Some Helpful Suggestions on Wind Turbine Farms, I Hope

It’s been riveting to follow the comments on the Wind Turbine Farm postings. The concerns seem to have boiled down to those listed below. Note that these are not my views: I am attempting to summarize the concerns expressed on the Comments.


1. We want green energy, so what are the alternative sources of energy? Aren’t they worse? Coal? (Dirty.) Nuclear? (Hugely expensive, & where to put the waste?) Big dams? (Can be very destructive to ecosystems.) Solar? (This has not been much discussed. There is new cheap tech on the way… but solar tends to be individual houses, & who can afford?)

2. Wind farms in water create fish habitat.

3. Big turbines don’t kill a lot of birds and bats – other things kill more.


1. Wind farms are not that efficient. Europe has not closed any coal-fired plants as a result of having wind.

2.Noisy. (See Health,  #6.)

3. Unsightly. Landscapes have proven mental & physical health & healing benefits. Destroying them visually is going to be very distressing to many.

4. Process: no (or not enough)  environmental assessments have been done.

5. In Lake Erie, toxic sediment disturbance and subsequent distribution of these in the drinking water have not been assessed.

6. Health problems for those in the vicinity. (Much to-ing and fro-ing on this one.)

7. Not democratic to foist this stuff on people with no say-so from them.

8. Some people are making a whole lot of money on the backs of the rural and small-town voters. It’s a cash grab.

9. These things are death to tourism.

Have I missed any?

SOME SUGGESTIONS:  Note: These ARE my views!

Presumably the goal is to neutralize Co2 emissions by substituting carbon-neutral processes for C02-emitting ones, without spending a lot of money the taxpayer can’t afford on things like nuclear plants.

Also: to preserve ecosystems, biodiversity, and landscapes as much as possible.

1. For Co2-neutralizing existing coal plants, see: Calera: This is a tech for neutralizing emissions from existing coal plants:  cheap, scalable, and produces aggregate: thus less need for landscape-destroying limestone quarrying.

2.  See: How about this: towns/townships/ communities that opt for becoming Transition Towns should be able to trade the reduction they achieve for not having windfarms where they don’t want them. Gives people a say. Restores trust.

Returning dead fields — pesticide & herbicide-killed — to life would count: there are a lot of websites that treat the Co2 uptake of organic soils. See also Ch. 4 of eaarth by Bill McKibben. Organic soils are more resistant to the droughts and floods that are predicted. See Soil Association, Farm Forward www,

3. As an interim measure, reduce speed limit on highways by 5 0r 10 Ks: There is a lot of math on this. This measure would also reduce accidents & thus the taxpayers’ health bills.

4.  And it goes without saying that there need to be environmental and health studies in advance of any big turbine placement. This means a code, and examiners who are not in the employ of the turbine farms.

5. The biggest source of Co2 emissions is leaky buildings: heat and cold are generated by burning fuels, then the heat and the cold leak out of the building at a rate of 40%.  See for instance:

Zerofootprint Building Re-skinning:

Re-skinning should count for Transition Town carbon-reduction points.

6. Those who live in cities should be able to do neighbourhood  or single-house reduction, then donate or trade their reductions to help rural communities that might not otherwise be able to collect enough reductions to trade away the turbine farms.

7. Governments and communities need to stop thinking BIG BIG BIG and start thinking small, local, off the grid. For what it’s worth. NB one big energy-trading grid is a lot mote vulnerable to take-down than a lot of small ones.

What do YOU think?


Filed under 1, YOTF Tour Blog

108 responses to “Some Helpful Suggestions on Wind Turbine Farms, I Hope

  1. MA


    If you look at bang for you buck, nuclear is much cheaper and really very safe if done properly.

    There are scrubbers available right now that would eliminate 99% of heavy metals and pollutants…but the McGuinty government doesn’t want to do that.

    Solar has the same inherent problems as wind…non-dispatchable…in need of constant backup.

    Wind farms in water create fish habitat??? Now that’s a new one! Would someone please show me evidence of this? Sounds like doublespeak to me. e.g. Wind turbines attract tourists. LOL I would think the vibration and low frequency noise would drive the fish away. Correct me if I’m wrong.

    Big turbines DO kill a phenomenal amount of large birds like raptors, hawks, eagles and vultures. The pro-windies throw the sparrows and starlings into the statistics and do not differentiate species at risk. I’m sorry, but to me, a bald eagle (as was recently killed in Ontario by a wind turbine) is worth a thousand sparrows.

    Big turbines DO kill a phenomenal amount of bats. Cats and buildings do NOT kill bats.

    Excerpt from a quick google:

    Tall wind turbines that generate energy are killing bats more than birds. As many as 43 bats crash fatally into the rotating blades of every turbine each a year. This amounts to over 1875 bat deaths annually at an installation of 44 turbines in West Virginia.


    • Mike Barnard

      Wind farms create 2.5 times the amount of fish habitat as the amount displace through their placement:

      Any offshore construction provides additional fish habitat:


      • MA

        You first link doesn’t work, Mike. Session cookie error.

        Your second link proves nothing. Yes, fish habitat is formed around junk at the bottom of the sea IF it is still and quiet, like old shipwrecks.

        Fish do NOT like noise and vibration. My family is in the charter fishing business.

      • Mike Barnard

        Margaret says: More politeness, please. Thank you.

        Odd how I can click on it from the highlighted link and it comes up fine. However, I’ll assume you require assistance to be able to deal with technology and provide a choice of links that should overcome your challenge:

        Here’s the link to the issue the article is in:

        The article is the last one on the page.

        The article is:
        The habitat-creation potential of offshore wind farms (p 203-212)
        Jennifer C. Wilson, Michael Elliott
        Published Online: Feb 26 2009 6:14AM
        DOI: 10.1002/we.324

        Summary: Using current design criteria and construction methods, the analysis here indicates that the net amount of habitat created by the most common design of offshore wind turbine, the monopile, is up to 2.5 times the amount of area lost through the placement, thus providing a net gain even though the gained habitat may be of a different character to the one that lost

        Note that non-monopile techniques will create an even greater degree of habitat.

        To really frost your shorts, here’s a link about offshore drilling platforms as creators of sea habitat:
        Are southern California oil and gas platforms essential
        fish habitat?

        Note the obvious comparisons of the two: fixed long term offshore structures that create habitat for fish.

        Note the obvious advantage of windmills: no Gulf of Mexico disasters.

        Do I need to quote the Colbert windspill crack at you?


      • Mike Barnard

        Mike says: point take, Margaret.


    • Mike Barnard

      Long dispatchability myth post died in the WordPress ether. Hopefully I will have time to recreate a short enough version with key links for the blog software to accept in the next few days.

      – nuclear is no more ‘dispatchable’ than alternative energy such as wind and solar, and requires just as much spun up alternative sources and grid interconnectedness to guarantee service. (Energy Probe and other energy analysts)
      – power storage services such as pumped hydro, bladder pumped hydro, mine-based pumped hydro and compressed-air energy storage already exist or are easily creatable in Ontario
      – the Ontario energy grid is a/ already massively interconnected and extra-connected and b/ getting smarter


    • Mike Barnard

      Bats are worth discussing. They do get the bends and die when they fly behind moving rotor blades.

      The data points in general on bat mortality are lower. Bats generally fly below the lowest height of moving blades (40-50m), but there is evidence of both roosting and attraction to insects around moving propellers. Bats generally migrate or hunt over open water only in low wind conditions (<9kph), when turbines aren't generating any energy (the standard GE 1.5MW/H wind turbine doesn't generate electricity until over 12kph.) More study is required where endangered species of bats migrate past wind farms, and mitigation approaches including delayed blade start up are probably reasonable with no impact on generation.

      As with all specific problems, there are frequently solutions. Siting off of migration routes and away from endangered bat species is a good idea. Further, there is good evidence that at least one technology makes bats stay away, and could easily be applied in wind turbine farms: radar.

      Claims that bats have much of anything to do with offshore wind turbine farms is probably worth ignoring.


    • klem

      Nuclear? Nuclear fuel is dangerous to handle and must be buried in abandoned coal mines after it’s used, the fuel itself is a terrorist target, the nuclear plants are terrorist targets, each plant costs $10 billion and multi billions more to maintain over their 50 year lifespan (it cost $300 million just to turn a nuke plant off), there has never been a nuke plant ever built which has not required continuous subsidies and of course there are Three mile Island and Chernobyl to think about. But coal/gas fired power has none of those issues. They are old technology, they are cheap to build, cheap to maintain and they aren’t terrorist targets. They emit smoke, that’s it. We plan to spend billions on nuke because we can’t think of a way to stop the smoke? This is insane. Why don’t we spend $1 billion on smoke R&D, find a solution for it and invest the remaining $9 Billion on malaria mosquito nets and actually do some good for once.

  2. MA

    Mark Duchamp from Spain has been researching the effects of wind turbines on raptors for many years. Again, please don’t lump sparrows and starlings into the wind turbine debate. Yes, cats and buildings kill many sparrows and starlings for sure.

    It is the raptors and migratory songbirds we should be worried about here in SW Ontario.

    Very eye opening information:

    • Mike Barnard

      I agree completely that siting related to raptor migration and breeding locations is key. Raptors migrate along thermals just as they hunt. Altamonte in California is a failure of wind farm siting that they are struggling hard to mitigate (and failing so far). Not putting wind turbine farms onshore in raptor migration routes is key, and worth the fight.

      That said, raptors are irrelevant to offshore sites as raptors migrate around large bodies of water such as the Great Lakes.

      As for songbirds, they migrate at 1000-4000 feet, well above the level of windmills. The assertion that they are important to the Ontario discussion is unfounded in evidence.


  3. This is a good summary and wise to include the ideas of conservation. Industrial wind turbines (and probably large-scale solar, too) don’t make sense economically or environmentally: so much input and environmental damage for an inefficient and unreliable source of energy. Rather, we should be looking at improving the efficiencies of the power generation we have now (in Ontario that means hydro), improving the technology of power generation to make sure it is as clean as possible, and, if we are concerned about air pollution, to get cars off the road.
    For us in the little village of North Gower, an area of marginal wind capacity, the proposal for 10 wind turbines (to start) is preposterous: very little will be gained from it but there is plenty to lose.

  4. willow

    Big windfarm off cape cod–hugely expensive & will only supply power for 2/3rds of Cape Cod? (that’s what I hear).

    The nuclear option–just as crazy as it sounds–too much power in the hands of the few–also great justification for more more more forces of control.

    Re human record on “failsafe” or “foolproof” technology–check out Gulf of Mexico.

    Every house–its own solar mat, solar hot water, tiny little turbine on roof shaped like DNA structure–doesn’t kill/runs lights, computer. Homedweller in control of own destiny. tiny, highly efficient little stove design now available run on any type of carbon material–can be made by anyone.

    Yes we can.

    “Cannibals and Kings” book w/thoughts re what happens to any society when life-sustaining power is in the hands of the few.

    Thing to remember: few short yrs ago, human society managed just fine w/o . . . .electricity!! there, I said it. We can live without it.

  5. Mike Barnard

    Excellent summation and points to consider, Margaret:

    1. For Co2-neutralizing existing coal plants

    — It’s very cool technology, and dozens of organizations are working on clean-coal technologies. MIT is all this as well. Given the enormous coal reserves and our growing population and appetite for energy, clean coal generation will have to be part of the mix.

    2. See:

    — Interesting, but it’s not clear how individuals will benefit from this in a way that will make them invest time and effort to do this, or what the linkage would be to generation-side activities. There is political calculus associated with supporting alternative energies due to carbon-offset, but there’s also a strong economic imperative associated with getting the private sector to build smaller generation, deferring risk and avoiding the enormous capital expenses of a new James Bay-scale hydro project, or a nuclear facility. As such, it’s unlikely that regulations will make this step.

    3. As an interim measure, reduce speed limit on highways by 5 0r 10 Ks:

    — It is a good idea, backed up by study after study on both consumption and traffic fatalities. But the political reality is that people want to drive fast, and will vote for that. There are insufficient political wins in this to allow it to be brought to bear except in localized regimes. Human nature meets democracy (a recurring theme).

    4. And it goes without saying that there need to be environmental and health studies in advance of any big turbine placement.

    — I agree with part of this one. An environmental assessment to ensure impacts to wildlife, especially migrating raptors, is important, along with standard assessments of construction impact on groundwater etc. The Health evidence strongly supports the sound-based regulations in Ontario as being adequate. That one is an enforcement issue, not a study issue. The model of forcing the organization that wants to gain the benefit to pay for the assessment is a reasonable economic model.

    5. The biggest source of Co2 emissions is leaky buildings

    — Yup, and rural buildings leak much more per capita than multi-dweller urban buildings. That’s one of the reasons to celebrate the movement into urban centers of the majority of the population; they are more ecologically sound (this is just one example) outside of a hunter-gatherer Stone Age society which no one is really willing to return to.

    6. Those who live in cities should be able to do neighbourhood or single-house reduction, then donate or trade their reductions to help rural communities:

    — Well, in keeping with the above comment, rural communities are dwindling across Canada, and that’s likely a good thing from both an environmental and health perspective. The environmental footprint of a downtown dweller is much smaller than a rural dweller. Urban dwellers are also much healthier. One of the lessons of Walkerton, the many challenged reserves and other small settlements is that they do not have critical mass of skilled people or the economies to support the technology and public health systems a first-world standard of living requires, outside of rich enclaves.

    — Artificial life-support for environmentally unfriendly small communities by urban centers doesn’t make much sense. If they no longer have an economically viable reason to be maintained, they will dwindle. Small communities arguably should be pushing hard for large windfarms, local solar and run-of-the-river generation: all of these things require construction and maintenance by people, and this can be a great long term revenue and tax stream for communities.

    7. Governments and communities need to stop thinking BIG BIG BIG and start thinking small, local, off the grid.

    — I first read Amory Lovins’ Soft Energy Paths about 24 years ago. He was correct in principle, but wrong in a few details of execution, and is fully behind distributed power generation feeding into large smart grids at present. What we are seeing with wind power and run-of-the-river systems is a logical progression of small-is-beautiful, labour intensive energy systems. Feeding into the grid for money through the Feed In Tariffs approach provides the long-term revenue that allows farmers and landowners to put up clean energy systems as it permits guaranteed payback for the initial capital cost.


  6. Diane Ferguson

    I’ve just finished reading James Lovelock’s, The Vanish Face of Gaia. After reading his book, I was convinced that we do need nuclear power. However, I still strongly believe we should have solar panels on everyone’s house to utilize as much energy from the sun as possible. I don’t think mass windfarms are the way to go. Let’s help support everyone in conservation.
    I do take exception that the only way forward is to live in cities. Having moved from downtown Toronto, I realize I now drive more. However, I don’t see that paving over great swaths of land, illuminating the night sky, and being subjected to noise at all hours of the night, is really a way forward. In the country, we manage a forest, grow our own food, have ample access to local produce, live more in tune with nature, have no air-conditioning, and are not caught up in mass consumption. My children have learned about the cycles of nature and respect nature and understand the interconnectedness of everything. We have chosen to be vegan which greatly reduces our carbon footprint, more so than living in a multi-unit dwelling. Not everyone needs to choose our lifestyle, but removing us all from nature is not the answer either. More decentralized energy systems and more self-sufficiency can go a long way. Here we are close to 80% of the food we eat which is our biggest expenditure. Now if only they would bring the railroads back.

