Another day, another wind-power let down in Ontario

In one of the Dr. Katz episodes, Katz is enjoying, or trying to enjoy, a glass of wine after dinner with his slacker son Ben. When Ben criticizes his imbibing, Katz says something like “I figure I should let my hair down, because it let me down.” (Katz has gone bald, as you’ll see when you watch the clip.)

Right now, two-thirty p.m. on Wednesday August 29 2012, the provincial wind fleet is letting its hair down, enjoying the productivity equivalent of a glass of vino in the middle of the afternoon. That is to say, the wind fleet is not producing very much at this moment, even though it is continually touted as the energy of the future.

Unlike Katz, whose wine-drinking occurs after the working day is over, the wind fleet pops the old cork whenever it pleases, even if everyone else is in the middle of the work day. Though theoretically capable of generating around 1700 megawatts at this moment, the wind fleet is actually generating only 84 MW.

Check out the IESO’s website. Once again, as the province heads into the peak hours, wind is missing in action and proving it is a total waste of time and money. After all that talk, after all the celebrity endorsements, after all the self-interested con men blathering on about the wind-powered Brave New World—this is what we get.

Of course, no electricity user actually notices that there is a totally unreliable source of energy that gets priority on the grid. That is because the IESO, the grid operator, makes sure that the generators that can produce power on demand are ready to jump in when wind goes on a drunk. Unfortunately, many of those generators are fueled by natural gas, a carbon-heavy fossil fuel. Gas-fired power plants dump half a kilogram of carbon dioxide (CO2), the principal greenhouse gas, into the air for every kilowatt-hour they generate.

Let’s examine how we got into the wind game in the first place. We were originally trying to reduce CO2 emissions. We jumped onto the wind bandwagon because “green” energy experts told us wind is “clean” and emission-free. We pay top dollar to wind turbine owners because they cannot get enough utilization from their capital assets to survive in a normal electricity market. You see, wind is highly erratic: up one minute, down the next. Because wind is unreliable, we have to build a parallel fleet of gas-fired generators, which dump huge amounts of CO2 into our air.

As Nixon says in Oliver Stone’s brilliant 1995 film Nixon:

This is [expletive deleted] Disneyland.

What a let down.

This is how we are supposed to power the new economy?

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Rae Watson
11 years ago
11 years ago
Reply to  Rae Watson

Simply put, this is anti-wind pulp! We can’t afford nuclear power. The nuclear industry has it’s hands on the throat of power here in Ontario and in Washington. Smart for them,totally destructive for the rest of the planet. Look to Germany and Herman Scheer or Ontario will go the way of dodo.

Steve Aplin
11 years ago
Reply to  Lynne

Lynne, yes it’s anti wind. For good reason. Wind is expensive and inefficient. You want wind? Then hook it up to YOUR house and pay for it with YOUR money, not with the hard-earned money of Ontario rate payers on fixed incomes who can’t afford it.

11 years ago

But look at how much money the “investors” are making on the backs of the Ontario taxpayers. And only defining hundreds of kilometers of shoreline and killing thousands of birds and bats. Small price to pay, don’t you think?

Steve Aplin
11 years ago
Reply to  Canuck66

Canuck, thanks. Yes, 13.5 cents per kilowatt-hour for low-quality unreliable product that is not even green. Meanwhile, nuclear costs less than half as much, and is truly zero-emission.

Drive past the Bruce Power nuclear plant (currently–at 1830 on August 30–cranking out 3,983 megawatts) on Hwy 21, and you won’t even see it.

But you WILL see the Underwood wind farm, which occupies about ten times the amount of land as the nuclear plant, and is currently cranking out 143 megawatts–not even 4 percent of Bruce’s output.

11 years ago
Reply to  Steve Aplin

Just a little further up the road in Port Elgin you can gaze in wonderment at the stupidity of the CAW with their turbine at their Family Ed Centre that’s set to start up soon.

Wind has become nothing more than nuisance power to grid operators all over the world.

Steve Aplin
11 years ago
Reply to  pkuster

Yeah, the CAW, champion of the working man. Rip off Ontario ratepayers by participating in this con game, and increase household expenses for working people.

And not just for working people, their employers as well. How many auto plants run on wind power.

11 years ago

That should have read “defiling”. Damn autocorrect…

Ian L. McQueen
11 years ago

Excellent article. But let us never forget that there is no scientific proof that CO2 has any but a very minor effect on temperature or climate. It is all belief backed up only by dodgy temperature data and even more dodgy computer “models”.


John West
11 years ago

Consider how much more CO2 must be generated by people in order to get the money they need to pay for the wind mill energy that they aren’t getting. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

It’s a vicious circle. There is no short cut to ample and affordable energy. Everything is a compromise in this life. I do not intend to compromise my food budget to pay greedy greenies for their lack of efficiency.

Throw the bums out an lets get on with tradition workable energy solutions … until we find a REAL alternative energy source.

11 years ago

A couple of weird similarities between Barack Obama and Dalton McGuinty. First Ontario Liberal MPP Bas Balkissoon’s son is married to top Obama Advisor Valerie Jarrett’s daughter. Second both McGuinty and Obama are smart enough politicans to have to be wishing they didn’t go as whole hog on the Green Energy thing as much as they ended up doing. Third I would argue that neither Obama or McGuinty is at a personal level anti nuclear. Remember in the US Northern Illinois and Chicago has a very high concentration of nuclear power as does Ontario. Top Obama Strategist David Axelrod used to run public relations for Exelon(the main Chicago utility and largest nuke operator in the US) and “controversial” associate of Obama’s and leader of the former weatherman movement in the US Bill Ayers, father was the CEO of the predicessor company to Exelon when it first started getting heaviliy into nuclear.(Supposedly Bill Ayers father considered the move to nuclearization in northern Illinois to be his lifetime achievement). However, much of Obama’s base in NOT in Chicago and Illinois but on the East and West Coasts were nuclear power has now been heavility opposed for decades. I would argue that McGuinty has less of an excuse to be nuclear because no one on the US East or West Coast or in Quebec has any real say into Ontario politics. (My suspiscion of McGuinty is at the very least though once had higher political ambitions and being overtly pro nuke wouldn’t play well in Quebec. On second thoughts though I like Thomas Mulcair’s statement during the NDP Leadership race that the Ontario NDP/Rae government back in 1990 couldn’t run a Burger King).

11 years ago

My very simple and obvious point is: Windmills are pre-industral, Ancient Prhoenicians’ technology. They were found lacking in 1700s, to be replaced by steam power. If coal-fired plants are already obsolete, what to sayWhat such alarmists fail to grasp is that more nukes means less waste. What makes nuc waste a waste is a small volume of it, making development of reprocessing technology an unprofitable enterprise. More nukes means rise of the cost of uranium, bringing about development of waste reprocessing and Gen IV inherently safe breeders. If you want to have almost almost absolutely safe nuc power, you must either develop it or close all existing plants. Reducing their number and stopping further development is the worst possible solution. about these mummies? They are not even historically interesting.

11 years ago

Sorry, my post was meant to be:

My very simple and obvious point is: Windmills are pre-industral, Ancient Prhoenicians’ technology. They were found lacking in 1700s, to be replaced by steam power. If coal-fired plants are already obsolete, what to say about these mummies? They are not even historically interesting.

10 years ago
Reply to  praos

That in itself is no argument. If new research and advanced materials revive an old technology there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s like saying that it’s no use developing new ways of using ceramic material because it was first used in prehistoric times and abandoned at last in the early 20th century for many of its uses.

Point is that wind turbines don’t deliver what they promised, and that’s what they should be judged on.