Wind power problems: “What are they talking about?”

I never assume anyone knows where my hometown of Mitchell’s Bay (population: 350) is, unless they like to fish or hunt or boat, or come from deep in southwestern Ontario.

So I was quite surprised when, on a plane to western Canada earlier this week, the 30-something man beside me from B.C. nodded in acknowledgement when he asked me where I was from, and I told him “around Chatham.”

It further turned out he knew the Mitchell’s Bay area. He’s a wind turbine technician, and he’d been working on wind energy installations there and in farming-intensive Dover Township, installing quieting devices on the end of turbine blades that are supposed to make them less offensive to people who think they’re noisy.

As we chatted the way people sometimes do on planes, I came to learn he doesn’t get much involved in the politics or controversy of wind energy, mainly because he doesn’t believe it.

Even though his latest activity was a response to some of the most popular complaints about turbines – that is, the “whapping” noise made by the blades that is said to make some people ill – he doesn’t think it’s a widespread malady.

“When I first started this job I read some of the things people said about the problems caused by wind energy, but as I went on in the job, I asked myself ‘What are they talking about?’ I don’t see those same things at all,” he said.

Maybe you’d expect that kind of perspective from someone whose wages are tied to the wind energy industry.

But over the course of the two-hour–plus flight, I got the impression that if he thought there was malice afoot, he would have said so. Overall employment attitudes and patterns of his demographic tell us its members don’t tolerate spoonfuls, let alone buckets, of corporate lies or deceit.

And I was further stuck by with his grasp of what wind energy income can mean to some farmers, and the value of a diversified portfolio during tough times. It’s not going to make up for crop losses – for example, the damage inflicted by white mould on soybeans, Ontario’s biggest field crop, is conservatively estimated at $20-$30 million this year – but the few thousand dollars farmers receive from each wind energy lease still helps.

All this is particularly timely for a couple of reasons.

First, summer breezes have turned into autumn winds. And maybe it’s coincidental, but it seems renewable energy discussions have intensified as this natural phenomenon kicked in.

Second, there’s a growing concern over climate change in the farm sector, and the role of renewable energy. The Ontario Federation of Agriculture has made it an imperative and wants more emphasis on support for developing renewable energy from agricultural sources.

For their part, University of Guelph researchers are developing new varieties of plants and crop protection products geared towards climate change, varieties that are hardier and more flexible and that can stand up to an assortment of conditions. For example, the big hit this year from white mould was not caused by too much heat or drought, conditions often associated with climate change – rather, the culprit was too much rain, and cooler temperatures. Only history will truly determine whether or not this is a textbook definition of climate change, but there’s no question farmers think something is happening, and researchers are trying to help them deal with it, whatever it is.

Finally, the annual meeting of the Canadian Wind Energy Association takes place next week in Montreal. About 1,500 attendees are expected. One of the things they’ll hear about is the growth of the sector in Canada. For example, in Ontario, a huge installation is getting ready to come on-stream near Shelburne.

News of new wind energy installations are not well-received in some parts of our country. But I’d say when it comes to wind power, the momentum is with the industry. Like my seatmate en route to western Canada, the wind energy association is determined to this renewable resource a meaningful part of the Canadian energy complement.

Check out Owen’s column from last week — Innovation is what will get agriculture through interesting times

16 thoughts on “Wind power problems: “What are they talking about?”

  1. Owen, this is disappointing article, once again. You have been aware of the health issues for several years. Have you ever made an attempt to talk to any of the farmers who have had health issues with wind turbines. It is clear that your opinion based on a weak foundation if it is based on one conversation you had with a wind turbine technician. You need to get out and actually talk to the people with health issues that are living in these projects if you really want to write credibly on this topic.

  2. It’s really unfortunate that people who are all for wind energy, never seem to live anywhere near them. Perhaps this might help you understand why people who are FORCED to live surrounded by 500 foot tall industrial machines might be a bit upset about not being heard. Your neighbour can’t put a shed up on his property without municipal authorization, but if they want to stick a 600 foot spinning, ground vibrating machine within a short distance of your home, the Ontario government says that’s okay.

