Sunday, June 05, 2005

British Columbia Considers More Wind Energy

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B.C.’s wind energy touted
By charlie smith

Publish Date: 2-Jun-2005

A Danish alternative-energy expert says there is potential to develop a thriving wind-power industry in B.C. Preben Maegaard, president of the World Wind Association, told the Georgia Straight that there are currently 45,000 megawatts of installed wind-power capacity in the world—four times the total power generation in B.C. He added that in his home country of Denmark, the renewable-energy sector employs 30,000 people and wind turbines generate 20 percent of all electricity.

Maegaard spoke to the Straight shortly after a meeting with BC Hydro and BC Transmission Corp. executives in Vancouver on May 30. “You have good wind-power sources here, and you have motivated people,” Maegaard said. “There is plenty of land here also.”

He said that it’s usually cheaper to develop wind-power projects on land, but there are also wind turbines generating electricity off the coast of Denmark. A B.C. company, Nai Kun Wind Development Inc., has proposed a 700-megawatt offshore project in Hecate Strait near Haida Gwaii (the Queen Charlotte Islands).

Guy Dauncey, president of the BC Sustainable Energy Association, told the Straight there are eight other B.C. companies planning or developing wind-power projects. Dauncey said that they would all be viable if BC Hydro would agree to buy the electricity for between seven to 12 cents per kilowatt hour. However, Dauncey claimed that BC Hydro and its regulator, the British Columbia Utilities Commission, are undermining the wind- power industry’s future in B.C. by favouring cheaper electricity sources.

“It is not considered in the public interest to protect the world from global climate change or from fossil-fuel emissions or mercury or anything else like that,” Dauncey said.

Two Stanford University researchers, Cristina Archer and Mark Jacobson, concluded in a recent study that there are 72 terawatts of potential wind power in the world—which is greater than global electricity consumption, according to Dauncey. Their study included a map that identified the Queen Charlotte Islands and northern Vancouver Island as two of the best locations for wind power.

Dauncey claimed that BC Hydro doesn’t consider wind power to be a “firm” electricity source, so wind-energy companies are excluded from certain requests for proposals for independent power. Vancouver energy lawyer David Austin echoed Dauncey’s allegation.

“BC Hydro is saying the typical green sources of energy, including wind and run-of-the-river hydro, are not firm,” Austin told the Straight. “More to the point, they’re basically saying, ‘We don’t need your electricity in that sort of May-to-July period.’?”

Mary Hemmingsen, BC Hydro’s manager of power planning and porfolio management, told the Straight that the Crown corporation and the BC Sustainable Energy Association jointly sponsored the meeting with Maegaard to consider the application of wind power in B.C. In 2003, BC Hydro announced that it would buy almost 60 megawatts of power from a wind farm being built on northern Vancouver Island.

Hemmingsen said that in a recent call for proposals, BC Hydro has asked for a certain level of “firm” energy, and it will buy an “associated” amount of non-firm energy. “We understand that can fit the profile of certain wind projects in the province,” she said.

Wind-power consultant Garrad Hassan recently submitted a report on the topic to BC Hydro. According to a summary obtained by the Straight, Hassan reported that industry officials have identified the potential generation of 5,000 megawatts of wind energy across the province.

British Columbia Transmission Corp., a Crown corporation, commissioned a report from North Carolina–based ABB Inc., which suggested that wind power could potentially supply 20 percent of U.S. energy demand. The report also stated that wind power is feasible in B.C.

“In the end, most of the issues surrounding integration of wind generation into the bulk transmission system are commercial issues and limitations are not technical limitations,” the ABB report stated.

Maegaard said there are three necessary conditions before a wind-power industry can succeed in any country: a legal framework granting producers access to the electricity grid; contracts for wind-power producers; and reasonable prices for producers guaranteed over long time frames. BC Transmission Corp. offers open access to the grid; BC Hydro determines who will provide the electricity and at what price.

Austin said that even though BC Hydro imported 13 percent of its domestic electricity needs last year, it is still reluctant to issue requests for proposals for new supplies. He added that there is “excellent potential” for wind-power generation and run-of-the-river hydro from independent power producers in B.C. “There are some good projects out there,” Austin said, “but it just depends on how the deck is stacked against them and everyone else, because what BC Hydro is really pushing these days is Site C.”

Austin said that BC Hydro has claimed that the Site C dam on the Peace River would cost $2.3 billion to develop, though he noted that the cost estimate in 1981 was $2.6 billion. He said he has asked BC Hydro to “reconcile” this difference.