Toronto Sun | 5.25.12
Alan W. Dowd
Sarkozy, who was recently ousted by Francois Hollande, deserves credit for a
number of courageous policy decisions during his presidency. Bringing France
back into the NATO military command structure, leading NATO into and through Libya, challenging the
West to get serious about Iran’s opaque nuclear program, and staying the course
in Afghanistan despite the war’s unpopularity all come to mind. But building
windmills off the Normandy coast doesn’t fall into that category. This is a
bad idea for at least two reasons.
there’s the historical importance of the waters that lap onto Normandy—waters
that delivered the largest amphibious-landing force in history on June 6, 1944.
If plans go forward—tenders for the multi-billion-euro project are being
awarded this year—a bed of wind turbines rising up to 525 feet high will be
planted off what was known as “Juno Beach” on D-Day. Some windmills could be up
and running by 2015.
government officials tell Britain’s Telegraph newspaper that the giant windmills will be so far out to
sea that they will appear like “matchsticks” from the beaches. But veterans
groups on both sides of the Atlantic aren’t buying that defense.
organizations regard this as an invasion of sacred grounds, where so many
warriors gave their lives,” the Port Winston Churchill Association of
Arromanches declared in a statement. “They will be visible from all the Normandy landing beaches:
Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword,” according to Gérard Lecornu, the group’s president.
“D-Day is in our collective memory. To touch this is a very grave attack on
grave? In Britain, some veteran RAF pilots have warned—no doubt,
tongue-in-cheek—that they might take to the air again to bomb the windmills.
Given that Juno was Canada’s beachhead, the Normandy windmills are especially
unsettling to some Canadian veterans. Calling the Normandy beaches “hallowed
grounds,” D-Day veteran Jack Martin described the wind-farm plans as “a
disgusting affair” in an interview.
have every right to weigh in. After all, some 42,000 Canadians died liberating France
and the rest of Europe in World War II. As former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney
once observed, “If people want to know how Canada paid for its seat in Europe,
they should check out the graves in Belgium and France.”
planned Normandy-area wind farm is part of a larger effort to plant hundreds of
wind turbines along France’s Atlantic and Mediterranean coastlines by 2020. The French government believes the wind-farm project will
generate the electricity equivalent of two nuclear power plants. Best of all,
say the project’s proponents, it’s all clean and green.
brings us to a second problem with France’s wind-farm plans: Modern-day
windmills are anything but environmentally friendly.
Bryce, editor of the Energy Tribune, reports that wind turbines in the United States kill between 75,000 and 275,000 birds
numbers earned wind-power generators the moniker ‘Cuisinarts of the Air,’” adds Diane Katz, a former Fraser Institute colleague. She notes that in Canada “the
wind-power industry enjoys a degree of political favor that would make most
other energy executives green with envy. The province of Ontario, for example,
actually requires utilities to purchase wind power at inflated rates.”
as Gerry Angevine and his team in the Fraser Institute’s Global Resource Centre
detail in a recent report,
policymakers in Canada and the U.S. are employing renewable portfolio standards
(RPS) to “require electric-power utilities to use renewable energy sources such
as wind for generating a certain percentage of their overall electricity
supplies.” Angevine’s report notes that 29 U.S. states and the District of
Columbia have enacted RPSs, while three Canadian provinces have RPS programs.
The report adds that in most situations generating electricity from onshore
wind-power installations depends on government subsidies and mandates to be
competitive with other forms of power generation. Moreover, offshore wind-power
generation is more costly and generally cannot compete with electric-generation
technologies that rely on non-renewable energy sources such as natural gas and
Institute for Energy Research observes that in the U.S., per unit of energy output, “wind subsidies dwarf those of
more conventional resources.” In 2010, subsidies for wind totaled $56.29 per
megawatt hour. Nuclear ($3.14), hydroelectric ($0.82), coal ($0.64) and natural
gas/petroleum liquids ($0.64) were all substantially lower. In short, a better
path—for France, Canada and the United States—would be to allow market forces
to determine the most cost-effective and efficient way to deliver energy.
course, if France wants to try to power its cities with windmills, it has every
right to do so. But given what Canadians and Americans did for France 68 Junes
ago, perhaps the new French government could find someplace other than the Normandy
coastline to carry out its wind-farm experiment.