    You can Google this article that was published today by a Professor Emeritus of Earth Sciences who calls Industrial Wind Turbines — Parasites. Here’s part of the article, you can Google the rest.

    “Greens’ silence on the folly of wind and solar power”

    A simple evaluation of ideological electricity shows that it is unsustainable.

    The amount of energy embedded in steel pylons, concrete footings, blades, wiring, magnets, land clearing and roads is more than a wind pylon would ever generate in its working life. Wind farms cannot generate electricity in a gentle zephyr or a gale, cannot operate continuously and optimistically operate at 20 per cent of nameplate capacity.

    Wind farms have the life of a parasite because they freeload themselves onto existing grids paid by conventional efficient energy, need subsidies and drain electricity from the grid when it is too cold. Wind turbines don’t run on wind; they run on subsidies.

    A single 1,000-megawatt wind farm produces at least 7 million tonnes of carbon dioxide in component construction and concrete. Almost 100,000 truckloads of concrete are required just for the footings. Maintenance by diesel-powered vehicles only adds to emissions. Wind farms need 24/7 back-up from carbon dioxide emitting coal-fired power stations.

    Wind farms do not reduce human emissions of carbon dioxide; they increase emissions.

    A wind farm using 660-kilowatt generators requires 7,600 generators at 20 per cent efficiency to produce 1,000 megawatts. At $2,000 per kilowatt installation, this would cost $10 billion. This is more than twice the cost of a reliable, clean, coal-fired 1,000-megawatt generator.

    The environmental effects of wind farms are devastating. Construction of wind farms in rural areas results in a decline in residents’ mental and physical health, decreased property values and community disharmony. A recent study showed hearing loss for people experiencing low frequency noise. The remainder of the article can be found here….

    1. Laura — what a bunch of crap. The person who wrote this article doesn’t appear to have much of a clue of what they are speaking!!! She’s mixing up capacity factor (20%) with efficiency — this is a totally different concept.

      Wind generators are usually installed in areas where the capacity factor is more like 30%. The efficiency of wind generators are already included in the output rating so you don’t include efficiency a second time (because that is double dipping). A 1000 MW wind farm at $2/W of capacity would cost $2 billion ( = 1000 x 2), not $10 billion — and all with no fuel cost.

      Emissions are caused when **energy** is generated, not power… so backup generation (which is **required** for all generators on the grid) don’t generate much of any emissions when they are in backup mode (because no energy is being generated). It is easy to determine the emissions payback of the concrete… A 1000 MW wind farm using 660 kW wind generators would need 1500 wind generators (not the 7600 calculated when you double-dip the efficiency). At 60 truckloads of concrete per wind generator that amounts to 91,000 truckloads (very simple math here). At 7.6 m3 per truckload and an CO2e emissions generation rate of 0.414 T per m3 of concrete this amounts to 290,000 T of CO2 emissions (oh how I love simple math). A 1000 MW wind farm at a low-wind-speed location where the capacity factor is only 20% (which is too low) would generate 1,750,000,000 kWh of electric energy per year (equal to the amount consumed by 230,000 homes in Alberta). At Alberta’s dirty-grid emission rate of about 0.8 kg/kWh, the wind farm would reduce GHG emissions by 1.4 million tonnes per year. So thus the emissions generated by the concrete production (only) would be paid back by the wind farm in 2.5 months… likely all the embodied emissions (of steel, plastics, copper, other materials, transportation and construction labour emissions) would be paid back within the 1st year of operation… The emissions from maintenance wouldn’t amount to a hill of beans in comparison.

      so it sounds like this article (and your approval of it) is quite a bit of squawking for no damn good reason. Good thing no-one pays attention to you — and so the people with the real numbers are instead constructing many wind farms because they know what is the reality of them: they are a profitable business venture and they reduce the planet’s emissions.

