Research conducted by Memorial University is testing wind power as a reliable source of energy for Labrador’s coastal communities.
Dr. Tariq Iqbal, associate professor with Memorial’s Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science, has been working on renewable energy systems for coastal Labrador. Last year, he completed a study in Battle Harbour, which demonstrated that a wind hybrid system could reduce diesel consumption from 30,000 litres per year to 13,000 litres resulting in a 57 per cent decrease. These tests were conducted from June to September.
Right now, he is investigating whether the same results can be found using hybrid energy technology in Port Hope Simpson and Cartwright. With oil prices reaching $88 per barrel and expected to rise much higher in the future, Dr. Iqbal feels the time is right to start thinking about alternative energy.
“Labrador communities depend on the availability of cheap energy from crude oil. Survival of these remote communities depends on the availability of cheap energy. I think these communities will not survive unless they switch to renewable sources of energy within the next few years, explained Mr. Iqbal.
The problem is selling the idea of alternative energy to the coast. After the energy plan was released and no transmission lines were promised to the north and south coasts it put alternative energy on the backburner for many coastal residents.
Roxanne Notley, Executive Director of the Aurora Development Corporation feels no decision has been made on wind energy development on the south coast.
“We are not totally convinced about wind energy. The reason is because we just don’t have enough information to validate our argument. So we used a proactive approach to determine if wind diesel would provide enough wind energy for now and in the future.”
She trusts this research funded by MUNs Harris Centre will yield accurate information.
“They have a reputable reputation. I think whatever comes out as a result of this study, it is not our suggestions, but will come from research that is very well respected throughout the province and throughout the country,” she said.
Coastal residents still have apprehension about any alternative energy possibilities.
“I did hear some comments from people. Most thought, ‘oh my goodness, we are not getting wind power are we.’ They are very worried, and scared that this is something that is going to be our alternative,” noted Mrs. Notley.
The problem with wind and diesel powered generation is that it is not reliable for taking on huge energy loads. A hybrid system brings together multiple kinds of technologies such as hydro, wind, and solar into a single system. When the wind is not blowing it takes energy from the other, or from batteries that you can charge during fluctuation periods. Some newer hybrid models are using fuel cells to store energy such as the wind farm in Ramea.
The only drawback is a moratorium Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro has on the development of new small hydro developments in the province. The combination of hydro and wind has proven to form one of the most tangible renewable energy systems.
“That has been our plan from the beginning. We want hydropower. We have the possibility of small hydropower right in our region that we are not benefiting from. This means we are not getting the power we need to supply and drive our own industries, and homes. Our priority and commitment is to have that type of power to attract new investments and to enhance the quality of life,” contended Mrs. Notley.
Dr. Ray Gosine, Dean of the Faculty of Engineering at Memorial University thinks micro hydro is not a make or brake deal when it comes to alternative energy.
“It is nice to have other energy possibilities that will provide you with the best source of power. When it comes to hybrid systems, hydro it is just one of the choices you can include in your system.”
Despite the fight over a transmission line for the north and south coasts he feels alternative energy has a role to play regardless of the politics.
“I think, technically, these hybrid systems have been deployed all over the world. They are capable of delivering high quality power. I think in the end which systems go into which areas depends to a large extent on what energy system is conducive to the site you are looking at and what are the various options to supply those sites.”
By Jamie Tarrant
22 October 2007
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