All set to double provincial output

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The governments of Canada and Prince Edward Island (PEI) are jointly funding a C$60 million transmission project that will allow the Atlantic province to more than triple its wind power target to 200 MW by 2010. PEI, which had a peak demand of 210 MW in 2004, currently imports more than 90% of its electricity from the neighbouring province of New Brunswick.

The project will double the transfer capability between the two provinces to 400 MW, giving PEI the flexibility to export wind power when demand is low and the wind is strong -- and to import power when wind generation is not sufficient to meet its needs. The transmission system on PEI will also be upgraded. The plan will allow the province, says Premier Pat Binns, "take charge of our energy future by reducing our reliance on imported fossil fuels."

The province, Canada's smallest with a population of 137,000 and an area of 5660 square kilometres, has an estimated wind power potential of 400-500 MW. Wind is PEI's only indigenous energy source. "We don't have the luxury of having oil and gas. We don't have hydro. The wind is our oil," Energy Minister Jamie Ballem told the Canadian Wind Energy Association's recent annual conference.

The government is in the process of finalising standard offer power purchase contracts for renewable energy projects and will designate zones for wind energy development, says Ballem. It is also proposing an arrangement that will see land lease payments, amounting to 2.5% of net revenue, split among the landowners and their neighbours in an effort to "spread the benefits out as much as possible" and get community buy-in for projects, says Ballem. Payments for projects on government-owned land will be made to local communities.

Legislation passed in late 2004 required PEI to get 15% of its electricity from renewables by 2010, equivalent to about 60 MW of wind capacity. Now, says the government, the province "is committed to work with private sector developers" to see at least 200 MW built by that date. PEI currently has an installed wind capacity of 13.56 MW, with construction of another 30 MW project scheduled to begin this spring.

Work on the new transmission cable will begin as soon as possible, with completion targeted for mid-2008. A cost-sharing agreement has yet to be finalised, but the federal government's contribution is expected to come from its new C$250 million Partnership Fund, which is designed to work in conjunction with the provinces on projects that will achieve large volume greenhouse gas emissions reductions. Increasing PEI's reliance on wind power is expected to result in emissions reductions of 500,000 tonnes a year.

Manitoba and Ontario are also hoping to tap into the fund to expand their transmission interconnection to allow for a proposed sale of 3000 MW from Manitoba's hydro-based system to power-thirsty Ontario, a project that has the strong support of the country's wind industry.

"Stronger links with other jurisdictions will allow Manitoba to develop and integrate greater wind generation capacity," says CanWEA. It will also strengthen grid capacity in northern Ontario, where weak connections to load centres in the south have limited the province's ability to develop its "very significant" wind resource.

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