The end of reason

Posted: August 12, 2016 at 9:09 am   /   by   /   comments (20)

From Amherst Island, you can see the Lennox gas-fired generating station sitting idle most days. The plant sits just across the narrow channel. It burns both oil and gas to produce steam that, in turn, drives generators to create electricity. The plant has the capacity to generate 2,100 MW of electricity—enough to power more than a million homes. But that electricity is rarely ever used. Over the last decade, the Lennox station has operated at less than three per cent of its capacity. That means it is idle much more often than it runs. Yet it earns more than $7 million each month—whether it runs or doesn’t. Such is Ontario’s hyperpoliticized energy regime.

Last Thursday was a warm day across Ontario— one of the warmest in a hot summer. With air conditioners humming, electricity demand across the province peaked at 22,312 MW. Meanwhile, Lennox sat idle all day. As it does most days.

So it seems odd that yet another gas-fired generating plant is emerging from the ground next to the mostly-idle Lennox station. It will add another 900 MW of generating capacity to a grid that clearly doesn’t need any more.

From Amherst Island, it must seem cruel. Within a couple of kilometres, there is enough unused power generating capacity to light millions of homes, yet island residents are being forced to give up their pastoral landscape— for the sake of an intermittent electricity source that nobody needs.

Last week, an Environmental Review Tribunal rejected an appeal by Amherst Island residents seeking to stop Windlectric, a wind energy developer, from covering their island home from end to end with industrial wind turbines, each one soaring 55 storeys into the sky.

Amherst Island is tiny. Just 20 kilometres long and 7 kilometres wide, there is no place, no horizon, no home that can avoid being transformed by this out-ofscale industrialization.

The treachery gets worse. Amherst Island is administered by a council that presides over the larger Loyalist Township from the mainland. Last year, council made a deal with the wind developer, agreeing to recieve a $500,000 payment each year the wind turbines spin. It is a lot of money for a municipality that operates on a $12-million budget annually.

But perhaps the most disappointing bit of this story is the damage that has been done to friendships and families on Amherst Island. Just 450 people live here. It swells to about 600 in the summer. It was a close community in the way island life tends to be.

Industrial wind energy has, however, ripped this community in two. Property owners hoping to share in the windfall from the development are on one side and those who must endure the blight on the landscape for a generation or more on the other.

Lifelong friends no longer speak to each other. At St. Paul’s Presbyterian service on Sunday mornings, the wind energy benefactors sit on one side of the church, the opponents on the other. A hard, angry line silently divides this community.

The Environmental Review Tribunal concluded not enough evidence was presented in the hearings to say the project will cause serious and irreversible harm to endangered species including the bobolink, Blanding’s turtle and little brown bat.

The decision underlines the terrible and oppressive cruelty of the Green Energy Act—that the only appeal allowed for opponents is whether the project will cause serious harm to human health or serious and irreversible harm to plant life, animal life or the natural environment. It is a profoundly unjust restriction on the right of people to challenge the policies and decisions of their government as they directly impact their lives.

The folks on Amherst Island weren’t permitted, for example, to argue that the power is unneeded— that this project is a grotesquely wasteful use of provincial tax dollars. Their neighbourhood already boasts enough electricity capacity to power a small country, yet it sits idle—at a cost of millions of dollars each month. It might have been a useful addition to the debate—but this evidence wasn’t permitted.

Nor were island residents allowed to appeal the fundamental alteration of their landscape. Nor the loss of property value. They can’t undo the broken friendships and the hollow feeling that hangs over the church suppers or the lonely trips across the channel.

Wide swathes of reason and logic have been excluded in the consideration of renewable energy projects in Ontario.

To the extent that urban folks are even aware of what green energy policies are doing to places like Amherst Island, they console themselves by believing it is the cost of a clean energy future—that diminishing the lives of some rural communities is an acceptable trade-off for the warm feeling of doing better by the planet.

Yet these folks need to explain to Amherst Island residents how decimating their landscape, risking the survival of endangered species and filling the pockets of a developer with taxpayer dollars for an expensive power supply that nobody needs makes Ontario greener.

Visit Amherst Island. Soon.

Remember it as it is today. Mourn for its tomorrow.

