Will windmills lower our power bills or clear the air of carbon emissions? Yes and no.
Nova Scotia Power’s wind power program won’t make electricity cheaper or replace dirty coal anytime soon.
But the utility says recently announced wind projects will act as a “bridge for the future” for a “cleaner and greener” province.
NSP spokeswoman Glennie Langille says it is not as straightforward as swapping wind for coal and that wind power is intermittent.
“The benefit is cleaner generation,” she said.
The Nova Scotia government wants to boost the amount of electricity produced in the province by wind, solar, tidal and biomass technology to almost 20 per cent by 2013, up from 11 to 12 per cent today.
Will wind-generated electricity reduce NSP’s greenhouse gas emissions?
“That’s a good question,” said Ms. Langille, adding the wind-generated electricity will be used domestically. “There’s no doubt using wind displaces something . . . most of the time a fossil fuel.”
As for lowering electricity bills, that could happen in the long term, she says.
“Right now, wind power is not cheap,” says Ms. Langille. “In the long term, these contracts are good for customers because they could stabilize power rates.”
Kristen Overmyer questions the benefits for Nova Scotia of dotting the rural landscape with large windmills.
Mr. Overmyer, a mechanical engineer, and his wife, Susan, started visiting Baileys Brook, Pictou County, from Michigan as seasonal residents eight years ago. Since 2006, they have lived there year-round.
When he first moved to the area, he was interested in installing a wind turbine on his farm. But he has since changed his mind because of concerns about the noise and possible harm to migratory birds.
As part of NSP’s request for proposals, Shear Wind Inc. of Halifax has submitted a proposal to produce up to 108 megawatts of wind-generated electricity at a site near Mr. Overmyer’s home.
If its bid is successful, Shear Wind intends to have the facility operating in 2009.
The site to be developed, called Glen Dhu, is located on 2,420 hectares east of New Glasgow. But only part of the land will be used, according to documents filed with securities regulators.
Mr. Overmyer is frustrated by what he calls a lack of clarity about the benefits of wind power.
“I’m concerned that Nova Scotia Power is not giving us any specifics, and people are making decisions on falsehoods. They know there is a trade-off to having wind turbines and they think they are getting something positive in return – not burning coal,” he said Wednesday.
“I can’t believe they are this far into the process and can’t tell people what the immediate benefits are to Nova Scotians,” he said.
Ms. Langille refused to comment on Shear Wind’s proposal, but the firm is rumoured to be the next successful bidder in NSP’s call for more green energy.
She said the utility will be signing contracts “as appropriate” and not making any further comments.
NSP has already signed deals for slightly more than half of the 240 megawatts specified in its call for proposals.
The three deals announced so far are being called “long term” but no further details or the price to be paid per kilowatt hour are being released.
The Utility and Review Board, which oversees NSP, says it will not be reviewing the wind contracts until the next general rate increase application and if someone at that time indicates NSP has acted “imprudently,” said spokesman Paul Allen.
The secrecy surrounding the wind power contracts worries Brendan Haley of the Ecology Action Centre. He argues it makes it difficult for many to get into the market, including farmers and co-ops in rural Nova Scotia.
Mr. Haley said a fixed price, instead of the current competitive bidding process, would be more transparent.
“The public will know that we are paying a reasonable cost for wind-energy development to secure its economic and environmental benefits.”
By Judy Myrden
27 March 2008
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