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 Post subject: Blowhard nimbyism...
PostPosted: February 18th, 2009, 9:57 am 
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Here's an opinion piece by Christopher Hume, architecture and urban planning critic writing for the Toronto Star, included in with the Lake Ontario Waterkeeper's emails.

My own view is that the Scarborough Bluff vistas and remnant natural areas are some of the most magnificent that Toronto still has to offer... walking out from a road out to the edge of the bluffs reveals an unbroken stretch of pure blue sky and water as far as you can see. Adding dozens of rotating windmills into this would be adding visual pollutants to a viewscape that Toronto has lost too much of in the past.

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Premier rightly targets blowhard NIMBYists

Christopher Hume, Toronto Star

February 13th, 2009



Dalton McGuinty, Premier of Ontario and Toronto’s other mayor, has clearly had enough.

And who can blame him?

His announcement this week that the province will limit the endless NIMBY wrangling that accompanies its every attempt to introduce environmental measures is great news for this city, not to mention the province and country.

Shedding his image as the designated Nice Guy of Confederation, McGuinty has started not only to talk tough but also to swing that big legislative stick. “We’re going to say to Ontarians that it’s okay to object on the basis of safety issues and environmental standards,” he told reporters Tuesday. “But don’t say, `I don’t want it around here.’… NIMBYism will no longer prevail.”

Like politics, it seems, all environmentalism is local.

Nowhere more so than around here, where even a modest proposal to install wind turbines two to four kilometres off the shore of Scarborough in Lake Ontario has met with hostility bordering on hysteria. The opponents, an unabashedly self-serving group that cares not a jot for their children, the larger community or the environment, take one’s breath away.

Wind turbines make you sick, they charge. Wind turbines keep you awake at night. Wind turbines are ugly. Wind turbines cause impotence. Wind turbines are bad for property values. The only thing we haven’t heard yet is that wind turbines kill babies.

The NIMBY response has become a given, a default position, an automatic reaction, a cliché. It’s the same whether we’re talking about highrise condos in north Toronto, narrowing Jarvis St. from five lanes to four, constructing a streetcar right-of-way on St. Clair Ave., rehabilitating the Wychwood Barns or trying to slow global warming to save the planet and this sorry ass of a city.

Many residents assume that to live in a neighbourhood confers the exclusive right to decide what should or shouldn’t happen in it. In some cases, NIMBY opponents of homes for unwed mothers and the like have claimed the right to say who can live next door. The sense of entitlement behind such an attitude could sink a battleship.

Had this sort of thinking prevailed decades ago, Toronto wouldn’t have a subway, especially one that runs beneath Yonge St. from Union Station to Eglinton Ave. Would anyone argue it shouldn’t have been built because it was inconvenient?

That was half a century ago; the problems we face today, above all that of the environment, require an altogether different order of resolve. Ironically, despite what the NIMBYs argue, the environment is the single issue that affects every last one of us. The NIMBY knee-jerk has never been more inappropriate, wrong-headed or immoral.

The premier must consult, of course, and listen – but not to the sort of NIMBY cant we hear over and over again. And let’s make it clear; NIMBYism isn’t just irritating, embarrassing and depressing, it is the problem in its own right.

How many worthy projects have died for lack of political support?

In our culture of official cowardice, there’s precious little reward for leadership. Though the advent of Barack Obama may change all this, Canada’s not there yet.

That’s why McGuinty’s decision to take on the forces of self-interest deserves our respect, even admiration. Once the sound and fury, which signifies nothing, has stopped, he will be remembered as someone who tried to do the right thing. The locals may not approve, but the rest of us will be eternally grateful.

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 Post subject: Re: Blowhard nimbyism...
PostPosted: February 18th, 2009, 11:05 am 
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I'm with you on that one, FT. The NIMBY argument is used to bully opponents of the project into quiet submission.

A while ago I looked at the docs available to the public and found some glaring misleading by the proponents: the maps give a range of distance from shore that could mean the turbines are far out - but you compare it to the water depth maps and start to realize the towers have to be close to shore and thus the visual and noise impact is significant. I am pretty familiar with the winds at the lake near Toronto, and know that it's a lousy location for turbines: the sailing boats head out in late afternoon to a nice breeze but they have to be careful to make it back as the winds die down before sunset. The Waterkeepers website pointed to a detailed report that listed the prime locations for Ontario's windpower opportunities, and the north shore of Lake Ontario was not one of them.

I think it's a bad investment. It's a project by Toronto Hydro - they want to have "green" projects in their own "jurisdiction", for image reasons, and I guess that's the best they can come up with. I don't know what the direct subsidization of green energy does for the producer, maybe someone else can fill me in.

