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November 25, 2008 7:20 AM   Subscribe

Offshore wind farm stirs up a tempest. Lines are being drawn in the battle over a proposed windmill development to be built in Lake Ontario two kilometres out from the Scarborough Bluffs? Is this just another case of NIMBYism? Or are wind farms unreliable, dangerous to migratory birds, and a source of health problems for people who live near them?
posted by you just lost the game (76 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
At first glace in SEEMS like another case of NIMBY, but that's been my assumption about this all along. It seems like people will tell you they're all for alternative energy sources, but as soon as it requires any sort of sacrifice on their part, they're out.
posted by Hachijuhachi at 7:26 AM on November 25, 2008


Your second-last link actually refutes the danger to birds, and your last link doesn't really apply (nobody lives two kilometres off-shore). So, I'm going to have to go with NIMBYism on this one.
posted by rocket88 at 7:29 AM on November 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


Not a question, yes, no no and no.

And I wish they'd build wind farms near me. I think they look great and not just because they are clean.
posted by DU at 7:30 AM on November 25, 2008


What the heck is in our water supply!

The "health problems caused by windmills" thing reminds me of "chemical sensitivity" or electromagnetic sensitivity.
posted by delmoi at 7:35 AM on November 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


NIMBY. I drive by two large wind farms frequently, and I really love the way they look on the ridgelines. I do hope, though, that the danger to birds and bats turns out to not be as significant as some people claim, although I am sure there is some impact.
posted by Forktine at 7:36 AM on November 25, 2008


Normally I'd point and laugh at the "sensitive" people near the turbines but a year and a half ago my wife developed health problems after they installed a new ventilation system at her work. The low frequency vibrations were driving her mad and causing a weird kind of tinnitus. Fortunately something shifted or got broken in and the vibration subsided.

Maybe there's a way to noise-cancel and partially eliminate the vibration by generating a phase shifted or inverted version of the waveform. Though that would take a lot of energy.
posted by fleetmouse at 7:39 AM on November 25, 2008


The "health problems caused by windmills" thing reminds me of "chemical sensitivity".

Or "peanut allergy". Ha ha ha! You neurotic kids and your anaphylactic shock!
posted by fleetmouse at 7:42 AM on November 25, 2008


Oops. If an admin could remove the "?" after "Bluffs" and replace it with a "." I'd appreciate it.
posted by you just lost the game at 7:51 AM on November 25, 2008


Or "peanut allergy". Ha ha ha! You neurotic kids and your anaphylactic shock!

Right, a fake thing is just like a real thing. If you care about one and not the other, you're a hypocrite!
posted by delmoi at 7:53 AM on November 25, 2008 [10 favorites]


I love the arguments about protecting the ecosystem...
From the wikipedia link:
The Scarborough Bluffs had been eroding at a rapid rate since cottages were built near the edge in the 1940s and this problem escalated in the 1970s when a six-metre chunk fell off the Bluffs.Homeowners knew that erosion would occur, but the waterfront views were enticing enough to settle there, which led to a housing boom along the Bluffs, which was responsible for the accelerating rate of erosion.
The ecosystem matters to them, but not enough to prevent them from living there. NIMBY, FTW.
posted by ShadowCrash at 7:56 AM on November 25, 2008 [4 favorites]


Guildwood resident Roy Wright said he collected a petition with more than 100 signatures from neighbours upset the turbines would "be right in their backyard." ... "I like the idea of a wind farm. I'm the greenest guy in Toronto," Mr. Wright said. "I guess it's location more than anything else."
I'm guessing I can find someone greener in Toronto.
posted by ShadowCrash at 7:58 AM on November 25, 2008 [5 favorites]


NIMBYism is what it is, either you can overcome it or you can't, time will tell, although I would like to say I think to put matters of aestethics above potentially serious issues of human driven climate change and also energy sustainability has the priorities in wrong order.

The link about unreliability is not about a technical matter with the turbines as I first thought but about the sustained power generation of wind power. It is accepted that wind doesn't neccessarily blow all the time, but this depends on where you site the plants to a very large extent. Off-shore windmills are difficult to install, difficult to maintain, and the sea environment is harsh on the mechanics so why do it at all? One of the biggest reasons is the wind environment is much more stable and predictable than on land. If you plan carefully and you make detailed measurements before installing them you can get the turbine to generate power sustainably at good rates most of the year.

That you need alternative standby powerplants is no different from more traditional power grids, since you need to be able to take elements of the infrastructure offline, for maintenance for example, and for unforseen breakdowns, and demand spikes.
granted, using windpower, the confluence of potential worst case scenarios like for example no wind in the entire network does make emergency requirements larger, but this depends on how big your grid is. If sufficiently large, this CANNOT happen. The climate is simply too volatile.

Also, the point brought up that it is more sensible just to use less power seems to be a very hard sell politically. How do you do it? In many european countries exorbitant taxes on power are levied on consumers to try to encourage power saving in the most efficient way we know: By penalising them financially, and the results are reasonable but limited. People will use their computer and dishwasher and keep the lights on no matter the cost.

As far as I know the thing about birds is true if you place your turbine directly on a migratory path, otherwise the number of bird deaths is pretty neglible.

And about the last link I'll repeat a line from it:"More studies are required". Wind turbines is nothing new, they've been around for decades, and no link has yet been found between ill health and proximity to them. That doesn't mean it doesn't exist is simply means we need to know more.
posted by Catfry at 8:05 AM on November 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


I don't think it's unreasonable of people to ask for a few simple things:

1) No foreign oil. We only prop up bad dictators and ruin desert ecosystems by relying on Middle Eastern petroleum.

