Posted in, rant, technology

Are Wind Turbines Efficient? They Sure are Ugly!

photo credit

Are the monstrously ugly wind turbines (windmills) dotting the otherwise beautiful countryside efficient? You can probably tell I don’t approve of them. I am reminded how much I don’t believe in their efficiency or practicality every time I drive to my favourite farm.

That’s because there is an enormous north-south swath of them crossing highway 43 near the intersection of county road 11, the last leg of our trip from Ottawa to the farm in Eastern Ontario.

My last venture in that direction that was no exception. My four year old grandson, my travelling partner that day, summed up my feelings pretty well with a loud “whoa, what the heck is that big thing?” When I explained that it was a windmill, there to gather energy from the wind, he was quick to point out “but it’s not even moving!”

Exactly! During my last visit none of the windmills were operational. I mentioned this to my uncle upon arriving at his farm; apparently they were just installed. This time, a month or so later, maybe fifty percent were in motion. Not exactly a great track record.

How do Windmills Generate Electricity?

This YouTube video posted on Good Energy in the UK explains how well the windmills are working, especially within the north-western corner of Europe where it almost always windy:

Are Windmills Efficient?

In reducing carbon footprints, these windmills are efficient, actually one of the smallest footprints in current practices of renewable generators. That’s because they do not release emissions of any sort into the atmosphere. However, their actual physical footprint is enormous, taking up huge amounts of land.

Optimal sites for wind farms are in remote locations due to the amount of space they require. The problem with this is that (expensive) transmission lines must be established to get the electricity from the remote locations to the big cities that use the most electricity. This however can be lucrative in the form of extra income for the owners of remote properties since the owners of wind power plants pay rent to the landowners, often farmers or ranchers, for the use of their land.

A windmill or wind turbine is typically only a maximum of 50% efficient when wind is at a peak level. Wind however, is typically inconsistent; very few global locations would have consistent winds to maximize the efficiency level.

Theoretically wind power is cost effective because the electricity generated can be sold at a fixed price over many years, unlike the price of gas and oil which fluctuates like our Canadian weather. Wind turbines are exorbitantly expensive to make, install, and maintain, then only last on average 25 years. The wind is the inexpensive part, as it is a (free) natural resource.

Esthetics and Dangers of Wind Turbines

Not only are wind turbines hideous to look at, they have proven to be annoyingly noisy (when they work) as well as harmful, often fatal to birds. Hundreds of thousands of birds and bats are killed annually, in collisions with the massive rotating (and sedentary) arms of the wind turbines.


I like to think I am open minded as well as a proponent for green energy. Why then, do these wind turbines bother me so much? Probably because I am also a proponent of sensibility, natural beauty, and efficiency, especially cost efficiency.

Posted in technology

The speed of change, food for thought

The speed of change as predicted here is food for thought, interesting and scary at the same time!

