With viable wind energy in the works, Alberta Electrical Systems Operator (AESO) is holding a series of open houses across southern Alberta this month.
The open houses have a dual purpose. On one hand, they allow AESO to create awareness for its wind energy plans in southern Alberta. At the same time, it gives local residents an opportunity to voice their concerns and opinions while development is still in the planning stages.
“Right now, we’re at the problem/definition stage,” said AESO spokesman Matt Gray. “The key is to get input at the front end.”
AESO is a statutory, not-for-profit corporation directed by the Department of Energy and overseen by the Energy Utilities Board (EUB).
“We do the planning studies to determine what needs to be done,” Gray said.
The aim is to create a feasible network of wind energy tied to the power grid throughout southern Alberta. The problem, however, is how to harness reliable power from such a variable source.
“Wind is variable and unpredictable,” said Bill Strongman, director of regional system planning for AESO, adding that the goal of the project is to harness that energy and make it viable as a part of a system that requires stability.
“It’s a formidable challenge, for sure,” Strongman said.
Currently, there are more than 500 megawatts of wind energy on the grid provincewide, enough to power three cities the size of Red Deer.
However, there are about 6,000 megawatts of additional wind energy waiting to come on the grid in southern Alberta. And that number is rising, Strongman said.
“(Having that energy) would be a significant advantage.”
The area between Claresholm and Calgary is in need of additional power to strengthen its supply; that’s where AESO hopes wind power will come into play, improving the grid throughout that area.
Another concern is transmission lines.
AESO is considering two types of lines, one above ground and one below, which would cost more to install.
“It’s a matter of what are the reasonable trade-offs,” Strongman said.
AESO can’t do it all on its own – a point the group stressed continuously throughout the open house in Nanton last Thursday.
“This project is right at the ground floor,” Gray said, adding that AESO is holding a string of open houses and meetings with various municipalities and towns to gather as much input as they can from the people who will be most affected by the project.
“Ratepayers fund our work,” Gray said. “(We’re) serving public need, so the public needs to be a part of it.”
The locations of the open houses were chosen to make them accessible to a maximum number of people; however, the AESO is willing to come to other communities if there is interest, Gray said.
By Aaron Carr
20 November 2007
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