Comments (20)

  • August 19, 2016 at 10:47 pm Donnie McAlear

    The Ontario Society of Professional Engineers has a report claiming that the implementation of the Green Energy Act is increasing the carbon footprint in Ontario. If people think this program will help save the planet they are sadly mistaken. Due to the intermittency of wind generation gas fired power plants are needed to back them up.

  • August 16, 2016 at 5:46 pm Richard Mann

    Here is a “time line” showing the history of Wind Turbine Noise problems, going back as far as 1979. Each entry provides documentation:

    1979 “First complaints received from a dozen families within a 3km radius of turbine”.
    1981 “Wind turbine operation creates enormous sound pressure waves”
    1982 “Closed windows and doors do not protect occupants from LFN”
    1982 “NASA research on human impacts provided to wind industry”
    1985 “Hypothesis for infrasound-induced motion sickness”
    1987 “Wind industry told that dB(A) unsuitable to measure LFN emissions from wind turbines”

    2004 “Wind industry knows noise models inadequate” (from Vestas)

    2011 “Vestas knew that low frequency noise from larger turbines needed greater setbacks”

  • August 16, 2016 at 5:43 pm Richard Mann

    Wind and Solar are not reducing C02. Ontario’s own Engineering Society is telling us this. See the report, “Ontario’s Electricity Dilemma – Achieving Low Emissions at Reasonable Electricity Rates”. Ontario Society of Professional Engineers (OSPE). April 2015.
    (Archived at:

    Page 15 of 23. “Why Will Emissions Double as We Add Wind and Solar Plants ?”

    – Wind and Solar require flexible backup generation.

    – Nuclear is too inflexible to backup renewables without expensive engineering changes to the reactors.

    – Flexible electric storage is too expensive at the moment.

    – Consequently natural gas provides the backup for wind and solar in North America.

    – When you add wind and solar you are actually forced to reduce nuclear generation to make room for more natural gas generation to provide flexible backup.

    – Ontario currently produces electricity at less than 40 grams of CO2 emissions/kWh.

    – Wind and solar with natural gas backup produces electricity at about 200 grams of CO2 emissions/kWh. Therefore adding wind and solar to Ontario’s grid drives CO2 emissions higher. From 2016 to 2032 as Ontario phases out nuclear capacity to make room for wind and solar, CO2 emissions will double (2013 LTEP data).

    – In Ontario, with limited economic hydro and expensive storage, it is mathematically impossible to achieve low CO2 emissions at reasonable electricity prices without nuclear generation.

  • August 15, 2016 at 9:04 pm Phillip

    That is a pretty one-side take on this project. First of all natural gas is a terrible pollutant as a major contributor to greenhouse gases and climate change. New studies have shown that natural gas is in fact worst than the burning of coal for the atmosphere. Wind power should always be turned on before natural gas and in fact it should eventually replace natural gas. As for this specific project on Amherst Island, since 2011 there has been plenty of public consultation and study. There was absolutely no evidence that this project would be a threat to human or wild life health or to property values. Over a very long 5 years this project was put the wringer. The company and the municipality bent-over backwards to accommodate the concerns of the residents. A great number of people in the community support the project.

    • August 19, 2016 at 10:50 pm Donnie McAlear

      BULLSHIT. We don’t need the power.

  • August 15, 2016 at 1:15 pm notinduttondunwich

    That’s right folks….. there is a revolutionary wave sweeping across the towns of rural ontario…. we here in Dutton Dunwich are preparing ourselves for the fight of our lives… wheather it be in the courtrooms or in the ditches … fields and forests of our beloved municipality…. we are ready to sacrifice just like our grandparents did when an injustice was done to the people of Europe many years ago…. we stand united and oppose this GEA injustice…. you all soon will see when national attention focuses on a once quiet rural farming community that erupts into a revolt this country has not seen in decades….

  • August 14, 2016 at 10:32 pm robert budd

    Very well written piece. No question this is a bizarre tragedy. Particularly when you understand this is leading On. to an electricity grid that is more fossil reliant, and provides less fiscal benefit to citizens of the province, while degrading some of our most important wildlife habitat and ag. land.
    Thank you for telling people what is actually happening.

