Globe and Mail Needs to Check Facts

A column by Neil Reynolds in the Globe and Mail today is so riddled with inaccuracy, and false premises, that it calls into question the credibility of the Globe and Mail. I thought the media was supposed to check facts. The column is on line, under at globeandmail.com. Check under columnists, and search for Reynolds.
So, some fact checks.

“Wind turbines consume considerable electricity whether the winds are blowing or not”. Fact: a wind turbine produces power about 75-80% of the time. When there is insufficient wind, it consumes about as much power as a large house. Over the course of a year, a wind turbine in Ontario that produces 4,500,000 kWh will consume 25,000 kWh. Production exceeds consumption by a factor of 180.

“Not a single conventional power plant has been closed the period that Danish wind farms have been developed.” Fact: who cares? If you can burn the fossil fuels less, the objective has been accomplished.

“In 2006, Denmark produced 36% more carbon emissions than the year before.” Fact: In 2006, Denmark produced 16% more CO2 than the year before. The increase in CO2 emissions was associated with a 50% increase in coal fired electricity production for export. The coal was burned because “the low price of CO2 allowances caused utilities to favour burning coal over lower emitting fuels”. So the reason for increased emissions was that Denmark exported coal fired power.

“Why, then, does Denmark export almost all of its wind power?” Fact: If Denmark is a power exporter from coal plants, it stands to reason that it also exports wind power. Much of the power is exported to Germany, displacing Germany’s coal power, or to Norway, which has hydro reservoirs, which can store the power when it is windy, to use later.

“Only 3.3% of Denmark’s wind power gets accepted for domestic consumption.” Fact: Really? The interties from Norway supply Denmark, which supplies Germany. So this statement is just silliness. The power is on the European grid, and it is consumed, like all power that is produced. If Denmark is net exporter, you can argue that the electrons are not “accepted”, but you can also argue that they allow Norway’s hydropower to pass through to be used to displace German coal. In 2006, Denmark exported 13,702 GWh, and imported 6,766 GWh. Exports amounted to 30% of production, and net exports were 16% of production. In 2007, net exports dropped to 950 GWh – evidently Denmark stopped using the coal plants for export. They couldn’t have done this without the wind.

It is fine for the Globe and Mail to debate the ability of the electrical system to use wind energy. The reality is wind energy can be connected in substantial higher quantities than we have today, and the impact will be that we can burn less fossil fuels. But this conclusion can only be reached if the Globe and Mail truly checks the facts. I hope they do in the future.

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