Just so much hot air.

I recently read an article on land area required for different forms of power generation; the article provided a graphic representation of the area required for nuclear generation, then immensely larger area required for solar power, and the yet even larger area required for wind generation.

On a recent drive to a Kincardine, Ontario, this information came to mind as we drove by the Ripley Wind Power Project. Ripley goes on for miles and miles. 3600 hectares, or 13.9 square miles actually. Consisting of 38 turbines, Ripley cost about $176 million to build.

Ripley exceeded expectations, producing 221,799 megawatt-hours (MWh) last year. Current demand in Ontario is about 151 TWh. That means that Ripley produces about 0.147% of Ontario’s current demand. Ontarians consume 12,750 kWh per person per year, which by my math suggests that Ripley can provide power for about 17,396 people annually. For some reason Suncor/Acciona, the operators, use a number of about 20,000 homes, though I can’t imagine that all homes are single person occupancy:

With 221,799 megawatt-hours (MWh) produced, this is above Acciona Energy’s expectation of 216,000 MWh over its first year, said project operator, said Paul Austin, Acciona Wind Energy’s community relations manager.

This translates into enough electricity to power about 20,000 average homes, Austin said, adding the wind studies have revealed a resource plentiful enough to make their investment worthwhile.

I currently live in Waterloo, Canada, a city with well over 100,000 habitants in an area of 24.7 square miles. My rudimentary math suggests that being generous it would require at least four times the area – or 55.6 square miles – to provide for the energy consumption of the residents of my community, not including any industrial use. Does this sound like a worthwhile investment? Or an workable one?

Actually it is more likely that Mr. Austin of Acciona thinks that the investment is worthwhile because the Ontario government pays them 13.5 cents per kWh. As a customer, I only pay about 6 cents per kWh, so this is a massive subsidy by the government.Last year that would have generated revenue of about $30 million. As customers would only have paid about $13.3 million for that power, that amounts to a subsidy of about $16.7 million.

If I was on the receiving end I’d consider that a worthwhile investment too. As as taxpayer though, the math doesn’t work for me, and I don’t imagine how it could. Health concerns of those living near the turbines have also been raised. Wind power sounds great until it actually has to work in real life.

You can catch up a little more on the folly of wind power at Wind Concerns Ontario.

Tip of the hat to small dead animals.


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2 thoughts on “Just so much hot air.

  1. Reasonable discussion and pointing out flaws with these magical turbines have no place today.

    These things are going to save the world, didn’t you know? Only when we wake up and our entire countryside is industrialized with these useless, rusting giants, will people stop and think.

    If you’re not green, you must be mean.

  2. Let’s get a few things straight. The author is arguing P. Austin’s comments regarding the number of homes that can be powered, HOMES! NOT CITIZENS. The average consumption of an Ontarian is 12,750kWh per year. Simple math total consumption divided by number of residents. P. Austin’s claim that the Ripley wind project can power 20,000 homes is accurate. Simple math again; total production in Ripley divided by the average consumption of a HOME.

    I used to live in the middle of the Ripley Wind Power Project. I didn’t realize that all the farm land was converted to be used to make wind power. I’m not quite sure where we were planting our crops either then. I suppose the author is claiming that 36 square kilometers (we’re in Canada, yes, Canada, we use the metric system) are required to produce over 220,000 MWh. 38 turbines exist in Ripley over a 36 square kilometer area and exist symbiotically with the farms surrounding them.

    Wind power is not the be all and end all of our electricity needs. It is a piece of the puzzle regarding a decrease in pollution, de-centrilization and diversification of our power system which will leave us with cleaner air and more reliable electricity delivery. Renewable energy will not be explored if there are no financial incentives to drive industry to make a change.

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