By Ian Ross
Talk of an east-west power grid for Ontario to import surplus power from Newfoundland and Quebec has a North Bay wind power consultant shaking his head at Queen’s Park.
“It’s mind boggling why they don’t want to spend the money on transmission infrastructure here,” says Terry Wojick, president of Northern Wind Power. “Why are we (considering) transmitting from Labrador when we’ve got an abundance of potential in Northern Ontario?”
Wojick was reacting to Ontario’s plan to open talks with authorities in Newfoundland and Quebec to examine how feasible it is to transmit hydroelectric power from Labrador into Ontario.
Many of his projects in northeastern Ontario are being hampered by a restrictive provincially-imposed 50 megawatt cap on new electricity generation.
Some of his clients have placed their projects on hold until the province addresses the issue of expanding transmission line capacity in North East Zone of the Ontario grid.
In reducing its dependency on coal, Ontario’s Ministry of Energy has expressed interest in tapping into 2,800 megawatts of renewable hydroelectric power from Labrador’s proposed Lower Churchill Falls development. Power could start flowing by 2015 but the project is contingent on finding a market.
But that eastern province must obtain transmission guarantees from Quebec as well as weigh the cost of transmission into Ontario to make a long-term deal work.
Since launching his business – Northern Wind Power – three years ago, Wojick says he’s busier than ever erecting wind towers for clients in southern Ontario and Quebec.
“It’s been so good, I’ve been unable to drum up any development in Northern Ontario.”
Wojick erects meteorological towers for corporate clients to assess whether the wind regime is suitable for wind farm development.
Among his clients include AIM PowerGen Corporation, one of Ontario’s biggest wind farm developers, who have selected a site in the Mattawa area.
“These (50 to 60 metre) towers I’m putting up in southern Ontario, you can tell there’s one hell of a hype going on down there. There’s many promising developments down there and the same companies – like AIM PowerGen – are down there doing business.” AIM recently commissioned their 99 megawatt Erie Shores wind farm near Port Burwell.
Because of the 50 megawatt restriction, Wojick has seen slow progress on projects closer to home.
With tree tops at 25 metres, he says it’s been difficult to convince clients to spend extra money on erecting taller 80-metre meteorological towers, similar to the height of a wind turbine power, where the meteorological measurements would be similar to the actual wind regime.
“But if you’re a company that’s trying to move forward, where are you going to place your (investment) effort?
“These (Northern Ontario) projects that were started a year and half ago are still in queue. They’re still being worked on but there’s much invigorating work. It’s simply because restrictions have slowed down their enthusiasm up here.
It’s just the opposite in southern Ontario, they’re welcoming everything and it’s booming down there.”
Wojick says he’s visited he massive James Bay hydroelectric project in northern Quebec, where high voltage lines of 765 kilovolts ships thousands of megawatts south to Montreal and beyond.
“It’s probably longer transmission than what would be from Northern Ontario to southern Ontario.”
While it’s undetermined how much wind power potential is available in the North, the Ontario Waterpower Association estimates there’s an estimated 4,000 MW to 5,000 MW in Northern Ontario and the Moose River basin that could be developed and added to the provincial supply mix.
The Ontario Power Authority’s Integrated Power System Plan is due out this fall. The paper will project Ontario’s medium and long-term electricity needs and act as a guide for capital investment.
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