Corporate wind power’s pollution reduction claims are hollow

The wind power lobby loves to equate electricity generation from wind to the number of cars on the road, but does that make any sense?

The 33rd annual CanWEA conference is to take place in Montreal in early October.

It’s probable some of the presenters will tout the usual claims that wind power “farms” avoid greenhouse gas emissions to “equivalent” of a number of cars off the roads. A claim made several years ago by CanWEA in respect to a 300-MW wind power plant in Manitoba noted: “the wind farm will displace 800 000 t of greenhouse gas emissions each year, the equivalent of taking 145,000 cars off the road.”   Do the math on that claim, and it purports one (1) MW of an industrial wind electricity project is the equivalent of taking 483 cars off the road.

This bragging by CanWEA and others (like former Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli) is irritating because generating electricity has no relationship to “taking cars off the road” unless the added generation is replacing emitting fossil fuel generation.

The recent September heat wave in Ontario demonstrated clearly that when industrial-scale wind power generators are not performing, Ontario’s gas plant capacity is called on to supply the demand. Those gas plants did what was needed to keep Ontario’s businesses and A/C units operating.

Wind claims                                                                                                                         Using the “1 MW of wind generation capacity is the equivalent of taking 483 cars off the road” would mean the 4,790 MW of capacity (per IESO as of June 30, 2017) now in place in Ontario was equal to taking over 2.3 million cars off the road.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     Solar claims                                                                                                                                            Combine that with similar claims made by the solar association, CanSIA  (198 cars per MW of capacity or about 450,000 cars in Ontario based on 2,200 MW of installed capacity).

Nuclear claims                                                                                                                           The Darlington Refurbishment plan by OPG also lays the claim to taking cars off the road as stated: “The continued operation of the Darlington power plant until 2055 will take the equivalent of two million cars off Ontario’s roads per year by avoiding significant greenhouse gas emissions”.

Shutting coal plant generation claims                                     

The claim made back in 2010 by Dwight Duncan, Ontario Minister of Finance in his “Economic Outlook and Fiscal Review” also used the tired claim:  “We’re on track to close Ontario’s dirty coal plants — the equivalent of taking seven million cars off the road.”  Those plants were closed by the end of 2014.

So, totaling all those claims, Ontario is supposed to have taken the equivalent of 11,750,000 cars off the road. (According to StatsCan, vehicle registration for Ontario in 2016 was approximately 11.9 million vehicles, including 2.7 million trailers.)

Except — here’s the truth — cars and trucks are still on the road in Ontario, fossil-fuel gas plants are taking up the slack for intermittent wind power, and we’ve spent a whole lot of money on an unreliable power source.

If Big Wind is going to brag, the claims ought to mean something.

Author: parkergallantenergyperspectivesblog

Retired international banker.

5 thoughts on “Corporate wind power’s pollution reduction claims are hollow”

  1. “one (1) MW of an industrial wind electricity project is the equivalent of taking 483 cars off the road.”
    1000 000/483 =2070W=2.07kw. = 2.8 HP. That is about enough power for a small motor bicycle not a four wheeled machine. My lawn mower is 20 HP and the tea kettle is about 1.0kw. Is there anything more to be said?


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