This German author offers a peek into the future . . .
By Udo Gollub at Messe Berlin, Germany
Speed Of Change
In 1998, Kodak had 170,000 employees and sold 85% of all photo paper worldwide. Within just a few years, their business model disappeared and they went bankrupt.
What happened to Kodak will happen in a lot of industries in the next 10 year – and most people don’t see it coming. Did you think in 1998 that 3 years later you would never take pictures on paper film again?Yet digital cameras were invented in 1975.
The first ones only had 10,000 pixels, but followed Moore’s law. So as with all exponential technologies, it was a disappointment for a long time, before it became way superior and got mainstream in only a few short years.
It will now happen with Artificial Intelligence, health, autonomous and electric cars, education, 3D printing, agriculture and jobs.
Welcome to the 4th Industrial Revolution 
Welcome to the Exponential Age.
 Software will disrupt most traditional industries in the next 5-10 years. Uber is just a software tool, they don’t own any cars, and are now the biggest taxi company in the world.  Airbnb is now the biggest hotel company in the world, although they don’t own any properties.
 Artificial Intelligence: Computers become exponentially better in understanding the world.  This year, a computer beat the best Go player in the world, 10 years earlier than expected.
 Lawyers: In the US, young lawyers already don’t get jobs. Because of IBM Watson, you can get legal advice (so far for more or less basic stuff) within seconds, with 90% accuracy compared with 70% accuracy when done by humans.  So if you study law, recognize that there will be 90% less lawyers in the future, with only specialists remaining. IBM Watson already helps nurses diagnose cancer, 4 time more accurately than human nurses. Facebook now has a pattern recognition software that can recognize faces better than humans. In 2030, computers will become more intelligent than humans.
 Autonomous Cars: In 2018 the first self-driving cars will appear publicly. Around 2020, the complete industry will start to be disrupted. You don’t want to own a car anymoreYou will call a car with your phone, it will show up at your location and drive you to your destination. You will not need to park it, you only pay for the driven distance and can be productive while driving. Our young kids will never get a driver’s license and will never own a car.
 It will change the cities, because we will need 90-95% less cars for that. We can transform former parking space into parks. 1.2 million people die each year in car accidents worldwide. We now have one accident every 100,000 km, with autonomous driving that will drop to one accident in 10 million km.
 We will save a million lives each year.
 Most car companies might become bankrupt.
 Traditional car companies try the evolutionary approach and just build a better car, while tech companies (Tesla, Apple, Google) will do the revolutionary approach and build a computer on wheels. I spoke to a lot of engineers from Volkswagen and Audi; they are terrified of Tesla.
Insurance Companies: will have massive trouble because without accidents, insurance will become 100x cheaper. Their car insurance business model will disappear.
 Real Estate: will change. Because if you can work while you commute, people will move farther away to live in a more beautiful neighborhood.
 Electric Cars: will become mainstream by 2020. Cities will be less noisy because most cars will be electric.  The need for fossil fuels will drop dramatically.
 Electricity: will become incredibly cheap and clean: Solar production has been on an exponential curve for 30 years, but you can only now see the impact. Last year, more solar energy was installed worldwide than fossil fuels. The price for solar will drop so much that all coal companies will be out of business by 2025. With cheap electricity comes cheap and abundant water.
 Desalination now only needs 2kWh per cubic meter.
 We don’t have scarce water in most places, we only have scarce drinking water. Imagine what will be possible if we can have as much clean water as we want, at almost no cost.
 Health: The Tricorder X price will be announced this year. There will be companies who will build a medical device (called the “Tricorder” from Star Trek) that works with your phone. It scans your retina, your blood sample and you breathe into it. It then analyses 54 biomarkers that will identify nearly any disease.  It will be so cheap, that in a few years everyone on this planet will have access to world class medicine, almost free.
 3D Printing: The price of the cheapest 3D printer came down from $18,000 to $400 within 10 years. At the same time, it became 100 times faster.  All major shoe companies have started 3D printing of shoes.  Spare airplane parts are already 3D printed at remote airports.
 The space station now has a printer that eliminates the need for the large amount of spare parts they used in the past. At the end of this year, new smartphones will have 3D scanning possibilities. You can then 3D scan your feet and print your perfect shoe at home.  In China, they have already 3D printed a complete 6-storey office building.  By 2027, 10% of everything that’s being produced will be 3D printed.
 Business opportunities: If you think of a niche you want, ask yourself: “in the future, do you think we will have that?” If the answer is yes, say to yourself, “How can I make this happen sooner?” If it doesn’t work with your phone, forget the idea.
And any idea designed for success in the 20th century is doomed to failure in the 21st Century.
 Work: 70-80% of jobs will disappear in the next 20 years. There will be a lot of new jobs, but it is not clear if there will be enough new jobs in such a short time.
 Agriculture: There will be a $100 agricultural robot in the future.Farmers in 3rd world countries can then become managers of their fields instead of working all day on their fields. Hydroponics will need much less water. The first petri dish produced Veal is now available and will be cheaper than cow produced Veal in 2018. Right now, 30% of all agricultural surfaces are used for cows. Imagine if we don’t need that space anymore. There are several startups which will bring insect protein to the market shortly. They contain more protein than meat. It will be labeled as an “alternative protein source” because most people still reject the idea of eating insects.
 Truth or Lies: There is an app called “moodies” which can already tell us the mood we are in.
 By 2020 there will be apps that can tell by our facial expressions if we are lying.
 Imagine a political debate where it’s being displayed, if they are telling the truth or not.
 Longevity: Right now, the average life span increases by 3 months per year. Four years ago, the life span used to be 79 years, now it’s 80 years. The increase itself is increasing and by 2036, there will be more than a year in longevity increase per year. So we all might live for a long, long time, probably over a 100 years.
 Education: The cheapest smartphones are already costing $10 in Africa and Asia. By 2020, 70% of all humans will own a smartphone.This means, everyone has the same access to world class education
Posted in current events

Have you Seen your latest Hydro Bill?



