hacks like Mike Crawley are benefiting financially from this scam, Wynne won’t pull the plug until all the liberal buddies are taken care of. It’s a poison pill for the next gov’t to deal with. Finally,do you not think for a minute that all the liberal friendly co’s the liberals are giving taxpayer subsidy monies to, don’t come back, in part, in the form of donations to , say OLP , LPC or WFC ?
      This is ADSCAM on steriods

    • Because it’s news out of Germany and their disastrous foray into wind power, we should just ignore it and stumble down the same path to economic ruin?

  5. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/north/diavik-wind-power-making-diamonds-greener-1.1855293?cmp=rss

    There’s a good news story from my part of the world.

    You might want to provide a bit of balance here CC. Those nuclear plants didn’t just spring out out of the earth; there were costs attached, both environmental and financial. Subsidies for renewables is a debatable good [ there’s been a similar one in BC over run of the river power, not to mention the ON fiasco – but nevertheless any honest comparison needs a thorough review of both the upfront and hidden costs of all energy sources.

  6. The sign says “Attention, danger zone” “Wind energy control zone” “In winter flying ice shards are possible” “unauthorized access forbidden”

    • Lol, you translated a sign and got two downvotes for it. I guess anything that goes against the narrative must be disapproved, even if it’s a simple translation.

      • Maybe they think they can speak better German than I can…

        • GlynnMhor

          This is in the wrong forum. But I have to respond to a coment you made elsewhere (that discussion is now closed)

          “That’s
          merely an admission that the didn’t know what they were doing before, and that
          they still do not know what they’re doing today.

          That’s hardly a solid hook upon which to hang your hat.

          12:51 a.m., Wednesday Sept. 18”

          The material I gave you is from the 2001 IPCC report. Natural variability has always been considered.

          http://www.grida.no/publications/other/ipcc_tar/

          • Nice try, but natural variability has been systematically deprecated by the IPCC and by the adherents of the CAGW paradigm.

            Even now that is is painfully obvious that natural variability is at least as important as CO2, the believers of the movement continue to pile on alarmist warnings about CO2 as if it really were the Great Climate Boogeyman it has been made out to be.

            Had natural variability been properly taken into account, they would not have made the appalling errors that they did back then, and they would not be stuck with the huge differences between their theorizings and the reality.

  7. Ontario’s Green Energy Act is one of the biggest fluster-cucks in the history of the province. Never before has there been a more undemocratic, environmental, economical and ecological nightmare than this piece of insanity.

    – First order of business, remove all democratic rights of rural residents who will be affected by these machines

    — Sign exorbitant 20 year contracts for wind and solar guaranteeing them astronomical rates for their power

    — Build gas plants to sit idling as backup for when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine. Convince the populace that wind power is responsible for shutting down coal plants in Ontario, when it is actually because of the gas plants.

    — Give wind and solar first rights to the grid which means that the far cheaper nuclear and hydro have to be dumped or spilled

    — PAY the United States to take the excess power off our hands (Grid operators refer to wind as “nuisance power”)

    — PAY the wind farms not to produce power and then tell the ratepayers this is saving them money

    — Build thousands more wind turbines to stand there doing nothing (not produce power) and pay them for that privilege as well

    — Have your Ministry of the Environment help a foreign-owned wind company fight to overturn a ruling that protects endangered species from wind installations in ecologically sensitive areas

    If you sat someone down a couple of decades ago and told them this would be going on in 21st century Ontario, they would never believe you. The Liberal fools who devised this policy must have been stoned out of their minds at the time. There is no way anyone in their right minds would impose such insanity on the people of Ontario.

    • Excellent points!!! Pretty much sums it up. When the RCMP is done their fraud and corruption investigation in Quebec, they should move on over to Ontario. This whole Green Energy Act, backdoor Samsung deals, money going into the pockets of Liberal buddies and cronies (i.e. Mike Crawley) is just rank with corruption. The entire Dalton Gang deserves to be behind bars for what they’ve done to Ontario.

    • The total cost to Ontario is well over $100 billion during the next 20 years.

      Spain went through the wringer and decided to ‘claw back’ money from the turbine operators.

      Even though the turbine operators have contracts, the government has the power to tax. A new tax on wind installations in Ontario would save us billions.

      Every single wind turbine needs $500,000 subsidy each year, producing about $60,000 worth of electricity, with a $50,000 maintenance contract.

      The libs want about 7000 of them, plus lots of solar. Its actually easy to calculate this loss.

