Sunday, June 05, 2005

Prince Edward Island to Triple Wind Power

Wednesday, June 1, 2005
Wind energy on Island to triple
By Ron Ryder, The Guardian

Premier Pat Binns and Environment Minister Jamie Ballem announced Tuesday the province is one step closer to building a 30-megawatt wind farm in eastern Kings County. (GUARDIAN PHOTO BY BRIAN MCINNIS)

The wind-powered generation capacity stands to triple this year after government announced plans for a $60-million wind farm in eastern Kings County.
Premier Pat Binns and Energy Minister Jamie Ballem said Tuesday they will be requesting proposals for both the financing and construction of windmill generation capable of producing 30 megawatts of electricity.

Ballem said the facility will consume about 600 acres of land; several thousand suitable acres have already been scouted in the region between North Lake and East Point.

Government had set a June 14, 2005, deadline for proposals and said it wanted work to begin this fall so that the project will be ready by the fall of 2006.

The facility will complement the 13.5 megawatts of generating capacity already provided in North Cape by the Atlantic Wind Test Site and by the testing ground of windmill builder Vestas.

Ballem said the province wanted to spread its wind investment around.

“This is an Islandwide resource, this is not a resource that’s just in western P.E.I.,” he said.

“We wanted to have this project separate from the North Cape project because we wanted this one to have a specific ownership model.”

Government’s plan is to help defray some of the project financing costs by letting Islanders make their own private investments in the new generation.

A wind energy co-operative, offering shares that the province hopes to make RRSP eligible, will become a shareholder in the P.E.I. Energy Corporation subsidiary that will own the actual wind project.

Binns sees the idea as a way of letting the public make their own commitments to the Island’s power capacity.

“Our wind resource in Prince Edward Island is one of the best in North America and we want all Islanders to have the opportunity to share the benefits of that resource,” he said.

“At this point, it appears the best way to achieve that goal is with a government and co-op ownership model which would give every Islander an opportunity to invest in this project and have a stake in their own energy future.”

Liberal MLA Richard Brown said government is moving too quickly in its pursuit of wind energy.

He said the Island’s investment would make sense only if there were some reassurances of markets for excess energy produced, and of suppliers willing to sell power to P.E.I. when the wind isn’t doing its part.

“We have to have back-up power. We have to know that when the wind stops blowing we can count on buying from New Brunswick,” he said.

“We had talked about a Maritime co-operation deal on energy and that’s what we need to have in place before we go further with the idea of wind energy. I’m all for us building 200 megawatts of capacity but only after we have commitments that our neighbours are going to buy power from us when we produce too much power and that they will sell to us when the wind stops.”

Souris MLA Andy Mooney said the project would be a boon for landowners in his area and would provide a temporary surge in construction jobs for the local workforce.

“I have had a lot of land owners calling asking if their land could be considered,” he said.

“This project is all going to go on private land. It’s not going on to government property so landowners see an opportunity to have some money going in for many years. It would be a long term lease.”

Mooney said many farmers have expressed interest in seeing windmills built in hedgerows or on headlands that are not intensively farmed.

“They can farm right up to the base of these windmills, they’re so high they don’t interfere with much,” he said.

Ballem doesn’t think government’s announcement will be the only major wind project in the coming year.

The province has committed itself to having turbine capacity equal to 15 per cent of energy demand by 2010. Ballem said Tuesday he expects to beat that deadline easily.

“We think we will need in the range of 50 megawatts. We already have 13 or 13.5 megawatts , this project will bring us to 43.5,” he said.

“We understand that there’s private developers looking at projects that could bring us to 15 per cent by next year.”