Bids for wind-power generation projects
NB Power released a request for proposals to develop, own and operate a wind farm putting out up to 20 megawatts of generation in New Brunswick. According to NB Power spokesman Jeffrey Carleton, that's enough to provide power for a village of 2,000 people, or a village the size of Belledune.
One company that says it will be in the running is la Co-operative d'énergie rénouvelable de Lamèque. The Co-operative - a partnership of the town of Lamèque, the Lamèque Co-op, the Lamèque Credit Union, and the Lamèque Island Fishermen's Co-operative - wants to supply NB Power's needs from a wind farm in partnership with Helimax, a Montreal wind energy company. President of the Lamèque Island wind farm co-op - Mr. Lanteigne said it would cost between $30 million and $35 million and involve 24 turbines producing 18 megawatts of power.
The request for proposals to the private sector sets a precedent for power generation in New Brunswick. NB Power is willing to consider more wind generation than 20 megawatts if it's feasible, and this call for bids is just the first phase of NB Power's long-term goal of acquiring 100 megawatts from renewable-energy projects by 2010. Partly because of government incentives, the costs to produce green energy are coming down, and environmental restrictions, which tend to become ever-stricter, are making zero-emissions energy sources like wind more desirable to utilities.
Starting on April 1, as New Brunswick's Electricity Act takes effect, would-be energy producers will be able to sell to a new company, NB Power Customer Service and Distribution, one of five companies into which NB Power will be split.
Saint John Energy, the utility supplying electricity to the Port City, is also investigating the possibility of installing wind turbines within the city limits. If the project goes ahead, the electricity would be used by the utility, reducing the amount it buys from NB Power or other future suppliers.
Adapted from the
New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal
ew technology in wind turbines has made this non-polluting source of electricity as cheap as any other (<7c/kwh). So now that harnessing all that hot air (which causes the wind to blow) is finally a practical reality, what can we do to push those politicians along the yellow brick (solar) road?
(photo: PowerGen Renewables)
Besides addressing any concerns about noise, bird mortality, back-up, etc (these are covered below), the best answer may come from another question: What is working elsewhere?
In Germany and Denmark, the world leaders in wind energy, many of the wind turbines are owned by associations, similar to cooperatives, of local landowners. Shareholders, who must live within sight of the turbine, have been earning dividends of seven percent and more.
Thanks to long-term (30 year) government energy planning that encourages local renewable energy, more than 100 000 families in Denmark have agreed with their neighbours that they like the look of a windmill. On the other side of the coin and the North Sea, in the late 1990's large corporate wind projects in Britain were proposed but defeated by local citizens who saw no benefits because they weren't involved. (Alternatives magazine Winter 2004 pp. 26-27 'Blowing in the Wind')
Here on Prince Edward Island, we see a similar scenario with the J. D. Irving Co. facing very strong opposition to its project to erect 40 turbines in the Malpeque area. The Irvings have mapped out wind potential in most of the Maritime provinces and want to start where potential (and profit) is highest, of course. For now, they have slowed down the project and intend to put up only 2 turbines in the next year.
Islanders (and other Maritimers!) will need to get organized quickly to lay claim to the public funding that is now available for wind energy projects. Municipalities or local cooperatives, with assistance from provincial governments, may be the best avenue for organizing local control. (see side bar information on projects)
(photo: AMEC Wind)
Tax incentives, including RRSPs, could be used to get local citizens to invest, and thus be directly involved, in wind (and solar energy) projects.
For homeowner-scale windmills, the critical issue is being able to connect to the grid and get a fair price for surplus electricity fed back into the grid. Called 'net metering', this system is now being used by the Falls Brook Centre in New Brunswick, and is expected to be instituted by the PEI government soon. (see 'Net Metering' below)
The PEI government is slowly developing a program to encourage the construction of more public and private wind-generated electricity. Recently, eight new 660-watt wind turbines were added to the North Cape Wind Farm owned by a provincial crown corporation; this brings its capacity to 13.56 megawatts, or roughly five per cent of PEI's electricity use. As part of the soon-to-be announced Renewable Energy Strategy, wind power is expected to provide the province with at least 10 per cent of its electrical energy by 2010.
ere are some Frequently Asked Questions and Answers from the Canadian Wind Energy Association's website:
Q: I have heard that you can connect a small wind generator and run the meter backwards when you have surplus power. Is this true in Canada?
A: Many US states have net metering laws that require the utility to allow you to connect to the grid. On a windy day, when your power use is low, you can run your meter backwards. And on calm days, you purchase power from the utility as usual. You then pay only on your net power consumed.