2) No domestic drilling for oil. Our resources are few and precious, and any drilling would be in far-reaching areas where extraction would be difficult, net energy negative, and harmful to the environment.

3) No nuclear energy. Waste is hazardous and difficult to dispose of.

4) Coal should be neither mined nor burned. Both processes are dirty, hazardous, and most damningly, icky, because poor people are the ones who do it.

5) Alternative energy should be quiet, unobtrusive, and attractive. I've been promised by fancy commercials that we have both the technology and the resources to make alternative energy unseen and unheard. Maybe some sort of glowing white pod at the bottom of a hill somewhere, doing God knows what - anyway, that's why we hire engineers from India to do all that math and physics legwork.

6) Alternative energy should be as efficient as petro energy. This is just obvious. Wind energy should be as easy and productive as sticking a straw in the ground and burning the goo that comes out of the earth. Otherwise, why are we even pursuing the technology? How about it, science?

7) People should not be asked to move away from certain places or to other places.

I think that these are reasonable foundations upon which to build a sensical, no-nonsense, non-ideological energy policy.
posted by billysumday at 8:06 AM on November 25, 2008 [3 favorites]


"I guess it's location more than anything else."

This is the very definition of NIMBY. He even literally says they are upset that the turbines would be "right in their backyard".

Also, if your backyard is 2 km offshore, you can probably afford to buy a new backyard somewhere with no windfarms, like an oilfield or city dump.
posted by DU at 8:07 AM on November 25, 2008


As a Toronto resident, (but not a Scarborough resident), I feel the opposition to this location is essentially NIMBY... sorry neighbours. The proposed site is far enough offshore that there will be no noise impact whatsoever to any residents. The location is not on land, so I don't see how bats would be affected.

I only hope that impact to waterfowl and migratory birds and insects can be minimised.

Anyhoo, this is very early days. All that's happening now is a monitoring station to measure the winds out there. As a Lake Ontario sailor, I can attest that the wind on the Lake isn't exactly epic (on summer days anyways) so it remains to be proven that the proposed location would be windy enough to be viable.

There was similar objection to windfarms offshore at Cape Cod a few years back, wasn't there?
posted by Artful Codger at 8:09 AM on November 25, 2008


I'd like to say that this couldn't be me, but the fact that I think windmills (either traditional or high-tech) look fabulous means that I have little sympathy for these people for that reason alone. Would I want something I thought looked hideous in sight of something I paid a lot for because of the view? Don't know. But I'd like to think I'd do my bit and not get in the way of real (sustainable) progress.

Just another example of "I'm for it so long as it costs me nothing" environmentalism.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 8:12 AM on November 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


Even if I thought something was hideous, I'd still feel like a jack ass to oppose it if it's 2km from my house on public land. If you honestly think it will affect your health I can see lobbying against it, but opposing this for purely aesthetic reason is immoral.
posted by ShadowCrash at 8:26 AM on November 25, 2008


I didn't release that migratory birds had devolved to the point where they no longer had eye's or functioning brains...

Such a shame really, well on the bright side they should be easier to catch and quite tasty too...
posted by jkaczor at 8:30 AM on November 25, 2008


realize not release... sigh.
posted by jkaczor at 8:30 AM on November 25, 2008


Just another example of "I'm for it so long as it costs me nothing" environmentalism.

It's worse than that. It's a case of "I'm for it so long as I can't imagine any ridiculous improbable costs".

Normally I'd point and laugh at the "sensitive" people near the turbines but a year and a half ago my wife developed health problems after they installed a new ventilation system at her work. The low frequency vibrations were driving her mad and causing a weird kind of tinnitus. Fortunately something shifted or got broken in and the vibration subsided.


Don't you think the fact that problem went away with no discernible change in the air ventilation system points to something else being the cause such as an ear infection or injury that healed?
posted by srboisvert at 8:34 AM on November 25, 2008


I'm sorry, but decisions like this are only supposed to adversely affect poor people. There must be some Indian reservation where this can go, mustn't there?

That's the way it's always been done. Why else be rich?

Oh, and: NIMBY.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:35 AM on November 25, 2008 [2 favorites]


Well, glad to know the people of the earth will be ready for non-petroleum-based energy sources as soon as they are completely perfect and without any drawbacks. I'm sure we'll get there soon.

And as for the negative health effects of turbines, maybe they exist, maybe they don't. Sounds kind of unlikely to me, but hey, who knows.

*sits back and waits patiently for controlled double blind study*
posted by Salvor Hardin at 8:43 AM on November 25, 2008


Even if I thought something was hideous, I'd still feel like a jack ass to oppose it if it's 2km from my house on public land. If you honestly think it will affect your health I can see lobbying against it, but opposing this for purely aesthetic reason is immoral.

I was having trouble conjuring an appropriate image, till I remembered the monstrous artificial tree-towers that MeFi seemed to hate so much. But yeah, 2km. Seriously.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 8:47 AM on November 25, 2008


billysumday: Your list is a perfect example of why we're in this mess. "My electricity should come from a magical white sphere that takes up little space and emits no pollutants". With fantasies like that, no wonder people can't make rational choices about their energy supply. If you enjoy your air conditioner and street lighting, be prepared to accept some consequence for your luxury. EVERY generating technology has an impact.