      I welcome anyone’s further comments.

      1. As mentioned, IWT’s are a profitable business due to the grotesque subsidies they receive.
        Perhaps you could calculate for us the carbon footprint of the back-up generators required to support wind and it’s schizophrenic generation that can’t be relied on. Can you tell us what amount of generation wind will produce tomorrow? I thought not. Thus the need to have back-up generation at the ready to ramp up and down in the most inefficient manner thus negating any reduction in emissions IWT’s could manage.

      2. Sorry. I’ll take the word of a Professor Emeritus in Earth Sciences over yours. That’s not the only article that has been written about the inefficiency and uselessness of industrial wind turbines. There are thousands of them out there.

        You might want to also check into the environmental destruction caused by the installation of these monstrosities. Anyone who believes that you can erect thousands of 500 to 600 foot tall industrial machines all over the countryside and not cause severe consequences to the environment, needs to go back and study Grade 4 science.

        Something else you might want to think about is the millions of carbon-chomping trees that have been sacrificed all in the name of this faux “green” energy.

  3. Mr. Roberts;
    Of course the industry wants to make wind a meaningful source of energy. The subsidy money is just too good for these multi-national corporations to pass up. What you fail to realize is that Industrial Wind Turbines (IWT’s) don’t perform as Big Wind would have you believe. They don’t provide any reliable power and don’t cut down on emissions. If you honestly believe that emissions pose an existential threat to humanity or the planet, then do an honest audit, accounting of, or a cost/ benefit analysis. To date, none of these have been done. It appears your intellectual curiosity ceases when you hear what you want to hear be it from the wind industry or a technician.
    If you do decide to delve further into this, you’ll find that IWT’s perform miserably, are unreliable, drive up hydro rates pushing the most vulnerable into “energy poverty” ( get used to hearing that term) and are harmful to the environment because they need fossil fuel back-up that increases emissions beyond what they could mitigate. Denmark and Germany are terrific examples as they emit 3 and 5 times respectfully, more carbon than Ontario, even if we remove wind totally from Ontario’s mix.
    I could go on with the bird and bat deaths ( think of the agricultural implications of that) , detrimental effects on human and animal health and the ongoing fiasco of diverting valuable monetary sources in the form of subsidies, paying wind NOT to generate power and the selling off or paying neighbouring jurisdictions to accept surplus power generation. Think of the $billions that could go to meaningful research in energy dense sources that are clean as well.

    I wish you well in your research.

  4. I have never heard a bigger bunch of lies and wind pusher propaganda. These people obviously have never been unfortunate enough to live near one of these monstrosities. Sound is amplified when it resonates off of the walls of your home, and these morons are commenting about not hearing the moise. Of course not, it is carried away from where they are, out in the open. They know nothing about the way that sounds carry, or about dose response to stimuli such as the infrasound emitted by these huge industrial machines. These monsters are sunk into hundreds of loads of concrete, into our agricultural lands and communities. It is a disgrace. We cannot afford this intermittent, unreliable, expensive form of novelty energy.


    The rest of us are being forced to buy old, redundant, obsolete, Ladas, and have to pay the price of a Rolls Royce.

  5. The replies have helped explain just part of the problems of wind energy Mr. Roberts but so hard to do as a response in an article in this type of format. (1) the fact that there are billions of dollars in subsidies that the taxpayers are not seeing is a crime when wind is only 25% (at best) efficient and has to be backed up by fossil fuel when the wind is not blowing. (2) They are by-passing water at Niagara Falls now which is the greenest of all electricity in all of history, just to allow room for wind energy (3) The problems we have all over Ontario was not the source of generation but grid! We need billions spent on the grid and now they say they don’t have money for that from subsidizing this expensive unreliable new source. (4) Farmers do not need the income from this as you have suggested after just coming out of some of the best years ever and driving up the price of land 5 fold (5) The fact that the Ontario Government has doubled our debt in 10 years and the Green Energy Act has been a fair part of that and that means our financial future is grim for trying to force what they thought would make the Liberals wildly popular. (6) What was mentioned above that nobody can build even a small drive shed without Municipal approval but the Liberals took that away from us the say where turbines can go. Mr. Roberts have you been paid to spew the corruption of the Ontario Liberals? It sure seems like it!!!!

