Atlantic province issues first request

The government-owned utility of Newfoundland and Labrador is looking to put the province on Canada's wind power map with a request for proposals (RFP) for 25 MW to be issued early this month. The province, located on the Atlantic coast, is one of only two in Canada without any utility-scale wind generation.

Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro (NLH) has conducted a system assessment that shows its 1919 MW grid can accommodate 150 MW of wind generation, says the utility's Dawn Dalley. NHL hopes to reach that target within the next ten years.

The unique characteristics of the island's power system, which is isolated from the rest of the North American grid, dictate a phased approach. "There are some concerns around maintaining the system frequency and voltage stability," says Dalley. Starting with 25 MW will allow NLH to test the technicalities of integrating wind.

Right now, hydro makes up about 65% of Newfoundland's supply mix, while the rest is fossil fuel generation. The utility sees wind as a clean -- and hopefully cost-effective -- way to displace some of the production from its 490 MW Holyrood Generating Station. The oil-fired facility supplies 30-40% of Newfoundland's electricity, with all three generating units running throughout the winter when demand is greatest. Winter is also when wind production in Canada is at its highest.

Right now, says Dalley, the marginal cost for fuel at Holyrood is about C$0.07/kWh. "If you look back to two years ago it was five cents, so it was a little more difficult for wind to compete. But as the marginal costs go up, it becomes a little easier for wind to be competitive on our system. That's our feeling and that is part of the reason we want this open, competitive process, because we need to prove that."

The closing date for the RFP is August, 2006. "Depending on where the project is and what the parameters are, under a best-case scenario we could be looking at having something on the system, if we can get the right project, in 2007," says Dalley.

The current RFP is not NHL's first attempt to bring large scale wind on to its grid. In 2000, it issued an RFP for a 5-25 MW wind power demonstration project, but was unable, says Dalley, to reach a power purchase agreement with the winning bidder. It is currently buying wind power from a pilot wind-diesel demonstration project in Ramea, an isolated community off the south coast, where six Danish Windmatic 65 kW turbines are installed.