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Research wind turbines for real stats

Re: “Where’s the comparative kill data?” (Aug. 6).

I note letter writer Roger Fielding’s comments about comparative kill ratios of birds with respect to the Wolfe Island wind turbine debate. He goes on to make some good points about the risks associated with pulverized fuel ash from coal-fired power plants.

Where he gets it wrong is where he weighs up the impacts from bird kills and coal-fired plants against the supposed ‘green’ benefits of industrial wind turbines (IWTs).

If Fielding spent a little time doing research into the actual economics and the environmental costs and benefits of industrial wind turbines, he would likely come to the conclusion that is beginning to dawn inexorably even on former wind power advocates like me – they don’t work.

If you examine the numbers (as Wayne Gulden in Ohio seems to have done) it is clear that wind turbines don’t result in any significant reductions in carbon emissions and they don’t contribute to overall reductions in use of coal or other fossil fuels. Some studies actually show that they result in increased carbon and pollution loads since the conventional fossil-fueled ‘backups’ need to be kept running at low (and inefficient) levels so they are available on short notice when the wind dies. Denmark went the large-scale wind energy route in the 1980s and has the highest per capita carbon emissions in Europe. France, with 70% nuclear power, has the lowest.

The only large-scale economic effect industrial wind turbines have is to funnel subsidy funds and tariffs into developers’ pockets (with a bit left over for the ‘green’ industry to build and maintain the things). You can see the effect on your electricity bills – just last week Utilities Kingston announced an 8% rate hike with more to come. Do you suppose that might have something to do with the subsidy cost of wind turbines and the need to greatly expand distribution systems?

Quite apart from the adverse ecological impacts on birds and bats (and although skyscrapers do kill birds, they are not usually cited in an important migratory flyway as the Wolfe Island wind turbines are), the jury is still out on the human health impacts – but is starting to come in against IWTs.

Recent evidence indicates that the Ontario government-mandated 550-metre setback is woefully inadequate. Nine of the 10 articles in the August 2011 issue of the peer-reviewed Bulletin of Science, Technology & Society (including one by a researcher at Queen’s) relate directly to adverse human health impacts of IWTs. These articles bear out earlier work done, for example, by Michael Nissenbaum in Maine and Bob Thorne in Australia showing potential adverse human health impacts out to distances of the order of 10 kilo-metres.

I used to be an advocate of IWTs – then I actually did some research on them. I suggest Fielding does the same.

Ian Dubin