    • Idle gas plants shut down coal plants? Free energy is awesome!

      • That’s not what I said. You’re clearly a Barnard disciple. Go back to trolling his site.

        • “Build gas plants to sit idling as backup for when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine. Convince the populace that wind power is responsible for shutting down coal plants in Ontario, when it is actually because of the gas plants.”

          So they weren’t built as backup for wind power?

  8. If you want to check out a truly environmentally disastrous wind farm, where the turbines are constantly leaking oil and throwing blades, Google the Ocotillo Wind facility in California. 112 turbines surround a tiny little town, so that no matter which direction you look, all you see is these wind machines.

    Since these turbines went up, every time it rains now, the ground is covered in a brownish foam that no one can identify.
    Check out the pictures:
    http://quixoteslaststand.files.wordpress.com/2013/09/1233421_575821572475646_1569278436_n.jpg
    http://quixoteslaststand.files.wordpress.com/2013/09/1239404_575821492475654_1680878232_n.jpg

    60+ access roads have created a virtual ongoing dust storm for the area and disrupted the natural flow and drainage of the land so that flash floods are now common.

    You have to read this story and see the pictures to understand the devastation caused by these turbines.

    http://quixoteslaststand.com/2013/09/06/pattern-energys-wind-field-in-ocotillo-california-a-case-study-in-environmental-devastation/

    This situation is not unique to Ocotillo. Wind energy is not green, not clean, not free. It’s a disaster.

    • True ‘Greenies’ don’t care about things like ecological damage. To h**** with eagles, cranes and parks!

      Its the dirty top-down Soviet era all over again unless this stupidity is stopped.

  9. During the hottest days this summer in Ontario, when power consumption topped 21,000MW, wind was contributing a paltry 2MW. That’s .01% of our power. For all of the billions of dollars we’ve sunk into this useless form of energy, we get .01% in return. That is appalling..

  10. Green power is nuclear power.

    Arguably the greenest power option known to man, at the moment, is nuclear fission. (Fusion may well surpass it … if we ever get fusion to work properly.)

    In the shorter term, or for rabid radiophobes, natural gas is as “green” as you can get for a reliable base-load power generation without going nuclear (or damming a river, which greens now hate because fish).

    Windmills, wave power, and solar are all pipe-dreams, useless for baseload and expensive without subsidies – which only hide the cost, not actually reduce it.

    • One of the most historic tragedies is the fact that the mainstream environmental movement adopted many decades, as an article of faith, this rigid, absolutist view that nuclear power is 100% evil. Meanwhile, they rail about the fact that we’re doing nothing about climate change. While a source of reliable, low-carbon emission power stares us all in the face.

  11. Finally the main stream media (Maclean’s, CBC, Toronto Star) are admitting what IESO.CA and energy experts have known for years: INDUSTRIAL SCALE wind power does not work!

    It is a shame that “Big Green” (Sierra Club, Green Peace, Suzuki, etc) still refuse to acknowledge this, even though we are harming birds, bats and humans and ruining rural, natural and tourist areas in the process. All for *no* reduction in CO2.

    There are tons of environmentally conscious people out there that realise that there is no magic bullet. We need to get back to basics: conservation, building retrofits, public transportation, sustainable agriculture, and SMALL SCALE energy projects.

  12. Liberals finally admit what IESO.CA and the energy experts have known all along: INDUSTRIAL SCALE wind energy does not work!

    Why are we still building turbines if we cannot even use the ones we have?

    “Big Green” (Sierra Club, Green Peace, Suzuki, etc) need to wake up and admit that there is no “quick fix” to reduce CO2 emissions. Get back to basics — conservation, building retrofits, public transportation, small scale energy projects.

  13. Liberals finally admit what IESO.CA and the energy experts have known all along: Industrial Scale wind energy does not work!

    Why are we still building turbines if we cannot even use the ones we have?

    “Big Green” (Sierra Club, Green Peace, Suzuki, etc) need to wake up and admit that there is no “quick fix” to reduce CO2 emissions. Get back to basics — conservation, building retrofits, public transportation, small scale energy projects.