Environmental absurdities are possible when the full cost of the project is not borne by the users of the benefit. For instance, the home owners should be compensated for loss of value, just like the MTO compensates the businesses that lose value when a highway cuts them off from their customers. If you don't think that is fair, assume you had moved to a nice area where the home costs twice as much as the average of the city. How much loss would you estimate for your home if the public wants to build a hydro transportation corridor with tall towers that then dominates your neighborhood?

Properly distributing the cost of the project will drive up the cost of the electricity produced. We all hate to pay more, but the desired positive effect is that the users - all of us - will use the resource a bit more prudently and adjust our wasteful ways.


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 Post subject: Re: Blowhard nimbyism...
PostPosted: February 18th, 2009, 12:15 pm 
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Erhard, I agree that the benefits of building the windmills will probably not outweigh the losses - in a what is lost, what is gained, type of tradeoff.

Through it, I kept wondering whether Christopher Hume, who seems to be an upper-crust kind of critic, would object to having neighbors installing massive solar panels and backyard windmills within sight from his house?

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 Post subject: Re: Blowhard nimbyism...
PostPosted: February 18th, 2009, 2:18 pm 
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Class is at the very core of these issues, which is why NIMBYism often carries a tone of frivolous and arrogant. In Ontario, there are surely many who live in the immediate shadow of an existing coal power plant. And somewhere near Toronto, I am sure there are plans for a natural gas peaker plant sitting on some drawing table. But when it comes to noise below the threshhold of human perception and visual aesthetics 2-4 km offshore and a power plant belching toxins, greenhouse gases, busy rail yards, ugly natural gas storage tanks, and wind blown coal dust ... the choice couldn't be more clear to me. But which populations and lakeshore communities carry the differential weight of power and interest in decision making? Sometimes, government has to do the right thing and tell people they can't have it both ways.


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 Post subject: Re: Blowhard nimbyism...
PostPosted: February 18th, 2009, 4:31 pm 
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I really don't understand what all the fuss is about - in Ontario or right here in Vermont. I had the privilege of spending 10 days in Brittany France this past year. Here and there, scattered across the pastoral landscape, were truly giant white wind turbines that dwarfed the farms and villages beneath them. But they were not eye sores, just startling sleek and graceful modern elements.

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 Post subject: Re: Blowhard nimbyism...
PostPosted: February 18th, 2009, 5:30 pm 
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I understand that an eyesore is an eyesore, but have any of these people stood under one of the newer turbines and listened? Sure the ones they were building 10 years ago can make some noise, but the newer ones are quiet. I mean, you can stand under one running at full power, and have a normal conversation. Move away 200 or 300m and you can barely hear them. Put them even 0.5km offshore, and the waves crashing on shore will make more noise than the turbines.

For once, I'd like someone who objects to something to show up with hard evidence for their position.

As to the eyesore, if anyone has ever flown into Copenhagen, you'd see windmills all over the place in the straight between Denmark and Sweden. They are not an eyesore, in fact the sailors love using them as markers to practice racing around.

Enough is enough.

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 Post subject: Re: Blowhard nimbyism...
PostPosted: February 18th, 2009, 5:31 pm 
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These people must be afraid that the sound of the windmills might drown out the sound of trucks on the 401.

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 Post subject: Re: Blowhard nimbyism...
PostPosted: February 18th, 2009, 7:33 pm 
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idylwyld wrote:
Class is at the very core of these issues, which is why NIMBYism often carries a tone of frivolous and arrogant.

This is funnier than you could anticipate: folks in Scarborough typically had to hold their head in shame, as a traditionally work-class community of 400,000. Alright, now I can feel a sense of elitism growing now. In past decades, the lakeshore area was considered undesirable, except for the various beaches close to downtown. The rest got thrown to the industry - which we finally have been able to push back (with Toronto's waterfront plan), at least partially.
Quote:
In Ontario, there are surely many who live in the immediate shadow of an existing coal power plant. And somewhere near Toronto, I am sure there are plans for a natural gas peaker plant sitting on some drawing table. But when it comes to noise below the threshhold of human perception and visual aesthetics 2-4 km offshore and a power plant belching toxins, greenhouse gases, busy rail yards, ugly natural gas storage tanks, and wind blown coal dust ... the choice couldn't be more clear to me. But which populations and lakeshore communities carry the differential weight of power and interest in decision making? Sometimes, government has to do the right thing and tell people they can't have it both ways.
Scarborough certainly is the stepchild in Toronto's family of boroughs, and it looks like we'll get shafted again, this time based on our elitism. :wink:


Last edited by Erhard on February 18th, 2009, 7:53 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Blowhard nimbyism...
PostPosted: February 18th, 2009, 7:37 pm 
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SteveBoal wrote:
I really don't understand what all the fuss is about - in Ontario or right here in Vermont. I had the privilege of spending 10 days in Brittany France this past year. Here and there, scattered across the pastoral landscape, were truly giant white wind turbines that dwarfed the farms and villages beneath them. But they were not eye sores, just startling sleek and graceful modern elements.

