Friday, September 10, 2010

Wind Turbines and The Green Energy Pushback

CTV News reports on protests yesterday by Lindsay, Ontario residents who confronted Premier Dalton McGuinty on the alleged health concerns arising from local wind turbines:

"Have you heard about the children who are getting nosebleeds from these (turbines)?" asked Pontypool resident Mary Cowling.

"Just one child -- one child -- is one too many to suffer the effects of a wind turbine. One little child. And if it was your child, and your grandchild, you would feel the same way as we do and you would fight like we are."

Provincial regulations on wind turbines are among the toughest in the world, McGuinty argued, adding that there's no scientific evidence to suggest that turbines cause health problems.

The province has to move to clean energy sources in order to reduce Ontario's dependence on polluting, coal-fired generation, he said.

The Potential Health Impact of Wind Turbines, a study published in May 2010 by the Ontario Chief Medical Officer of Health, concludes that wind turbines do not pose any significant medical threat to nearby residents:
The review concludes that while some people living near wind turbines report symptoms such as dizziness, headaches, and sleep disturbance, the scientific evidence available to date does not demonstrate a direct causal link between wind turbine noise and adverse health effects. The sound level from wind turbines at common residential setbacks is not sufficient to cause hearing impairment or other direct health effects, although some people may find it annoying.
More on this via Wikipedia: Environmental effects of wind power
A European Commission report has found wind to have the lowest external costs, comprising human health impacts, building and crop damage, global warming, loss of amenities and ecological impact, when compared to coal, oil, gas, biomass, nuclear, hydro and photovoltaic.
Wind energy appears to hold the greatest promise of all clean energy alternatives. While I suppose it is predictable that turbine projects will attract frequent "not-in-my-backyard" styled opposition, the European Commission's comparison of damage costs per kWh for coal, gas, nuclear and wind electricity appears rather difficult to ignore:
For wind energy (one of the more promising renewable technologies to be implemented in some European countries) it should be emphasized that impacts from upstream processes and amenity impacts become important, since no pollutants are emitted during electricity production by wind turbines. These impacts and costs are calculated using emission databases for steel and concrete production - materials used to build a wind turbine and tower. Impacts from noise are quite low. Impacts from visual intrusion are difficult to value. Both impacts can be minimised through planning and consultation. Impacts on birds and animals are negligible when quantified. Human accidents during construction, or due to collisions on sea, are also very small, but can become relatively important when emissions from the production of materials decrease further.
- Garry J. Wise, Toronto

Update: September 17, 2010

Thanks to our readers for the very lively discussion in this post's comments thread.

Note this cautionary report on an ongoing Saskatchewan wind farm lawsuit. Scientifically unjustafiable legal opposition to wind farms could prove to be quite costsly to objecting landowners.


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