Book review:”a conversation with a wide range of people”


Dirty Business: The Reality of Ontario’s Rush to Wind Power.

In this collection of short essays, the editor is very specific in the introduction, referring to the “wind power generation industry” and how it measures up from a business development standpoint.  The authors of the 22 short chapters that follow examine the case for wind power in terms of the perceived need and the establishment of – or lack of – government policies and goals for alternative power generation, methods of financing, sourcing materials, sales and promotion, and whether the adverse effects have been addressed.  Four academics, three business and finance experts, two medical professionals, two real estate consultants – one from Canada, one from the US – as well as a professional engineer from MIT, two respected journalists and some rural residents living near the industrial turbines each share their opinions, relating some interesting facts and statistics along the way.  The editor cautions us that “it can be a very unpleasant picture when it’s all assembled” (p. 1).

 Some contributors have taken a wryly humorous approach to the wind industry. Dan Wrightman, an Ontario farmer, describes the scene if the same feed-in tariff structure was applied to rainwater production. The results are laughably absurd, but bring into sharp focus the truly illogical elements of the plan which is being applied to wind power generation.  Others point more seriously to some disturbing elements that may have far-reaching consequences.  Michael Trebilcock, professor of law and economics at the University of Toronto, uses direct quotes from the 20-year Long-term Energy Plan to warn that “[t]he consumer rate will increase by about 3.5 percent annually over the length of the Long-term Plan.  Over the next five years, however, residential electricity prices are expected to rise by about 7.9 percent annually (or 46 percent over five years)” (p. 7).  While some increases can reasonably be expected over time, Trebilcock wonders about the fate of the “public utility type regulation of the electricity sector … to protect consumers against excessive and unjustified cost and price increases” (p. 11).

 Although the book is a collection of facts and opinions that explore several aspects of the down side of wind power generation, it is nevertheless an engaging read. Finish one or two chapters, and I challenge you not to pick up the book and read another; you will feel like you have indeed done the research, and have had conversations with a wide range of people with a keen interest in the business of wind power generation.  You will likely be convinced that wind power generation perhaps is not the “green” solution to our power needs; if not convinced, you may at least understand why so many others see the wind power generation industry as a “dirty business”.       

 Grace Howell

 Grace Howell, M.A., is a writing instructor at Huron University College, and a freelance writer.

 Dirty Business: The reality of Ontario’s rush to wind power.

Jane Wilson, Editor. Parker Gallant, Contributing Editor. Published 2011.

ISBN 978-0-9877210-0-6

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