Are we being green-washed into paying for unproven and inherently inefficient power generating technologies?
Currently, Hatters are paying a hefty “green” surcharge to help pay for the utilities dabbling in alternative energies. It’s not a whole lot of money, but it adds up.
It’s all being done in the name of saving the environment and weaning us off “bad” fossil fuels.
Are the extra taxes we’re paying out as tax breaks to alternative energy producers and consumers really worth it?
Let’s take a look at wind power because it seems to get the most press these days. There are wind farms going up all around southern Alberta and there are a few that are already delivering electricity to the grid.
Some people no doubt get a warm and fuzzy feeling when they drive by those turbines, but those feelings would likely evaporate quickly if they knew just how inherently inefficient wind turbines are.
Wind turbines, after all, can only operate in a narrow band of wind. The wind has to be blowing at just the right speed. Too slow and nothing happens. Too fast and they have to be shut down.
Even when the wind is blowing just right, they don’t produce that much electricity. A turbine usually produces a mere fraction of its rated power generating capacity.
In fact, according to one study of wind electrical generation in the United States, all that country’s wind turbines – tens of thousands – produced no more electricity than two conventional gas-powered plants.
Put another way, if we had to rely on wind power for our electrical needs, we would have to cover all of southern Alberta with turbines and we would still need to have gas-fired and coal-fired plants to ensure the supply of electricity was constant.
We would be better off taking the extra taxes we’re collecting and spending the money on conservation programs and research into clean-burning technologies.
But that is not as “sexy” as building turbines and installing solar panels. Green-washed, indeed.
Alan Poirier is the managing editor of the Medicine Hat News.
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