    • Mike Barnard

      Hi Diane . . .

      Yup, you’ve chosen a high-labour and vegan rural approach. If human nature changed and everyone who lived in rural environments were like you, then rural living footprints would be much closer to urban living footprints. However, any solution which requires human nature to change is not realistic, in my opinion.

      But to be clear, let’s list the ways in which rural dwellers do not benefit from economies of scale (all of these have significant environmental and often health impacts):
      – miles of paved road per capita (and miles driven to get to whatever jobs exist and whatever shopping exists)
      – square feet of detached dwelling per capita that must be heated and (your choice noted) often cooled
      – miles of water pipes bringing clean water per capita
      – miles of electrical lines bringing electricity per capita
      – miles of sewage pipes taking waste away per capita
      – heating oil tanks per capita that must be filled by people driving around

      Maintenance on all those miles and miles of infrastructure by people driving around. Who pays for all that extra effort per capita? (In Ontario, the answer is Toronto.)

      Of course, there are alternatives to these, all of which are more expensive, more labour-consuming and frequently increase health risks:
      – Road — sorry, no replacement for that
      – heated dwelling – return to living in one room for the winters or invest significant capital in insulating and sealing your home – fireplaces (wood is one of the least clean types of smoke… very ugly for lungs)
      – clean water – personal wells – strong potential for tainting or contamination, and must be monitored by the family, who have to build the technical and chemical expertise to ensure their families health
      – generating electricity — solar, wind, biomass — on your property, requiring the family to become technical experts on electricity, mechanics and possibly feed in tariffs
      – sewage – septic tanks, requiring the family to acquire expertise in siting, tiling systems, septic tank monitoring and the ever-so-lovely maintenance when it clogs
      – heating oil – however you heat, it’s still a lot more fossil fuels burned to get it to you – see above for wood

      More power to people that want to live that life, but the vast majority of humanity votes with its feet and gets out of rural settings to one where they can get a job, turn on a tap, flick a switch and flush a toilet without worrying about it. In rural settings, the vast majority of people who actually live there invest in as many labour saving devices as possible and get experts to drive long distances to their properties to fix things.

      And frankly, I’d bring my kids up in a city with museums, art galleries and sports teams over rural environments where drinking and driving at 16 is the norm. Have you ever looked at statistics for teenage substance abuse country vs city? Enlightening.

      More power to you for your swimming-against-the-stream choice, but understand that at an outer extreme 1% of the populace will choose your route. I’m interested in the other 99%.


      • MA

        What an incredibly ignorant, discriminatory and offensive post. Mike, have you ever been diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome? Just saying.

      • Mike Barnard

        Ignorant? Quite the opposite, actually. Try reading the literature on this and you’ll find it’s accurate.

        Discriminatory? No, it’s based on world-wide statistics of urbanization over the past century, as well as study after study on the comparative system costs of different modes of human society. Pointing out the very high systemic cost of maintaining a rural lifestyle does not discriminate against people that choose it. Pointing out that Canada is now 80% urban and climbing, which is aligned with worldwide urbanization statistics, is merely accurate.

        Offensive? To you, obviously, but you’ll forgive me if prefer my ethical GPS to your spinning moral compass.


      • Mike’s post I take offense to. Speaking like he is going to clear the Highlands.

        First- I walk to work, through a long grass field. This is because my family, like many rural families, live close together and work together. Economies of scale…that’s important, right Mike?

        We work where we live. That’s what farms are, Mike….jobs. I don’t think you want to do away with roads…how would all those wind turbine developers get up to those WT’s to do the ‘maintenance’? They need roads to drive out to the country from the city. Ironic, eh?

        We don’t get in the car everyday of the week to go to town to ‘shop’. Town is 10 minutes away and has everything we need. At sometimes of the year, when it is particularly busy, I have to force myself to go to ‘town’ to ‘shop’.

        Heating…doesn’t everyone in Canada have to heat their home in the winter? Lucky for us, a nice efficient wood cookstove does a good job heating (and cooking) with that wood from the back lot that is dead and returning to carbon.

        Wow- miles of water pipe? Where? That pipe goes to the CITIES. As for clean water, it’s really very simple to test your water, Mike. Called a ‘water sample, and takes about 10 minutes to do every couple months. If you have contamination, use UV light. No big deal, and I’m not an expert. The country isn’t that scary to live in.

        Electrical lines…should I even fight this point, seeing as we are to be feeding the cities with Wind Turbine electricity? Maybe you should keep the wind turbines in the city where you need them. Although I would feel sorry for those who would get sick.

        Miles of sewage lines…septic systems do not take sewage ‘away’. Is there a problem with treating your own waste? I don’t think the average person would have an issue with owning a septic system….you don’t even notice it’s there. Then again we aren’t lazy people in the country, so maybe I’m over estimating(?!).

        My heating oil tank is empty and doesn’t need to be filled. It’s going to stay that way. It doesn’t take much fossil fuel to bring the wood from the bush to our house…about 1-5km away. Are lungs are fine and we don’t do fireplaces.

        I might as well get my piece in on food. We have a lovely vegetable garden that feeds us well. Mike, I hope you aren’t the type to visit farmer’s markets- that would be very embarrassing for you to buy food from us inefficient rural dwellers that bring you our fresh produce. Keep eating your apples from China.

        And as for my kids drinking and driving…oh I won’t even go there….that is more off-topic then I even want to go. My kids have a huge bookcase of ‘library sale books’. They are well informed and love trips to the museums; do you really think we are drunk Neanderthals?

      • Mike Barnard

        Hi Esther . . .

        Thank you for adding your specific anecdotal evidence to buttress my point.

        I’m sorry that you took the statistically higher substance abuse in teenagers in rural areas as a particular reference to you and your kids. It’s unclear to me why you would leap to that assumption.

        As for offense, that’s yours to take, of course. How’s that working out for you?


  7. Anne Johnston

    I retired to the “Rolling Hills” of Manvers (Pontypool, Bethany, Janetville) on the Oak Ridges Moraine in 2003, in search of peace and quiet n my old age (78 this year) after 31 hectic years in municipal politics in the City of Toronto. I remember debating the necessity for the Moraine Act to prevent people building so that the aquifer could be protected to ensure a supply of water to the G.T.A. I cannot build anything larger than a 10ft by 10ft hut on my property, yet 40 storey Industrial Turbines, 30 – 35, are likely to be built here by next year. The Green Energy Act overrides the Oak Ridges Moraine Act The enormous cement and steel bases of the W.T’s like an overturned pin cushion will surely damage the Moraine. The
    cables which transmit the energy to the grid will find water courses, like the Pigeon River, with tributaries all over the place, will be buried. How? I worry about the farm stock and the wildlife, the raptors which are common here, and the bats, which eat the mosquitos which are the vectors of all sorts of nasty diseases (the females) The raptors circle at about the same height as the WT and I have seen a video as one was struck by a blade and hurled to the ground.
    Margaret – I remember you well as a deputant at City Hall. Can you have any effect in Toronto to get the Council to ask for a halt until unbiased health and other studies have been done? The process at the moment is a joke, the haste unseemly, our Hydro bills are already reflecting the costs, and the resulting energy won’t be efficient or sufficient to justify the expense and despair. Keep up the good work. Anne
    Our website(not mine) is http://www.manversgonewiththe

  8. Anne Johnston

    I forgot to check requests below

  9. Diane Ferguson

    We do have a septic and we do heat by wood, supplemented by bullfrog power. I am fortunate to work at home via the internet, so travel isn’t really a problem. We too have museums and culture in rural areas. I think we need more railroads, though.

    I think my biggest concern about city living is that it has become more and more removed from nature. We can’t see the night sky, we can barely breathe the air and parks help, but don’t make up for it entirely. I really feel humanity needs to be in touch with nature. I know that city dwellers can visit nature, just as rural dwellers can visit museums.

    There are many ex-city people who live where we are, many completely off the grid and all are looking for sustainable ways of living. We live in community, we help each other, we buy second hand or trade, we are now looking at transition town movements. There’s a lot that is interesting out here. Many don’t have septics, but compostible toilets.

    I hear what you’re saying, most people aren’t going to change thier ways. It’s unfortunate because I really think that unless we change, our future as humans is quite limited. I personally think the greatest change most humans have to make is to eat less meat. I consider myself an optimist, but am pretty pessimistic these days. Ultimately, I believe in human potential, but we sure aren’t living up to it.

    If I was a character in a Margaret Atwood book, I guess I’d be a gardener!

    • Mike Barnard

      Hi Diane . . .

      I was all for human nature changing 20 years ago. I went through a phase of pessimism. Now I’m striving hard for realism and solutions that will actually pass muster with the biggest problem we have: human nature.

      Solutions that acknowledge human desires, laziness, myopia and greed are going to be much more widely adopted than ones that depend on humans to be widely altruistic, harder working and virtuous. That will mean trade-offs, and as with inappropriate siting of early windfarms, mistakes that will have to be mitigated.

      Men generally don’t come across well in Margaret’s books. Twenty years ago, I might have been a role model for Crake. Now I’m looking for less drastic solutions.


      • Diane Ferguson

        I do agree with your approach here, Mike. I don’t think there’s one answer to this problem. Your solutions will probably go much further than mine! As long as I don’t have to move back, I’m okay with that. My original post was perhaps a bit defensive on the issue of rural living. And I don’t think we’re the norm in rural living. However, as my post below suggests, I think the issues may be different when we look to less developed countries in the world. James Lovelock would definitely agree with you: city living is the future. He does believe vegan is the way to go, but realizes most people won’t go there!



  10. Diane Ferguson

    And I must continue. When we look at poverty around the world, the greatest problem is that people can no longer grown their own food. For many reasons (war, politics, corporations) people have been driven off the land. In the past, they could grow their own gardens and fed themselves. Now, they have been driven to urban areas where money is needed to buy food. For many, money is harder to obtain than the ability to grow some vegetables for their family. They are then forced to steal or beg or prostitute themselves.
    As I’m thinking this through, I believe that more decentralized communities, with decentralized sources of power and food, is a better answer than us all living in a concrete jungle.
    Of course, if you want to flip a switch and drive to your nearest big box store (cause you can’t fit all that stuff on the bus), than the city is your answer.
    Saying all this, I believe city living is far more sustainable than suburban living. I did enjoy my many years in Toronto, but you wouldn’t catch me in dead in the outskirts.

    • Mike Barnard

      Unfortunately, the average reality on the ground belies this. Subsistence farming is only a good life compared to being a hunter gatherer. For better or for worse, the vast upswelling of artistic and scientific creativity is tightly aligned with people being freed from agrarian pursuits.

      Growing food as a hobby or supplement? Excellent model, and I’m strongly pro-urban gardens and gardeners in general (and like 80% of the populace, I have no interest in doing it myself). Growing food as the primary source to feed your family? Not sustainable for our world or our environment.

      Worldwide, vastly more people are significantly better fed with safer food (that’s another entire interesting topic) than when small hold farms dominated. There was an interesting statistic out of 2009: the number of people living on less than $1 per day dropped below 1 billion for the first time since we passed 3 billion people on earth. Disparity between rich and poor is widening, but true poverty is decreasing.

      Inequities and ugliness as a result? Very much so. A tremendous number of people freed up to invent little things like the Internet, wind turbines, penicillin, solar-collecting films and create literature, music, films and sculpture? Very much so.

      Margaret’s novels are available to us because most people don’t have to grow their own food.


      • Diane Ferguson

        I think subsistence farming is better life than prostitution or slave labour. To think that our current food system is safer is kind of laughable. I’m not sure why you believe that. In our western society, most people aren’t going to be able to farm to feed themselves, or won’t want to: I agree. I belong to a local CSA to feed my family. It’s about 15 minutes from my home and is fresh and pesticide free. My food did not sit on a truck driving across the country, or come from China. Oh no, don’t get me started on food issues!

      • Mike Barnard

        Diane, food safety is a fascinating story. It takes quite incredible efforts to ensure we don’t poison ourselves. I’ve actually looked at the stats, systems and regulations of food production, and the percentage of people that are safely fed is much higher than at any time in human history. That’s an astounding achievement, and one that is under-appreciated by the majority of North Americans anyway.

        Getting food of adequate nutritional value that isn’t tainted to the vast, vast majority of the 7 billion people that live on Earth is an epic story. You have your locavore approach subsidized by your internet-enabled job which cannot scale to 7 billion people. If you’d like to suggest how we can return to 2 billion people maximum on the face of the earth — the suggested maximum carrying capacity of locavore approaches — without enormously more injustice, inequity and genocide, I’d be interested in hearing it.


      • Diane Ferguson

        Hi Mike,

        There’s a stat to back up any argument you want to make! So, safe food. It’s a smoke screen. All the pesticide use is killing our environment, our oceans, and ourselves. That’s probably not in the stats because it’s not botulism or some obvious direct link to food poisoning. North Americans are hugely unhealthy because our food is killing us, our environment is killing us. We may be living longer, but we’re not living well. The use of antibiotics on animals is making them ineffective to combat illness in humans. Probably not in your food stats. Food production today isn’t about nutrition, it’s about yield and how far the food can travel. There is a way the earth can support the 7 billion people currently living on it: EAT LESS MEAT!!!!!!!!!!! (Which also stops the genocide of millions of animals living in conditions that are deplorable..) Oh yeah, back to the food safety. What about mad cow diseas, e. coli, salmonella, listeria. These are all symptoms of a problem in our food production. We are feeding animals what they shouldn’t be eating (corn-very hard on the environment and directly a cause of the spread of e.coli due to the change in the cows stomach), rendered animal parts leading to mad cow disease, and all sorts of stuff because a healthy animsal isn’t raised in a concentration camp wihtout fresh air, room to move, or nutirtious food. I’m not sure when the stats were done, but I think we’ve reached a tipping point and if the stats took into account the reality of the food system, I think you would find those numbers declining. Ooops, forgot about mercury poisoning in fish. There are so many factors to consdier that I really doubt are in those statistics. Cancer rates are through the roof, heart disease and obesity continue to climb, pesticide use means we’re running out of fresh water. There is a cost to the cheap food of North America, it’s just not factored in. The other way to feed all these people: return to decentralized markets. Farming communities used to thrive, farmers needed supplies and towns provided them. Now you have the rise of the corporate farm that guts the farming towns again forcing people to the cities so their food can be shipped to them, tasteless, nutirtionless, but oh so cheap. Oh yes, and all that corn production in the States is subsidized by the taxpayers. All that corn is now in every processed food item that is eaten. Corn syrup (read diabetes). If we put the land to better use than corn production, we may have fewer corn chips and more vegetables. As well, our soil would not be as depleted. Saying that our food is not making us sick is like saying cigarettes don’t cause lung cancer.

  11. Dan Wrightman

    Mike if there were no people willing to live and farm in rural areas the footprint for urban dwellers would be even less because they would all starve. What are you advocating for? Even larger corporate factory farms employing strictly migrant labour to feed our cities? I don’t agree with your vision for rural areas. When you take away the choice of people to grow their own food on small farms you foster dependence on big government and corporations. I believe that growing your own food is an inalieable human right. If you can’t independantly choose how to feed yourself than what liberty and freedom do you really have? Do we really want to fully depend on the goodwill and grace of government and business to feed us? Your vision of giant corporations and governments knowing what is best for us is scary. These are the very organizations that have got us into the environmental mess we’re in. Ever larger factory farms with less rural people will not lead humanity to ecological salvation .

