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An Atctic alternative

The potential of wind power in Canada's frozen north is slowly being recognised in the Northwest Territories (NWT). Confidence in wind technology is growing with the successful operation of wind turbines in the eastern Arctic community of Igloolik. So reports Joe Ahmad, manager of technology development at NWT's Science Institute (SINT) at Yellowknife. Last August two 10 kW grid connected Aerowatt UM 70/86 wind turbines were installed at Igloolik in a $100,000 project financed by project co-ordinator SINT, the NWT Department of Public Works and Government Services, and the NWT Department of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources. The demonstration is intended to show that wind turbines can function reliably in the Arctic, with minimal maintenance needs (Windpower Monthly, September 1993). The turbines and meteorological data are being monitored in an 18 month, $40,000 project run by Natural Resources Canada and SINT to determine wind energy resources and the economics of future projects. The NWT Power Corporation (NWTPC) is observing the project and will base its future involvement in wind technology on this experience.

The Igloolik turbines were installed in the wake of a demonstration project at Cambridge Bay on Victoria Island, which ended in 1992 owing to a lack of institutional support. Average wind speed at Igloolik is estimated at 7 m/s, while maximum daily load is 1 MW, peaking at dinner time. Annual energy consumption is 6600 MWh. The village's four diesel generators can supply up to 1.6 MW at a cost of CAD$0.20-0.38 per kWh.

American company, Atlantic Orient Corporation (AOC) of Vermont, is hoping to follow up on the Igloolik experience and install its wind turbines in Arctic communities to displace costly diesel fuel. A 1993 study by AOC and Darup Associates of Denmark, in co-operation with the NWTPC, found that four AOC 15/50 wind turbines would save a substantial sum for a modest capital investment at Coppermine, an Inuit community of nearly 1000 residents on Conception Bay. The study compares the proposed purchase of a new 500 kW diesel generator with the alternative of four AOC turbines coupled to a new 200 kW diesel generator. The wind-diesel configuration would cost CAD$497,000, compared to CAD$165,000 for a 500 kW diesel generator. However, the diesel fuel savings from the wind turbine option are estimated at $118,000 per year, giving a payback period of three years. The net present value of fuel saved over 20 years would be $791,000. The savings can be achieved even if the turbines are replaced in ten years, well before the end of their 30 year design life.

The study assumes no energy storage, a conventional dump load consisting of resistance heaters to dissipate excess wind power which could not be otherwise utilised, and a simple self regulation system allowing minimal supervisory control. "It establishes procedures for determining the economics of wind diesel systems in the Arctic," says Bob Sherwin, AOC president. "AOC is continuing discussions with the NWT Power Corporation and others on a possible demonstration project."

The AOC 15/50 is a prototype wind turbine built under the US Department of Energy Advanced Wind Turbine programme and designed for a long service life under harsh operating conditions. The 15/50 produces 50 kW of power at wind speeds of 11 m/s, and can generate about 180,000 kWh annually with wind speeds of 7 m/s. AOC indicates the wind turbine will be commercially available from March 1994. An AOC 15/50 was recently installed at the Atlantic Wind Test Site in Prince Edward Island, on a tilt-up tower.

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