Which segues nicely to my response to the article. The only way to beat NIMBYism (which is on full display here) is to engage / pay-off the community (In development circles they call it "building ownership"). Get a charismatic politician (Mayor Miller?) to stick his neck out for it. Start an advertising campaign called "Scarborough - Toronto's greenest suburb". Build a "center of excellence". Hold an environmental technology job fair. Get LOTS of good press. Do this WAY in advance, so that by the time you're into public consultations the whole community sees it as a matter of pride. Hell, if Kinkardine residents can support a nuclear station, surely Torontonians can get behind a wind farm.
posted by Popular Ethics at 8:53 AM on November 25, 2008 [2 favorites]


I actually had the opportunity to chat with the executive VP of power development at Ontario Power Generation about a month ago, and her position is that NIMBYism is obsolete; the new acronym the business uses to describe the public mood towards new power installations is "BANANA."

Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anybody.

They're kind of cynical by this point.
posted by mightygodking at 8:53 AM on November 25, 2008 [14 favorites]


I did a lot of research into windmills a while back, because of a proposed windmill development in my town. What I ultimately decided was:
* The big turbines are somewhat noisier than the windmill companies will admit. But only if you're right up close to them; at any reasonable distance it sounds like light traffic.
* The strobing light caused when the sun shines through the blades is kind of irritating, and I can imagine it causing psychological problems, if not physical health problems. But only if you're literally in the shadow of the turbine for substantial parts of the day.
* The 'but what about the birds?' argument is mostly based on older windmills, which are closer to the ground and sat on frameworks of trusses and struts that look like inviting perches. I'm sure birds still occasionally fly into the new single-pole turbines, but then again birds also occasionally fly into our living room window, leaving sad little splodges of feathers stuck to the glass. There are a lot more windows around here than windmills.
* Opponents of windmill farms are absolute fucking lunatics. At least the ones in my town are. We got mailings from these folks that may as well have been scribbled in crayon for all the sense they made. One guy stood up at a town meeting to announce that windmills don't actually generate power; the windmill companies actually use motors to spin them so it looks like they're generating power. To fool us. I hate to admit it, but that right then was when I decided to support the windmill project wholeheartedly.

Based on the first two points, I can see being opposed to a windmill if it's being built literally in your backyard, or even your next-door-neighbor's backyard. But being opposed to a windmill that's being built more than a mile offshore? That just means you're an idiot.
posted by ook at 8:54 AM on November 25, 2008 [3 favorites]


Just wait until these folks hear about Korean "fan death".

The only thing we need now is a new term. "Windmill suffocation" is just terrible. Ideas? We can start a trend here....
posted by aramaic at 8:56 AM on November 25, 2008 [2 favorites]


Acronyms I've heard at power system planning conventions (mostly reappropriated from 1970s protest culture):

NIMBY
NOTE : Not Over There Either
NOPE : Not On Planet Earth
BANANA
CAVE (dweller): Citizens Against Virtually Everything
NIMEY : Not In My Election Year

Honestly, these people live in Scarborough. It's certain that more birds are killed by house pets and cars combined than could ever be threatened by large offshore windmills. There's far uglier things in their neighborhoods. And it sounds like the Hydro people have screwed up their PR, despite their efforts.
posted by anthill at 9:04 AM on November 25, 2008 [3 favorites]


Also: I'm feeling grumbly and already love this thread. Can we keep it going for a few thousand comments?
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 9:04 AM on November 25, 2008


I'm wondering if technology like that used to illuminate airplane wings on stealth aircraft at daytime - to help them blend in with a lit sky - could be (or is already) used to reduce the (already low) visibility of turbines.

I can't seem to find it but I feel like there was an FPP about that kind of illumination a while back. Wonder how much power it would take compared to what's generated. (I know I know - it's just NIMBY and unreasonable but if a small concession can either overcome the capricious objection or move past it to whatever the real objection is, that sounds like progress.)
posted by abulafa at 9:13 AM on November 25, 2008


> Can we keep it going for a few thousand comments?

Only if you can work in Sarah Palin somehow.
posted by The Card Cheat at 9:19 AM on November 25, 2008


For non-Torontonians, Scarborough/Ajax is here. Residents are sensitive about the suburb being the butt of jokes, mostly about being ugly urban sprawl. Some sample town slogans from a recent competition are here.

"Scarborough – A great place to visit"
"Scarborough – Urban sprawl at it's very best"
"Scarborough – A city you can never forget"
"Scarborough – A break from downtown!"
posted by anthill at 9:34 AM on November 25, 2008


There was similar objection to windfarms offshore at Cape Cod a few years back, wasn't there?

After seven years in planning and permitting, there still is.
posted by SteveInMaine at 9:35 AM on November 25, 2008


Can we keep it going for a few thousand comments?

Okay, here goes. (cracks neck, stretches fingers, long exhale...)

The people opposing this are probably Mormons. Catholicism is just as evil as Scientology, and I can prove it because a friend of mine was abused by a priest. Sarah Palin is a YIMBY. Barack Obama is really a stooge for the oil companies. Hey, look at this un-Photoshopped magazine cover! Compare it to what actually went out! Graphic design school is a waste of money. Peak oil already happened. Check out this animated video for this Swedish band. Muslims are really awful to women! Tom Cruise has weird teeth.
posted by billysumday at 9:35 AM on November 25, 2008 [2 favorites]


One thing about standard wind turbines that makes them dangerous to birds is that the blades are moving transverse to the flow. So a bird or bat approaching them is liable to be sideswiped.

