A large windmill could generate almost enough power to run the Buffalo Lake pumping station, according to data just presented to the Buffalo Lake Management Team.
A year-long study into the possibility of running the station with wind power found that a 1.5 megawatt turbine on an 80 metre-high windmill would generate about 2.9 gigawatts of power a year. That is slightly less than what the team had hoped to find, Al Corbett, manager of water management operations for the Environment Albert’s central and northern region, said Friday.
Corbett said the goal was 3.2 gigawatts a year.
That amount of power would lower the station’s electricity bills during the six months it runs, he said, and the money earned sending power to the grid the rest of the year would completely eliminate electricity costs.
Interim chair of the management team, John Pearson, said the results of the study, released Thursday, doesn’t mean the group is turning its back on wind generation.
He said members of the wind study committee will be consulting with engineers and studying the data before deciding what to do next.
The pumping station pulls water from the Red Deer River between May and October and transports it to the lake to maintain water levels.
Pearson estimates the electricity costs for the station ranges from $500,000 to $600,000 a year.
He said having some form of wind generation might be worthwhile even if it doesn’t completely eliminate that bill.
“What we’re trying to do is trying to find a more sustainable way to continue pumping because that’s a fairly big power bill every year,” he said. “If this could cut it down it might be worthwhile.”
Pearson said engineers will also be studying whether more power could be generated if the windmill was moved to a different site.
The data showed gusts at the test site were only strong enough for the windmill to run at about 50 or 60 per cent of capacity, Pearson said.
“We’ll be talking to the engineers about whether there may be a site that is actually a little bit better than a tested site in terms of getting more wind,” he said. “There are not a lot of places it can go since we need to be close to a transmission line, but there might be a better option.”
Three testing windmills used in the study were set up at various altitudes along the Red Deer River, all within 200 metres of the pumping station.
Pearson said the team might also look into using multiple smaller windmills as opposed to one large one.
“If we can get smaller windmills that work at capacity and therefore create more power, that might be an option,” he said.
Pearson estimated it will be months before the team has decided what route it will take.
As for when an actual wind mill and generator could be built, Pearson said that is years away.
If a single large windmill was to be built, it would likely cost more than $2 million, Corbett said.
“We would definitely need some sort of funding help from somewhere if this does go forward,” he said.
The data for the wind study was collected between October 2006 and October 2007, using specially designed windmills paid for with $100,000 from the provincial government.
Corbett said the data collected will be shared with Alberta’s Ministry of Advanced Education and Technology to help others looking into similar projects.
“Where we sit today in terms of understanding what it takes to do wind generation, we are 100 times more knowledgeable then where we were two years ago,” said Pearson. “That is valuable knowledge.”
By Ashley Joannou
28 March 2008
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