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Winding up for wind power  

Newfoundland and Labrador has the best wind energy potential in Canada, says Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro – the frustrating part is trying to commercialize on it.

Jim Keating, Hydro’s vice-president of business development, gave an overview of wind potential in three key areas of this province to engineers and engineering students at Memorial University Thursday evening.

Last October, Hydro awarded NeWind Group Inc. a contract to install 14 1.8-megawatt wind turbines near the Burin Peninsula town of St. Lawrence, with the potential to provide energy for 6,800 homes. In December, Ottawa-based Vector Wind Energy was awarded a contract to install 12 two-megawatt wind turbines near the community of Fermeuse, on the Southern Shore. Both projects are expected to be up and running by the end of 2008.

Four wind-monitoring towers have been erected by Hydro in Labrador, sending satellite signals to a consultant, who then compiles reports on the data. Hydro expects to have a sense of the commercial viability of the site at the end of this year.

Hydro is also conducting a pilot project in Ramea, where it is supplementing wind power with diesel.

This province has an immense potential when it comes to providing wind power, Keating said, but its isolation from the rest of North America poses a challenge.

“In order for us to realize full capacity of our wind resource and our hydrogen resources, we need the ability to meet export markets,” he said. “Why we need export markets is because we need those significant returns in order to execute the large-scale projects that we have, so we’re able to then industrialize and drive the economy of the province from within. Our No. 1 hurdle is transmission.”

Keating said Hydro has identified key parts of the province with wind resource potential: Labrador, an interconnected system on the island, and 22 isolated areas throughout the province, from St. Brendan’s to Nain.

Besides the obvious environmental benefits to wind power, there are economic and social advantages, Keating explained.

He said, in many cases, wind-power projects spur rural development and tourism, and each megawatt of installed wind-energy capacity creates about 2.5 direct, and up to eight non-direct, person years of employment in the development, manufacturing, construction and operation of turbines.

Even some of the common arguments against turbines are “non-barriers,” Keating said.

“Wind turbines co-exist with just about every type of land use. Only between two and five per cent of any wind-park area is actually used for turbines, and you’ll see lots of photos on the Web, if you’re browsing, of farmers”š field cultivate a metre from the base of these towers,” he said.

The killing of birds is also not a problem, Keating said, since studies have shown the avian mortality rate due to turbines at one or two per turbine per year.

Early last year, a family in the southwestern Nova Scotia community of Lower West Pubnico left their home, claiming the inaudible low-frequency vibrations – called infrasound – emitted by 17 wind turbines in the community deprived them of sleep, gave them headaches and made it impossible to concentrate.

A study released by the federal Natural Resources Department last November concluded high levels of infrasound could not be detected from the family’s home.

“I believe in that case, the dwelling was maybe 300 metres from the base of the turbine. In Newfoundland and Labrador, we’re looking at minimum setbacks of a kilometre,” Keating said. “From studies we’ve seen so far, infrasound is not an issue at one kilometre plus.”

The turbines don’t make much of any kind of sound, he said.

“You can actually have a conversation at the base of one of these turbines when it’s in full operation, and if you go out about 300 metres from these turbines, it’s hardly perceived as a whisper.”

Keating said Hydro hopes to install more monitoring towers and undertake wind and hydrogen integration studies, in an effort to eventually “put us on the wind energy map in Canada.”

By Tara Mullowney
The Telegram

thetelegram.com

6 April 2007

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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