I know, the turbines look elegant and at a distance can fit quite nicely into a landscape. It's different when you are up close - that's an industrial structure. The farms up north get money to lease their land for the turbines, and for them it's a source of income - certainly easier to live with than their cows' manure heap.


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 Post subject: Re: Blowhard nimbyism...
PostPosted: February 18th, 2009, 7:44 pm 
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doftya wrote:
I understand that an eyesore is an eyesore, but have any of these people stood under one of the newer turbines and listened? Sure the ones they were building 10 years ago can make some noise, but the newer ones are quiet. I mean, you can stand under one running at full power, and have a normal conversation. Move away 200 or 300m and you can barely hear them. Put them even 0.5km offshore, and the waves crashing on shore will make more noise than the turbines.

For once, I'd like someone who objects to something to show up with hard evidence for their position.
....

My brother bought a house in the country north of Berlin, Germany, maybe ten years ago. They put in turbines onto a farmer's field, maybe 1km away on a ridge. He didn't mind at all at first (he's pretty nature-loving, I had him over here as well) - but with experience he realizes that the evenings outside have a constant swoosh when the wind is from the south. He's renting out to vacationers part of the year and he gets complaints from the guests. Is that the sort of evidence you were looking for?


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 Post subject: Re: Blowhard nimbyism...
PostPosted: February 18th, 2009, 7:50 pm 
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recped wrote:
These people must be afraid that the sound of the windmills might drown out the sound of trucks on the 401.

Well, some areas (mouth of Rouge to the Pickering plant) would have that feature.

But the areas further west (the bulk of the wind farm project) is more than 2km from the big highways. Maybe if one was to specify a distance of 2km from the land, there'd be little noise impact. But the water depth cannot exceed 30m to keep the cost of the structure down, and that forces the towers to be built close to shore.

Man, it's so nice to see you guys concerned for Scarberia's environmental bliss..... :lol:


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 Post subject: Re: Blowhard nimbyism...
PostPosted: February 18th, 2009, 9:09 pm 
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I wish I remembered exactly where on the 401 we encountered what looked like an established wind farm. At first a jarring sight to the eyes, within a few minutes was actually beautiful and silent. There were well over a hundred we could count.

And a respite from the monotony of the brown and blue and grey landscape.

Think it was just west of Kingston, but can't recall despite it being three days ago.


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 Post subject: Re: Blowhard nimbyism...
PostPosted: February 18th, 2009, 9:32 pm 
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I know that there are quite a few planned for Wolfe and Amherst Island (on land), and then a large group in the lake off Prince Edward Island. I don't think they are that far yet, still in construction.

http://maps.google.ca/maps?hl=en&ie=UTF ... 3&t=h&z=10

To make up a 100 or so, there'd have to be more on the US side of that border area, and that's possible as I have no info on that area.


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 Post subject: Re: Blowhard nimbyism...
PostPosted: February 18th, 2009, 9:34 pm 
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Erhard wrote:
But the water depth cannot exceed 30m to keep the cost of the structure down, and that forces the towers to be built close to shore.

Would you feel different if you could float the thing 15k offshore? There are a number of designs for mooring turbines offshore, and the bottom of Lake Ontario is granite ... is it not?

There are practical solutions to most of these things. The opposition has to get in the business of going beyond "no," and offering viable alternatives. It's what people have been trying to do with hydro projects for years (argue for wind as an alternative). By saying "no" to wind, the opposition in effect is saying yes to hydro, coal, natural gas, nuclear, and lining the pockets of public utility companies in Quebec, Manitoba, and the States (and at no significant environmental benefit).


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 Post subject: Re: Blowhard nimbyism...
PostPosted: February 18th, 2009, 9:46 pm 
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I like your suggestion: yup, build the things in deeper water. Why didn't they think of it in the first place ? :wink:

The proponents of wind mills and power dams love these projects because they pit environmentally caring people against their own kind. And the ensuing spectacle makes for good fun and good business. Priceless!

PS:
I suspect building floating platforms is expensive - especially to operate in the ice conditions of the lake - and that would blow the business case out of the water.

PPS: There is a counter proposal out there, called
Quote:
ANALYSIS OF FUTURE OFFSHORE WIND FARM DEVELOPMENT
IN ONTARIO
Prepared for
Ontario Power Authority
By
Helimax Energy Inc.
April 2008


It lists viable sites across the province - based on wind characteristics and environmental considerations. The Toronto area isn't one of them, mainly because of lack of consistent and strong wind. The thing is a political move on part of Toronto Hydro, as I had pointed out earlier.


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