    • Mike Barnard

      Hi Dan . . .

      I’m not suggesting taking away anyone’s rights, and it’s unclear to me how you reached that conclusion.

      Nor am I suggesting that we blindly trust government and large corporations, and it’s also unclear to me how you reached that conclusion.

      I am pointing out the reality of ecological footprints of most rural and urban dwellers, as well as the reality of the need to feed 7 billion people right now (450 million in North America alone) with an additional 2 billion worldwide by 2050.

      I am pointing out that a diminishing number of people are required to live in the country in order to feed our populace and extract our natural resources. Around the world people are voting with their feet and moving to cities for jobs, culture and to meet other people.

      Is describing reality somehow problematic?


      • Diane Ferguson

        Many people aren’t voting with their feet, but being forced to move to the city for many reasons I already touched on. It isn’t the choice you think it is.

      • Dan Wrightman

        Mike you’re being disengenuouus. You may not be explicitly proposing that govermnent and large corporations take away our right to choose how to feed ourselves. However the end result of your suggestion that small farmers and rural dwellers should just pack up and leave, would be a world where a consumers food choice would consist of only factory farmed food regulated (or protected?)by big government. Your written ideas Mike, have wittingly or perhaps unwittingly unveiled you as a tool for big business and governmnet .

      • Mike Barnard

        Dan is putting words in my mouth, perhaps intentionally, perhaps not: “your suggestion that small farmers and rural dwellers should just pack up and leave,”

        I’m telling rural retirees, long-distance workers/commuters and vacationers that they are living in a place that has to provide a living for the people that create the things they value out of it.

        Without small farmers, there’s no farmers market. Without wind turbines and other diversified income streams — self-pick, agri-tainment, etc — on the farms, there are no farmers. Without smelly manure and tractors at dawn and bird cannons, there are no farmers. Their businesses aren’t 9-5 and wind turbines are just the latest thing that ticks off the neighbours.

        If you actually want to prevent small farms from going away, you should be boosting wind turbines with all your might. That you are doing the opposite indicates that this isn’t your motivation.

        I’m also telling rural dwellers that their agrarian dream has a higher carbon footprint than living downtown, unless they work hard to prevent it (and some do). Suck it up and do something about it. Or just stop being hypocritical. Pick one.


      • Dan Wrightman

        You might want to clean up your own backyard Mike instead of preaching from your digital pulpit. The reality is rural Ontario could reduce its carbon footprint to zero and the natural environment would barely notice. Chemical Valley, the coal and natural gas plants would still be running at full tilt because the overwhelming majority of consumption occurs in urban Ontario. Focus on reducing tha energy consumption in the large urban centres and there will be some very noticeble benefits to the environment. Remember Mike don’t pull a sliver out of your brothers eye when you have a log in your own.

      • Mike Barnard

        The other point, Dan, is that while we all should think globally, we have to act locally.

        I live in a condo with shared heating, convinced condo maintenance to replace hallway incandescent bulbs as they burnt out with micro-flourescents (that took care of my 1 tonne challenge), walk to buy food and put only 8000 kilometers last year on my household’s single 30MPH car including a road trip to San Francisco (equivalent to 90MPH car at average annual driving distances). I eat a lot less red meat than average without being a vegetarian because the choices rock. None of this is about me being virtuous, it’s just so easy being green in urban cores.

        The per capita variance in carbon load will just continue to rise over the next few decades. Living in the country without an economic imperative or significant amounts of hard work, competence and a focus on public relations will come to be seen as the equivalent of driving a Hummer.


    • Mike Barnard

      Hi Dan . . .

      I’m not disagreeing with you at all. The reality is that economies of scale mean that cities are already much more carbon benign per capita, and that it is much easier and cheaper to make improvements there. Green roofs, urban gardens, rental bike kiosks, electric car recharging, turning off lights in office towers at night and more become viable in densely populated areas. Food and other consumer good distribution systems work much more efficiently with economies of scale as well.

      I tried to figure out how rural dwellers would deal with a non-oil based transport economy, and ran across some very interesting information.

      As this study points out, rural dwellers typically have heavier vehicles, drive further, generally lower incomes and have no access to public transit. This means that transportation costs make up a disproportionate percentage of their income.

      Electric passenger and light hauling vehicles are non-economic in rural areas due to the low distances that they can travel without recharge; they also have significant capital cost of replacement. Hybrid vehicles have the second drawback, but do have good range.

      Hybrid and electric options for farm equipment are still not widely available. While there have been breakthroughs in hitting both the much higher torque requirements while still providing any speed at all, the dominant standard is still diesel. Electric tractors are still very much in the early adopter and tinkerer stage; they may have sufficient life for hobby farms, but it is unclear that they are adequate for 100 acre small hold commercial farms. Ethanol or bio-diesel conversion is possible, but that does not offset the carbon footprint and creates yet another supply challenge. Note that for small hold electric tractors, a wind turbine would be an obvious mechanism for charging it.

      Bio-diesel is an option, but that too is easier in small scale in urban areas with restaurant waste oil or with distribution of technologically advanced bio-fuels, than it is in rural areas where either land diversion or technological simplicity requirements make it extremely challenging.

      The implication is that high-cost fossil fuels will dominate this space for a decade or two.

      As the peak oil crisis hits, rural farmers may or may not find economic benefit (food miles is also a fascinating topic), but people without significant individual wealth or economic advantages from rural businesses will find it very difficult.


    • Diane Ferguson


      I disagree with your holier than thou statements. There is a lot of interesting stuff happening in the country, grassroots stuff. You may walk to buy your food, but my food is literally grown 15 minutes from where I live. I don’t think everyone should move to the country, nor should everyone move to the city. The answers to our challenges are multiple and there is no one model that is the answer. Again, paving over the best farmland in the country isn’t the greenest move I’ve ever seen. I also feel sorry for your lungs. And what about all the electricity wasted with lighting up the city all night? I’m not here to say you’re wrong, but to suggest that living in the country will be akin to driving a hummer is insulting and uninformed.

  12. marg09

    I know the farming/food growing life well. It’s a lot of work, but it can be done; however one still has to make enough money to pay land taxes. (You can read a fictional account of the old-farm 1970s experience in “Moral Disorder” — the three middle stories– and in Graeme Gibson’s novel “Perpetual Motion.”) Education and bussing kids long hours to school is a problem in the country. So is driving.

    Mike, interesting to hear you once had Crake-like tendencies.
    How come no one is talking any longer about ZPG? Actually, educating women is directly connected to lowering birth rates to sustainable levels.
    And update the stats on who’s poor and malnourished –according to Bill McKibben, 25 million entered that already-large category in 2007 (don’t have book in front of me — was it 75?) and the “green revolution” — spray, kill the soil, plant monocultures — is flat, and indeed now going backwards. Monoculture crops are being considered as more and more risky – one good blight and you’re wiped, see “potato famine.”

    Let’s get back to Calera as a carbon-neutral way of using coal. What do you think of that one?

    • Mike Barnard

      Hi Margaret . . .

      There’s actually great news on the zero-population growth front. The latest update from the UN statisticians is that we’ll achieve flat population at 9 billion people in roughly 2050. That’s much better than any predictions over the past 40 years. The education of 3rd world women on family planning, along with significant advances in 3rd world wealth is doing wonders in reducing birth rates.

      Toward a Sustainable Future, the 1972 UN report by Gro Brundtland’s commission, should still be required reading. I read it first in 1985, I think, when I was working through the implications of population and environment. The explicit understanding in that study that the environment was tied to population and population control was tied to economic development and wealth is still not widely understood. The race between growth of footprint of individuals and reduction of number of children per couple is still going on. We continue to escape Malthus’ predictions through technology and innovation while the longer term population control play works itself out.

      The green revolution is a part of that dynamic. Unless we are willing to let several billion people starve, the factory farming model is necessary. A useful question is how to ameliorate the negative downsides of it, which millions of people involved in the industry are toiling to do. Rejecting its existence isn’t useful.

      Clean coal approaches are very interesting. North America has more BTU available in coal than in any other fossil fuel, the last time I checked, and with relatively straightforward extraction techniques. Political concerns, dirty coal generation plants and cheap oil from the Middle East have reduced its use considerably, but with oil reaching Huppert’s Peak, coal will be a key and probably growing part of our energy ecosystem for the next 30-50 years in North America. As such, finding technically and economically feasible solutions is paramount.

      Calera is an interesting sequestration technology. The challenge is that it requires people with straightforward access to usable aggregates to replace them with the Calera aggregates. Further, there is significant vertical integration in the concrete industry as it provides a competitive advantage. That means that the companies that make concrete also own the quarries. The potential upside of the Calera process is avoidance of clay and other contamination; the potential downside is the varying chemical composition depending on grade of coal etc hindering the concrete process. Regardless, Calera has to reach a price point where it’s cheaper than digging up rock.

      I’m more interested in the technological improvements in thermal coal generation. There is signficant improvement in this space, and it’s more amenable to legislation than aggregate consumption.

      Once carbon and sulphur are captured, downstream uses like Calera become possible. Reduced carbon and sulphur at the source gets more value out of each ton of coal and is easier to regulate.


      • Diane Ferguson

        In the interest of women, I also have to correct a point here: The issue isn’t educating women about family planning, it’s about educating them so they have economic freedom. Once women are allowed equality, they then have a choice to use family planning methods. Most choose to have fewer children, thus reducing population growth. Women’s equality is the issue here, not family planning methods.

        And although you say it’s so, I disagree that factory farming is the way to go. I won’t debate further as this isn’t a food forum.

      • Mike Barnard

        Good clarification on educating women, Diane. Micro-loans and fiscal education are key enablers that are assisting families to reduce the number of children they have. Family planning goes hand in hand with that.


  13. Lynne
    These are some very helpful sites to explain the ramifications of Ontario’s Green Energy Act and the mass deployment of wind turbines in rural Ontario. One area that receives lttle attention in the media is the destruction of the social fabric in a community when these big projects move into the area. The land leases are done in secrecy and families are split over whether to sign up for wind turbines. Neighbours are rightly concerned over property values and how these turbines will affect the quiet enjoyment of their land, and if the noise will be intrusive. A barn or driveshed, where farmers spend many hours in the day, are not considered to be receptors by the MOE, and they are not subject to protection from noise. Workers and workspaces in other sectors have protection from undue noise exposure, but not farmers. My husband and I have owned a certified organic farm since the early 1990’s, and despite Mike’s exhortations to the contrary, we consider it a privileged existence. If Ontario were not blessed with the rugged and principled individuals who choose the rural lifestyle, it would be a poorer place indeed. When setting up our farming operation, we considered renewable energy and my husband, an engineer, did a Return On Investment analysis on wind turbines and solar panels. The math just did not support these technologies, although we did go with geothermal and have been very pleased. Spain and Germany have learned the hard way that the high subsidies paid to these renewables raise energy prices, hurt the manufacturing sector and the green jobs disappear as soon as the subsidies are cut. Ontario already has a very clean energy supply mix and nuclear, hydroelectric, coal with scrubbers and some natural gas peaking plants would ensure a reliable and affordable supply.

    • Mike Barnard

      Don’t mistake me Lynne. I consider it a very priviliged lifestyle. That would be exactly my point.


  14. Mike Barnard

    Part of what is interesting about the debate on this thread is that wind turbines provide at least some small farmers an economic lifeline that allows them to survive longer. Most rural areas are detaling with dwindling populations, farm super-sizing for economies of scale, or farms being turned into housing or recreational properties.

    It varies by jurisdiction, but a handful of wind turbines can provide a small farmer with an additional $6000-8000 per year in guaranteed, pure PROFIT income for 20 years, while taking very little land out of production.

    The average REVENUE (not profit) per acre is <$5000 in Ontario and expenses typically consume most of that.

    This can make a big difference to small farms, who frequently run thousands in the red every year. It can make the difference between clinging to the farm, and potentially having their children be able to keep it running, or folding it.

    Along with construction and ongoing maintenance jobs, this can provide a significant economic benefits to struggling areas, allowing them to continue to exist.

    The people arguing for small farms are arguing against something which can allow them to continue to be viable.

    As an aside, if you made the 10-foot diameter concrete base with Calera concrete, would it make any difference to the detractors?

    Some interesting links below.


    Canada's farming population dwindling–dreamers-and-doers-trying-to-save-the-family-farm

    Ghost Towns
    A town often becomes a ghost because the economic activity that supported it has failed[…]. The term is sometimes used in a depreciated sense to include cities, towns, and neighborhoods which, while still populated, are significantly less so than in years past.

    Ghost Towns in Ontario
    There are 147 ghost towns in Ontario

    Wind turbines can provide a lifelife to small farms, keeping rural communities alive.

    Another reason the wind farm business is booming is that it provides supplemental income to the farmers who lease their land to the energy companies. The estimated income to a landowner from a single utility-scale turbine is approximately $2,000 per year. For a 250-acre farm with income from wind at $55 per acre, this translates into an annual income from wind leases of $14,000, with no more than 2 to 3 acres removed from production.

  15. willow

    I am disappointed with all these reasoned responses from what I had assumed to be a bunch of old-school Canadian Hippies, mostly.

    I am 56. what has happened in my life? Avian holocaust. concrete extrusions covering all, as if diseased. Environmental “disasters” even more obvious than the daily creeping ones we are all a party to.

    I don’t know who got to James Lovelock and Stewart Brand, but nuclear is a dead end option–emphasis on DEAD.

    this lifestyle we have become accustomed to is not non-negotiable. the second law of thermodynamics IS non-negotiable.

    viva God’s gardeners! Maggie may not know it, but she has actually planted the seeds of a new, life-affirming religion. . . . .

    more to come.

    • Diane Ferguson

      Hi Willow,

      I’d like to hear why nuclear is a dead-end option. I’m not here to fight, or anything. Actually, I’m undecided on the issue and James Lovelock pushed me further toward pro-nuclear. Obviously, you feel strongly the other way and I’m interested in your arguments.

      Thank you,


  16. Lynne

    The problems with a farmer allowing wind turbines to be erected on his property are:
    1. He is making a few dollars on the backs of his neighbours who will all experience property devaluation. In our area, it is extremely difficult to sell a property with a wind lease or a wind turbine on it, or a property located close to the wind turbines. The neighbour will also have to deal with the very annoying noise and the fact that the evening sky in the middle of a wind farm ressembles Las Vegas, with blinking lights in all directions.
    2. Many farmers were unaware that if the wind company goes bankrupt, creditors will place liens against their farms, which may prevent them from obtaining financing for their crops and equipment or make it difficult to renew their mortgages. Such bankruptcies have already happened twice in Canada in the past few years.
    3. There is something seriously wrong with the country’s agricultural programs if a farmer needs to sell control of his land to corporations to be able to stay on the farm,
    4. All this wind and solar “Potemkin Power” is a mask for an increasing buildup of natural gas generation. Wind and solar energy are intermittent and unreliable, and can never replace a baseload source of dispatchable power. For every megawatt of wind and solar that is build, we must add a megawatt of backup generation, which in the case of Ontario, will be natural gas generation. We are essentially building the same capacity twice. Have you noticed that quite often the companies behind big wind energy projects are also involved in the natural gas business? They are guaranteeing themselves a market for gas. What is not well known is the exorbitant costs we are also incurring to upgrade the transmission grid to accomodate wind and solar.
    5. Currently, we have a surplus of capacity and we are spilling water at Beck at 3 cents a kwh in order to put wind and solar on the grid at a cost of from 13.5 to 80 cents a kwh. In other words, our energy market is being distorted and run inefficiently to comply with political directives, and you and I will pay the cost of this nonsense in our monthy hydro bills. Last winter, British seniors were burning used books to stay warm due to high energy costs. Allowing politicians to play political games with our energy supply system can have very serious consequences .

