By Dianne Saxe, Ontario Environmental Lawyer
So much misinformation has been spread about wind turbines that many reasonable people don't know what to think. As one reader wrote:
"Hi Dianne, ... I wondered if you could direct me to reliable sources on the benefits / risks of Wind Turbines. I live in West Grey with lots of wind, but many here are against Wind Turbines - most likely due to lack of reliable information. Would appreciate any direction you can provide."
Personally, I think that wind is far safer than conventional electricity sources like nuclear, (shale) gas and coal. And the more I learn about wind energy, the more beautiful I find the turbines. Here are some sources that I have found to provide reliable information about wind energy. Some address the claims that have been made about noise, health and safety, while others have not found these to be major issues:
Hermann Scheer's book Energy Autonomy, on why locally produced energy sources are so important to our future prosperity and freedom. He says:
For 200 years, the industrial civilization has relied upon abundant and cheap carbon combustibles. This dependence however has led to dangerous consequences. For one part it is the insecurity of depending on the most unstable region of the world, -the Middle East-, aggravated by the imminence of the peak of oil, an each time larger shortage, and the scale of the prices. For the other part, the consequences of continuing to burn combustible fuels are potentially catastrophic, as shown in the acceleration of climate change.
Despite this all, there is a solution; the transition to renewable energy sources and a decentralized distributed generation of energy, a model that has been proven technologically, commercially, and politically, and that Dr. Scheer shows exhaustively in this book.
The advantages of renewable energy are so clear that the actual resistance to it deserves a diagnosis. Scheer proportions it with detail, showing why and how entrenched interests are opposed to the transition towards renewable energies and what can be done to get rid of these obstacles.
Paul Gipe's Wind Works, a US pioneer of renewable energy. See especially his page on Noise, Health and Safety.
Australian National Health and Medical Research Council Public Statement on Wind Turbines and Health, and their June 2011 symposium. The Public Statement concludes:
"The Statement concludes that there is currently no published scientific evidence to positively link wind turbines with adverse health effects. Therefore it is recommended that relevant authorities take a precautionary approach and continue to monitor research outcomes."
Ontario Medical Officer of Health report on the alleged health effects of wind turbines, which concluded:
"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".
Environmental defence groups
Blowing Smoke: Correcting Anti-Wind Myths in Ontario - by OSEA and Environmental Defence
The Real Truth About Wind Energy - Sierra Club
World Council for Renewable Energy
Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment
Denmark is the world leader in wind energy. Denmark aims to have renewables (biomass and wind) supply one third of its total energy needs by 2020, and to be completely independent of fossil fuels by 2050. By 2020, wind power is to provide more than 40% of electricity, up from 19% in 2009. Here is its analysis of why and how, including the superiority of wind over nuclear power, and the key role that electric cars can play as partners to wind farms. By September 2009, Denmark had already installed 3166 MW of wind power, of which 424 MW are off-shore. Denmark has a population density of 128/ km2, compared to 3.4 in Canada. According to the Atlas of Canada, most of Southern Ontario is less dense than the Danish average.
Germany is making a massive switch to renewables, including wind, and away from nuclear, because of the ongoing Fukushima nuclear disaster.
Iowa Energy Center, which has helped to propel Iowa to the highest per capita wind use in the US.
Community power groups
The community power guidebook, by the Ontario Sustainable Energy Association, which consists primarily of community owned renewables. And OSEA's resource page.
Community Power conference archives: email firstname.lastname@example.org for free access.
Alliance for Renewable Energy
CANWEA (Canadian Wind Energy Association)
Reprinted with permission from the Environmental Law and Litigation Blog.
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