The 11th annual conference of the Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA) was held in early October in Kincardine, Ontario. Days before, North America's largest operating wind turbine, a Tacke 600 kW CWM ( "cold weather modified" ) machine, was erected near Bruce Nuclear Power Development (BNPD) on land leased from Ontario Hydro, and connected to Hydro's grid. The conference discussed: phase one of Ontario Hydro's Renewable Energy Technologies programme, included the first shortlist; the failure of the Kincardine Lagerwey; formation of the Alberta Power Pool; a Canadian national action plan.

One of the regions with southern Ontario's best wind energy resource, along the eastern shore of Lake Huron, was the location of the 11th annual conference of the Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA) in early October. Well over a hundred wind power proponents and over a dozen exhibitors converged on the small town of Kincardine for the conference, 20 kilometres south of Ontario Hydro's Bruce Nuclear Power Development (BNPD).

"Ontario is presently the centre of wind power activity in Canada," CanWEA president Bernard Saulnier told delegates. "Wind power is mainstream technology embodying social responsibility. Cost competitiveness, reliability, growth of demand for the technology, ease of integration, cleanness, job creation -- all these factors are placing wind among the lowest risk and highest value energy options available today." Saulnier observed that Ontario has the most coherent vision for the renewable energy industry, even though Quebec and other provinces have more abundant wind energy potential.

Days before the conference, North America's largest operating wind turbine, a Tacke 600 kW machine, was erected near BNPD on land leased from Ontario Hydro, and connected to Hydro's grid. The project was inaugurated at the BNPD Nuclear Information Centre during the conference by Tacke representatives and local politicians. "Visitors to the information centre can now learn about wind power," observed a speaker at the inauguration.

The turbine has a 43 meter rotor diameter and stands on a 50 metre tubular tower. The Tacke 600 kW CWM ( "cold weather modified" ) is the first TW 600 designed specifically for cold climates. Its builders say it can produce energy efficiently at minus 30 degrees centigrade. The system automatically shuts down at temperatures below this limit. The turbine will be tested for one year, and domestic blades will be installed shortly, said Philipp Andres, vice-president of Tacke Windpower, the Canadian subsidiary of Tacke Windtechnik of Germany.

Tacke Windpower will make the blades at its new facility in Huron Park near London, Ontario, south of Kincardine. The facility, which was inaugurated in late September, can manufacture blades for any Tacke turbine, and will create 60 to 70 jobs by year end. Some 300 blades will be manufactured in the first twelve months of operation, on contract with Tacke Windtechnik.

Regional interest in the conference was keen. The small town hosted a CanWEA seminar on small wind turbines in April last year and hopes for employment resulting from renewable energy technologies as Ontario Hydro's nuclear program begins to shrink.

Shortlist announced

At the conference, Brian Kelly, director of Hydro's division of environment and sustainable development, announced the shortlist candidates of Hydro's "Renewable Energy Technologies" (RETs) Phase I request for proposals for 60 MW of grid-connected green generation capacity. The request for proposals (RFP) is one component of Hydro's five-year RETs program valued at $110 million. Several Ontario wind turbine projects are on the shortlist, which includes new proposals by Tacke. Kelly did not reveal the size or location of the shortlisted projects.

The shortlist comprises 11 proposals for individual Canadianized wind turbines (totalling 4.2 MW); four for small wind farms (13.8 MW); three for generation fuelled by wood waste, managed wood or biomass fuelled generation (22.2 MW); four for projects based on anaerobic digestion or sewage treatment gas (13.7 MW); and two projects based on hybrid or other innovative technologies (0.2 MW). Projects in these categories total 54.1 MW. Collectively, they are expected to receive power contracts totalling 28 to 40 MW.

The individual wind turbines are sized up to 1 MW and the small wind farms range from 2 to 5 MW, in Hydro's specifications. The shortlist does not yet include proposals for medium wind farms sized between 10-22 MW, which are delayed due to the need for 42 weeks of wind resource assessment. One or two of these projects are slated eventually to receive awards.

Hydro has asked the shortlisted proponents to submit a lower final bid price, which includes the cost of grid connection, by January 1996. Winners will sign power purchase contracts with Ontario Hydro by spring 1996, and the in-service date for most projects is on or before December 31, 1997. However, the in-service date for medium wind farms is December 31, 1998.

A second RFP for 65 MW is expected in late 1996 and this time Ontario Hydro's own business units will be able to bid, and possibly municipal electric utilities as well. Kelly emphasised that Ontario Hydro will continue the RETs RFP programme despite the election of a new provincial government, which has begun to slash provincial expenditures and funding of even well entrenched programmes. However, a final hurdle could arise as the Ontario cabinet must approve each RETs power purchase contract.

Kelly emphasises that Ontario Hydro sees RETs as a business, not a charity operation. "At this point, we're trying to gain an understanding of the technologies and their value to the utility and the province," he said.