    • Mike Barnard

      1. Given the movement of people to urban areas, rural properties will devalue unless they have economic benefits of some type. These might be industrial, resource based or recreational, but there must be some value. Abandoned properties are worse than wind farms for nearby homes. If you’d like to make an argument in favour of urban recreation in the hinterlands, please do so with facts and figures. I’d be interested in that discussion.

      2. Yup. Two bankrupticies world wide. Pretty good odds. Apologies, but do try again.

      3. Small hold farming is uneconomic. If you would like a comparison, consider King Canute’s advisors, who told him to order the tide to stay out.

      4. False argument. Please review other threads on Margaret’s blog for reasons why this is false. If you would like to provide specific arguments in this vein, I’ll be glad to shoot them down, as I have elsewhere on this site.

      5. Currently is the operative word. New capacity is required as our population and per capita consumption grows. This can come from new coal or new nuclear (remote and capital intensive), or it can come from new wind, solar and biomass, all of which generate local jobs and local taxes. If you’d like to keep rural areas alive, you should be arguing for distributed generation.

      Assertions without facts or logical arguments merely state your opinion.


      • Lynne

        1. People will move to the country to escape the noise in urban areas and to enjoy the natural beauty. Mike, you experience life in terms of statistics and probabilities. You are missing an entire dimension of life.
        2. There are many more bankruptcies worldwide ie. Noble Wind, and you are very good at looking up stats. The wind industry is still young in Canada, so there will likely be many more.
        3. So by this reasoning, we should all just pack it in and depend on other coutries for our food supply> Can you say security of food supply? What if something disrupts supply lines?
        4. False argument? Sounds like you can’t refute it, as everything I said is correct, so you dismiss it instead. Nice try. When the wind turbines start to fail in 10 years, we will just fall back on the natural gas generation, so what was the point of wasting money on turbines that could have gone to a new reactor.
        5. Dismissing my post as not logical, or falsely stating that it is lacking in facts, is just an ad hominum attack and the sign of a weak argument. A quote about “sound and fury, signifying nothing” comes to mind.

      • Mike Barnard

        Hi Lynne . . .

        That’s interesting. Your first point speaks to selfishness, likely at the expense of others; thanks for supporting my basic premise. Your second is worth more investigation; I’ll go dig more. Your third raises the alternative value hypothesis of food security; worthy of discussion, but like food safety, slightly off-topic (it’s a fascinating subject too. I’d love to spend more time digging into it and debating the results as I form an arguable position but maybe not on this thread?). Your fourth point indicates that you aren’t going to go look at the Point Pelee wind farm thread and also that I didn’t really give you a link to start from. (Our bad, but please not the points and citations I provide about nuclear below for clarity).

        Your fifth point is just wrong. You have an opinion. You may have logic and facts behind it, but you didn’t provide them. My pointing that out is not an ad hominem, but is arguably peevish. (I think I was tired.)

        If you want to post logical arguments supported by citations, then it won’t just be an opinion, but something usefully debatable. I’ll admit I didn’t put as much effort into researching my responses as I usually do, so that makes my responses arguably opinions too. (Only one or two people have indicated that they are valuing my lengthy posts, but hope springs eternal.)


      • Mike Barnard

        Oh, and your assertion that I live entirely in the realm of statistics and probabilities is incorrect as well.

        My ethical stance on environmental issues is strongly informed by the greatest good for the greatest number, which requires statistical analysis.

        My personal life is full of aesthetically and sensually rich experiences (including Margaret’s books). I do try to find them in context of my ethical position, as you do in context of yours. That we make different ethical choices yet still reap sensual benefits is indicative of the variety of individuals. Arguing about what we find aesthetically pleasing is as useful as arguing about Coke versus Pepsi, although that hasn’t stopped lots of people from doing just that.


  17. Sick Turbines

    Ironic for Mike to post about Ghost Towns. There will be more ghost towns to come along from wind turbines, other than Clear Creek in Ontario. Check out the photos in Wind Concerns Ontario.
    “A town often becomes a ghost because the economic activity that supported it has failed[…]. The term is sometimes used in a depreciated sense to include cities, towns, and neighborhoods which, while still populated, are significantly less so than in years past”
    Time to move to Clear Creek Mike, and enjoy the wind whistling through the Turbines. Some real cheap places for sale. Some people real eager to sell.
    What is sad is that Ontario has the most unique environment. We have wonderful land that can grow many varieties of vegetation due to our climate. Why doesn’t our government value this and invest in their farmers so we can keep producing for our citizens? Why is a pesticide laden product from China allowed to be for sale when we wouldn’t allow someone from Ontario to produce such an inferior product? Our lands are devalued from our government, not by the businesses that tend them.

  18. Lynne

    Sick Turbines, importing food from China and Mexico are all premised on cheap oil and I have a feeling that this will shortly change. At that point, locally-produced products will become important in our food supply chain.

  19. Sick Turbines

    Anyone who lives in Ontario grows an appreciation for it’s distinct seasons. We will soon be entering the tropical lushness of summer. I love that Margaret Atwood can appreciate Ontario.
    I saw her speak in Key West, and was so proud and excited to hear her! She is the first science fiction writer that I could enjoy, mainly because she had a keen sense of using technologies that are quite plausible and retained the personalities of humans. She was so lively and engaging to listen to.
    Thank you Mrs. Atwood, for taking an interest in us as fellow citizens, and for caring about the wonderful environment we and the animals don’t take for granted here in Ontario! 🙂

  20. willow

    Keep hope. live as if. die brave.

    Mike, some good information here–even tho you do appear to be a bit of a smart-alec. It’s easy for us superiour beings to fall into that hole.

    Is MA Margaret Atwood? Because if so, my absolute hero who I worship the ground she deigns to place her feet upon, is disappointing me here:

    “If you look at bang for you buck, nuclear is much cheaper and really very safe if done properly. ”

    That bang for your buck analogy. Appropriate. But I don’t want bang and I don’t want buck. Not anymore. I’ve had it with both of those tropes.

    JC Ms. Maggie! Cheaper than what? A hemmeroidectomy for the whole planet?

    Nuclear is not safe. It is not safe for miners. it is not safe for workers it is not safe for disposing of its wastes, which are capable of contributing to terrorism. Thus increasing necessarily the opposite of democracy. It is not safe when you try to “Decommission” a plant. . . . .

    And there is no way to ALWAYS do it properly. Just like offshore drilling.

    Do we really need to destroy all life on this planet so we can have an icebox now? And drive whenever and wherever, qucikquickquick? And live a little longer, w/tubes? And communicate instantly?

    because that is exactly where we are heading, dearly beloved. If there are nine billion of us doing that, with nuclear/whatever supplying the power, there will be no room for anything else. and then we will die too.

    yes we might die if an asteriod hits, tomorrow. So why do right, right now?

    My job as a mother includes trying to instill the desire to experience how good a stretch can feel–esp. for higher goals. /as in leaving the world a more beautiful place–more full of Life. Im not criticizing you all. you are doing your job. and im sure for your kids too!!

    I am ciritsizing those idiots Brand and Lovelock. Like little victim girls they are wringing their hands and sighing and saying, “We must have nuclear.”

    And as for criticizing, let’s throw in that Lieberman of the environmental movement, Pollan.

    Uglyuglyugly. I’ve never seen a pretty nuclear installation. and the ugliness just flows and flows, covering the surroundings. Working to remind our earth of the second law of thermodynamics. which Life and only life refutes, until it cannot anymore. but helping to forces of dissolution? a sin. the sin..

    what Im saying is we are spoiled and we like to spoil others. Mainly our kids. It’s like my drunk grandfather and my drunk mother teaching me to drink.

    If everyone is spoiled, then we don’t look so bad. So we spoil, even our precious children.

    I say, do the best we can, and expect the best we can do out of capital-letter Humanity. Every day. Although we have been disappointing me lately, let’s not give up hope.

    Keep hope. live as if. Die brave.

    Don’t stop working for Life.

    • Mike Barnard

      Hi Willow . . .

      The person posting under the handle MA on this site is not Margaret Atwood, but the moderator of an anti-wind advocacy site called Wind Concerns Ontario who censors discussion on that site to ensure no alternative points of view are aired.

      Margaret posts under Marg09. As we know, Margaret is not a big fan of censorship, but chooses instead to post gentle reminders to discuss things civilly.


      • MA

        Grow up, Mike. I never censored you and you know it. What is your game?

      • Lynne

        Reference please. Unsubstantiated allegations are not helpful. Are you perhaps referencing the still outstanding plan indicated by the Toronto Star a few hours ago (which doesn’t mention any Machiavellian maneuverings):–where-s-the-power-plan?

        Mike (awaiting censorship from MA)

        Is this the censored post to which you are referring?

      • Lynne

        For the sake of clarity, I should have put quotation marks on the post above, as that is Mike’s post at WCO. MA’s response was to welcome him to the site. His references to being censored are unclear.

      • Mike Barnard

        Hi Lynne . . .

        That’s the one MA left up, after she deleted another post of a similar nature, a discussion about it on Margaret’s blog and the note at the bottom referencing censorship.

        A little shame went a long way, apparently. Good to see.


  21. Pingback: Some Helpful Suggestions on Wind Turbine Farms, I Hope « Margaret … | Wind Power Guide Blog

  22. willow

    I’m sorry if I was offensive–where I come from (Texas) we call Albert Einstein a “smart alec”. . . or anyone who does well in school–it’s a mark of praise, really . . . .

    I wish someone would help me figure out why nuclear is a good option–to me it appears to be poison from start to finish–encouraging people to waste and consume–presently in Goliad County, TX, a uranium mine is being considered–the poor uneducated workers lured with visions of new shiny Hummers, etc.–meanwhile the water poisoned for all to share; the tailings–did you all realize that because fertilizers are only required to list “active ingredients” that some manufactureres actually had a double deal going–remove mine tailings at a profit; then place them in your fertilizer as filler–that’s smart-alec capitalizm at its best!

    Not to mention the rusting drums of nuclear waste dropped in San Francisco Bay–

    I will march to a different drummer. The only way we are going to survive on this planet as a species, is if we boycott anything that poisons or maims others merely to allow us the illusion of living as “masters of the universe” free from heat, cold, pain–even using our legs to get around! Oh lucky man.

    This discussion, oh so reasoned, is missing the point–the only point really. What can YOU do to end the waste and the death of our planet, as presently experienced? Because no one with real power gives a damn re what you think about the tar sands in Alberta.

    • Diane Ferguson

      Unfortunately, two things need to happen before the waste stops and they both relate to the economic model. Our current economic system is based on continuous growth. Until that model changes, there’s not a lot of hope here. The other necessary change is that the environment has to be part of the costing model: effectively a carbon tax. We know how politically poisonous that is! So, I agree with you Willow, we do need to consume less, waste less etc. but I don’t see a lot of change in human nature, especially based on our current economic model. In Canada, the carbon tax is a toxic discussion for politicians.
      It was the advent of fire that brought human beings forward, we will always need some kind of energy. I guess I’ve been thinking that the nuclear option is perhaps the lesser of several evils. I would like to see government support for homeowner renewables as well as conservation. I beleive many U.S. states go a lot further than we in Canada do.
      Sorry to throw in all the economics, but the headlines here are all about jobs. “We can’t do that, people will be out of work.” This is all bs, but people seem to buy that argument. In my head, I’m thinking jobs won’t matter much if we don’t have water to drink or air to breathe. Short term politics.

    • Mike Barnard

      Hi Willow . . .

      As I was the person you called ‘smart alec’, please know I wasn’t offended. It’s amazing how little it takes to construct reasoned and factually supported arguments in the age of Google.

      The arguments claimed for nuclear:
      1. no greenhouse gas emissions – false due to construction, mining, shipping uranium, but better than most forms of energy generation. Note where wind is, of course

      “According to Sovacool’s analysis, nuclear power, at 66 gCO2e/kWh emissions is well below scrubbed coal-fired plants, which emit 960 gCO2e/kWh, and natural gas-fired plants, at 443 gCO2e/kWh. However, nuclear emits twice as much carbon as solar photovoltaic, at 32 gCO2e/kWh, and six times as much as onshore wind farms, at 10 gCO2e/kWh.” (just read the numbers as relative without trying to decipher the units of measure)

      2. They provide base load energy. – Base load energy is the bottom amount needed in any 24 hour cycle. This one is true, nuclear plants do provide that. According to the pro-nuclear guys this is important. According to others, the demand is much peakier than it used to be with much larger shifts due to arrival home, heat waves, cold waves, etc. Frankly, I haven’t made it to the bottom of this one yet, but it’s on my list. My working hypothesis is that it varies by jurisdiction, but that we don’t need nearly as much base load energy as the nuclear guys claim.

      3. They provide dispatchable power. – Dispatchable generation is from sources of energy that can easily be turned on to provide support for peaks. This one is false, despite assertions to the opposite by one or two regular posters. The big drawback of nuclear is that you can’t turn it up or down quickly, and it takes days to reach full generation. And the problem with it is that the energy has to go somewhere; you can’t turn nuclear plants off either. That’s why it’s good baseload energy. Coincidentally, a 25 year professional in the industry I talked to recently told me that most of the pumped hydro in the US was built to give nuclear plant energy something to do at night. All that energy storage, just to allow the base load to supply peaks.

      4. The Generation III and IV reactors consume waste fuel from earlier generations, leave much less waste themselves and have much longer lifespans with fewer failures. This is kind of true, but kind of irrelevant. When I reviewed this a few weeks ago there was one Generation IV reactor operating in a pilot capacity, and a couple of sources indicated that there was a target of commercial viability by 2021. There are only a handful of Generation III reactors in production or construction right now. Generally speaking Three Mile Island and Chernobyl make new nuclear a very unpopular choice, especially in democracies.

      And of course, the nuclear guys say all it will take is one new nuclear reactor going online every week for 25 years to avert global warming. That’s about 1300 reactors at a total cost of probably more than $10 trillion US dollars. They don’t say where the money will come from and they don’t talk about what to do with all that electricity they can’t turn off.

      Please note, I think nuclear will be a necessary part of our energy eco-system, so I’m actually speaking as a pro-nuke guy.


    • Mike Barnard

      Hi Willow . . .

      The above was the what’s-nuclear-good-for discussion. Note that it is centered around the following moral or ethical positions:

      1. It is important to stop or slow global warming as that puts humanity at risk.

      This isn’t really true. It puts a whole lot of individual people at risk including potentially entire countries, but it’s very unlikely that global warming will end the human race. We won’t necessarily like it, but we’re smarter than rats and cockroaches and we’ll survive. From our individual perspectives, it probably won’t be pleasant in a lot of cases.