    • “Big Green” also needs to admit what the IPCC is about to report… that since the 1990s CO2 emissions are up 12% and the planet’s observed rise in temperature is no where near what their “vaunted” models predict at only .1%

  14. I don’t see load-levelling (also known as grid energy storage) mentioned anywhere in the article or the comments here. It seems to me that there are many solutions to make wind and solar power “dispatchable” by storing the energy as potential energy, for example by using it to pump water uphill into storage reservoirs. This could be built in to existing hydroelectric reservoirs as is already done in parts of Europe, but there are really a number of solutions.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grid_energy_storage

    • Water storage can only be done if there’s a suitable geography in which to build the reservoirs, and it generally costs a third or more of the power (ie- you only get out two thirds what you put in). So while feasible it’s not always practical.

      Other storage ‘solutions’ remain problems of too high cost or too low return.

      • I still think it could be used as part of a policy mix that would help us diversify our electricity supply.

        Right now, our two biggest modes of electricity generation in Ontario are nuclear fission and hydro, but nuclear fission has risks as well as unresolved waste storage issues, and hydro does have environmental effects, especially as concerns wildlife that depends on river mobility.

        Fossil fuel plants, such as coal and natural gas, I believe make up most of the difference, but they cause particulate air pollution as well as GHG emissions.

        No mode of electricity generation is a silver bullet, but I think a “balanced diet,” possibly including some wind generation, can help mitigate/spread most of the risks.

        • Wind generation is an uncontrollable nuisance for an electricity grid, and due to the fact that it can disappear suddenly just when power is needed, it requires backup infrastructure to be built to carry the full load anyway.

          GHGs are irrelevant, as is becoming ever clearer as rising CO2 does not result in rising temperatures.

          Nuclear spent fuel storage is a problem that was solved decades ago, only the politicking that surrounds it remains.

          • So you’re saying we found a way, decades ago, to keep highly – or even low-level – radioactive waste safely stored for the entirety of its half-life of tens (if not hundreds) of thousands of years? Protected from climatic and water-table changes, geological movement, terrorism, human error, corrosion of containing devices, etc.?

            Do we even know if we’ll have functional state institutions (let alone willing private industry actors) willing to monitor and safeguard this stuff that far into the future?

          • Safely stored.

            All that ranting about half life and so on is part of the overblown politicking.

          • Radiation is just not all that dangerous. Plane flights, bananas and high radiation zones in India (natural) along with many other tests have shown that it takes much more of the stuff to cause cancer than any politician would care to admit.

            As you read this thousands of highly radioactive particles blasted right through your body. It’s not like you should spread plutonium on your cereal, but the level of fear in society towards radiation (which kills very few people per year), vs ozone, smoke and other air pollution which kills thousands every day, is both an irrational response and a self – inflicted scar on the planet.

          • You’re so right about that. There are so many idiotic double standards out there with respect to “dangers”. A friend of mine who’s a biochemist points out that if somebody “invented” sugar tomorrow, all kinds of activists and do-gooders would be ranting about what a horrible substance this is, how it’s going to destroy our children, how the FDA should never approve it, and so on. This idea that some people have that certain things have to be 100% “safe” and that our lives can and should be made 100% safe and risk-free, is madness. The likes of Huxley, Orwell and Evelyn Waugh could have had a field day mocking these people.

          • You’re right — we should immediately shut down all nuclear power facilities until humankind acquires the ability to predict the future with absolute metaphysical certainty.

          • This I never suggested. I merely suggested diversification of our modes of electricity production to mitigate the risks.

          • That said, I do think Canada should invest a lot more in research on thorium (fission) reactors, which I understand to be much safer and less productive of radioactive waste than the currently prevalent uranium and plutonium reactors.

        • Storage is the key to smoothing out the intermittency in wind power. It can even help mitigate the cost of wind power vs. conventional sources: if you store energy and sell it at peak rates, you obtain a higher overall price. The trick is that the cost of storage is expensive. A dirt-cheap energy storage system like valve-regulated lead acid batteries currently cost about $200 per kW-h of storage, and don’t last much longer than 5 years. So, if you have a 1 MW wind turbine producing about 5 MW-h of energy per day, you’d need about $1 million worth of batteries to bank the energy. That translates to adding about 10 cents/kW-h to the price of wind power, or almost double the wholesale price of electricity on the North American grid. If you could kick the wind power up the value chain by using it to produce, say, hydrogen for fuel cell cars, you might be in much better shape.

  15. I don’t have much else to add from what’s already been said about this useless, costly and stupid form of energy, but I want to thank MacLeans for the article. We desperately need more of the MSM bringing this issue to the urban populations. Rural Ontario has been aware of these problems for years, but no one would listen.
    Bravo Colby!!

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