Change is in the wind

Change is in the wind I'd like to respond to Dean Metcalfe's letter Wonders About Wind Power, published on March 16. Metcalfe raises several interesting points about wind power in his letter. I think I can provide answers to some of the questions raised.

I’d like to respond to Dean Metcalfe’s letter Wonders About Wind Power, published on March 16.

Metcalfe raises several interesting points about wind power in his letter.

I think I can provide answers to some of the questions raised.

The March 18 Yukon News article Wind-Turbine Money Gone Like The Wind also provides some relevant information.

Metcalfe is right in saying that the first wind turbine was installed in 1993, the larger second one was installed in 2000.

Sales of wind turbine capacity worldwide has been growing at a rate of some 25 per cent annually for close to 10 years, and the normal commercial wind turbine size is now about 1.5 to 3 megawatts (1,500 to 3,000 kilowatts).

The wind turbine manufacturers have been so busy selling turbines for markets where there are no problems that they have been ignoring the smaller niche markets, such as those involving icing like on Haeckel Hill and very cold climates.

There are signs that this may be beginning to turn around a bit.

The problems of operating wind turbines in the heavy icing environment of Haeckel Hill have never been fully overcome.

The lack of manufacturer interest and the significant surplus of hydro energy on our grids have resulted, it appears, in the Yukon wind effort being put on the backburner for a while.

With the era of surplus hydropower coming to an end because of increased demand – Yukon Energy indicates prefeasibility work on expanding the larger grid – wind generation is again underway (a request for proposals was issued last fall).

The Haeckel Hill wind regime of about 6.5 meters per second annual average (about 23 km per hour) is marginal for commercial wind generation.

Developers in other parts of Canada look for 7 m/s or more.

The small communities in Yukon served by diesel generation require small wind turbines (50 to 100 kW) which are a lot more expensive per kW to buy and install, and wind-diesel systems require more technical equipment to operate in a manner which does not negatively impact customers.

It all adds up to costs that are higher than diesel generation at present prices.

The only two diesel power served communities in Yukon with enough wind to even consider wind generation are Destruction Bay/Burwash Landing and Old Crow.

And Old Crow would have icing problems on Crow Mountain.

It would be very nice to get some effective government support for wind projects in the North – there are communities along the Hudson’s Bay coast that have annual wind speeds of up to 8 m/s or more and it would not take much to get the wind-diesel industry going there.

The federal government, in its wisdom, would seem to prefer to bail out declining industries rather than encourage support of a growing wind industry.

The NWT government may soon be bucking this trend – stay tuned!

John Maissan

Whitehorse, Yukon