      2. It is important to stop or slow global warming as it puts the ecosystem at risk.

      This isn’t really true either. It will disrupt the ecosystem, but the ecosystem gets disrupted every few hundred thousand years. The ecosystem may become a lot less friendly to humans and a bunch of animals and plants, but others will figure it out. That’s evolution for you; open a niche and some species will populate it. This will create lots of fluctuations as evolution moves slower than human created global warming. From our perspective, it probably won’t be pretty or easy.

      3. It is important to stop or slow global warming as it puts animal populations at risk.

      This is true. Entire species, especially unique ones in specific ecosystems, will die off. Genetically speaking, that’s a bad thing, but the degree of severity is unclear. Many people find this morally reprehensible; others find it reasonable. (I’m risk averse; never know when you’re going to need that particular genetic expression.)

      4. There are or will be technical solutions to all problems with sufficient engineering (in this case, nuclear waste).

      As a race, we haven’t failed globally at this one yet, although we’ve certainly screwed up locally a bunch of times. That doesn’t mean we won’t fail globally. As a race we’re entrepreneurial; we have an overdeveloped sense of optimism, especially for stuff we can’t really see ourselves. There are a lot of very bright people dreaming up solutions to nuclear waste; Generation IV reactors consuming it is pretty good, as is tectonic subduction sliding it underneath a continent. Shooting it into the sun is a bit cost prohibitive, as well as raising the unlovely specter of a rocket blowing up at launch and spreading nuclear waste over half of a continent.

      5. Continuing to supply humans with what they need is important.

      As I’ve mentioned elsewhere on this thread, I’ve chosen optimism and a positive outlook (maybe rural dwellers and those who aspire to it would disagree with me at this point). I’m interested in solutions that don’t involve wholesale die-offs of billions of people. Human nature being what it is, people will adapt to less.

      But that doesn’t mean that on balance it isn’t better to supply people with more. With wealth comes reduced fertility. With reduced fertility comes the flattening of the population curve (best current projection 2050 with 9 billion people). With the flattening of the population curve comes relief from the awful pressure of finding ways to feed even more billions of people without starving the current billions. With flattening of the population curve comes the possibility of fixing the horrible mistakes we have made as we’ve struggled to keep up. With flattening of the population curve comes the possibility of a grace period for the ecosystem to start finding an equilibrium with the most voracious animal in the food chain: humans.

      Are these reasons to accept nuclear? Well, no. There are other moral or ethical positions in play here (and a lot of this is kind of like taste; you can argue about it, but it’s not like you’re going to change anyone’s mind.).

      1. Every human life is sacred.
      2. Every animal life is sacred.
      3. All suffering is wrong.
      4. Anything which might damage any child is evil.

      These are tough trade-offs between people with complex sets of often internally opposing moral and ethical positions. We’re never going to agree.

      My optimistic belief is that we’re going to stumble along. That people whose posiitions are trampled on will scream and things will adjust a bit. And then someone else will be a bit trampled and shout a bit or work to force some change. We’ll keep wavering around in the middle of a bunch of values and we’ll survive. It will be about as clear as mud as it happens, and in retrospect some people will form clear narratives that appear to be inevitability at work but are false.


  23. While I can understand, but not agree with all of the cons to wind power that you’ve laid out, the U.S. can achieve much more if it focuses on energy efficiency – see related post:,0

    As for the aesthetics, ask the Danish – they bit the bullet after the oil shortages in the 70’s and went heavy into wind / solar energy sources, and it’s proven to be a great way to help out the small / rural communities, and there doesn’t seem to be the uproar about the view / the noise…

  24. Sick Turbines

    We as people also need to consider how we equally share this planet within its Eco system. With Bald Eagles becoming re established after DDT, Wind Turbines in major flight patterns will destroy their progress. South Western Ontario has many migratory birds crossing over its lands.
    Conservation is key. Woodlands are being cut down for industrial wind turbines. Aren’t animal habitats more sacred than our greed for electricity? The problem with wind turbines is that they are ineffectual technology, and their potential for harm too great. The turbines proposed in Ontario are massive. The one in Toronto is an eyelash compared to the ones being erected in rural areas.
    When people talk about carbon credits and fighting the oil companies, I would like to inform you that the project close to where I live is proposed by Suncor. They also have a plant in Sarnia’s chemical valley. Oil companies need wind turbines to get carbon credits and to create a “Green” image.
    This brings me the another thought which I’d like peoples view on. The boomer generation. A lot of the Wind turbine companies are promoting wind turbines as “the new modern innovation”. They are using a lot of “kids”, thirty’s or so. to promote them.
    Are the boomers buying this green message as a nostalgia of their generation, believing green means harmless? Or do they want to remain in the “know”, with all the modern technology? Or do they want to believe in it so much because they have invested heavily in it and don’t want to lose money? As a boomer I would be afraid of the next generation, because all they have to know is how to make something sound charitable, make it appeal to the pocket book, and give the boomers a slick image and they will be bought and sold. They don’t tend to ask for proof of where their dollars go or for the science to prove it.

  25. Also re: view: a few years ago, in my area, a proposed wind turbine was stopped because local residents objected to the spoiled view. At least they were up-front about the spoiled-view issue. (Although their own houses also “spoil” the view up on the moors, but I guess that’s different.) (They also objected that the wind turbine generated too *much* energy, through some exquisitely arcane calculus that left me dazzled.)

    Today there are three new mobile phone towers in that same location.

  26. Mike Barnard

    On an energy storage note, there seems to have been a repeated breakthrough in reducing the cost of turning water into hydrogen and oxygen:

    This is important as cracking water at low energy levels is a key part of making hydrogen a cost-effective energy storage mechanism. This brings hydrogen and fuel cells closer to an environmentally friendly energy storage mechanism.


  27. Mike Barnard

    New Report From Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer Of Health Says There Is No Direct Causal Link Between Wind Turbines And Adverse Health Effects
    May 20, 2010

    This report was prepared by the Chief Medical Officer of Health (CMOH) of Ontario in response to public health concerns about wind turbines, particularly related to noise.

    Assisted by a technical working group comprised of members from the Ontario Agency for Health Protection and Promotion (OAHPP), the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care (MOHLTC) and several Medical Officers of Health in Ontario with the support of the Council of Ontario Medical Officers of Health (COMOH), this report presents a synopsis of existing scientific evidence on the potential health impact of noise generated by wind turbines.

    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.

    All of the above is direct quotation. Note that the people that performed the work are not paid by the wind industry. Note that they are the same people in Ontario that assess and deal with the risks of e coli in water (from rural farm operations), SARS, West Nile and STDs aka real health threats. I’m curious to see how the anti-wind folks will spin this.


  28. Mike Barnard

    Wind Concerns Ontario post on the above material:

    Arelene [sic] King did not talk to one person affected nor conduct any independent research

    Various WCO regulars’ comments:

    WCO Comment: This report is almost verbatim of the AWEA/CanWEA report and used the same hired guns.

    Assessment: The first part is true; when independent people look at all the material, they draw the same conclusions. The second part regarding hired guns is false and maligns the dedicated health professionals that did the assessment.

    WCO Comment: Arelene [sic] King needs to receive 100′s of letters. From every group at WCO and others.

    Assessment: Fill your boots. A bunch of emails doesn’t change the science. Spelling her name right is more likely to get her to read something though.

    WCO Comment: The problem is that today’s physicians do not know what PURE SCIENCE is or what UNTAINTED RESEARCH is. […] As such, to release any statement about any health issue is always subject to the approval of corporate interests.

    Assessment: Patently false and once again maligning these dedicated public health professionals. Also a great tinge of paranoid conspiracy theory.

    WCO Comment: This woman and her counterparts must be dragged kicking and screaming in front of the Public!

    Assessment: WCO should be known by the people it attracts to its site.


    • I see you avoided assessing the first item you listed, about her not talking to any victims. It then struck me that maybe buried in there is one reason why your well-researched postings look so good at first but then go flat, at least for me.

      Using the King report as an example, you present her report as evidence that wind turbines present no health issues. The problem, I suspect, is that you use the word “evidence” differently than I (and many others) do. For you, the fact that a professional, a presumed expert, someone with lots of gravitas, has made some statement apparently serves in itself as evidence. This is typical of government and legal circles, where experts present testimony and it is accepted as “evidence”. I first noticed and thought about this different use of the word when reading some Australian council proceedings some time ago.

      To me, Dr. King’s statements aren’t evidence at all, unless she moved out into a project herself and lived there for a year. At best, she could “present” evidence, had she actually gotten out into the field and talked to someone. Since she didn’t do so, she can’t (again, by my reckoning) even present evidence. Since what she did was pretty much a google, the best that could be said for her statements is that she could summarize evidence that others had collected. Unfortunately, as best as I can tell (and I’ve read all but Braam), none of the references she listed (except Pierpont, of course) produced any health-related evidence either. Possible exception of Pedersen/van den Berg, whose survey included a few general health questions, but their methodology wasn’t suited to a real health study, per Ms. Pedersen.)

      What do I consider evidence? Reports from the neighbors. Medical exams of the neighbors. Medical records of the neighbors. Abandoning homes by the neighbors. Always the neighbors.

  29. Mike Barnard

    Wind Vigilance ( hasn’t yet released an opinion. Given it’s more moderate and informed membership, it’s possible that it will just quietly fade away. The last posting on their site was from February 18, so I sense whatever motivated them to form is not motivating them to remain active.


    • Perhaps you should reconsider your opinions of SWV. They just released their position on Dr. King’s paper. “The CMOH Report appears to be a government-convened attempt to justify unsound practices of wind turbine development while denying the adverse health effects being reported by Ontario families.”

      Not quite as moribund as you sensed.

    • Mike Barnard

      Hi Wayne . . .

      Thanks for pointing that out. Interesting how quickly their response falls apart after they took a relatively long time to publish it.

      On page 3 in the Executive Summary, they assert:
      A. Ontario has noise guidelines. In fact, Ontario Regulation 359/09 is not a guideline but an enforceable regulation. They even reference it.

      B. That the purported guidelines allow for 51 db at a family home compared to the 40 db the CMOH report cites. This is not accurate. While they provide several references to the superseded guideline, they do not assert how they calculate the 51 db or provide a specific reference. I analysed 359/09 and posted results elsewhere on Margaret’s blog. For rural houses, industrial wind farms are limited to 40 db. This is enforceable. They are likely mis-remembering that the highest recorded db at a home near one of Canada’s wind farms (Melancthon I believe) was 51 db (although the provenance of that number is suspect). Please note that refrigerators operate at 50 db.

      C. They assert that appropriate guidelines for low frequency noise have not been published and that the CMOH study acknowledges this. Fine as far as it goes, but the CMOH study finds what anyone reviewing the literature will find. Wind turbine generated low frequency noise is not a concern and that hearing impacts from low frequency noise do not start occuring until much higher db. This too is disingenuous.

      They do seem to take offence to credible groups asserting that noise-related annoyance is a concern. (I’m not sure why, when everyone keeps agreeing with them on this point.) However, they fail yet again when they cite greater annoyance from wind turbines without referencing the rest of the material from Dr. van den Berg’s study which shows a strong correlation between annoyance at the noise and two factors: whether the wind turbine is visible and whether the annoyed person is a recipient of economic gain from the wind turbine. This makes it clear that a significant factor in the annoyance is psychological, and ignores obvious mitigating approaches to dealing with these stresses.

      Wind Vigilance’s analysis of the material is an unfortunate rejection of yet another group of experienced professionals findings. It shows their bias, and is not credible as a rebuttal.


      • Mike, I’m not sure what your game is here. Perhaps you’re just having fun with us. You fairly consistently spread untruths, and that is much easier than continually trying to correct them. I’ll respond to you this last time with an example of your dishonesty and then I’m done with you.

        My example (and it is only one of many, and was chosen because it won’t take too much of my time) is your point B above. The folks at SWV have been in the thick of the regs and to doubt what they say is pretty stupid. If you go to section 55(3) of 359/09, page 55, it says that table 1 applies unless you do a sound study per the Ontario Noise Guidelines for Wind Farms. Table 1 just mentions setbacks, no noise limits. So you didn’t get the 40dB from 359/09, as you untruthfully stated. Nowhere in 359/09 is 40dB mentioned. So where did you get the 40dB? I assume the Guidelines, as NPC-232 has been overridden by them. In the Guidelines, the relevant section if 5.1(b) on page 6. You can either use figure 1 or table 1, no difference. I assume you can see the “51” in either of them. Your insistence on 40dB is just flat dishonest.

        And if that’s not bad enough, you then accuse SWV of “mis-remembering” the 51dB. The folks at SWV aren’t in the habit of “mis-remembering” anything. To refresh your memory, the Melancthon noise measurements came in at 65dB. You continue by trying to casually discredit the measurements themselves, when you know (or at least should know) they were taken by the developer’s own noise consultant, as shown at

        And refrigerators do not operate at 50dB, at least not out in the kitchen where people listen to them. More like the very low 40’s. There’s an interesting video at with a noise meter that puts that lie to bed.

        How many untruths does that make, in just one paragraph? At what point am I forced to conclude that you are nothing but a tool for the wind industry? I guess I’m past that point.


      • MA

        He’s a tool, that’s for sure.

      • Mike Barnard

        Hi Wayne . . .

        Well, I’ll read through the reg again (see p. 53 where 40 dba is explicitly called out) and see if I can follow your logic. I’ll do the work. I seem to remember we disagreed on this in the past.

        As for the refrigerator, that’s definitely a case of me misrembering, not them. 40 db is correct for a refrigerator. Thanks for keeping me honest.

        As for motivation, I’m for cleaner and more varied energy sources including wind. I understand that there are impacts of every energy choice and look for a balanced mitigation of them. And where I see garbage presented as data, I point it out, just as I expect you to.

        On the other hand, you seem to be explicitly an anti. You are against wind energy, period. In our conversation on the Globe and Mail site on bat and bird mortality, each of your assertions was shown to be substantially overstated, and you refused to consider any mitigations except completely shutting off wind turbines. What’s your motivation?

        Where I misstate something, I’m glad to admit that and correct it.


      • Mike Barnard

        And of course, MA is as charming as always, posting topical, informative messages that include references of high credibility, and as always abjuring personal attacks.


      • Mike Barnard

        Hi Wayne . . .

        As promised, I’ve dug through the material. Yes, under specific circumstances, wind turbines are allowed to be as noisy as 51 dBA to nearby residences. It’s a pity that they won’t be any more audible due to ambient noise.

        From the way that Wind Vigilance expressed it and you defended them, I would have assumed that on quiet nights wind turbines were allowed to be 51 dba. Not true, which is why I was asserting the 40 dBA cited in Regulation 359/09 on page 53 and used as the basis for calculations in noise assessment submissions. Let’s examine why, and what Wind Vigilance left out of their material which exposes their bias.

        Here’s the specific reference to page (which Wind vigilance omitted): page 6 of Noise Guidelines for Wind Farms (

        So what didn’t they say?
        1. That 51 dBA was only at wind velocities at or above 10 m/s or 36 kph. Note that this is whitecaps weather according to the Beaufort Scale. Wind keening through the pine trees and thrumming on the windows.
        2. That ambient noise at that wind velocity substantially masks any other noises, especially those further way and not directly downwind. Further away in this case means hundreds of meters, not thousands.
        3. That wind noise guidelines are based on the same international standards as those that govern all kinds of noises: ISO 9613-2, “Acoustics-Attenuation of sound during propagation outdoors – Part 2: General method of calculation” (
        4. And just for fun, the average wind velocity at Melancthon is about 7 m/s squared. That wind velocity allows allow 43 dBA with masking effects as the average.