I'm looking forward to some of the new technologies coming out that use rotating bodies with a single non-changing cross-section. They will be much easier for flying animals to avoid. For example, Helix Wind. There are also a number of airborne technologies which could see a lot of development in a wind-friendly administration. See, for example, Magenn. High altitude wind power generation has the additional advantage that it is above the surface boundary layer, so there is more energy to extract.
posted by Araucaria at 9:36 AM on November 25, 2008


> Can we keep it going for a few thousand comments?

Only if you can work in Sarah Palin somehow.


Funny you should mention. I caught some video of her yesterday giving a press conference in front of a waterfowl-beheading turbine.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 9:36 AM on November 25, 2008


Okay, add to my stack of nickel-iron batteries some of those nice turbines from Aerotecture. Just wish they'd work better in my area, which is rather low-wind.
posted by adipocere at 9:39 AM on November 25, 2008


I've been reporting on climate change and renewable energy for most of the last ten years, and I've yet to come across an argument against wind farms that amounts to anything more than NIMBYism.

The won't-someone-think-of-the-birds? canard (zing!) is a classic bait and switch. Oh, it's not our incredibly petty self-interests behind our heel-digging, it's our deep concern for our poor feathered friends. Sure, it is - and never mind that the average wind turbine kills an average of 2.19 birds per annum, or at most 2.5% of the fatalities caused by collisions with the average communications tower. And that's without even getting into the mass slaughter of birds caused by office towers left illuminated at night for no good reason.

But hey, I'm sure the avian-loving bleeding hearts of Scarborough Bluffs are also opposed to the improvement of their cell phone reception at such cost. And the construction of every building taller than three stories in the GTA. And they're leading the crusade to have their downtown offices' lights turned out each night. Right?

The most ridiculous part of this is that I'm reasonably certain no one opposing this development has ever seen an offshore windfarm. I spent a week in the vicinity of one in Denmark. It was I think 1.5 kilometres offshore, and on anything short of a crystal-clear cloudless day, the turbines weren't even visible as shadows on the horizon. The Middelgrunden windfarm 2km off the waterfront in Copenhagen is also rarely visible - I know because I went looking for it on an overcast day and couldn't find it. Had to spot it from my plane on departure.

So in addition to being essentially invisible for much of southern Ontario's grey winter and a good deal of its hazy summer, it's a safe bet the wind turbines would be invisible on the 10-50 smog alert days the GTA endures each year (which are of course a direct result of the problem windfarms and the like are attempting to begin to address).

But hey, don't take my word for it. Check out Jason Jones' brilliant evisceration of Nantucket's anti-wind NIMBYs. (Link for Soviet Canuckistanis here.) "Sometimes as a journalist there's things that you have to show the world that you wish you hadn't seen yourself."

I once met with a photography prof in Freiburg, Germany, where NIMBYs had blocked the expansion of wind development in the nearby hills of the Black Forest, claiming it was an unprecedented desecration of that sacred and pristine landscape. The prof had gone and shot pictures of other structures that had been permitted - communications towers, concrete hotel blocks, high-voltage lines - and aside from the spinning of the blades you'd be hard-pressed to make the argument the turbines were more invasive on the landscape. (On a side note, he discovered that if you photoshopped the telecom and electricity lines out of a photo and showed people the original and the doctored pic in succession, they usually couldn't figure out what the alteration was. We've so habituated certain kinds of visual noise on the landscape that we don't actually see it on some level.)

I'd argue as well that we've come to see communications towers and high-voltage lines as essential, while we still deem clean energy an option. We thus feel entitled to rule for or against it on basically arbitrary grounds. This is not a failure of wind power but a time lag in terms of our awareness of this century's necessities.
posted by gompa at 9:44 AM on November 25, 2008 [19 favorites]


I live a good part of my life in Palm Springs California, a beautiful desert resort at the base of a mountain that keeps all the costal weather and LA smog at bay. To the north of the city we have a vast collection of wind farms climbing up the hills that bound the Coachella valley. I believe that it is one of the oldest wind farms in America. Its been there for years, anyway. And the windmills have become a tourist attraction in themselves. I happen to think they are beautiful. But I must say that I have never heard a single complaint about damage to the ecosystem from anyone who lives there. Maybe some of the building developers who would have loved to build more condo estates on that land may be unhappy, but fortunately they are now pretty much out of business. And if anything has damaged the eco system it is these developments that have eaten much of the beautiful desert along, of course with around a hundred gold courses kept green twelve months a year. Of course, we don't hear any complaints about that either, except that the climate has actually been affected by them. Anyway, we are on the migratory route for a number of different birds species and they all still fly over and occasionally land. We are also on the route for monarch butterflies and they still visit us every year. Plus a vast variety of birds from hummingbirds to ravens still visit us in our garden daily. So it seems to me that NIMBYISM is the only answer.
posted by donfactor at 9:50 AM on November 25, 2008


I think to put matters of aesthetics above potentially serious issues of human driven climate change and also energy sustainability has the priorities in wrong order.

It is reasonable to be against wind farms if they are unnecessary.

If you want to talk about getting priorities right: conserve first. Companies need to build devices that do the same things but with half the electricity. Spend the innovation budget on reducing use. Cities at night are so bright from above because all of that generated light is wasted. Customers need to change out all of their crappy old electrical devices. The goal of every business and household should be to use less electricity, not more, from year to year. Adjust billing rates to reward low use and punish wasteful use.

