Edging into a market of potential

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Three wind-diesel projects under development in Inuit villages in Canada's Northwest Territories (NWT) herald a potential breakthrough towards a broad acceptance of wind-diesel systems. And some 350 remote communities in Canada, with a population of about 200,00 and electricity supply costs estimated at C$300 million a year, stand to benefit. This was the good news discussed at the 10th International Wind-Diesel Workshop, in Halifax, Nova Scotia in June. Some 60 people attended the event, which was co-sponsored by the Canadian and American wind energy associations.

All three of the breakthrough projects are "low-penetration," wind-diesel hybrids above the Arctic circle, in which cold weather modified wind turbines are interconnected to existing diesel capacity, but where diesel generation will continue to supply the bulk of power to the Inuit communities. The projects, one to consist of Lagerwey 18/80 wind turbines from Dutch Industries of Regina and two to consist of AOC 15/50 turbines from Atlantic Orient Canada of Halifax, will be owned and operated by the Northwest Territories Power Corporation (NWTPC).

Joe Ahmad of NWT Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources told the workshop that the 63 communities which make up NWT's population of 65,000 use diesel to supply 90% of their power, a dependency costing $100 million a year. The government is encouraging demand side management (DSM) and renewable technologies to compete with new diesel. Phil Thompson of Saltmarsh Island Enterprises in Nova Scotia urged northern communities to pursue demand side management opportunities, and to use the resulting avoided costs of new diesel capacity to install and integrate wind. Utilities must "count DSM as new capacity and install the wind equipment with capital saved from not enlarging diesel capacity," he said.

The first of the three new projects, two Lagerwey 18/80 units, will be installed by the winter at Kugluktuk (formerly Coppermine). Kugluktuk is an Inuit village south of Cambridge Bay on Victoria Island, with a population of about 945, an installed diesel capacity of 1.6 MW, and peak demand now approaching 100 kW. The project includes upgrading the diesel plant to 1.8 MW.

The two other projects, in Iqaluit and Sachs Harbour, will each feature an AOC 15/50, with AOC taking a one-third equity stake in both projects. Sachs Harbour, on Banks Island in the western Arctic, has a population of about 200 and diesel capacity of 745 kW. Iqaluit (formerly Frobisher Bay) is a community of 3500 on Baffin Island with high expectations for growth now that is has been designated the capital of the newly created Inuit territory of Nunavut. Peak demand is forecast to hit 5.9 MW this year and its diesel capacity is being upgraded to 11.7 MW.

Tim Farrell of NWTPC said the utility's inability to apply a firm capacity rating to wind generation -- because it cannot be brought up on demand and because of the corporation's lack of wind experience -- was hindering progress. "Acceptance of such a [wind power] capacity credit would allow the utility to defer diesel capacity increases needed to maintain the corporation's published firm capacity requirements, thus improving the economics of wind generation," he said

Also at the workshop, the Nova Scotia Minister of Natural Resources, Eleanor Norrie, announced a jointly funded project with AOC to test, erect and monitor an AOC 15/50 turbine at Innovacorp in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, with $45,000 from the federal National Research Council, and $45,000 from CANMET, the research arm of Natural Resources Canada. AOC's Bob Sherwin told participants there was an $18-20 billion wind energy market in the world, where over 2 billion people have no electrical power at all, while 60-80% of the world's population need improvements in power generation to create sustainable energy supplies.

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