Canada announces C$24.6million wind farm research project

CANADA: Canada's federal government is putting C$12million into the construction of a new wind farm on Prince Edward Island (PEI) to study the production, operation and storage of wind power.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper made the announcement during a visit to the Wind Energy Institute of Canada (WEICan), a research facility located at the Island's most northern point.

"As generating electricity from fossil fuels becomes more costly, and concerns mount about the environmental impact of doing so, our government is actively supporting research into vital new technologies," says Harper.

WEICan plans to begin construction of the project next summer and have the turbines operating by the end of the year. CEO Scott Harper says the project will be 9MW or 10MW in size, depending on the final turbine configuration.

Power from the wind farm will be sold to Maritime Electric, which operates Prince Edward Island’s electricity system.

The C$24.6million price tag includes a storage component. Harper says the project’s technical team is doing some modelling to figure out how storage can most effectively be used on PEI’s grid and will use those findings to decide the type of technology to be used. It expects the storage part of the project to be on line by spring 2012.

Harper says the wind farm will also be used for other types of research. "We will be going out to industry looking at applications that the park may provide support to," he explains.

The issue of storage has particular relevance for Prince Edward Island, says Harper. Wind is the only indigenous electricity generation source on the island, which otherwise gets power from a undersea cable link with neighbouring New Brunswick.

Last year, wind generation provide 18% of PEI’s electricity and current purchase plans will boost that to more than 25% in the near future. Government policy calls for PEI to 30% of its electricity from wind by 2013 and for another 300MW to be built for export.

"There’s some real practicality around this," says Harper. "In discussions with the utility, they said that we’ve got to start looking at storage. But they didn’t see it as something they were going to be able to do."

The project will be built about three kilometres from WEICan’s facility at North Cape. In addition to the federal funding, WEICan will receive a loan from the provincial government to cover the rest of its capital cost.

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