Eight Canadian utilities currently have policies in place which allow small renewable generators to be compensated at the retail rate and another seven utilities provide below retail compensation. Utility review boards do not openly advocate compensation policies yet their mandate to ensure fair electricity markets may eventually best be served by rulings in favour of such policies. Seven out of ten provincial energy departments have "examined" the issue of 'net metering' and five either advocate it or are considering making it mandatory.
(additional information: A Survey of Canadian Policies to Compensate Small PowerProducers for Electricity Fed to the Grid: Net Metering and Net Billing, by Jeff Bell (2002))
SIZE OF CANADA'S WIND RESOURCE
Q: I don't see very many wind turbines in Canada. Is wind really able to generate much power?
A: Natural Resources Canada estimates that Canada has almost 30,000 megawatts of developable wind resource. This compares to the current installed base of 200 MW, and would be enough to supply 15% of Canada's electricity supply. Since Canada gets less than 25% of its power from fossil fuels, generating 15% of our power from the wind would reduce fossil fuel emissions (mostly coal) dramatically. In addition, many in the industry believe the wind resource is far greater than this. With wind, literally, the sky is the limit.
BACK-UP POWER WHEN THE WIND ISN'T BLOWING
Q: Wind is an intermittent resource. What do you do when the wind isn't blowing?
A: Wind is a perfect complement to water power. When the wind is blowing, you store the water behind the dam. And when it is calm, you release the water and generate power at the dam.
Canada has a lot of existing water power generation. In most of Canada, there would be no need to build any back-up generating capacity, since the water storage already exists locally, or in a nearby province. [Co-generation, biomass and hydrogen are also viable back-up power sources.]
In addition, wind turbines generate their power when it is most needed. Winds in Canada are stronger in the winter, so power generated by wind turbines is higher in the winter. This is also the time of peak power demand, as electricity is in greater demand for heating and lighting. Wind also generates more power during the day than at night. This again matches peak loads.
Q: I have heard that wind turbines kill birds. Is this true?
A: Studies have shown that the average wind turbine kills 2 birds per year. This is less than the average car or house cat. In addition, wind turbines have no air or water emissions. So replacing other forms of generation with wind generation improves the environment, and therefore improves the survival rates of all species, compared to traditional sources of generation.
Q: Are wind turbines noisy?
A: The current generation of turbines is quieter than in the past. The sound heard is the "swoosh, swoosh, swoosh" of the passing blades, similar to the waves on a beach, only more regular. There is virtually no mechanical sound from a modern wind turbine. You can carry on a conversation at the base of a wind turbine without difficulty. Still, you should locate turbines at a sufficient distance from residences so as to avoid conflicts with neighbours.
MANUFACTURE OF TURBINES
Q: Where are commercial wind turbines made?
A: The large scale commercial turbines are manufactured largely in
and Germany. Denmark Spain, the United States, Belgium, Netherlands and India also have domestic manufacturers. Canada will be able to attract local manufacturing, once there is a more established domestic marketplace. Wind turbines are large and expensive to transport, so there is always an advantage in having local production. Canada already has many of the skill sets required to manufacture wind turbines, including steel fabricators, precision gear makers, transformer manufacturers etc.
Q: How much of the time will wind turbines produce power?
A: Wind turbines produce power in wind speeds above about 13 km/hour. In most places where wind turbines are located, the wind would be above this speed 70-80% of the time. Production then increases until it hits a maximum power produced at 55 km/hour. Wind turbines will typically shut down at wind speeds above 90 km/hour for safety reasons. These numbers will vary depending on the model of turbine selected.
The latest wind industry trends are sure to be a topic of discussion at the Global Windpower 2004 Conference and Exhibition, to be held in Chicago in late March. See this website.
(photo: National Wind Power)
Regardless of how quickly wind turbines go up, the best 'source' of energy remains conservation; however meaningful conservation programs are especially lacking in electricity policy.
Here's one simple and smart idea:
'Incentives are all in the timing'
August 15, 2002, Ottawa Citizen
Smart hydro meters will likely do more to change consumption than conservation pleas.
Traditional meters can measure only overall consumption; smart 'interval' meters reward consumers who reduce consumption during expensive peak hours.
Unlike current meters, which only measure overall consumption, new "interval" meters can record consumption by the hour, transmitting this information to the hydro distributor to match to wholesale prices that prevailed at the time. The idea is already being tested in Milton, west of Toronto, where a few residential customers have joined larger commercial users in adopting smart technology meters and a billing system that ties prices to fluctuating market costs.
If the idea takes hold, it could mean savings for those who do their laundry at and curtail air-conditioning until bedtime and higher prices for those whose patterns don't adjust during heat-waves and other high-demand periods.