Have you looked at your hydro bill lately?  I mean really looked?  Do you have a hard time understanding the bills you pay?  It makes me wonder if they purposely make the bills confusing so that people will not look carefully and just pay what is requested without thinking about it. I have to admit that until I heard recently about the  drastically increasing  hydro costs, I did not pay enough attention to them.  It does not help when bills are automatically paid through paperless bank accounts.  These technological advances in banking and bill paying are very convenient, but can lead to consumer oblivion.

HydroOttawa provides the electricity to our home in Kanata, Ontario. After looking at our most recent bill very closely, I have a lot of questions…

Recently they have switched us from equalized payments to monthly billing.  I am not sure why, but somehow I do not feel it is to our advantage.    I heard recently of many complaints from rural residences that were charged exorbitant rates from HydroOne (one report was $12,000) through their pre-authorized automatic payment plan, then offered a credit to correct the mistake instead of a refund.  In other words, Hydro keeps the money and the customer is left with $12,000 less in their account. What would happen if you didn’t have that kind of money in your account (I’m sure you would still be stuck with a large interest charge for overdrawing on the account even though the mistake was not yours) or were counting on it for something else? (like food maybe)

Our consumption of electricity is categorized into off peak, mid peak and on peak periods of each day.  Reasonable, I guess, if nothing else to convince you to use less electricity during the on peak (more expensive) hours.  See the chart below for peak and non peak hours. What I do not understand is why there are two charges for each of these categories on my list of charges?



Use Prices

 On-Peak 12.9 ¢ / kWh  Weekdays
 7 am – 11 am
5 pm – 7 pm                       
 Mid-Peak 10.9 ¢ / kWh  Weekdays
 11 am – 5 pm 
 Off-Peak 7.2 ¢ / kWh  Weekdays
 7 pm – 7 am
 All Day


also on the list of charges to be paid:

-HST (harmonized sales tax)

-Regulatory charges; they do attempt to explain what that entails on the back of the bill, but basically it means us funding the Ministry of Energy for the never ending scandals and inefficient, ineffective, billion dollar programs they come up with.

-A debt retirement charge to pay off the debt accumulated by Ontario hydro, which by the way, was paid off in 2011.  Instead of removing the debt retirement charge from our bills,  more money was borrowed to fund other Liberal  blunders.  So, on our bills it appears like the original debt wasn’t yet paid off, and we continue to pay.  To add insult to injury, top Ontario Hydro executives, probably the ones responsible for this massive debt in the first place, recently received bonuses to their salaries and extra padding to their already luxurious pension plans.

-and then a nice big delivery charge on top of our usage charges, which you get whether you use the electricity or not.  This we found out on a similarly confusing hydro bill from Hydro One who services our cottage in rural Ontario.  As our cottage is used only in the summer months (and even then mostly just on weekends) and not at all in the winter, you would think the delivery fee of approximately $80 per month would not apply off season.  No such reasoning, we pay the delivery fee every month, even though there is no electricity being used between October and May!

At the end of the list of charges, it shows a clean energy benefit credit!  This comes from the Ministry of Energy, currently run by the Liberal government, whose scandals (the cancelled gas plants saga that cost us $1.1 billion for example) we are paying for with the regulatory charge mentioned above.  Are you confused yet?  Why not just waste less money on the scandals and non-efficient, non-viable programs like another windmill farm that is slated for construction in Chatham, Ontario and charge us less upfront?

If I am complaining about the fees we pay for our home and cottage, what about the companies and organizations whose consumption would be much greater?  In comparison, their bills must be staggering!  I heard of one curling club that had to close its doors because it could not cover the increased cost of hydro with its membership dues; I have no doubt many other such organizations will be doing the same.

I also feel bad for the many pensioners in Ontario who are living on a fixed income.  Should they have to choose between paying for electricity and buying groceries?  I am not far from the fixed income days myself; what was supposed to be a comfortable, relaxing, well-deserved retirement may be a little more stressful than planned…