        What does this mean?
        1. Wind Vigilance cherry picked the worst case scenario and did not articulate the substantial ambient noise that makes it equivalent to 40 dBA.
        2. Wind Vigilance seems to assert that every noise measure made under ISO standards is inaccurate and likely unhealthy.

        Ummm… right. That’s a-scientific alarmism, not responsible medical concern.

        But let’s pretend that 51 dBA is deeply harmful to humans, especially in lower frequencies. What, inquiring minds would like to know, is the noise level in urban centres at night?

        Here’s the appropriate reference for Vancouver from their Noise Control Manual. Please have a look at page 12. ( Vancouver, as most Canadian’s will enviously remember, is constantly near the top of the most livable and healthiest cities in the world.

        Note that urban residential noise away from traffic is 50-55 dBA. Near arterial roads that rises to 55-60 dBA, while those living on major streets experience noises levels of 60-65 dBA.

        Poor people. They should all be suffering from significant sleep loss, major stress and catastrophic health failures. After all, they are exposed when winds are calm to noise much higher than those from wind turbines. After all, the ones in quiet neighbourhoods are experiencing more noise than people during very windy periods near wind farms. Why aren’t they realizing how much pain they are in?

        I haven’t addressed the lower frequency noise, have I. (

        According to this independent source, lower frequency sound dominates in urban areas. “Urban, no nearby traffic of concern”: 52 dBA at 63 Hz. Note that this is higher than the highest dBA allowed under regulation 359/09.

        Are we to suppose that urban folks are somehow superhuman compared to rural folks? Are we supposed to assume that living with tractors, bird cannons and manure makes rural folks somehow more constitutionally delicate?

        I don’t think so. This is a psychological, not a physiological issue. And its an issue for a small subset of people in very localized areas, not the majority either locally or globally.

        Oh, and just to kick Wind Vigilance while they’re down, let’s just pick a random workplace safety site and see what they say about noise;

        “Continuous exposure to noise above 85 decibels during an eight hour day is considered to be excessive noise.”

        That’s 85+ dBA for 8 hours, not 51 dBA occasionally.


  30. Mike Barnard

    More reaction from Wind Concerns Ontario on yet another credible assessment that wind turbines have very low health risks:

    Medical Officer of Health Grossly Negligent in Investigating Complaints

    This implies a legally actionable lack of response.

    Let’s see. There were concerns. A serious bunch of public health professionals determined a response. They realized a whole bunch of literature already existed. They reviewed the literature. They found that health concerns related to wind turbines amounted to noise-annoyance stress. They said so.

    It’s difficult to determine how this might constitute gross negligence. Let’s see what WCO regulars have to say:

    WCO comment: I hope everyone is bombarding her office with letters. She should be forced by public pressure to step down.

    Assessment: You managed to get a couple of hundred people out to your big event. I don’t think she’s politically threatened by you.

    WCO comment: Ontario citizens are waking up to the fact that we are all being “worked over” by Industry, Government, along with Health agencies to promote a money making scheme unlike anything we have ever witnessed and is not in anyone’s interest but the investors and will not be tolerated much longer.!

    Assessment: Worked over or worked up?

    WCO Comment: Just how do you investigate a complaint without even talking to those who’ve made the complaint?

    Assessment: By reading the material that’s been spammed as broadly as possible by the anti-wind advocacy groups, including the WCO health survey and Dr. Pierpoint’s self-published book.

  31. Lynne

    This excellent article by a retired Professional Engineer with decades of experience in power generation explains why Ontario must rethink its wind and natural gas energy strategy.

    • Mike Barnard

      Only a handful of caveats on what really is a good article to discuss and debate.

      1. Mr. Jones’ ideas are interesting in theory, but how are they actually working in reality?

      “By the end of October, total greenhouse gases from coal and gas-fired
      generation were approximately 40 per cent less than they were in the same period in 2008.” The Ontario Reliability Outlook 2009

      2. Mr. Jones has some excellent points about the current concern with Surplus Baseload Generation (SBG) being a problem, but apparently believes that the market and hence electricity demand will not pick up making that rare problem go away. Too much power is a rare concern historically.

      3. Mr. Jones asserts that wind makes the grid more difficult to keep in balance but apparently is unfamiliar with the smart grid improvements being made to provide support for not only wind, but solar, biomass, co-generation and local energy storage. Further, he appears to be over-emphasizing the destabilizing effect of wind, which is currently providing very well conditioned power to grids worldwide.

      4. His assertion that stored reserve hydro will not be ‘wasted’ to support wind is an interesting assertion, but unsupported. This is a power policy and economics decision. Balancing wind storage with direct generation will be part of management of power generation and storage, not an either / or decision.

      5. Mr. Jones is clear that he is a Retired nuclear industry engineer. Let’s understand that he does have a perspective. He’s clear and open on it, so why shorten that to “Professional Engineer”? His position is informed by his pre-disposition as a central, big generation engineer. A version of the world predicted 30 years ago by soft-energy path theorists such as Amory Lovin is coming to pass, in part due to the failures of big central generation including Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and massive coal plants. Governments and corporations worldwide are not investing in wind because it is uneconomic or impossible to manage. They are investing because excluding wind from the energy eco-system is a worse choice.

      Mr. Jones is correct that price volatility in natural gas as well as its other uses in our industrial ecosystem make it problematic to rely on. He is also correct that coal will continue to be a necessary part of our North American energy eco-system.


  32. MA

    So, once again, it is up to a small handful of local residents to handle this situation. Besides, Nature Ontario, where are the bird organizations here?

    “Extremely high” bat, bird kills alarm Nature Canada


    A conservation organization reviewing the number of birds and bats killed by the wind turbines on Wolfe Island is calling the numbers “extremely high.”

    A consultant’s report estimates that 1,270 bats and 602 birds were killed by the island’s 86 turbines from July 1 to Dec. 31 of last year, the project’s first months of operation.

    “I really believe there never should have been an industrial-type wind farm built on Wolfe Island,” said Ted Cheskey, manager of bird conservation for Nature Canada.

    The island is situated in what’s known as an Important Bird Area, “globally significant,” he said, for the numbers and types of birds that migrate through the area.

    A second, offshore project of up to 60 turbines has received early-stage provincial approval for the waters of Lake Ontario to the west of Wolfe Island.

    “It could be very significant in a bad way,” said Cheskey of the offshore project. “Monitoring birds offshore is going to be very difficult. The potential for heavy impact is there.
    “We’re setting ourselves up for a big ecological mess.”

    Studies at other wind farms have turned up kill rates of one to two birds per turbine annually.

    The Wolfe Island rate was seven birds per turbine over the six months.

    Among land birds, 28 tree swallows were found killed, eight bobolinks and seven purple martens.

    Red-tailed hawks fared the worst among birds of prey with three being found dead.

    Researchers found six turkey vulture carcasses.

    Cheskey said he’s seen an Internet video of a vulture being killed.

    “It’s hard to watch. An unsuspecting, large, beautiful bird is killed in front of your eyes,” he said.

    “The blade spins around and it comes up from below or down from above. These birds are soaring birds so you can imagine any soaring bird drifting in these slow circles would be at pretty high risk. I’m surprised there aren’t more deaths.”

    Cheskey said it’s important to collect more data to include the spring migration figures.

    Those results could prove to be even more deadly, he said, because bird numbers tend to be more concentrated as they fly north and weather conditions make flying more difficult and hazardous.

    No one from TransAlta, owners of the Wolfe Island wind farm, could be reached for comment Friday.

    The company has scheduled a meeting for next week with members of the citizens’ group WIRE — Wolfe Island Residents for the Environment — to discuss the bird and bat kill numbers.

    • Mike Barnard

      Just for a hint of perspective, it’s worth looking at comparative literature on bird deaths. While the Wolfe Island impact is at the high end of wind turbines, it is insignificant compared to other human-caused bird deaths.

      Collisions with buildings 58%
      Power-line related 14%
      Cats 11%
      Cars 8.5%
      Various others
      Wind Turbines <0.01%

      The full table is on page 11 of "A Summary and Comparison of Bird Mortality from Anthropogenic Causes with an Emphasis on Collisions".

      As for bats, there is a simple mechanism for reducing bat mortality at wind turbines identified at the University of Calgary. As bats generally fly in wind speeds lower than wind turbines require to generate power, stopping the blades (standard technical feature of wind turbines) in those wind speeds causes bat deaths to plummet.


    • Mike Barnard

      For another piece of perspective, it’s worth considering why Wolfe Island is a Canadian Important Bird area. It’s got an awful lot of birds.

      The peak one day counts for 16 species adds up to 81,984 birds.

      As it is a migratory congregation site, that means that massive multiples of that number fly through the area every year. In Ontario the average migration period lasts 85 days. For conservative purposes, let’s take just 10 times the highest daily counts as the six month average for birds passing through Wolfe Island or 820,000 birds.

      0.07% That’s the percentage of birds passing through Wolfe Island over six months that were killed by the wind turbines according to this conservative estimate. If the numbers passing through are higher, of course this percentage just drops more.


    • Mike Barnard

      Raptors are one of the birds considered to be put at risk on Wolfe Island, so I analysed the actual data regarding them.

      Here’s a key statement from the report: “All species have provincial S-Ranks of S5 (i.e., Secure – common, widespread and abundant in Ontario) or S4 (i.e., Apparently Secure – uncommon but not rare).”

      Interpretation: these are not species facing risk of extinction, or even close to that.

      Of the raptors killed, only the two American Kestrel’s were on the species conservation priority list of the Ontario Partners in Flight organization ( The remaining are not considered to need any special attention.
      Per Avianweb (, “As this bird occurs over a wide range and is not generally rare, the IUCN classifies it as a Species of Least Concern. Local populations may fluctuate according to resource availability, and birds may become locally extinct if habitat deteriorates. The American Kestrel’s North American population has been estimated at 1.2 million pairs.”
      To interpret the above quote, while preservation is a concern locally to Ontario, American Kestrel’s are not a species at risk
      Finally on the subject of raptors, what does the report say about comparative numbers for Wolfe Island vs other wind farms? “The raptor mortality rate, excluding vultures, of 0.04 raptors per MW is at the mid-point of the range observed at other facilities in North America (0 – 0.09 raptors per MW; Arnett et al., 2007) and is consistent with rates observed elsewhere in Ontario (Stantec, unpublished data).”

      Summary: Small numbers of non-endangered raptors are being killed by wind turbines at Wolfe Island in numbers at the mid-point of experiences elsewhere.

      Note: Wayne Gulden has challenged the mid-point reference of the report, but I haven’t dug through to see if that is accurate or not. Fundamentally, however, doubling the mortality rate from inconsequential would still make it inconsequential.


    • Mike Barnard

      On to bats.

      Per the report, there were 5 species of bats killed at Wolfe Island: Hoary Bat, Eastern Red Bat, Silver-Haired Bat, Little Brown Bat and Big Brown Bat. None of these are endangered.

      There are two species of bats considered at risk in Canada and they are both in BC ( Pallid Bat and Spotted Bat. Note that neither of the bats were killed at Wolfe Island.

      That said, migrating bats in general are at risk due to white-nose syndrome. It’s worth comparing the relative numbers here as well: “At one site in Dorset, Vt., dubbed the “cave of death,” white-nose syndrome has caused 200,000 to 300,000 deaths, or a 95 per cent mortality rate, said Susi von Oettingen of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.”–bat-killing-disease-discovered-in-canada

      To compare, a single cave in the US has suffered 160-240 times the projected (not observed) bat deaths at Wolfe Ilsand. Sources vary from 500K to over 1 million deaths in total over the past four years.

      As I’ve pointed out here and elsewhere, there are two known remediations for bats around onshore wind turbines: radar and starting the blades moving at higher wind speeds when bats aren’t flying. For people concerned with the bat population, I would recommend advocating these mitigations to wind farms, and focusing your attention on the real threat to bat populations, white-nose syndrome. Other greater threats than wind turbines include forestry operations and humans intentionally or unintentionally damaging their preferred roosting caves and cliffs.


  33. Willow

    Just for a hint of perspective, it’s worth looking at comparative literature on bird deaths. While the Wolfe Island impact is at the high end of wind turbines, it is insignificant compared to other human-caused bird deaths.

    Collisions with buildings 58%
    Power-line related 14%
    Cats 11%
    Cars 8.5%
    Various others
    Wind Turbines <0.01%

    You might wish to consider the # of wind turbines vs. the # of cats, buildings and automobiles . . . .

    Also my main point re power company controlled bird killing huge ugly monster wind turbines vs. small home models is that home models return a bit of self-reliance to the individual, rather than leaving him or her a helpless domesticated animal in the grips of giant forces beyond understanding or influence.

  34. The following compendium is from one who spent the first half of his life in Agriculture and the second in high tech.
    Just the facts, easily independently confirmed…

    As a personal interest (those who know me would call it “obsession”) I have been studying all things energy in depth for almost twenty years…
    In the early days before the internet, I would call up our own National Research Council and speak for hours on end with many of the scientists working there. I was both happy and amazed that this talented group of individuals were so willing to answer my questions, no matter how misinformed those may have been at the time.

    At the beginning of my quest and for years afterwards, I would bore anyone who would listen about the benefits of wind, solar and bio-based energy systems and the pitfalls of fossil, large-scale hydro and nuclear energy systems. However, there was always something missing. What I was so sure of didn’t agree with what I was seeing. If these things were so good, why weren’t they more commonplace? What didn’t I understand? What had I not yet learned?

    Then, along came the internet and I found at my fingertips ostensibly, the sum of human knowledge; the good, the bad and the ugly! No more long duration phone calls to the NRC! Now, I correspond with scientists around the world via that electronic marvel –Email!

    This and subsequent events both locally and globally, gave me cause to reconsider my earlier ideas about what “green” energy actually is and consider the mind boggling amount of energy humanity actually needs. This was part of what I was missing. Not the ease at which we could make “green” energy but the truly immense amount of energy we would have to make. Was green energy on this scale… still green?

    As my energy knowledge expanded and diversified, it became obvious wind, solar and bio-energy, even combined, are incapable of making a meaningful contribution to the huge amount of the energy humanity will need in order to replace fossil fuels, either now or into the future. This was a painful and expensive lesson recently learned the hard way by many countries. One need only look to Denmark (wind), Germany, Spain and California (wind, solar) for graphic demonstrations of the pitfalls of large-scale wind or solar energy.

    Even with an installed base of over 5 million square meters of PV (photo-voltaic) solar panels costing more then 5 billion US dollars and over 20,000 wind turbines costing many billions more, “green” power provides a paltry 6.6% of Germany’s total electricity needs. The legislation previously passed there forcing the utilities to subsidize this experiment is now being revisited. Surprise, surprise! In Denmark, the largest per capita installed wind power generation in the world isn’t online when it’s needed and isn’t needed when it’s online. As a result, Denmark must purchase power at a premium from her neighbours and must dump her most of her wind power at a huge loss (sometimes for free) because her neighbours neither want nor need it. In California, environmentalists blocked for many years, the construction of the power lines to bring wind power from the high valley turbines to the cities where it was needed. The result: California’s electricity supply is a nightmare! Although I am a strong advocate of both wind and solar power, outside of limited off-grid, supplemental energy production, for the real-time needs of the masses, both these technologies fail miserably for what should be obvious reasons!

