The industry association that represents the nation’s wind power generators has partnered with Alberta’s electric system operator for a ground-breaking study into wind forecasting that could open the door to billions of dollars in wind power investment.
The study of Alberta’s wind resource is seen as a key step in allowing this province’s wind generation industry – already Canada’s largest – to expand beyond a 900-megawatt limit the Alberta Electric System Operator imposed in May 2006.
With help from the Alberta government, the Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA) and the AESO announced Wednesday the one-year, $1-million study will get underway in March paving the way for more wind power in Alberta.
“As a renewable energy source, wind power offers an environmentally friendly way to generate electricity for Alberta’s homes and businesses,” noted Alberta Energy Minister Mel Knight.
Alberta has billions of dollars in potential wind power – widely seen as environmentally friendly and indefinitely renewable, with no fuel cost.
But the industry here has been stymied by limitations around both transmission and the impact on provincewide energy supply reliability.
While wind power is highly desirable and is increasingly competitive with more traditional coal-fired and gas-fired generation, its variability – sometimes the wind blows, sometimes it doesn’t – has sent up caution flags for the AESO and overseers in other jurisdictions.
The Calgary-based operator of Alberta’s electric system has capped wind power at 10 per cent of the province’s generating capacity; however, in other jurisdictions where wind patterns and timing are better understood, wind generation has risen to as much as 25 per cent of jurisdictions’ generating capacity.
Warren Frost, the AESO’s vice-president of operations and reliability, emphasized that understanding the wind’s patterns is not sufficient by itself to necessarily allow more wind power generation.
The nature and size of other generation, such as solar, hydro-electric, coal-fired, gas fired or nuclear; the capacity and routing of transmission and the size and number of links to other jurisdictions are all key determinants, he said.
CanWea president Robert Hornung called the study “a very important milestone for wind developers in Alberta,” who have built about 360 megawatts of generating capacity across Wild Rose Country since the industry got its start here in the early 1980s.
“Wind forecasting is fundamental to the continued successful development of wind power in Alberta because it provides a valuable tool to manage the variable nature of wind and enables more wind to be added to the Alberta power generation mix,” Hornung noted.
Frost said Alberta’s wind generating capacity will rise to about 545 megawatts at the end of 2007. It could hit the 900-megawatt cap as early as 2008. The province’s total current installed capacity is about 11,500 megawatts.
By Geoffrey Scotton
CanWest News Service
22 February 2007
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