Straining credibility

The site of the Tacke 600 installation, the Bruce Nuclear Power Development (BNPD), is Hydro's largest nuclear power complex, with eight Candu reactors totalling nearly 7,000 MW in capacity. The shut down of the unit 2 reactor, rated at 825 MW, was due in mid October. The retirement of Bruce 2 is the first shut down of a fully commercial Canadian nuclear reactor, an event of significance to many conference delegates.

At the Tacke 600 inauguration, Ontario Hydro nuclear representatives strained to portray nuclear power as a version of sustainable, green energy technology akin to wind power and other renewable energy technologies. This point was received by conference participants with polite disbelief.

The BNPD experiences regular maintenance and nuclear safety problems, some of which are generic to all Candu facilities. Moreover, after only 17 years of its expected 40 year life, Bruce 2 will be mothballed due to severe steam generator corrosion problems, a sizeable utility generation surplus and Hydro's cutbacks in capital spending. The prospect of future employment in the local nuclear industry is poor, but several Ontario Hydro nuclear workers have trained in Germany on the maintenance of the Tacke 600 turbine.

Failure explained

The Tacke 600 CWM has become the new demonstration wind turbine for Ontario since the failure of a Lagerwey 18/80 turbine owned by local agricultural company Canadian Agra Corp. (CAC) and sited near Kincardine airport. The Lagerwey was demolished by a tubular tower failure in November 1994.

At the conference, Izaac Cruson of Saskatchewan-based Dutch Industries, which supplied the Lagerwey turbine and tower, described the engineering investigation of the tower failure. He said the tower failed from thus far unknown causes, even though it was four times stronger than necessary to meet all the stresses it experienced. The failure sheared the tower above the base flange "as if it had been machined." Dutch Industries has offered CAC a replacement wind turbine with metallurgical engineering to prevent a repeat of the mishap. The next move is up to CAC, he indicated.

Cruson added that another Lagerwey 18/80 from Dutch Industries continues to perform well at Cambridge Bay, above the Arctic Circle in the Northwest Territories and a Lagerwey from Dutch was also successfully tested at the Atlantic Wind Test Site in Prince Edward Island. Future plans include installing a 250 kW Lagerwey turbine and one of the company's new 750 kW units. These should be available in Canada by 1997.

Unenlightened power purchase

Mean wind speeds for the Kincardine area along the east shore of Lake Huron are approximately 6 m/s at a height of 30 metres, according to an initial assessment of existing wind records and topography by Jim Salmon of Zephyr North of Burlington, Ontario. A southwestern Ontario wind energy study has resulted in a wind speed map, and has found the best winds along lake shorelines, mostly westerly, with relatively low average wind speeds in summer and high speeds in winter.

Ontario Hydro now allows customers to use wind turbines under its RETs program to run their electricity meter backwards, but only down to zero, on a monthly basis to reduce their electricity bills. Under this unenlightened policy, which falls short of net energy billing, any production from the wind turbines above the monthly electricity consumption is essentially a gift to Ontario Hydro. Because above average wind energy is available in the winter period in Canada, Salmon advises turbine owners seeking to exploit this program to negotiate with Ontario Hydro for annual "balancing" of electricity production and consumption. Such balancing is not presently a part of RETs.

Salmon found that an Atlantic Orient Corp. (AOC) 15/50 turbine could reap $73,000 net return after twenty years if annual balancing were allowed.

Power pooling too

Albertan wind power proponents are presently watching the formation of an Alberta electricity power pool, as described at the conference by Chris Holley of Alberta's Department of Energy. A new Electric Utilities Act was passed earlier this year in Alberta allowing open transmission access and competition among electrical generators situated inside and outside of the province, the first arrangement of its kind in Canada. The act replaces Alberta's existing Electric Energy Marketing Act, which averaged electricity rates across the province.

The power pool will feature real time pricing in an hourly spot market and price hedging contracts, which Holly envisages will allow new financing for construction of renewable and other generation projects. However, renewables will need to compete in Alberta against low-cost coal and natural gas fired generation. Independent power developers are studying the new system closely for opportunities. The new power pool takes effect on January 1, 1996.

Think tanks

CanWEA held "think tank" sessions at the beginning and end of the conference, aimed at elaborating CanWEA vision and mission statements and developing a Canadian National Action Plan to achieve new wind power capacity goals for the years 2000 and 2010. The plan and goals are still under development.

The new CanWEA board of directors is: Jeff Passmore, Izaac Cruson, Richard Legault, Mary Ellen Jones, Dave Baker, Philipp Andres, and Bernard Saulnier. Passmore replaces Saulnier as CanWEA president on January 1, 1996. Winner of the CanWEA R.J. Templin award was Carl Brothers, manager of the Atlantic Wind Test Site (AWTS) in Prince Edward Island.