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Windmill plant closes, as Ontario’s Green Energy Act dies a painful, costly death  

Most of Ontario’s wind farms have been resented as eyesores in the rural towns where they’ve been built; the Green Energy Act took away a bunch of local authority to resist them. Paying extra for the power they generate added injury to insult as electricity bills shot up, especially in those same rural areas.

Credit:  Reevely: Windmill plant closes, as Ontario's Green Energy Act dies a painful, costly death | By David Reevely | National Post | July 19, 2017 | nationalpost.com ~~

Siemens is closing its windmill-blade factory in Tillsonburg, kicking one of the struts out of the provincial Liberals’ plan to remake Ontario into a manufacturing centre for green-energy equipment.

So long, Green Energy Act. That was painful.

Not least for the 350 or so workers at the plant near London, most of whom are out of work immediately. Some will stay on for a few months to wind the operation up, but it’ll be fully shuttered in 2018, Siemens says. They’re just not selling enough of the 50-metre-long windmill blades the factory makes to stay in business.

The Tillsonburg factory was one of four children of the Green Energy and Green Economy Act of 2009 (the full title, though the second part usually gets dropped) and the province’s multibillion-dollar deal with Samsung to kickstart Ontario’s wind- and solar-power industries. The government overpaid for electricity, on purpose, expecting the extra money to build the foundations of a permanent green-energy industry that would supply not only our domestic needs but others’ as well. If someone in Ohio was building a wind farm, they’d be able to buy turbines from Ontario.

So Samsung did deals with partners such as Siemens to manufacture parts in Ontario for wind and solar farms it opened here: windmill towers in Windsor, blades in Tillsonburg, solar panels in London, inverters in Toronto. The Tillsonburg operation moved into a defunct car-parts plant and quickly became the town’s biggest employer.

Siemens boasted what a great thing it had in Tillsonburg in a 2014 marketing document it called a “trusted partner case study.”

“When we decided on Tillsonburg, we could have just parachuted in many ex-pats and moved forward,” it quoted Jacob Andersen, the Dane in charge of Siemens’ Canadian wind-power arm. “But from the beginning, we wanted to do things differently than that. We are an integrated part of the community – a local factory with local employees, making a major local contribution. We have invested a lot in employee training and education to make sure we could do it that way, and I know it has paid off.”

That year, the plant signed a major deal to supply 420 blades for a third-party wind farm on Lake Huron near Goderich. The future had arrived.

And then, close on its heels, so did reality.

Most of Ontario’s wind farms have been resented as eyesores in the rural towns where they’ve been built; the Green Energy Act took away a bunch of local authority to resist them. Paying extra for the power they generate added injury to insult as electricity bills shot up, especially in those same rural areas.

Ontario has built a lot of wind farms. We could get nearly 4,000 megawatts of power out of them, at a theoretical maximum output, though it’s never actually that windy. Even if it were, wind would still be just 11 per cent of our power supply, which really depends on nuclear plants (13,000 megawatts), oil and gas (10,000 megawatts) and hydro (8,400 megawatts).

But the building boom is pretty much over. We have more electricity available than we need and now all the politicians care about is stomping down prices.

The Liberals scrapped a big round of planned new contracts for renewable electricity last fall (making Tory Leader Patrick Brown’s repeated promise to do the same thing silly, if not disingenuous). They show no signs of allowing wind farms in the Great Lakes, which could have meant a ton of business for parts makers. Also, Energy Minister Glenn Thibeault says Ontario will change its basic approach to buying power in the future to what are called “capacity auctions,” the most important feature of which is that they’re agnostic about how the power is generated. No coal, but other than that, whatever’s cheapest wins.

You can damn the Liberals for losing their nerve or for taking up this misbegotten plan in the first place. The facts support either case. Let’s take stock of where we are.

We have a lot more wind and solar farms than we used to. So there’s that.

We’ve made windmill parts here for our own use, in foreign-owned factories. Never enough to create a self-sustaining domestic industry, let alone one that could compete internationally.

We have several hundred people trained in the blade-making business suddenly looking for work; maybe they’ll go on to bigger things. Though the Tillsonburg plant didn’t lose out to other Ontario blade factories that sprung up and learned to outcompete it – it’s just closing, because making blades in Ontario only made sense when the government insisted on it and backed that demand with cash.

We have the three other factories born of the Green Energy Act, at least for now. The windmill-tower factory in Windsor is already down to one shift a day from three and is abruptly losing a major strategic partner. But it persists.

Not nothing. Not a lot to show for the billions of dollars we’ve spent.

Source:  Reevely: Windmill plant closes, as Ontario's Green Energy Act dies a painful, costly death | By David Reevely | National Post | July 19, 2017 | nationalpost.com

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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