Seminars inspires pioneering spirit

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Over 230 farmers, small business representatives and other interested parties attended a Canadian seminar on small scale wind energy applications, held April 14 in Kincardine, one of the windiest locations in Ontario. "This is the largest meeting in Canadian wind power history," enthused Bernard Saulnier of utility Hydro Quebec's scientific research institute (IREQ) in Montreal and president of the Canadian Wind Energy Association. "Wind power is commercially competitive right now, even if social and environmental costs of energy production are excluded from pricing," said Saulnier.

The main topic of conversation at the seminar was the potential of setting up community co-operatives for wind plant ownership, similar to the schemes which operate in Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden. Canadian Agra Corporation (CA), a locally based agricultural firm and one of the sponsors of the seminar, has just proposed such a scheme to Ontario Hydro, reported company vice president Philipp Andres. The project would encourage regional businesses and home owners to become equity investors in a wind farm and share the benefits of load displacement electricity to displace retail bulk power. Andres hopes to build the wind farm for CAD$1200-1400 per installed kilowatt, for a total of $7-14 million.

In the meantime, publicly owned Ontario Hydro has instituted a virtual moratorium on new non-utility generation for the grid during its current period of reported 10,000 MW capacity surplus. However, Brian Kelly, Hydro's environment director, indicated that Hydro's task force on sustainable energy advanced recommendations last October for a policy and programme for renewable power aimed at diversifying its supply portfolio. This new orientation, which may shortly reach Hydro's board, could include equity partnerships with the private sector, the consideration of externalities and full cost accounting in resource planning, electricity banking and retail wheeling. Kelly noted that Hydro is now conducting local integrated resource planning at several sites in the province.

Peter Carrie, manager of energy projects with publicly owned Ontario Energy Corporation (OEC), said his firm would support the development of off-grid wind farms in First Nation communities with suitable wind resources on James Bay and Hudson's Bay. OEC has initiated two resource assessments.

While the seminar offered much upbeat advice to potential wind turbine owners, one influential participant cautioned that the independent "pioneer spirit" which motivated many of the attendees could work against them, since it makes them reluctant to band together in the kind of co-operative proposed by CA. "Moreover, getting Ontario Hydro to accept such a proposal will require major policy shifts and even legislation," he said.

In other conference news, government agency Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) said it had recently issued a request for proposals to develop a prototype 250-600 kW horizontal axis Canadian wind turbine for grid connected wind farm applications internationally. NRCan will fund up to $350,000 of the anticipated $800,000 project cost. CA also reported on its grid-connected 18/80 Dutch Lagerwey wind turbine, installed at Kincardine in July 1993 with support from Ontario Hydro and the Ontario Ministry of Environment and Energy. Andres said the turbine has performed "exceptionally well," with an availability of over 98% and an output of 140,000 kWh during its first eight months. The power will displace some 180,000-200,000 kWh of annual Ontario Hydro supply to a CA office building, saving about CDN$15,000 per year (at CDN$0.085/kWh).

"The aggressive promotion of renewable energy and technology by all levels of government concerned could spark a truly home grown wind power industry in Ontario," argued Andres. He outlined CA's plans for a 5-10 MW wind farm, using 500-600 kW turbines on 4000 hectares of its land along the Lake Huron shoreline in the Kincardine area.

The seminar was the first of several planned nationally by NRCan and CanWEA, including an event in Regina, Saskatchewan to coincide with the annual CanWEA conference in October.

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