A Nuclear Engineer Willing To Endure Name Calling To Share Knowledge
A friend shared a link to a well written, fact-based opinion piece by Donald Jones published in TheStar.com titled No Future For Wind In Ontario. According to Jones’s by-line, he is a retired professional engineer with 35 years of experience in CANDU reactor design. Here are some quotes from the piece that are particularly important:
Wind requires natural gas-fired generation for support and natural gas will be a most precarious fuel for Ontario.
The future of industrial wind power in Ontario is tied to natural gas-fired electricity generation and that, as will be seen, is unsustainable. The Ontario power grid needs flexible support to keep supply and demand in balance, and providing this support will be made more difficult when we add the vagaries of wind.
The Ontario government is putting too much faith in natural gas for electricity generation, as the United Kingdom did with its “dash for gas” from the North Sea in the 1990s when gas was cheap. Now the U.K. is in terrible shape with its gas running out and the threat of power shortages in the next decade.
In France, the nuclear energy share of electricity production is about 78 per cent from its 58 reactors, with the balance divided nearly equally between hydro and fossil, and with the nuclear units able to meet daily changes in electricity demand. Sweden has a grid the same size as Ontario’s but with almost all nuclear/hydro generation.
Not surprisingly, the letter generated a large number of comments in short order – comments are now closed but there were 44 of them within a day. Also not surprisingly, Mr. Jones, a retired professional engineer, was tagged as a nuclear shill, accused of proposing a plan that puts future generations at severe risk and of ignoring the experiences of certain European countries that have built a large quantity of wind turbine capacity without causing major disruptions to their power grid.
It did my heart good, however, to read through all of the comments and realize just how many people were cheering Donald for his forthright explanation of why he is not a wind fan. Since the comment thread is already closed, and I have a few thoughts that were not already mentioned in that thread, I figured I would try to continue the conversation here with a few bullet points for discussion:
- There are nuclear plant designs that can follow load quite easily.
- Can someone with more CANDU knowledge help me understand if they can be designed to be responsive enough to serve as varying power sources in a grid without wind?
- When wind/gas supporters point to Denmark and Germany as examples of how grids CAN integrate wind, I would like to have them explain why they think people will cheer the higher prices and larger per capita pollution in those countries compared to other European examples like France, Sweden, Switzerland, and Finland, all of which have a large share of nuclear and plans to build new plants.
- One commenter opposed to Donald’s view should be cheered for his honesty as well – here is how he signed his comment “Glenn Hubbers is a professional engineer with 20 years in the natural gas and power generation industries and a 2 time candidate for the Green Party of Canada.” Get involved in many discussions about wind energy’s growth prospects and you will soon find a number of natural gas advocates pressing the case for expansion.
- I am on the lookout for an Energy Probe response to Donald’s piece. Not only are they huge promoters of wind power, but they are heavily promoting a book by Lawrence Solomon, Energy Probe’s executive director, titled The Deniers that profiles 28 “topflight scientists whose work undermines the case that humanity is heating up the planet to a destructive degree.”
I think I might have to expand on that last point a bit. I have dug through my email archives to find a discussion that I had with Mr. Solomon in 2003; there are some interesting quotes in that discussion that are worth their own post. Unfortunately, it is time to get ready to head out for my day job.