Wind isn’t the dud you suggest

Wind isn't the dud you suggest Re Roger Rondeau's wind power letter March 30: Roger Rondeau of the Utilities Consumers' Group raises several good items for public discussion. The good news is that the potential for economic wind generation in Yukon is f

Re Roger Rondeau’s wind power letter March 30:

Roger Rondeau of the Utilities Consumers’ Group raises several good items for public discussion.

The good news is that the potential for economic wind generation in Yukon is far more positive than he feared.

And there is some other positive news too!

I very much share Rondeau’s desire to have an independent power producer and net-metering policies in the Yukon. Such policies would provide the opportunity for many sources of power to be added to our homes, businesses and power grids in a variety of locations.

While there is no net-metering policy in place at present, Yukon Electrical, at the recent rate hearing, did say that it would allow its customers to do net metering. The Yukon government, in its recently released Energy Strategy for Yukon, commits to putting both policies into place. So we are progressing.

Now to the wind turbines on Haeckel Hill:

From the very start this was considered a test/demonstration site as we had no idea how it would perform.

It was the cheapest place we could do such a project because there was already a road and an upgradeable power line up there.

The purpose of the project was to determine how turbines would operate under icing conditions and to find ways to mitigate the negative impacts of the heavy rime icing.

We wanted to know whether commercial-size wind farms (built later at suitable sites) would be economic compared to the diesel alternative; they were not built on the expectation the “one off” turbines would of themselves provide lower cost power.

The published literature shows that in the earlier years when the wind project was given the same operating and maintenance priority as the hydro plants, it operated at an annual capacity factor of over 20 per cent (despite not being on Yukon Energy’s control system).

It is true that in recent years they have been producing a lot less power, apparently because they have been given a lower priority because of the surplus hydro on the system. But that is easily rectified, and both turbines were running late Wednesday.

The 150-kilowatt bonus turbine was installed for $800,000, including all road and powerline upgrades, anti-icing equipment, etc.

The 660-kilowatt Vestas turbine was installed for $2 million (about twice the per-kilowatt wind farm cost in southern Canada) – again all costs included.

Based on this experience, a reasonable sized wind farm in a more suitable location, such as Mt. Sumanik (higher wind, more area for turbines) would now probably cost about $3,500 per kWh ($2,000 to $2,200 in the rest of Canada) and operating costs would be in the order of three cents per kWh (three times the southern cost). A realistic expectation of capacity factor is 25 per cent when operated with the same priority as a hydro plant.

Let’s compare this to Mayo B which is said to produce about 38 gigawatts (38 million kWh) of electricity per year.

It would require 17.35 megawatts (17,350kW) of wind turbines to produce 38 GWh per year, and cost $60.725 million (including roads, transmission lines and substations).

With a capital cost of 7.5 per cent and a 20-year life, the energy costs would total about $0.23 per kWh at the start and decrease with time.

Mayo B at $120 million (excluding transmission lines) with the same capital cost, a 50-year life, and one cent per kWh operating and maintenance cost would provide power starting at about $0.31 per kWh, and would similarly decrease with time.

So wind energy is significantly cheaper than Mayo B and rightfully can and should form part of our energy supply in Yukon. This does not mean that wind energy can replace the firm capacity of hydro projects, but a portion of wind energy in conjunction with our existing (and future) hydro and diesel generators does make very good economic sense.

So why are all the YTG subsidies going into transmission lines and hydro projects (Aishihik 3, Mayo B) and none into wind, or solar, or microhydro, or in-stream hydro, or other sources?

And why did Ottawa terminate funding for the ecoENERGY program that supports wind energy and yet continues to support nuclear, coal, oil and gas?

I cannot answer these questions.

Perhaps those in authority will soon see the light (darkness?).

But it is encouraging that Yukon Energy recently had a study on wind energy completed.

Overall then, there is some room for optimism on wind and other energy sources; Haeckel Hill has been successful.

Let’s hope that the Yukon government, independent power producers and net-metering policies come quickly and that they come with programs that provide all energy sources the same support hydro enjoys so that we can choose the best mix of options to meet our needs.

John Maissan