Return to Meaford

I did a presentation at the Kimbercote Centre Renewable Energy Conference yesterday.  It is a farm in the Beaver Valley, that has facilities for groups to get together on environmental and social justice issues.  It has spectacular views, and a good cadre of volunteers.  Well worth the visit.

It was a beautiful early spring day.  Early spring in Ontario is quite grey – the leaves aren’t out, the snow that remains is dirty, and there is mud everywhere.  But unlike November grey, there are signs of hope everywhere.  The creeks are full, there are flocks of returning birds, and many first sightings, like my first turkey vulture of the season, and people are enjoying the sun.  The neighbours finished their sap boil yesterday, and yeilded about 6 l of syrup from about 5 trees.

I ran into Bill Murdoch, the local Conservative Member of Provinicial Parliament on the way in.  The Centre had received some provincial funding to host the conference, and install some solar thermal and photovoltaic panels.  I have met Bill several times, and although I suspect I would disagree with him on many issues, I like him as a person.  He is not a normal policitian – he is honest and frank when he speaks.  That seems to go down well in this area.

The conference was very well attended – about 60 in total – with people from as far away as Guelph and Toronto, as well as a good local representation.  There was a good mix of age groups, from university students, to seniors.  I was presenting before Dave Cooke and Ziggy – all three of us are from Lion’s Head – we owned the afternoon.  Dave Cooke’s presentation was on personal power, including wind and solar.  He makes a powerful point about the value of power that is generated near where it is used, compared to the value of power that has to be transported great distances, at great cost, and with substantial losses in energy.

Ziggy talked about his installation of solar and wind at his home.  He described the day he call up Ontario Hydro and told them to disconnect him.  They told him he couldn’t do that.  But of course he did.  With his tongue planted in his cheek, he said it was the “Proudest day of his life.”

In my talk, titled “Wind Power in Ontario”, I described the current situation with wind in Ontario, and compared the 415 MW of wind that Ontario has with the 22,000 MW Germany has.  I talked about the OPA study that says Ontario could absorb 5000 MW of wind, enough to supply 8% of Ontario’s needs, with virtually no changes to the system required.  I described the activities of the some of those opposed to wind, and speculated on their motivation, and debunked some of their claims.  And then we got to the discussion.

The crowd seemed to want to know how far we could go with wind to move our electricity system to a fully renewable path.  So I talked about how waterpower can be used to back up wind, and how Ontario already gets 25% of its power from water.  I said that if we wanted more storage, we just had to cut deals with our neighbours – Manitoba and Quebec, and use their reservoirs to firm up our wind.  Of course the point about how geographic diversity of wind firms the supply was made, and understood.  It was a lively discussion, and the crowd was engaged.  You could tell that the wheels were turning.

I’ve often said that the people are ahead of the politicians on environmental issues.  This conference proved it once again.  The people are looking for answers.  And they won’t take no for an answer.

It was good to be back in Meaford.

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