N.S. gov’t responds to request for correction

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Looks like the Nova Scotia government will not be issuing a correction to last week’s news release about the new wind farm in Amherst. In an e-mail, Nancy Watson, the energy department’s director of communications defends the government’s claim that the wind facility will generate “enough energy to power 10,000 homes.”

“This type of reference is commonly used simply to  illustrate the scale of the energy output that may be produced by these large wind farms,” she writes.

As I pointed out in my previous post, the news release gives the misleading impression that because of the wind project, 10,000 homes won’t need to draw power from the coal-fired plants that supply about 75 per cent of Nova Scotia’s electricity. That’s not true.

The turbines will generate power only about a third of the time because winds blow intermittently and not always at optimal speeds. Thus, the news release deflects attention away from an awkward fact: wind turbines are much less efficient than other types of generators and they must be backed up by a parallel power source always ready to kick in instantly when the wind stops blowing or its speed drops.

Kilowatt hours per year

“In the case of a 31.5 MW wind farm we are suggesting,” Watson writes, “it may produce in the order of 96 million KWh/yr. If you assume an annual household electricity use of 10,000 kWh/yr that translates into the equivalent of some 10,000 homes.”

Watson ends her e-mail with a nice thank-you:

Clearly as we develop more renewable projects in Nova Scotia it is incumbent on all of us to help raise the literacy level of the media and public as it relates to energy matters, and we appreciate your help in that regard.

Not quite the same as an official correction, but oh what the heck. Maybe the government’s next wind farm news release will be less misleading.

About Bruce Wark

Bruce Wark is a freelance journalist and retired journalism professor who lives in Sackville, New Brunswick, Canada. He taught the history and ethics of journalism at the University of King's College in Halifax, Nova Scotia for 15 years. Before that, he worked for 19 years at CBC Radio news serving as a producer in charge of such network programs as World at Six, World Report and The House. He also produced Media File, a national program that looked critically at the performance of the news media. Along the way, Wark also worked as CBC Radio's legislative reporter in Ontario and as its National Reporter in Canada's Maritime provinces.
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