  • August 14, 2016 at 10:28 pm Debbie Johnston

    This has the Wynne Liberals written all over it. I’ve never seen a Gov. run rough shod over the wishes of the public the way this Gov. does. And all in the name of energy, of which we don’t need need any extra.

  • August 14, 2016 at 2:08 pm Lynda

    This is a crime against humanity. From rare earth mining deaths in China, endangered species obliteration in the Americas and the denial of human suffering by those in power, this must surely rank as the most outrageous, politically designed disaster in modern Canadian history. The physical and mental misery will be too great for some to endure. Think of it….thousands of Ontarians are going to lose everything they have worked for. Their hopes, dreams and peaceful retirements will be swept away by a little man’s green signature. It is truly a tragedy in the making.

  • August 14, 2016 at 12:48 pm Dick Tompkins

    Concise, all-inclusive, tragic. The hubris of our Liberal governments’ energy policy is inane, incompetent and insane. Just when will Ontario voters wake the hell up?

  • August 14, 2016 at 12:29 pm notinduttondunwich

    Yes Rick….. those divisions between the people are over all over Ontario…. In the municipality of Dutton Dunwich with a 84% “no” to the project the leaseholders are being ostracized from their own community that they and their forefathers so lovingly built…. farmer friends won’t lease crop land to leaseholders any more…. large crop seed orders have been cancelled… unfortunately the leaseholders some of which wish they could revoke their contract are being threatened by Inverenergy with lawsuits if they don’t proceed with the project…. it’s all very depressing that this government has been hijacked by foreign capatalists who don’t care about the environment or the people…. and when it’s all said and done the environment will be worse off than before and we will all be bankrupt leaving a huge pile of debt and IWT projects that sit idle rusting into the ground….

  • August 14, 2016 at 11:24 am Chris Albinson


  • August 13, 2016 at 2:42 pm Tim

    Someday archeologists will look at the ruins of a million windmills and wonder at the udder stupidity of our age.

  • August 13, 2016 at 12:15 pm Joan Rowe

    Take heed please! This must not happen!

  • August 13, 2016 at 7:02 am Karl Kaufmann


  • August 13, 2016 at 4:32 am Norman Haddow

    This is shocking . Big companies squashing small communities.

  • August 12, 2016 at 5:41 pm Michèle Le Lay

    I am deeply moved that someone living in another community could paint the perfect picture of the Kafkaesque situation Amherst Island residents are facing because of that ill conceived industrial size wind project. Please share, maybe someone will wake up!

  • August 12, 2016 at 5:14 pm Michael Spencley

    Given the well documented problems identified and reported on by widely respected scientists, health professionals and economists, and the resultant catastrophic effects to human health, fora & fauna, legacy vistas, the Ontario economy and the shocking “debt pit” that a Liberal Queens Park has dug to fund the GEA subsidies, one must ask themselves “Why would anyone go down this horrible path with antiquated industrial wind turbines whose inefficiencies require full redundancy while putting the financial futures of our grandchildren in jeopardy?

    Is this not madness? The logic escapes me…….. unless of course it may be a get-rich-quick-scheme for a small inner sanctum of card carrying Liberals and/or their supporters who may be financially benefitting, or simply misguided arrogance, or both. Clearly, these people have “missed the boat”. Moreover, and sadly so, they have also “poisoned the water”.

    It is now time for political ideological change and a new open strategy for truly protecting both the environment and our economy, that is, this time, driven by consideration for all Ontarians, reason and logic!

  • August 12, 2016 at 4:12 pm Betty

    Poignant is not the word.
    Tragic, absurd, fraudulent, ridiculous, insane are more like it.
    There is no logic to “feel good” policies that pick winners and losers like cities and rural communities.
    When the wallets of the city folk start shrinking and condo fees triple due to exhorbitant energy prices maybe then will the lens be trained on the culprits- a government too weak and too intimidated to the wind multinationals to heed our calls and do the right thing.
    The Wizard of Oz still lives behind the green curtain. But for how long more?

  • August 12, 2016 at 2:35 pm Sherti Lange

    It is egregious and callous and cynical. Just like every single non performing industrial wind factory. Dissolve the ERT. DISSOLVE A CORRUPT GOVERNMENT. NOW.

Comments are closed.