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NB Power was originally established to provide the people of New
Brunswick with affordable power, thereby contributing to public welfare,
the corporation now poses a significant liability to that very same
public welfare. With the recognition of the threat that global warming
poses to the people and the planet, the vast amount of capital that NB
Power has invested in fossil fuel based technology must be considered a
write-off. This has the consequence of placing the people of New
Brunswick in a debt situation.
(photo: Wind Prospect)
There is no easy way out. Take the example of Mount Allison
University. According to the environmental audit that was completed this
fall, the operations on campus resulted in about 5 654 472.9 kg of
greenhouse gas emissions (Kennedy et al, 2000).
Discussions in 1998 indicated that NB Power was unwilling to permit
Mount Allison to generate wind power, as this would reduce NB Power's annual
income and leave the company with stranded debt (what it has invested in
power plants with the expectation of an annual income). However, now
that the price of oil is hovering around 35$ per barrel of oil with no
sign of relief ahead, the penny pushers at NB Power may be more open to
the concept of free wind power. A further hopeful factor is the
possibility of a progressive energy policy from the new Lord government.
Mount Allison University is uniquely positioned on the edge of the
Tantramar Marshes, one of the two ideal wind energy locations in the
province. The wind regime on the marshes has the advantage of being
reliable over the long term due to the temperature gradient between the
land and the ocean as the world’s largest tides move in and out, but
the disadvantage of fluctuating considerably over the short term for the
Further, the University owns a farm on top of a nearby hill (wind
speeds increase with elevation) that is ideally located next to a NB
(Source: Mount Allison University)
The University has peak demands that exceed 1 MW per hour, indicating
that a wind turbine of 750 kW to 1 MW range would be suitable, with a
blade diameter of 40 metres (120 feet). This is huge by all accounts,
particularly since the blade is mounted on a 60-70 metre high tower. In
terms of cost, a wind turbine of this size would probably cost about
$1.5-2 million, but considering it would generate the majority of the
University’s $1 million annual electricity needs for over twenty
years, it is a steal of a deal.
Several concerns are immediately apparent. The Tantramar marshes are
vitally important for migrating birds. It is conceivable that the
installation of such a significant tower could seriously impact bird
routes. However, extensive studies in Europe and the US have
demonstrated that mortality is less than one bird per year.
The sound of wind turbines can be problematic as they whish, whish
around day and night. At 200 metres the sound of a 750 kW machine is
significantly louder then whispering, slightly quieter than the interior
of the average residence and much quieter than conversational speech at
3 feet. But the persistence of the sound can be irritating for nearby
residents (Dillon Consulting, 2000).
The aesthetics of a turbine can be particularly controversial. While
some people view the sight (pardon the pun) of wind energy as
progressive and hopeful, others perceive the giant towers as a permanent
rendition of the very worst of Picasso.
While these concerns are valid, they are insignificant in relation to
the negative characteristics of gas, nuclear, oil or even large hydro
power plants. However, like every good ecologist knows, there is no free
lunch. And so the first step at Mount Allison University must be to
minimize energy consumption.
- Kennedy, Kate and Kirkpatrick, Anna. (2000) Mount Allison
University Environmental Audit- Draft.
- Dillon Consulting Ltd. (2000) Wind Turbine Environmental
Assessment. Draft Screening Document. Toronto Hydro.