And then maybe build generating units, but build them to replace dirtier units, not just to generate extra product that a corporation can sell to wasteful customers.
posted by pracowity at 9:50 AM on November 25, 2008


I live on Prince Edward Island, a place so great that we're investing one billion dollars in wind energy to try to boost the output to 30% of our energy consumption.

That said, there's a lot of opposition to it. The three major arguments are that wind turbines are negative to health (which is largely unscientific, and more a fear of the unknown kind of thing), they're loud (granted, they are) and that their existence lowers the property value of the people they surround. Everyone wants wind turbines, they just don't want them near their homes or near their natural beauty (there's also opposition to putting them near our beloved province-wide hiking trail, fearing they'll ruin the beauty). So, where do they propose we put them?

I can't believe that people think this way. Wind energy creates several hundred jobs in a place that really needs jobs (and the income created helps everyone), it helps ease the cost of electricity and it creates a niche tourism market for a place that's floundering. Yet, people are worried about selling the houses they have lived in for twenty years and have no plan on moving from in the near future.

I am starting to think that politics is a short-term, grab what you can enterprise because that's what the voters want for themselves. We want sustainable things, we just don't want to give anything up to get them. What can a politician do when this is the response they get? Act for the betterment of a people who will vote you out for their short-term losses?
posted by scabrous at 9:56 AM on November 25, 2008


Windmills aren't a danger to birds, they're a danger to BATS (they make them explode).

SAVE THE BATS!
posted by blue_beetle at 10:14 AM on November 25, 2008


pracowity
If you want to talk about getting priorities right: conserve first. Companies need to build devices that do the same things but with half the electricity. Spend the innovation budget on reducing use. Cities at night are so bright from above because all of that generated light is wasted. Customers need to change out all of their crappy old electrical devices. The goal of every business and household should be to use less electricity, not more, from year to year. Adjust billing rates to reward low use and punish wasteful use.

And then maybe build generating units, but build them to replace dirtier units, not just to generate extra product that a corporation can sell to wasteful customers.


What possible motive could you give anyone involved in this equation to act in this way?
posted by butterstick at 10:16 AM on November 25, 2008


I like the idea of something that will help evolve smarter birds. I have lived all my life disappointed that they have not lived up to the image given to us by Hitchcock.
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 10:26 AM on November 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


NIMBY CROWD:
A windfarm! A windfarm! A windfarm! A windfarm! We've found a windfarm! A windfarm! A windfarm! A windfarm! A windfarm! We've got a windfarm! A windfarm! A windfarm! Burn her! Burn her! Burn her! We've found a windfarm! We've found a windfarm! A windfarm! A windfarm! A windfarm!
NIMBY VILLAGER #1:
We have found a windfarm. May we burn her?
NIMBY CROWD:
Burn her! Burn! Burn her! Burn her!
BEDEVERE:
How do you know she is a windfarm?
NIMBY VILLAGER #2:
Her ‘whoosh whoosh’ noises make me dizzy.
NIMBY CROWD:
Right! Yeah! Yeah!
BEDEVERE:
Bring her forward.
WINDFARM:
I'm not a windfarm. I'm not a windfarm.
BEDEVERE:
Uh, but you do have big blades going round-a-bout.
WINDFARM:
They dressed me up like this.
NIMBY CROWD:
Augh, we didn't! We didn't...
WINDFARM:
And I didn’t kill this bird, it's a chicken they bought from the butcher shop and tied to my leg.
BEDEVERE:
Well?
NIMBY VILLAGER #1:
Well, we did do the chicken.
BEDEVERE:
The chicken?
NIMBY VILLAGER #1:
And the blades, but she is a windfarm!
NIMBY VILLAGER #2:
Yeah!
NIMBY CROWD:
We burn her! Right! Yeaaah! Yeaah!
BEDEVERE:
Did you dress her up like this?
NIMBY VILLAGER #1:
No!
NIMBY VILLAGER #2 and 3:
No. No.
NIMBY VILLAGER #2:
No.
NIMBY VILLAGER #1:
No.
NIMBY VILLAGERS #2 and #3:
No.
NIMBY VILLAGER #1:
Yes.
NIMBY VILLAGER #2:
Yes.
NIMBY VILLAGER #1:
Yes. Yeah, a bit.
NIMBY VILLAGER #3:
A bit.
NIMBY VILLAGERS #1 and #2:
A bit.
NIMBY VILLAGER #3:
A bit.
NIMBY VILLAGER #1:
She he is tall.
RANDOM:
[cough]
BEDEVERE:
What makes you think she is a windfarm?
NIMBY VILLAGER #3:
Well, she turned me into a newt.
BEDEVERE:
A newt?
NIMBY VILLAGER #3:
I got better.
NIMBY VILLAGER #2:
Burn her anyway!
DON QUIXOTE:
*Unsheaths sword*
posted by The Power Nap at 10:32 AM on November 25, 2008 [2 favorites]


Sigh. I'm a wind farm designer and operator, and I live in Scarborough (M1K, if you must know). I should mention that the meeting was not to discuss any potential wind farm, but just the siting of an offshore anemometer (actually, a LIDAR unit).

fleetmouse: low frequency noise is not emitted in any significant amount by wind turbines.

abulafa: since a lot of the time you're seeing wind turbines in silhouette against a bright sky, it's going to look dark. In mixed cloudy sky, the things have a habit of disappearing.