  6. As any realtor worth his oats will tell you – “LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION.” People who end up stuck living within the footprint of industrial wind factories have had their homes rendered virtually worthless. I’ve witnessed this to be a reality here in Wyoming County of western New York State, where we now have 308 industrial wind turbines strewn throughout five (5) towns. Many folks have had their homes for sale for years, unable to find a buyer. Citizens in Orangeville, NY have filed a $40 Million dollar lawsuit against Invenergy. Why would anyone with half a brain want to create that kind of utter incivility within their community???

    The use of wind energy for power is centuries old. The Dutch ‘windmills’ we’ve all seen pictured amongst colorful tulip fields were relegated to the dustbin of history as soon as reliable power provided by the steam engine came along. Thinking we can somehow replace 30% of the firm capacity currently provided by our conventional generation sources is like saying we could replace 30% of our national truck transport system with horse and buggies. We may create some ‘new’ jobs shoveling horse poop, but the whole system would be negatively impacted, become extremely inefficient and unreliable, and cost consumers far more of the hard-earned money.
    Most importantly, and as anyone who knows the difference between energy and power will tell you –

    No machine can convert the diffuse energy of wind into modern power – period.

    More research and greater innovation cannot change this fact. We can build millions of thousand-foot-tall turbines, and place them around a small, windy area, or out to sea, and all of that environmental destruction still would not provide the firm capacity necessary to produce modern power — that is, the reliable, dispatchable, baseload power that nurtures modern culture. See:

    Wind is Not Power at All (Part III – Capacity Value):…/wind-not-power-iii/

    AWEA board member E.ON Netz, which operates German transmission grids and also builds wind plants in the U.S., is succinct:

    “Wind energy is only able to replace traditional power stations to a limited extent. Their dependence on the prevailing wind conditions means that wind power has a limited load factor even when technically available…. Consequently, traditional power stations with capacities equal to 90% of the installed wind power capacity must be permanently online [and burning fuel] in order to guarantee power supply at all times”

    This means wind generation cannot replace fossil generation to any meaningful extent.

    This also means that comparisons between wind and fossil fuels with respect to emissions are ill-informed. Wind is entirely reliant upon fossil fuel. Wind is more honestly referred to as fossil/wind. Wind cannot stand on its own and cannot replace fossil generation.

    GE makes this clear here:

    This means the ill effects of wind energy are added to the ill effects of fossil fuel extraction – not a replacement for them.

    Industrial wind energy adds insult to injury, both from an environmental and an economic perspective.

    Even the Center/Left Brookings Institute concurs:
    Warren Buffett even admitted, “We build ‘windfarms’ for the tax credits. Otherwise, they don’t make sense.”

    In Wisconsin, so many homes have been abandoned and people complaining of the negative health effects associated with living too close to industrial wind factories, that the Board of Health there dubbed them a “Human Health Hazard.” (See: Duke Energy’s Shirley wind turbines declared a “human health hazard”:

    Besides the human problems caused by these antiquated bird-chopping machines, the massive Habitat Fragmentation caused by the sprawling footprints of industrial wind factories (sited as major cause of species loss) is simply atrocious.

    Most interesting was the recent presentation by Manhattan Institute scholar, Robert Bryce – MORE ENERGY PLEASE! As Bryce correctly states within his presentation, “Wind is one of the great scams of the modern age.” See:

    2014 HV McKay Lecture delivered by Robert Bryce:

    Regarding emissions, see Bryce’s calculations within the article, Wind Turbines Are Climate-Change Scarecrows (, and his excellent book, Power Hungry: The Myths of “Green” Energy and the Real Fuels of the Future (

    Also see the numerous facts and reference links within the summary article:
    Industrial Wind – The Great American “S-WIND-LE”: Not Clean, Not Green, Not Free!

