Friday, February 18, 2011

Idiot Wind

I’m a Dylan fan that opposes the Ontario government’s plans for industrial wind turbines (IWT).  “Blowin’ in the wind” is not high on my list of favourite Dylan songs – I consider it his Kumbaya.  I’m weary, my Lord, of the constant references to ‘Blowin’ In The Wind” in stories in the press regarding IWT’s.   You only need two eyes to see the foolishness of that policy.  You only need two ears to hear about it.  I was glad the province quietly killed current plans for off-shore wind installations, at 19 cents/kWh, under cover provided by the news from Egypt on a Friday afternoon.  Unfortunately this news brings out the worst from the group thinkers struggling with math and analytics.   They earn a guttural, angry, response.

Someone’s got it in for me, they’re planting stories in the press

Marcus Gee was out with a headline seemingly designed to provoke me, “Windmill foes are full of hot air”, and Tyler Hamilton condescended, at his blog, with “Offshore wind decision not about health concerns, despite anti-wind noise.”  Gee puts the government decision firmly on NIMBY’s in the first sentence and reinforces the emotion in the last paragraph.  As if a total disregard for one’s immediate environment is irrelevant to the true environmentalist.  Mr. Hamilton just can’t help himself from poking opponents, even as he recognizes reasons to doubt the government’s approach.  “It may be about a lack of need for the power,” disappears quickly into “anti-wind folks want to spin it ... as part of a venom-filled effort to extend the moratorium to onshore facilities.”  While it took him a couple of sentences to get to us awful opponents of IWTs, he ends with “despite the deceptive rantings of anti-wind groups?”

Their minds are filled with big ideas, images and distorted facts

I pulled some data from the EIA into a database the other day.    A very quick preliminary check of the latest data (2009) to data from 1997 (the year the Kyoto was adopted) shows nothing definitively good about wind at all.  Most know Texas is the largest wind production state now, but there are 14 states that had above 1000MW of IWT capacity in 2009.  Since 1997 CO2 growth from electricity generation, in the US, was 0.45%, as of 2009.  In Texas it was 1.4% -- for the group of 14 states with 4digit wind capacity, it averaged 20.2%.  NOx emissions throughout the US dropped 63%, but only 37% in the biggest wind states.  Same story on SO2; 55.7% nationwide, 47% in the big wind states.  Studies out of Denmark reinforce that little of their wind production is utilized domestically and it is an extraordinarily expensive method of reducing CO2 emissions (if it does).  Germany is identifying sites for carbon storage while proceeding with plans for more efficient coal plants, capable of both generating electricity and providing central heating.  Germany has seen no growth in output for IWTs since 2007 – for Denmark there’s been little change since 2004.  Rumours of the industry’s accomplishments are unfounded, and the rumours of it's health have been greatly exaggerated.

Idiot wind, blowing like a circle around my skull
From the Grand Coulee Dam to the Capital

The Grand Coulee Dam, the great recession battling project on the Columbia River in Washington state.  The Columbia River Gorge is now known as a “wind ghetto”.  The power authority there ran into some trouble last year because they couldn’t spill water (because of bubbles), so they just asked a nuclear unit to dial down production to 18% because it was windy and it was wet.    Washington is discovering the same issues as Europe is – and hoping on the same solutions.  Increased integration of markets with grid connections, and increased integration of wind suppliers and coal and gas generators.  A NY Times blog entry notes “The cost of integrating wind into an electric system was modest until new generating capacity was needed to react quickly to the variability of wind.”  Well yeah – especially  when threatening Ontario’s system, which gets over 80% of its production and nuclear and hydro – with all the nuclear and half the hydro devalued, to the brink of not being viable, due to the nature of the contracts being gifted to the trendy IWT proponents.  Add on to that the supply we are phasing out is the seldom used supply (coal), so we need to replace the source being used for peaking twice – once with wind and once with natural gas.  

I noticed at the ceremony
Your corrupt ways had finally made you blind

Early in 2010 the government announced the long-rumoured deal with South Korean companies.  The backgrounder information provided began with “Ontario has negotiated an agreement with a consortium, comprised of Samsung C&T Corporation and the Korea Power Electric Corporation.”  This became known as the Samsung deal, because that’s the name on our consumer products.  There may be few Ontarians aware KEPCO is Korea’s national electricity giant, which produces more watts from coal than Ontario produces in total, and who stunned Areva in winning a Gen III nuclear bid during 2010.  KEPCO is a giant version of the old Ontario Hydro, and AECL, combined.  Ontario’s public generator is not entitled to benefit from the FIT program, Korea’s is paid extra to do so.  Samsung does have a heavy industry division, and they do make propellers for ships, which might be similar to the blades of IWTs;  they are the leader in LCD production, which might be similar to solar panel production.  Ontario’s deal is likely more of a KEPCO deal though.  The backgrounder ended with “...the consortium and the government have agreed to market rate lease of government lands.”
It would soon become clear why, as the Ontario Realty Corporation started tossing farmers off the land leased to them to make room for testing of solar installations.  The GEGEA has exempted some good land classifications for farming – for up to 500MW of solar generation capacity.  The Korean Consortium now held a contract to provide 500MW of solar capacity.  The reason Ontario held the farmland is interesting.  It was apparently acquired in the early 1970’s as the government grew concerned that the gridlock accompanying Toronto’s rapid growth could be alleviated by creating planned satellite cities.  Today, Toronto is noted for having amongst the highest commute times on earth, resulting in the most recent National Inventory Report (for 2008) noting: "Between 1990 and 2008, emissions increased by 14 Mt (8.1%), due primarily to the growth in the Road Transportation (12 Mt), Residential/Commercial/Institutional (6.7 Mt) and Other Transportation (3.5 Mt) sectors."  Ontario’s 190 MT Total GHG emissions included only 34 from electricity generation, in 2008.   Our ‘progress’ is to abandon thoughts of better urban planning, and instead confuse people’s knowledge by implying the smog spewing out their tailpipes, and from the leaf blowers, lawn mowers, and weed whackers, is actually coming from less and less frequently utilized coal generation plants.  And we are removing farmland from production to do it.

It’s a wonder we can even feed ourselves

Notes:  italics are quotes from Dylan’s Idiot Wind. 

Blowin’ in the Wind is not unrelated to both Ontario, and Kumbaya.
Blowin’ in the Wind is the first track from Dylan’s second album – which indicates the tune was likely taken from somewhere else.  In this case, it was from a song called “No More Auction Block” (Dylan’s version of the the song, from 1962, was later included in Biograph).  No More Auction Block was identified, by Alan Lomax, as originating in Canada as a canticle sung by former slaves.  Kumbaya turns out to be a more bizarre tale.  It is a spiritual most likely from American slaves, and probably the enunciation of “Come By Here” .  Kumbaya, as a title, seems to be a creation of marketing releases during the folk revival as the 50’s turned into the 60’s. 

In 1962, as Blowin’ in the Wind was being written, Robert Zimmerman was, literally, becoming Bob Dylan.

Idiot Wind is the amongst the most unbecoming Dylan creations.

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