    Those that champion large scale wind and PV solar readily admit that it cannot reliably replace coal. They will tell you that for this to happen hundreds of thousands of turbines will need to be built over a massive geographical area so they are spread wide enough to cover several weather systems. This way, the wind should always be blowing and the sun always shinning someplace??! All these assets must then be inter- connected via an obscenely massive “smart” grid. OK: Has any of these genius’ calculated the resources needed to build all these assets and interconnecting grid and the vast areas of forests that will be clear cut to accommodate this? Currently, the power corridors that criss-cross Ontario’s vast forests are visible from space. What twisted measuring device was used that indicated such a hideously enormous construct is in any way green? Some wind proponents suggest (without any supporting studies) that a single 2MW wind turbine can remove the same amount of CO2 from the environment as 700 acres of trees! Really? And how much oxygen will that wind turbine produce? We may be able to do with less atmospheric CO2 but I’m absolutely certain we can’t do will less atmospheric oxygen! Did these idiots not think of this?
    The forest will no longer hide behind the trees, the trees will vanish completely to accommodate a forest of wind turbines! This is “green” insanity on an unprecedented scale!

    Clearly, one cannot replace base-load power generation with these intermittent energy sources and cause less environmental damage at the same time. Elected members of The Green Party in the EU have already been forced to publicly acknowledge this fact. This based on the results of Europe’s own failed green energy experiment. Even the Energy Minister of Denmark and California’s Governor; Arnold Schwarzenegger were compelled to publicly admit as much. Unfortunately, for reasons I cannot comprehend, we seem to have an insatiable need to prove this over and over again like we currently are here in Ontario. Apparently the “staff” at our Provincial Energy Ministry know more than Germany, Spain, Demark and California combined. The ONLY REASON Samsung sought out Ontario to develope their wind industry is due to the fact that we are offering the highest subsidies on the planet. All other jurisdictions that foolishly went down the “green” energy road are now cutting their subsidies, some, dramatically, others completely!

    All that said there is a solar power technology; “thermal solar”, that can supply energy 100% of the time and supply 100% of the energy humanity needs. The bugbear here is the 700 square kilometres of collector-reflectors needed and the limited geographical areas these can be put to be viable. Transporting the energy to the end user is a problem so far without solution. Suffice it to say, energy security would be non-existent. One need only look at the natural gas shortages Europe experienced recently, caused by a dispute between Russia and Ukraine, for the importance of an abundant, local energy supply. Yes, there is no question this technology exists and works as advertised. However, we must first resolve the power transmission and distribution problems. In spite of this, any country between the tropics of Capricorn and Cancer and/or any geographical area blessed with endless sunny days that can take advantage of this technology should do so ASAP. Sadly, our elected officials here in Ontario apparently are not cognizant of our geographical location in that regard.

    As for bio-fuels; having spent half my life in agriculture, I was initially very supportive of this concept. What a great idea! We can grow our own fuel! However, the food riots around the world in recent years soon put that idea in a very unfavourable light. The question with bio-fuels is simply this: Do we feed ourselves and the rest of the life on this planet or do we feed our machines? Again as with wind and PV solar power, bio-fuels must be small scale to be sustainable and as such cannot be more than a niche energy source. One admittedly, I use to full advantage every winter.

    Regarding our arch-nemesis; fossil fuels: It matters not how efficient the engine, CO2 is still the result. Although, we can certainly do far better in this regard then we are. There is no technological or economical reason why our automobiles are not getting literally hundreds of miles to the gallon or why we even continue to romance this technology. Even here in Canada with our geographical vastness and low population density, public mass transit beats out the automobile every time! Yet we continue to pour billions into automobiles and automobile based infrastructure while public mass transit takes a far distant back seat. As just illustrated, automobile jargon even permeates our psyche! THIS MUST CHANGE! For this to happen, we need abundant, reliable, safe and clean energy.

    It has been proposed that we capture and sequester CO2. Ok, that may work for point sources but what about the almost 1 billion vehicles on the roads of the world, the thousands of ships on the water and aircraft in the skies? When will this even start to happen and at what cost? More importantly, is there any evidence to suggest that storing CO2 in gaseous form underground is even a good idea? What effect will it have on the micro-organisms living there? What would be the effect of a sudden, massive release from an earthquake for example? I think it foolish in the extreme to jump headlong onto this speeding band-wagon before we ascertain if it has breaks. This in view of the fact that technology already exists such that CO2 can be combined with hydrogen to produce synthetic fuels (Fischer–Tropsch process). What then is the logic behind sequestering what could be a relatively clean energy resource in its own right? An inexhaustible, reusable hydrocarbon!

    Did this not occur to anyone?

    I find it surprising to say the least that Ontario numbers its hydro assets amongst its “green” energy mix. Apparently destroying river eco systems and flooding vast areas of land behind hydro dams is an environmentally friendly pursuit. I have a sneaking suspicion that the fish, fauna and flora destroyed as a result may hold a slightly different view. Furthermore, catastrophic failures of hydro dams have caused more death and destruction then all of the nuclear weapons and nuclear accidents combined. A fact usually lost in the debate. Yes, hydro can be done in a more eco friendly manner, like pontoon supported, floating generators and “run of the river” installations but again, this is largely not considered. Again sadly, I could fabricate such a contrivance over the course of a weekend using materials I currently have sitting around my yard. However, it would take years to get a permit from the MNR to put it in the river! Rules governing public access to and/or use of our many rivers apparently don’t apply to massive hydro dams!

    As for that panacea of all fuels; hydrogen: Well, only those who know nothing about this simplest of elements would consider it an energy source. In fact it is NOT an energy source, at least, not on earth. It doesn’t occur in its natural, elemental state anywhere on the planet. Huge amounts of energy would have to be expended to produce it. Then what?
    Storage and/or transportation of this element is problematic to say the least. As much or more energy is needed to produce it then it contains. Hydrogen is a problem, not a solution unless used in conjunction with CO2 to produce more fuel (natural gas) as mentioned above. This however, is a pollution mitigation strategy. It also takes energy to make, just far less than the CO2 sequester option.

    Even stranger is the simply vast amount of energy currently being unwittingly concentrated in our landfills. Converting MSW to energy produces, at a minimum; five times less pollution overall then it would produce if it was left in place. Never mind the vast recoverable resources. The answer of our municipal governments is blue, green and black box recycling. Ignoring of course, the plethora of studies that have proven conclusively the uselessness and futility of this expensive “waste diversion” pursuit! Don’t “divert” waste, use it! Ignorant fools are we that allow this obscenity to continue!

    As for conservation; it is easier to save a megawatt then to produce one.
    and is the absolute most effective way to reduce pollution caused by fossil generation. Unfortunately, our industries and governments haven’t heard that one yet. Where are the vacuum panel window panes, cavitation and/or induction water heaters, 300+ MPG automobiles, all electric public mass transit etc, etc? How can consumers consume less when only provided product choices that are either wasteful to use or become waste once used?

    Energy is the foundation upon which our industrialized world is built. Remove energy from our modern society and we are shivering in dark caves wearing the skins of animals whose flesh we consumed raw! Not a pretty picture is it? What then is Canada’s current stated energy policy? Which of the industrialized nations of the world currently has such a construct? Our money is still being squandered on repeating failed alternative energy experiments, hoping previously realized conclusions will be unfounded. Why do our governments ignore simple, inexpensive legislation mandating efficiency? This would be of far greater benefit I think but again for reasons I cannot comprehend, this is a rarity. There is no governing body in Canada whose sole purpose for existence is the protection of the environment. The government of Ontario would like you to believe otherwise but they cannot be both protecting the environment while they pollute and destroy it. The single worst air polluter in the country is The Corporation of The Province of Ontario through her sole ownership of Ontario Power Generation. Ontario has actually paid fines for this pollution to the Federal Government! Although the current premier of the province has promised several times to shut down these coal fired assets, apparently jobs and economy are of greater importance then is breathing! Some examples: We were slow to adopt the emissions certified woodstove and we have yet to implement meaningful legislation mandating these be used. Only the detonation of nuclear weapons and the disastrous event at Chernobyl released more radiological material into the environment then our CANDU reactors. The CANDU contains 9 kilometres of plumbing not found in any other reactor design of similar power output. The resulting myriad of constant leaks has caused tritium contamination in Lake Ontario at levels which prompted a recent advisory from Environment Canada. If not for the direct intervention of the IAEA which resulted in the immediate shutdown of several CANDUs, Ontario herself may well have been home to a Chernobyl-level event! Our criminal code has no environmental section. There are large expanses of this country that number amongst the worst polluted places on earth! Our governments have abdicated governance to industry and as a result we are being forced to be wasteful and polluting, many, like me, against our wills!

    My word! I’m ranting on like an environmentalist! If I have become that, it was and is by force, not choice! I find it more then a little disconcerting to have a multitude of “rights” bestowed upon me but absent from these are the right to breath unpolluted air, drink unpolluted water and eat unpolluted food! If one is choking to death on smog, or one’s body is full of pollution induced cancer, of what benefit is a growing economy and gainful employment? Yet we are being told that half the adult population of Canada will contract some form of cancer in their life so a cure needs to be found! A cure? What of a cause? Any guesses? The most precious gift one can give a child is a future. Who is currently offering them that? The only reason appears to be so the economy can continue to grow?! Apparently the genius’ that govern us are oblivious to the “cyclical economic model” What other explanation can there be for the existence of the municipal landfill or that greatest oxymoron of them all; “nuclear waste fuel”? Economy is directly based on energy and consumption. Not only consumption of energy but of everything else. Why then, must that which is consumed be forever discarded?

    So here in a brief commentary, our energy choices have seemingly been eliminated and as a result humanity is doomed! Well, should we be foolish and selfish enough to continue down the road we’re on, there is no doubt our fate will be quickly sealed!

    However, there is one energy source which has been in wide spread, continuous use since the first commercial generating station went online in Obninsk USSR in 1954. That most maligned, misunderstood and hated energy source that supplies a third of Ontario’s electricity and fully 15% of all electrical energy generated globally:


    No, I’m not being hypocritical; I haven’t flipped my lid, taken to the bottle or consumed a large quantity of leisurely pharmaceuticals! I was led to this conclusion by both a multitude of experts and the blatantly obvious. I discovered much to my shock and amazement, that society has not been given all the facts about nuclear energy. Actually, it appears we have been forced down a scientifically unnecessary, dangerous and fiendishly polluting path. If done properly, nuclear energy can usurp all other forms of energy combined, including fossil fuels -forever!! The hurdle: What investor will invest in something when the ROI will be for the benefit of his children? Damn few I think. And that is part the problem: Nuclear energy done right DOESN’T CONSUME ENOUGH! The current, linear, economic model fails completely! No wanton, wasteful consumption, no economy…


    Ok… France has both the cleanest air and the least expensive electricity in the EU. She gets fully 80% of her electricity from nuclear energy. France almost does nuclear energy the right way. She recycles her waste fuel. As a result France gets 100% more energy per unit volume of uranium then does Canada and reduces her waste volume by a whopping 90%. If she was to use a different form of reactor and fuel recycling she and every other of the almost 60 nuclear powered nations on the planet (including Canada) could increase their fuel efficiency by almost 1000%! That is almost 100 times more energy from the same amount of fuel!
    What nuclear waste?

    I discovered that science knew way back in 1946 how to extract all the energy (99.5%) out of uranium using a newly discovered feature of nuclear physics called “transmutation” and an unusual reactor called a “FAST” reactor. Ongoing research into this and other aspects of super-safe and ultra-efficient nuclear energy production has been ongoing since then and continues to this day. In 1984, Canadian Physicist Dr. Charles Till headed up a program at Argonne Laboratories to explore this
    technology to its logical conclusion. They utilized a unique reactor that, at the time, was already 20 years old; The Experimental Breeder Reactor #2 (EBR-II). This was called The Integral Fast Reactor Programme.
    The results exceeded their wildest dreams!

    This knowledge changed forever everything I thought I knew not only about nuclear energy but all energy! This has been amply reaffirmed by my continuing forays into the amazement that is current nuclear energy research. The technology, applied for the first time by Dr. Till and his team over 20 years ago, can supply 100% of humanities energy needs, pollution free, for longer then life will likely exist on this planet! And NO MELTDOWNS OR NUCLEAR WASTE LEGACY!
    Essentially, an Integral Fast Breeder Reactor makes its own fuel from its own waste!
    Oh, these can also be made of such a size as to be truck transportable. These are called “nuclear batteries” This allows for the distributed power generation favoured by the greens without the need of a grid. Every community regardless of size or location can have its own abundant, inexhaustible, stable, reliable safe and clean energy source.
    We can keep the forests for the trees!

    I don’t claim to be an expert on energy, just an insatiable student of it.
    The facts do not change because one refuses to believe them.
    Understanding a problem is 90% of the solution.
    Delaying the inevitable by ignoring the facts solves nothing!
    Apparently, another big part of what I was missing was the truth!

    Serendipity and longevity…

    Sean Holt
    914 Larocque Road
    Brightside, Ontario
    RR#4 Lanark, K0G 1K0
    (613) 259-5323

  35. To Mike Barnard:

    The recent “report” by the Ontario CMOH, Dr King, is not only NOT a “credible assessment” of health risks from wind turbines, it isn’t even a “credible assessment” of the literature it references! Astonishingly, much of the referenced material in the report contradicts the conclusions put forth by Dr. King. Additionally, and this is of paramount importance, Dr King is supposed to be our chief “medical” officer of health, yet she reviewed NO “medical” documentation and did NO “medical” review of any kind. Furthermore, she made no reference to a mountain (literally) of recommendations from the World Health Organization which again, completely contradict her conclusions. In point of fact, Dr. King appears to have intentionally ignored her fiduciary responsibilities and conducted her “literature review” in support of the pure fantasies CANWEA in part used to compel the government to defraud the people with the GEA!

    (Copied/pasted from the Ontario Health protection Act) “11. (1) Where a complaint is made to a board of health or a medical officer of health that a health hazard related to occupational or environmental health exists in the health unit served by the board of health or the medical officer of health, the medical officer of health shall notify the ministry of the Government of Ontario that has primary responsibility in the matter and, in consultation with the ministry, THE MEDICAL OFFICER OF HEALTH SHALL INVESTIGATE THE COMPLAINT TO DETERMINE WHETHER THE HEALTH HAZARD EXISTS OR DOES NOT EXIST. R.S.O. 1990, c. H.7, s. 11 (1). (Emphasis mine!)

    I am curious to learn how Dr. King accomplished this without a single complainant being interviewed by her or another medical professional on her behalf? Her responsibility under law is to the health of the people, not to be a puppet mouthpiece for self-interested lobbyists! I suspect she will be called to task in court on this “report” she herself discredited therein:

    “2.2.2 Sound Exposure Assessment Little information is available on
    actual measurements of sound levels generated from wind turbines and other environmental sources. Since there is no widely accepted protocol for the measurement of noise from wind turbines, current regulatory requirements are based on modelling (see section 3.0).”

