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Canada

Canada

Huge potential tempered by reality

The British Columbia (BC) mainland has about 5000 MW of green energy potential -- including 730 MW of wind power -- according to a new study by the Canadian province's state utility, BC Hydro. But the study warns that the abundance of resources must be tempered with the actual cost of developing them.

The report is the second phase of BC Hydro's Green Energy Study for British Columbia. The first phase, focusing on Vancouver Island, was completed in 2001. "While this is a pre-feasibility study and further research would be required to provide firm data on the costs and feasibility of specific projects, the results appear promising," says the utility's Brenda Goehring.

Researchers use Geographic Information System modelling, detailed investigation on small scale maps and site inspections to narrow down possible areas to those that were most economically viable and where construction and transmission connection were feasible. The top ten wind sites each have potential for stations of 24-133 MW installed capacity and capacity factors between 18% and 38%. Estimates of production costs ranged from C$0.06/kWh to C$0.12/kWh.

Although BC has many windy locations, many of its best resources are located in remote mountainous locations far from the transmission grid. "This combination of difficult terrain, along with the cold climatic conditions that are present in much of the province, presents some special challenges," says the study. "Nevertheless, wind energy has been developed in similar conditions in other parts of the world."

Offshore wind development in waters around Vancouver Island is also investigated as part of a separate study covering the northern and west coast of the island. Five potential sites are identified and two are recommended for further investigation. A 50 MW project at each of those two sites will have a production cost of about C$0.09/kWh, researchers estimate.

The study also looked at small wind turbine installations from 1-50 kW in size. It estimates BC's small turbine potential at 25 GWh a year. Production costs ranging from C$0.20/kWh and C$0.35/kWh, however, could be the limiting factor in whether residential and small business consumers actually install the systems. "While it is difficult to predict the customer uptake of such systems, it is certain that the premium for producing this form of green energy will not deter customers who perceive social and environmental value in producing their own green energy," adds the study.

In addition to wind, the study examines BC's micro and small hydro, geothermal, biomass, tidal current and building integrated photovoltaic solar potential. Small hydro led with an energy potential of 2450 MW and costs of about C$0.04/kWh-$0.09/kWh. About 1500 MW of tidal current projects were identified, with costs ranging between C$0.11/kWh and C$0.25/kWh.

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