    Industrial wind was initiated in the U.S. by ENRON – its’ main purpose as a tax shelter generator. The wind industry today is ENRON on steroids. Many of the biggest energy industries haven’t paid any taxes in the U.S. in years, largely due to their “investments” in wind (ie: GE, FPL, etc)

  7. “First, summer breezes have turned into autumn winds. And maybe it’s coincidental, but it seems renewable energy discussions have intensified as this natural phenomenon kicked in”

    What an interesting observation. In Ontario, pretty much every victim of the emissions at that these towers emit comment that the impacts increase in the fall and winter months when winds increase and moisture in the ground increases. It is no surprise that the comments and events ramp up. I have sat at many kitchen tables while families weep for their losses and pray for acknowledgement and resolution. It is heartbreaking.

    I hope you visit windvictimsontario dot com and take a look through some of the victim statements. What is represented there is just the tip of the iceberg. Then move to windontario dot ca and read up on some of the facts. Because we who are impacted don’t have the luxury of main stream media to tell others what is happening to us, we have to resort to websites and to making our own videos.
    Read about the Ministry of Environment field officers who were trying to help the residents by drafting an abatement program and were told to stand down. No one even knew about it until a freedom of information (FOI) request was made.
    In another FOI, ministry staff admitted there were serious problems, that the regulations are not working but they have been silenced by Toronto ministry officials.
    This story is too huge to be told in a comment on a website.
    I highly recommend you (and others who believe there is no problem) research health impacts/ wind turbines before reporting on something that has not touched you. No unbiased citizen could possibly insist it is made up.

    You can also download and watch “Down Wind” a recent documentary on the wind issue produced for Sun Media

    1. Thanks everyone for your comments and feedback. In a democracy, everyone is entitled to their opinion — you, me, the technician I spoke with, wind proponents, wind opponents, everyone. I’m sure RealAgriculture appreciates the opportunity to give those opinions a forum.
      I’d welcome an opportunity to be part of an on-farm media tour that illustrates some of your concerns.

  8. Hi Owen,
    I invite you to come to a public screening of Down Wind, a recently released documentary on wind turbine issues in Ontario. The invite posting will be on numerous websites shortly.
    1 PM Saturday, November 15, 2014 at the Grace Tipling Hall in downtown Shelburne, Ontario. There will be some people who have been directly impacted and had to leave their homes and a question and answer session after the screening.
    There will likely be a mix of concerned citizens and proponents.This will probably be the single best opportunity to gather information in one day and Shelburne is located on the edge of 133 working turbines with another 49 slated to start up on.
    Thanks Barb

    1. Thanks Barb. My in-laws are from Creemore and we pass through Shelburne to visit them. I will try to attend the screening you mention here.

  9. Well Mr. Roberts IF ONLY the Liberal Government in Toronto (put in power mostly by the GTA) believed what you are saying “In a democracy, everyone is entitled to their opinion”. As a mayor of a rural Municipality anywhere from 75% to 90% of my constituents DO NOT want IWT forced upon their neighbourhood, but that is exactly what this Government did with the Green Energy Act of 2009 by stripping us of any say whether or not we are WILLING HOSTS. Yes there are Municipalities that are willing hosts like Chatham-Kent who just re-elected the mayor there. But in the name of democracy give us back the right to say NO, that’s all I and my constituents ask for……..exactly what you stated. Your article points a couple very weak positives and you did absolutely nothing to touch on the negatives. I sure hope you do attend the Downwind movie showing and obtain more information than listening to someone like the person on the plane that sounds like he is benefiting from this very expensive course the Government has taken us on that has doubled our electricity rates in Ontario and has to be one of the reasons that manufacturing is leaving this Province.

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