    Strangely, this to is dismally inaccurate. Such methodology actually exists and has been used in the past. Interestingly, this study was done to establish minimum wind farm setbacks from seismic monitoring stations, not humans:

    However, the data collected and the methods developed for collecting it are exactly what the CMOH say’s doesn’t exist! Apparently, the CMOH would rather ignore this, and other similar studies, then do the job for which the taxpayer, NOT WIND ENERGY PROPONENTS, is paying her handsomely!

    It is not very comforting to learn that I am able to find considerably more scientifically valid information on this subject in a few hours then the CMOH did in many months. No one is paying me a dime! But then I wasn’t tasked with defending the indefensible either!

    If this is what we can expect from Dr. King on this health issue, I hope something worse and wider spread doesn’t grip the province – We’d be screwed!

    Mike, your many writings suggest you to be an intelligent individual. To paraphrase the immortal “X Files”: “The truth is out there”. Perhaps you would benefit from expanding your research horizons to include it.

    Sean Holt.

  36. Mike:

    The absolute garbage contained in current Ontario regulations for wind turbines setbacks has already been solidly debunked by the World Health Organization. In point of fact, every study undertaken by scientists (NOT sanctioned by the wind industry!) very clearly indicate that any noise measurements based solely on the “A” scale (dbA) are worthless for any source with a subsonic component like wind turbines. All “real” studies recommend such measurements also include dbC, dbG and even dbZ scales to more accurately measure all frequencies known to affect biological systems including ours. Apparently the ISO developed such a standard in 1995 and ANSI standardized the measuring devices and methods by which these tests are to be done. Strange how NONE of this was alluded to in the recent CMOH report. I wonder if she would ignore the complainants and simply review literature for a SARS outbreak?

    My “X files” reference was intentional and it made the desired point on fantasy you were quick to grasp. Perhaps you and other proponents of wind energy can leave the fantasies out of your wild claims as to its efficacy. Better yet, go to Spain and try to re-sell it to them or perhaps Denmark… Germany maybe? How about the IPCC? They rate its efficacy very poorly as well! Pretty safe bet Ontario can do without the $0.35/kwh electricity (Denmark) or the devastated economy (Spain/California) but hey, business is already leaving Ontario as a direct result of our expensive power. That was before the HST!

    I’m absolutely certain I have a very firm grip on reality. As for proponents of “green” energy… Well the complete absence of any confirmed success stories anywhere in the world pretty much says it all! Are there more than 60,000 wind turbines worldwide? –Absolutely! Have they replaced a single fossil fueled generator? Absolutely NOT!
    Physicist Dr. Charles Till had this to say when asked: Q: What will be our energy source, then, what about Solar, Wind?”
    A:” No. Small amounts. Small amounts only. The simplest form of pencil calculation will tell you that.”

    But then, what does a physicist know about energy?

    Fantasy indeed!

    Sean Holt.

    • Mike Barnard

      Sean asserts the following: “The absolute garbage contained in current Ontario regulations for wind turbines setbacks has already been solidly debunked by the World Health Organization.”

      Please provide a specific reference and whatever logic is associated with this. In all my reading I didn’t discover anything from the WHO debunking the setbacks. They, like everyone including the wind panel you folks so vigorously deride, concur that noise can be annoying, that this can cause sleep loss and that this is a health concern. That’s what the setbacks are mostly for. It’s unclear how everyone agreeing on that point is considered a debunking.

      Even more to the point, I just went to and searched for “windfarm”, “wind farm”, “wind turbines”, “wind energy health” and a couple of others. And I repeated the attempt using Google’s “site:” additive.

      Oddly, I was unable to find much of anything that the WHO has published on the subject of wind turbines.

      There is this reference which has a California local setback beside a WHO link to community noise guidelines that don’t mention wind turbines. Is that what you meant?

      The community noise guidelines are quoted widely, including by Dr. Pierpoint. They don’t mention wind turbines or setbacks at all. Is that perhaps what you meant?

      Or did you just leap blindly to a conclusion because you had already formed an opinion?

      For subsonic, I presume you mean very low frequency sound in the range of 1-20 hz. This is not the same as how often the sound repeats (the beat) by the way, as there seems to be some confusion in the anti-wind crowd on this point. In fact, the CMOH study addresses this, as does a bunch of other work referenced by them. Wind turbines just don’t generate enough decibels at this range to be of concern. The dba scale is appropriate in these situations, regardless of what wind turbine haters would like to believe. Please feel free to provide references to the ‘real’ studies you allude to.

      Also, do feel free to go look at actual reports of wind energy penetration, efficiency and inter-country transmission coming from Europe, as opposed to anti-wind spin. Please help me understand why significant reduction of green house gases through lower use of fossil fuel generation early in the rollout of wind generation is a failure merely because no fossil fuel plant has been sunset.

      Sorry Sean, but you aren’t referencing original sources whose validity and applicability can be referenced. Your one generic reference was shown to be inaccurate. You’ll have to raise your game if you actually want to play.

      That all said, there are real drawbacks to wind energy that are worth discussing and mitigating as part of an overall energy ecosystem. Care to have a useful discussion?


      • JK SMITH

        Wow!!! Finally somebody who is sane! Good work Mike. I too have tried and tried to find the WHO reference often quoted. I haven’t found one either.

  37. Sean Holt

    First, let me qualify the health risks from infrasonic sources: These will adversely affect somewhere between 10 and 40% of animals with vestibular organs. It may or may not affect you or me. However, that is a far greater percentage of the animal population of the world then was recently affected by swine flu. I seem to recall a very concerted effort on behalf of the world’s Chief Medical Officers Of Health on that issue. I am asking for nothing less on this one. I don’t “blindly form opinions”. I actually used to spew much of the same things you are in support of wind and other supposedly “green” energy technologies. That was almost twenty years ago when I, like most people, based my rantings on intuition instead of science. Had you read my initial long winded posting to this blog, you would have known that. The current setbacks for wind turbines in Ontario have nothing to do with noise below the range of human hearing. So long as measurements are solely based on the dbA scale they are useless. As the CMOH has already said (and I already posted the quote), current regulations are based solely on modeling and not any real measurements. A link to actual infrasonic measurements directly related to wind turbines was also provided and is again (4). As you were apparently unable to find other relevant information yourself, let me do that for you:
    2) Cochlear Fluids Research Laboratory, Washington University in St. Louis

    You will no doubt notice that I didn’t include any links to The World Health Organization. I’m pretty sure you can find them yourself. When you do, try searching “noise”. Does it apply specifically to wind turbines? No. Is this relevant? No. Why? Because the WHO DOES support what many of the other links show about the effects of noise generally. As for the relationship between any of this and wind turbine setbacks… Well the fourth link is very specific and the title of the document presented in the third link pretty much says it all and its contents are especially illuminating.
    I have no idea what you are talking about when you say; “Please help me understand why significant reduction of green house gases through lower use of fossil fuel generation early in the rollout of wind generation is a failure merely because no fossil fuel plant has been sunset.” I can find NO EMPIRICAL EVIDENCE that supports “significant reduction of green house gases” as a result of wind anywhere EVER! In point of fact, the country with the largest per capita wind capacity on the planet, Denmark, actually has far MORE fossil generation then she did BEFORE her foolish experiment with wind. Her coal consumption has decreased a paltry 1.54% in twenty years but her natural gas has INCREASED from 0% to 23% of her total grid capacity. After twenty years of trying, I don’t think you can say its “early in the rollout” anymore. As I apparently am given to forming opinions before I have facts, simply go to the International Energy Agency website. It’s all there. I trust you can find it yourself? I also suggest you take a look at their 2009 World Energy Outlook. Doesn’t look like wind will be making “significant reduction of green house gases” any time soon either! As for my true feelings on all things energy, please re-read my initial post. I am simply looking for a better future for my children and I have expended considerable effort in ascertaining what that should be, not in my opinion, but in the opinions of those who have devoted their lives to determining such things. If “green” energy could usurp fossil fuels in any meaningful way, I’d be in there with both feet. However, all the empirical data I have been able to find to date indicates otherwise in a very compelling way. Even the IPCC rates it very poorly in this regard. If you can provide empirical data that would indicate otherwise, I would be very interested in seeing it. You see, I happen to believe that wind CAN make a meaningful contribution to our future energy needs, just NOT in its current configuration. I even have one or two (or more) designs drawn up that may serve to accomplish this. However, with all the money going to repeating already failed energy experiments, there is little left for innovation and/ or R+D. So unfortunately, my children may be forced to inherit a bigger mess then should otherwise be the case. Big money, be it fossil or “alternate energy”, doesn’t care about my children so long as their obscene, heavily subsidized profits continue to roll in! That just leaves me! Unfortunately, my money is being stolen from me to finance these frauds, leaving me with fewer resources to actively pursue what may actually be something helpful! Yeah, I’ve conjured up tons of ways to drastically reduce fossil fuel use as well! By conservation! At least this is a PROVEN way to reduce CO2 emissions!
    Right now, I’m fighting like hell against both fossil AND alternate energy in their current incarnations and that won’t change until I find compelling evidence to the contrary or I die trying!
    Just out of curiosity… You’re not employed by or profiting from the energy sector are you?
    Sean Holt.


    • Mike Barnard

      Hi Sean . . .

      Thanks for actually providing a moderate and referenced post. I see you agree that WHO did not demolish the wind farm setbacks, but that others have concerns and use WHO material as a basis. That’s excellent movement toward a useful discussion. I’ll get to your specific points around health shortly, now that you’ve made some arguable and referenced ones instead of inflammatory and unreferenced ones.

      Please note that I did read your initial, very lengthy post. As has been discussed on this blog before your arrival, Gen IV reactors are not in commercial production and very few are planned worldwide. The handful still running are not production but research generators. Best estimates are that they could become commercially available by 2020 with three times the cost per megawatt hour of installed wind.

      Advocates of fast breeders as the solution to anthropogenic global warming indicate that one reactor would have to come online every week for approximately 25 years to supplant current production and projected growth. At a cost of approximately $8-10 billion per reactor, the total cost is in the range of $10 trillion. As there are much more significant social impediments to nuclear energy than to other forms of energy, effectively making them political suicide to build in most democratic countries, an unprecedented world wide consensus would be required to implement this. I concur that there isn’t significant investment in research in this space; it’s extremely difficult to make a hard business case for it unless you have a bunch of unionized nuclear physicists sitting around that you can’t fire. That said, Bill Gates is a fan (partly based on a UofWinnipeg prof’s writings) and is putting some money into the space, mostly from his philanthropic foundation as far as I could tell: future good as intelligent charity.

      Advocates of Gen IV reactors also base a lot of their arguments on two contexts: base load and dispatchability. I completely agree that nuclear is great for baseload and a necessary part of our energy infrastructure. However, they suck at dispatchability in the opposite manner of wind turbines: they are very hard to turn up or down. What nuclear advocates, especially those converted from the anti-wind camp, tend to forget is that this model requires just as much energy storage or easily turned on generation such as gas turbine plants as wind or solar does. The majority of pumped hydro in the US, for example, was built to give nuclear power plants something to do at night.

      Proponents of big central generation tend to significantly undervalue energy storage (even the nuclear guys despite the pumped hydro reality referenced above) as well as smart grid and deeply interconnected grids. While we’re behind other countries, especially Korea, in the development of smart grids, major provincial utilities in Canada are investing heavily in this space with major programs starting up in 2-3 provinces that I’m aware of. In Ontario there’s already been significant upgrading of our interconnections with bordering jurisdictions for energy market sales with more in plan. Sometimes Ontario buys, sometimes it sells.

      What it nets out to is that despite the apparently high cost of wind per megawatt, it’s much less expensive than nuclear, and the energy storage or backup capacity is required by both. There are differential costs around the distribution grid, but those are required to accommodate biogas, solar, local geothermal and other forms of distributed generation as well as wind, so should be spread across the entire spectrum of distributed generation.

      So, will nuclear be part of the answer? Sure will, as will wind, conservation (although this is a harder social nut to crack than you seem to think; this is an area I think you need to think more on), clean coal, oil, solar and others. However, nuclear is not the only answer.

      I’d suggest you troll through the two reasonable sized threads on Margaret’s blogs looking at references I’ve provided in the past around this point. Shouldn’t take more than 20 minutes to scan for the links supporting this.

      As for me, you’ll also find that every few weeks I have to tell someone new the following. I don’t work in energy, I don’t make money from wind and I’m not a PR flack for anybody. I’m a private citizen with a deep interest, a global perspective and a systems mindset who is willing to do the research to form his own opinions. I am fascinated by the odd bedfellows and many poor arguments coming out of the anti-wind camp, and I’m willing to invest a couple of hours a week in a couple of forums to debunk the truly off-the-wall ones, and find the nuggets of truth in the rest (see the bird/bat thread for example). I am interested in how wind energy is raising its game, getting past its growing pains and delivering value. My name is in clear text, as is yours. You won’t find any Mike Barnard making money off wind energy except for an anti-wind advocate in the UK who takes money to ‘testify’ at various events and local hearings, kind of like Dr. Pierpoint on a smaller scale.


      • JK SMITH

        Right on! “Gen IV reactors are not in commercial production and very few are planned worldwide. The handful still running are not production but research generators. Best estimates are that they could become commercially available by 2020 with three times the cost per megawatt hour of installed wind.” That’s what I have found as well.

  38. Sean Holt


    What a strange and liberating feeling… I had composed a long winded rebuttal equal to your last long winded post. I even included a glimpse into my own designs for integral wind turbines incorporating non-pulsing, linear wind generation and in-structure energy storage, none of which requires new or undeveloped technologies. Then it hit me: To what end? I erased it all. I didn’t even keep a copy!
    Discussion is ostensibly a useful tool to resolving differences and sharing knowledge. However, recently I find myself engaged in blogging and emailing with individuals on every side of energy and environment. Sadly, I have come away from this activity with nothing more than a sense of impending doom! I have acquired no new knowledge. No one, no matter their level of expertise has taught me anything that I had not already learned more than a decade ago, well before I became engaged in this debate! Our air, ground and water continue to be polluted at an increasing rate, the environment upon which or very existence relies, continues to be exploited and destroyed. We the people are simply here to suffer the consequences and pay the price! Wind turbines, solar panels and coal won’t power or replace our cars or airliners, they won’t turn our garbage, sewage or nuclear waste into energy, replace lost photosynthesis, nor will they make our race less selfish, greedy and measurably more efficient. Until such time as we seriously address that which is obvious, debating the merits or not of “more of the same” is pointless.

    I bid you peace, longevity and serendipity…


    • Mike Barnard

      Well, Sean, I wish you good luck with your pessimism, despair and omniscience. I chose optimism, hope and a realization that everything I learned meant there was more for me to learn about 15 years ago. It’s worked out better for me than the alternative, and better for my pragmatic drive for real solutions to big problems.


  39. Mike Barnard

    Ontarians continue to overwhelmingly support Wind Power:


  40. Mike Barnard

    More good news on wind turbines from the UK

    The number of UK wind turbines is set to rise to avert a power crisis, Energy Secretary Chris Huhne has indicated.


  41. I know this if off topic but I’m looking into starting my own weblog and was curious what all is needed to get set up? I’m assuming having a blog like yours would cost a pretty penny? I’m not very internet savvy so I’m not 100% positive. Any recommendations or advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks

    • marg09

      Hello: Doing a blog is free — there are a number of platforms and tools you can use, including WordPress, which is what this blog uses. If you put “setting up a blog” into your search engine, you will find several of the most-used ones. Good luck! M

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