An eight-day shutdown of Melancthon 1 wind turbines was undoubtedly costly but is being viewed by industry officials as among statistically and meteorologically predictable occurrences for any wind plant.
The turbines were shut down when ice formed on the blades during the ice storm of Friday, Dec. 1, and came back online only after the ice had thawed from the blades at some point late Sunday.
The Independent Electrical Systems Operator (IESO) website showed that in the first hour of Monday (12:01 to 1 a.m.) the 45 turbines were generating power at about 50 per cent of their 68 megawatt nameplate capacity.
(The actual prices are a trade secret, but assuming Ontario’s wind plants get about 9 cents per kilowatt hour ($90 per megawatt hour) for power sold to Hydro One, if the Melancthon plant is operating at a typical winter capacity factor of 40, its production of about 27 megawatts would garner revenue of about $2,430 an hour. At that rate, the 168- hour shutdown meant about $400,000 in lost revenue.)
The shutdown came at a time when both the developer and local contractors were feeling a multi-million-dollar pain from the delay in approvals for Melancthon II, and area anti-turbine activist Frank Entwistle was using a National Post opinion piece and data from Energy Probe in his fight against the development.
It had also come at a time when at least two Dufferin municipalities – Amaranth and East Luther Grand Valley – were facing decisions with respect to turbine development: in Amaranth’s case, Official Plan amendments for about 23 of the proposed 88 turbines in the Melancthon II project; in ELGV’s, rezoning for six at Ashton Ridge.
Did the icing and shutdown have a significant impact on either the profitability of the turbines?
Does the probability of ice storms militate against turbines for this area? Should proponents partner with local fire departments to obtain telescoping ladder-equipped pumpers with which to apply some form of de-icing compound?
As well, questions arose about the veracity of the Energy Probe findings, and about the objectivity of the National Post’s opinion piece.
The icing, it turns out, was neither unexpected nor unplanned for.
“The wind resource tests also look at a climate check, including (such as) ice storms and temperatures. This is all taken into account (in the meteorological studies),” said Robert Hornung, president of the Canadian Wind Energy Association.
He said a proponent considers “strengths plus operating parameters, and assesses whether it makes economic sense in the long term.” Gavin Lowe, Canadian
Hydro’s wind division manager, also emphasized that his company takes a longterm view of output. Speaking from both the perspective of down time and of shortterm assessments made by anti-turbine interests, Mr. Lowe said:
“We do not usually look at the capacity factor (CF) on a monthly basis as the production for each month varies throughout the year; however, the annual capacity factor, which is based on long term wind data, is deemed important.
“The anticipated (annual) capacity factor for Melancthon I is around 32%. This does not mean that the machines only operate 32% of the time; it means that 32% of the possible output of the 45 turbines is obtained. Again, a 30+ CF is good for a wind plant.
“In addition, it is not fair to judge the first year of the plant’s performance in detail as there are obvious issues and teething pains associated with a new plant. The CF for the summer months will always be low at Melancthon because that is the least windy time of year. Also note that for 2006 the first three months were excluded, which have an anticipated CF of 53%, 36% and 41%, respectively. The anticipated CF for December is also 53%.”
Mr. Lowe added that 2006 has been so far a “low wind year.” And, he added: “The bottom line is the financiers look at the long term average for wind which reflects a plant’s CF and if it was in the 20% range for the long term the project would not be built.”
In addition to consideration of icing, the wind energy industry looks at temperature. Mr. Hornung said turbines are generally designed for temperatures as low as minus 30, but can be modified for minus 35. Those temperatures would seldom, if ever, apply to Dufferin County.
As the wind and weather factors are taken into account when assessing the potential for wind energy in any location, industry officials indicated it would be impractical to invest in specialized deicing equipment, if such were available.
By Wes Keller, Freelance Reporter
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