The wind energy lobby, the provincial government and the mainstream environmental groups continue to claim that wind-generated electricity is “clean” and therefore “good for the environment” (Sarnia Observer, Sept. 23, Turbines rising in Lambton).
This claim is simply not true in the context of Ontario’s electricity sector.
With every megawatt-hour of wind-produced electricity accepted into the Ontario grid, the province is in fact substituting electricity that produces an average of 40 kg CO2 per megawatt-hour (from gas turbines operating ONLY during peak demand) with electricity that produces an average of 200 kg CO2 per megawatt-hour (from gas turbines that MUST operate whenever the wind stops blowing).
If the provincial government continues to promote wind energy, as outlined in their 2013 Long Term Energy Plan, the increasing amounts of wind-generated electricity will cause CO2 emissions from Ontario’s electricity sector to double between 2016 and 2032.
These are the findings in an annual report titled “Ontario’s Electricity Dilemma” by the two Ontario engineering societies – the Ontario Society of Professional Engineers (OSPE) and the Professional Engineers of Ontario (PEO).
The latest edition, published in April 2015, can be found here: http://www.ospe.on.ca/?page=pres_lib#peo
The CO2 emission numbers were calculated using published data from the grid’s system operator, the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO).
These two engineering societies are not against renewables like wind energy. Their report contains a number of suggestions on how the province can better integrate renewable energy sources into the grid.
The increase in CO2 emission results directly from the government’s decision to give wind-generated electricity first access to our grid regardless of demand, regardless of the fact that our current generating capacity is 30 per cent above base load demand, regardless of the fact that because wind electricity is intermittent, only gas-powered generating plants ramp up fast enough to maintain grid stability, regardless of the fact that clean energy with zero CO2 emission – hydro and nuclear – is being dumped.
Let’s look at what this means locally. Suncor’s 100 MW Cedar Point project has an annual real capacity of about 30 MW because the wind doesn’t always blow; so it will produce about 262,800 megawatt-hours of electricity in one year.
This amount of electricity from our other sources – nuclear/hydro/gas – would result in the yearly emission of 10,500 metric tons of CO2.
The same output from Suncor’s Cedar Point project will result in yearly emissions of 52,560 metric tons of CO2 emission because additional gas-generated electricity is required. This is an INCREASE of 42,000 metric tons of CO2 each year for the next 20 years. Had this project not been built, the environment would be cleaner by that amount.
Our two engineering societies should be commended for producing this report. It reminds us that the provincial government has never undertaken a financial cost/benefit analysis, or an environmental cost/benefit analysis of its Green Energy Act; and so it continues with a program that has enormous financial and social costs; a program that will actually increase CO2 emissions and worsen the effects of climate change.
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