Climate Change and Wind Power(?)


Today marked yet another round in the continuing war of words that surrounds the deployment of wind power and the debate around climate change. I don’t know about anyone else but I am getting tired of it all.

Climate change seems to be about two groups of issues — whether the global climate is changing and to what extent human activities are responsible. From my simple viewpoint the discussions around whether global climate is changing need to address a couple of key issues — the melting of the arctic ice cap, the retreat of major glaciers that supply rivers that many millions depend upon, the change in rainfall patterns and the advance of deserts around the world. As far as I have seen, the climate change deniers have not proposed any believable hypothesis that account for these very visible changes.

The extent of human influence is much more interesting. Carbon dioxide levels are rising in the atmosphere, that much seems clear. But recent discoveries about the influence of the nitrogen cycle and cosmic radiation impacts on global cloud formation suggest to me that our theories about how it all works are a bit thin. I suspect that the reality may be a bit more complicated than our philosophy. In any event it is probably premature to begin dismantling our civilization. Unless we are really sincere about committing societal suicide. But that has not stopped us from blocking nuclear plant construction and shutting down industries in North America that provided millions of jobs. Guess we must really want to go back to an agrarian society and let the East return to being the center of civilization.

So here we are with wind turbines. Pretty much everyone that has built them on a large scale will reluctantly admit that they are expensive and have done almost nothing to reduce greenhouse gasses — with the need for backup power perhaps made things a bit worse. To say nothing of the noise and the destruction of birds and bats. Here in Ontario there are plenty of places where the things could have been built, but the builders seem to have a fascination for the major bird migration routes and quiet rural retirement areas. If we are doing the damn things at all, why could they have not gone into the northern areas where there is a lot more wind and fewer people — and off the migration routes? And there are the power lines running into Manitoba so they could be connected to the grid.

Ah, but there is the fatal flaw — wind is notoriously unstable. If I had a turbine here I would have to buffer it with batteries to stabilize the output so my computers and other electronics would not be damaged by the output flutter. The monsters on the next island are just the same, but batteries in multi-gigawatt quantities would affect the cost equation. So the output is tied right to the grid. Compared to the total output of the Ontario power plants the contribution of wind is pretty small, so when it drops the other plants should be able to backfill. If the delusions of our leaders are ever realized, and wind becomes a major component, I guess we will get blackouts (like any other 3rd world country) or have a lot of gas turbines running in the background [burning fuel and emitting carbon dioxide]. So where is the climate protection in that?

We just seem to be wrapped in a culture of fear. And since only the dead are truly safe, we systematically work to destroy our society and kill ourselves. The ends justify the means, right?

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