Yukon Energy Corporation is installing a Vestas V47 660kW wind turbine this month in what the company's John Maissan hopes will be "the last step we need to take to get to commercial viability." Maissan says the utility has been experimenting with wind power since 1993, when it installed a 150 kW Bonus turbine atop a 1430 metre mountain ridge near the capital city of Whitehorse. The biggest challenge facing turbine operators in the Yukon's sub-Arctic climate is rime icing, says Maissan. The territory's best wind resources are found at higher altitudes, where the combination of moist, supersaturated air and sub-zero temperatures cause severe ice build-up on anything solid. Yukon Energy has been "hammering away" at solutions and plans a number of modifications to the Vestas turbine to mitigate the icing effect. The new turbine, financed with a $2 million grant from the Yukon government, will be fitted with 30 centimetre leading-edge blade heating strips, a heated wind vane and heated anemometer. The blades will also be painted with a black fluorourethane coating that absorbs heat and helps shed ice. The utility's interest in wind was born out of a desire to find a cost-effective, more environmentally friendly alternative to expensive diesel generation, says Maissan. Right now, most of the electricity to the Yukon's 33,000 residents is supplied by three hydro plants. Diesel generators provide peaking energy and are also the sole source of power for eight off-grid communities. Maissan says Yukon Energy would need to install 5-10 MW of wind capacity to make the technology a cost-effective option, but mining industry shutdowns have led to a hydroelectric surplus and ruled out any large-scale installations in the near future. Still, Maissan intends to be ready when demand rebounds. "Our intent is to essentially have wind power available on the shelf as a proven energy supply."
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