Araucaria: a wind turbine with a single non-changing cross-section is a drag device; they are inefficient and material intensive. And as for alternative designs, find me one with five years' field logs in all climates, a warranted operation of 20 years and a minimum initial service agreement for two years including LDs for downtime, and I'll talk to them. I suspect I may well retire before this happens.

The Power Nap: you might like some of this guy's videos, especially this one.
posted by scruss at 10:53 AM on November 25, 2008 [5 favorites]


i can't understand why the supposed health impacts of wind energy get more traction than the real, observed, documented black-and-white reality of those caused by nuclear power.

maybe we could get all these whiners from scarborough on a bus to port hope, so they can see what the alternative looks like. there's something to be said for having to live within sight of the facilities that produce the stuff you use, be it farms, power plants or manufacturing. if you don't want to live with the consequences, don't use the stuff.

i don't know, i've spent some time in cabazon and the turbines were never louder than the wind in my ears. i'd like to see a wind turbine right in the middle of the round-about, here in victoria.
posted by klanawa at 10:58 AM on November 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


If the wind turbines are 460ft. tall, and 2km offshore (conservative estimates), this is a scale photoshop of what the most pristine view possible in Scarborough would look like.

Compare this to the rest of the suburb, to the 750MW Portlands Energy Centre, or the stacks at Nanticoke. Not so bad, honestly.
posted by anthill at 10:59 AM on November 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


I dunno, the people who don't want this in their back yard have a great point. That's why the government should use its powers of eminent domain to claim their land and evict them, offering them the current fair market value for the property. Seems pretty obvious and fair to me.
posted by mullingitover at 11:09 AM on November 25, 2008


For efficiencies sake, Margaret Wente did us the favour of summarizing the numerous ridiculous strawmans against wind technology in a single column this morning.
posted by Adam_S at 11:17 AM on November 25, 2008


Some wind farms are bad for birds, old ones with fast turbines located right on migration corridors, of which there are a few. Most are not. It depends on location and turbine speed. Of course, those distinctions get lost because almost nobody actually cares about the birds. The only sources whose positions I trust on that issue are enviro groups with a track record of caring about global warming in general (and all the extinctions that will cause) and the birds themselves.

It sounds like the NIMBYs are getting overrun by better organized forces in favor of the turbines. So, how is this going to play out? Who gets to make the decision now -- the city government? What are the city politics like? Is there the Ontario equivalent of a CEQA lawsuit that the locals could use if the city votes for the turbines?
posted by salvia at 11:25 AM on November 25, 2008


how many birds does a turbine kill each year? for every turbine, we can off a few cats, and it'll more than balance out. cats and cars kill a staggering number of birds (mammals, reptiles and amphibians...) but nobody gives a crap about that. uranium and coal mining, oil drilling and hydro flooding aren't too good for wildlife either.
posted by klanawa at 11:57 AM on November 25, 2008


Windmills aren't a danger to birds, they're a danger to BATS (they make them explode).

Of course they're a danger to birds
. Furthermore, "Bird collision probability depended on species, turbine height (taller = more victims) and elevation above sea level (higher = more victims), implicating species-specific and topographic factors in collision mortality. There was no evidence of an association between collision probability and turbine type or the position of a turbine in a row."

It is encouraging that early studies of offshore farms seem to show that they're less likely to cause bird deaths.
posted by rtha at 12:04 PM on November 25, 2008


Hm, wind turbines don't even make the top 13 for bird deaths in North America, according to FLAP.
posted by anthill at 12:16 PM on November 25, 2008


The Center For Biological Diversity would doubtless dispute the findings cited in that New Scientist article. I wrote the CBD a few years ago, saying something to the effect that their taking such a hard line against wind farms seems a bit like missing the forest for the trees; Jeff Miller replied to my email, saying the death toll among birds and bats was simply unacceptable, and they weren't backing down. He also put me on a mailing list so I'd get regular updates on the situation.

Catfry Also, the point brought up that it is more sensible just to use less power seems to be a very hard sell politically. How do you do it?

I could have unsubscribed to the CBD bulletins, but I'm conflicted; at our current trajectory, it seems, energy consumption will drop dramatically in the future, whether we voluntarily cut back or not. Throttling back voluntarily would be the intelligent choice--wouldn't it?
posted by Restless Day at 12:29 PM on November 25, 2008


Dang it, I type too slow.
posted by Restless Day at 12:31 PM on November 25, 2008


As someone who sails out of CBYC, I take offence that these landowners are claiming a portion of the lake 2km offshore to be their backyard. It's mine; my playground is there. =P
posted by kaudio at 12:39 PM on November 25, 2008


All kidding aside, Barotrauma is killing bats near other wind turbines.

I am strongly in favour of wind turbines, but I hope this is addressed before any turbines are built near the bluffs. I'm not sure if the bats fly 2km out over the lake, since most of their food is on/near the shore... but I'd hope that would come out in the Environmental Impact Assessment.
posted by kaudio at 12:48 PM on November 25, 2008


I never understood the NIMBY stuff when the complaint is aesthetic in nature; within a generation or two, the thing people complained about being built will be the view that new residents are moving there to have!

People complained when they built the Golden Gate Bridge as it was spoiling the pristine scenery, and I don't think that there are many today that would bitch if their living room view offered them a full view of it.

