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Strong argument for fast switch to wind -- Affordable and doable in Ontario says wind lobby

Ontario should boost its renewable energy targets to include 6000 MW of wind power by 2015 and significantly more by 2025, say the province's wind developers.

The Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA) made the recommendation to the Ontario Power Authority (OPA), which has launched a consultation on the province's future supply mix. The government asked the OPA to first look at how conservation and renewables can be used to meet future demand, then at what combination of resources will be needed to make up the difference.

Ontario, Canada's most populous province, is facing serious supply challenges. Peak demand reached a record 26,160 MW this summer, prompting the Independent Electric System Operator (IESO) to issue 12 separate warnings of potential electricity shortfalls and impose 5% voltage reductions twice. Required resources could reach as high as 32,000 MW by 2015. At the same time, the government has committed to shutting down Ontario's 7500 MW of coal generation by 2009.

Ontario already has a renewable energy target of 2700 MW by 2010, most of which is likely to be met by wind, but CanWEA argues the industry can do much more. "Wind can play a significant role in providing clean, reliable energy to Ontarians by replacing a portion of coal power in the short term and contributing significantly in the longer term." In the short term, continues CanWEA, the 2010 target should be increased. Over the long term, wind penetration levels could reach 25%, or 8000 MW, by 2020, and 30%, or 10,000 MW by 2025.

Network capacity

The province has an overall wind power potential of almost 400,000 MW, says CanWEA. About 33,500 MW of that is found within 25 kilometres of transmission lines, including 6150 MW in areas with strong winds over seven metres a second and 27,300 MW with healthy wind speeds of 6.5-7.0 m/s. The energy ministry's own analysis, it adds, has shown that Ontario's transmission and distribution network has enough capacity to take on board more than 5000 MW of new renewables without significant upgrades.

CanWEA's submission to the OPA consultation exercise estimates the cost of wind in Ontario at C$0.08-C$0.085/kWh for a typical 100 MW project, competitive today with an estimated cost of C$0.06-$0.09/kWh for gas fired electricity and "almost certainly advantageous in the long term, where wind costs are projected to decline and gas costs will very likely rise."

Wind in Ontario has other "interesting characteristics" that could contribute to meeting system needs, CanWEA adds, although more research is needed to understand what value wind power brings. The resource is well distributed in southern Ontario, where demand is highest and where wind may contribute to reducing the reactive power needs created by the coal shutdown. In addition, a recent study conducted for CanWEA, the IESO, and Hydro One, which owns Ontario's transmission and distribution system, estimated wind's winter capacity value at 47%. "Even if access to additional summer peaking resources is needed, wind power's very significant contribution to meeting the winter peak must be recognised," says CanWEA.

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