New life for old concept -- VAWT wind farm changes hands

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Southwestern Alberta's vertical axis wind turbines (VAWTs) have been given yet another lease on life. Edmonton's Tallon Energy Corporation, a newcomer to the Canadian wind industry, has bought Adecon Alberta Inc from Calgary's Sustainable Energy Technologies, its most recent owner.

The wind farm was built by Canadian company Adecon in the early 1990s on the strength of a 20 year power purchase contract with Transalta Utilities, signed under Alberta's Small Power Research and Development program. Eight of the wind farm's original ten VAWTs remain on the site, which Tallon president Ken Matthies says was producing power as recently as last year. But four will be removed immediately, he says, while the rest will require some work.

"The technology that is there right now is not feasible," he says. "I have some young engineers working on a new design to try and get some of the turbines operational. Some are beyond rebuilding." The four remaining turbines will have a combined output of 600 kW, leaving room for Tallon to expand the wind plant and still remain within the terms of the power purchase agreement and the site's development permits.

"The bottom line is that wind farm is licensed for 1.5 MW, so we want to get right back up to full capacity." The company plans to do that by installing a 600 kW horizontal axis turbine, a project Matthies hopes to finance through private investment and have completed within a year. The site itself has potential for even further expansion, although Tallon has no specific plans at the moment.

The purchase gives Tallon a foothold in a region where the search for prime wind sites has become increasingly competitive. "What land is available in the Pincher Creek area is either tied up or the landowner isn't interested," says Matthies. With the Adecon site, "the land lease was in place, the infrastructure for the power line was in place and the contract was in place. It doesn't get much better than that."

Matthies declines to reveal the price Tallon is getting under the power purchase agreement, which has another ten years to run, saying only that it is higher than Alberta's current power pool price, which averaged a dismal C$28.43 per MW in January, but lower than some of the high prices seen in the recent past. "The contract is more of a security than an actual dollar value."

Matthies also sees potential in developing the VAWT technology, which he believes is ideally suited for certain niche markets where turbines that can be easily transported, installed without heavy equipment and maintained with basic electrical and mechanical skills are required." In large commercial type wind farms, there's not a place for this technology. In remote communities there's definitely a use for it."

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