I get that people don't like change, but when the thing you are arguing against is an engineering masterpiece that will reduce our footprint when generating power, strictly because it alters your view? You are failing to see what has happened time and again. In 20 years, that view is the reason your neighborhoods will be thriving.
posted by quin at 1:24 PM on November 25, 2008 [3 favorites]


I should mention that the meeting was not to discuss any potential wind farm, but just the siting of an offshore anemometer (actually, a LIDAR unit).

...which would be the first stage in developing an off-shore windfarm.

The first stage of the project is to place what amounts to a small weather station on a platform about two kilometres off the Scarborough Bluffs to measure wind speeds.

The platform will operate for about two years to collect the data needed to find out whether a wind farm in the lake is workable.

If conditions are favourable, Toronto Hydro would like to build about 60 turbines in the lake, sprinkled over an area 25 kilometres long, extending as far east as Ajax and as far west as the waters off the Leslie Street Spit.

--from the first link (Toronto Star)

p.s.: If this wind farm is workable, then I'm all for it.
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 1:48 PM on November 25, 2008


There was an article in Energy Policy by Jim Oswald that came to the conclusion that the average load factor of a wind farm was about 27% of the peak. Thus a 2MW wind farm on average generates 0.54 MW.

The article suggests that you need more conventional power to back up wind at such a level that the wind power has a very low return on investment.

The article is described here, the original needs to be bought.
posted by sien at 2:03 PM on November 25, 2008


The Center For Biological Diversity would doubtless dispute the findings cited in that New Scientist article. I wrote the CBD a few years ago, saying something to the effect that their taking such a hard line against wind farms seems a bit like missing the forest for the trees

You're comparing apples to oranges, and from what I can tell, they don't take a hard line against wind farms.

The New Scientist article is about a Danish windfarm built in 2003 using newer design. The Altamont wind farm is one of the oldest in the US and was built in 1981. Its windmill designs are basically obsolete (or were, I'm not sure if they've been replacing some lately). The Danish windfarm uses long blades (40m) mounted high up in the air (each tower is 69 m high). Altamont's windmill designs vary [pdf], but they are closer to the ground and have smaller blades that turn faster.

Jeff Miller is quoted saying, "we absolutely support wind power," and the Center for Biological Diversity press release says that "the issue at Altamont is not wind power versus birds, but rather whether the wind power industry is willing to take simple steps to reduce bird kills."

The Center for Biological Diversity's own press release says that the Altamont pass is unusually bad for a wind farm. "Wind turbines at [the Altamont Pass Wind Resource Area] cause more bird deaths than any wind facility in the world." This is because of a bad location ("along a major raptor migration corridor and in the heart of the highest concentration of golden eagles in North America"), obsolete turbine design, and the failure to take even simple steps like moving rock piles. (Check out this PDF from the California Energy Commission for some of those easy steps and some photos). The best solution, according to that PDF, would be to replace the Altamont windmills with rotor blades higher in the air that don't cross into flight paths.

(Disclosure: I have met Jeff Miller several times and know a bunch of people involved in the whole Altamont debate. But they're on various sides, so my opinions here are my own.)
posted by salvia at 2:15 PM on November 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


I could have unsubscribed to the CBD bulletins, but I'm conflicted; at our current trajectory, it seems, energy consumption will drop dramatically in the future, whether we voluntarily cut back or not. Throttling back voluntarily would be the intelligent choice--wouldn't it?

Individuals can be intelligent.
Collective problems require collective solutions.
Populations do not act and react intelligently. It's motivations can generally be thought of as driven by quite basic human instincts. So we can talk and talk about what we SHOULD do and it's all very well and good, it just doesn't usually have an effect. Education doesn't have much of an effect, mandated but not enforced rules don't have much of an effect. Only when you start to impair peoples lives in a material way do you start to see a possibility of changing peoples habits away from what is the easiest and 'normal' way to behave.

So as I said economic penalties have been tried out some places for many years and have been the most succesful method; European countries that do this are more energy effcient than the US for example. This method though is also HUGELY unpopular. If you as a politician go down this road it's much more likely you get voted out and the guy who's against it get in and then you haven't solved the problem.
The answer of course is to transit away from democracy, it would solve so many problems ;)
posted by Catfry at 2:16 PM on November 25, 2008


I don't think it's unreasonable of people to ask for a few simple things:

I can't quite tell if this is satire. I'm assuming it is but I think a majority of the population would agree with it which is kind of scary.
posted by PercussivePaul at 2:20 PM on November 25, 2008


Very quickly I'd like to add some more moderation to my comment. Populations TEND to behave in a way that SUGGEST limited ability to decide on complex policy questions going against their own interests in the short term.
There that sounds more reasonable right?
posted by Catfry at 2:22 PM on November 25, 2008


Okay, generally my understanding is that birds favor migratory paths where the wind is favorable to their objective, which also seems favorable to the objectives of wind power; my point was more which is more important to us, energy or biological diversity? Like as in hydroelectric power, which sounds great until you factor in the fish kill it entails.

