Saturday, January 10, 2009

Wind Hustlers

So like the medicine shows of old, sky smoothies in suits tour rural Ontario, pitching hopefully rube councils the virtue of Catching The Invisible Wind.

After all, these friends of the Ontario government--and numbered companies who'd like to be buddies of the government--will be subsidized and tax-breaked up the yin-yang to erect 40-storey wind turbines all over the Algonquin boondocks. (Turbines sounds much better than windmills, dude. Very high tech.)

The wind catchers will operate when the wind blows--just 30% of the time--pissing a piddle of power into the grid now and then, but the when cannot be predicted. Or harnessed. Or stored. So the same coal/oil/nuke that currently fuels the grid will grind away 24/7 just like now. Duh.

Wind blows hardest when it knocks down trees or during ice storms when the power grid goes down. Will the blades spin in vain? Or not spin at all? What's wrong with this picture?

How often does the electric grid blink or fail in rural Ontario? There is a more consistent power supply in Ecuador.

Each wind-generated kilowatt hour will be purchased at a guaranteed McGuinty price that is three to five times the price of a kilowatt from existing sources. This surcharge will be passed along to Hydro One customers, like the Retiring Past Mistakes entry on each bill which repents the sins of the 1950s. We have new sins.

Nobody really knows what happens to a 400-foot high windmill in an Ontario ice storm. Can blades the size of jet planes hurl ice slabs? Does the whole structure go down, like a high tension hydro tower?

What happens to wildlife?
Or neighbours within earshot?
How bad are the sound and vibration?
Are there health implications?
How much land will bulldozers tear up to place these suckers?
Who removes them if a cheaper, better source of power makes turibines antiques?
Shut up.

That is why the wind experiment must be carried out east of Algonquin park, where eyesores can easily be erected on heights of land. That these low-per-capita income areas of rural Ontario rely on tourism to survive is... well, what would the word be? Unfortunate? Opportune?

I know! Green!

Ontario must retro-fit all existing Group of Seven paintings to include a large wind turbine next to Tom Thomson's scraggly pine.

If Ontario's cities are the main beneficiary of schemes to feed their wretched excess, shouldn't they lead by example?

I want a wind turbine atop each turret of Queens Park. How about one to replace the communications mast on the CN Tower? Imagine Rochester, green with envy to see a propeller spin atop Toronto's landmark beanie.

Each Toronto skyscraper should have its own rooftop wind turbine to supply--a third of the time--the electric needs of Commerce Court or the Toronto-Dominion Centre. Who needs a grid? Just a long extension cord to the roof. Why they could leave the lights on all night! Whoops, I forgot. They do that anyway.

Where does the wind blow harder than straight in off Lake Ontario?


Alas this is not the plan.

No windmills allowed in David Smith or Dalton McGuinty's yard, thank you.

Rural councils smell a Wind Hustle that will benefit everyone but themselves, and are dragging their feet. Will they get free power? No. Tax benefits for ratepayers? No. Construction gigs? Hah! A little brushing? Maybe.

One rebel council slyly passed a resolution to make no decision in the matter for 10 years.

That prompts Queens Park to fast-track the Wind Hustle and bypass the locals entirely. Shut up! This is called parliamentary democracy.

So we'll get costly power--but only 30% of the time--from unsightly structures taxpayers have underwritten in subsidies and breaks, from towers that won't make much of a dent in the "dirty" supply we use now.

A few favoured companies will roll in free taxpayer cash.

Turbines will go up whether tourists, taxpayers, MPs or locals want them or not. But only in areas that don't have the population or pull to do much about it. What luck!

Why I'm feeling greener already.

Pass the barf bag.