We will make mistakes, as we craft energy policy (and I want to be clear, I TEND towards support of the CBD, in spite of what I said)--

The answer of course is to transit away from democracy, it would solve so many problems ;)

You may have been joking Catfry, I used to hate my step-father for saying people were too uninformed, too uneducated for democracy, many many years ago, but not much seems to have changed since then . . . ?
posted by Restless Day at 3:23 PM on November 25, 2008


*Shrug*
It doesn't HAVE to be that way, but it is HARD to get enough people to care. Personally I feel completely drained when thinking about the challenge.
posted by Catfry at 3:32 PM on November 25, 2008


Also as to your point above, I don't know much about the bird issue so I won't comment but your larger point about choosing priorities and balancing pros and cons is very important.
I'd say from what I can tell about people and what I know from myself that whatever humanity does, the plan has to factor in some significant power use. People in general will never cool their food down using more difficult methods than freezers and coolers, they will not dispense with their air conditioner in tropical and sub tropical climates, they will not switch off electronic entertainment and on and on. If significant willpower can be summoned we CAN conserve much more than we do currently, but at some point there will be a hard limit and the power demand from humanity at that point will STILL be astronomical. So EVEN if we manage drastic cutbacks there will STILL be demand for far more power than can be extracted from the few environmentally neutral known sources that exist (uhm.. excepting fusion I guess?). This demand is something that ideally should be met in the most careful and least impactful way possible, we can all agree.
But if we choose not to meet the demand and hope people will simply use still less we will be circumvented, I have no doubt. Private gas generators and coal stoves, and your environmental concern dies in a smog worse than the world has ever seen.
posted by Catfry at 4:00 PM on November 25, 2008


your larger point about choosing priorities and balancing pros and cons is very important

I'm not sure if this is what you meant, but this whole birds vs. wind power discussion reminds me of how much I hate newspaper articles that say "oh, look, environmentalists disagree!" But, for those who want to go ahead and write the dams vs. fish / birds vs. windmills / biodiesel vs. rainforests article circa 2010 (at least in California) it's going to be solar panels vs. desert species, like the desert tortoise.

It's a recurring theme -- green energy for people, versus ecosystem integrity and habitat. This is probably an extreme solution, but it seems like we should set a cap on US total energy use, so that if we do want to damage habitat (-5) for "green energy" sources, old power sources will be able to go offline (+15). That way, the alternative energy development is a net improvement (-5+15 = +10), even if it does has some problems, as opposed to it being not as much destruction as would occur if we built something like a coal plant (only -5 instead of -15).
posted by salvia at 5:40 PM on November 25, 2008


Fuzzy Monster: no, the wind farm will be subject to a separate environmental assessment from the anemometer. This meeting is part of the Ontario Ministry of the Environment's legally defined process for public consultation for just this test equipment. I've done my share of environmental screenings; this is how it works.

sien: Oswald's study appears to discount geographic diversity in wind installations from improving overall capacity factor; the UK's small, after all, compared to Ontario. It was received wisdom for the gas guys I used to work with that 1 MW of wind needed 1 MW of gas as backup; in reality, one needs less.
posted by scruss at 7:31 PM on November 25, 2008


Wind turbines is nothing new, they've been around for decades, and no link has yet been found between ill health and proximity to them. That doesn't mean it doesn't exist . . .

Sometimes, that's exactly what it means.
posted by IvoShandor at 9:50 PM on November 25, 2008


I also think wind turbines look beautiful - and the modern ones much more beautiful than traditional (which are more cute). They are so stark and graceful, like a great bird - whenever I see one, it takes my breath away. I've heard that they can be noisy close up, but since the only one I've seen upclose is the one over the Gardiner Expressway (near the Ex), I've never heard it - but its visual impression is one of silence. (I don't know how something can have a visual impression of silence - but it does: a sustained, almost anticipatory silence).

Wind turbines is nothing new, they've been around for decades, and no link has yet been found between ill health and proximity to them. That doesn't mean it doesn't exist is simply means we need to know more.
posted by Catfry at 11:05 AM on November 25 [1 favorite -] Favorite added! [!]


I was thinking that wind turbines, better known as wind mills, have been around for centuries, and in closer proximity to humans, who would have houses right beside them.
posted by jb at 8:45 AM on November 26, 2008


Individuals can be intelligent.
Collective problems require collective solutions.
Populations do not act and react intelligently.


That's what education, and (if/when it fails) carrot and stick incentives and taxes can motivate behaviour en masse. I couldn't rent a small car two months ago. They'd fly out of the rental place, leaving all the big "luxury" monsters behind. That's due to a comparatively small amount of money out of pocket, considering it's gas used just over a weekend.

Yes, people are lazy, short-term self-interested sheep. But sheep can be herded.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 10:48 AM on November 26, 2008


no, the wind farm will be subject to a separate environmental assessment from the anemometer. This meeting is part of the Ontario Ministry of the Environment's legally defined process for public consultation for just this test equipment. I've done my share of environmental screenings; this is how it works.

I'm sure you're right that there will be a seperate environmental assessment for the windfarm itself. Also I'm sure you're right about how environmental screenings work.

My confusion lies in what you said here:
I should mention that the meeting was not to discuss any potential wind farm, but just the siting of an offshore anemometer (actually, a LIDAR unit).

The siting of the offshore anemometer doesn't exist in a vacuum-- they're not just throwing it out there for no reason. How can there be a discussion over the siting of an offshore anemometer without discussing what it's going to be used for? They're putting it out there to see if a wind farm could work. Thus, the anemometer is the first stage of the potential wind farm-- as the Toronto Star stated.
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 6:06 AM on November 27, 2008


In the spirit of Minims: the offshore anemometer is also the first stage of a potential nothing, if the wind doesn't blow.
posted by anthill at 8:07 AM on November 27, 2008


True enough, anthill. A potential windfarm could either be a windfarm or nothing. That's why we're using the term 'potential,' right?
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 9:13 AM on November 27, 2008


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