Wind developers are facing a challenge – the availability of turbines.
High demand for those towers with sweeping blades that turn wind into electricity is creating a shortage, delegates to the third annual Renewable Energy Conference in Halifax heard Tuesday.
If you order now from a major manufacturer, you might not get turbines until 2010 or 2011, said Vikaas Rao-Aourpally, principal of SkyPower Corp., one of the largest wind developers in Canada, with headquarters in Toronto.
SkyPower recently teamed up with a community-owned company, Scotian WindFields Inc., to install 20 wind turbines in Digby Neck that will provide enough electricity for 10,000 homes. The companies have a 20-year purchase agreement with Nova Scotia Power for the wind-generated electricity.
Mr. Rao-Aourpally said his company took “mitigating measures” by buying wind turbines in advance.
SkyPower purchased 300 megawatts of wind turbines capacity last year from General Electric. It also has a wind project under development in Fermeuse, N.L.
Mr. Rao-Aourpally said the company was lucky but added it is not the best business practice to buy from one supplier.
SkyPower is owned by Lehman Brothers, a global investment bank, and was able to come up with the multimillion-dollar cost of turbines in advance.
“This doesn’t pose us as much of a problem as some other developers do,” Mr. Rao-Aourpally said. “It does pose a problem for us because we have to go into negotiations and secure 300 megawatts of wind turbines at a time, which is not the most practical thing to do.”
But he said it is “alarming” that manufacturers are favouring big orders.
The shortage may force smaller wind developers to shop around and enter partnerships, which is “not the easiest thing to do,” Mr. Rao-Aourpally said.
Absent from the two-day Halifax conference were manufacturers attending another event, WindPower 2008, in Texas. It is North America’s largest wind energy event, with more than 8,000 delegates, including manufacturers.
The wind turbine supply squeeze has been going on for at least three years, according to industry representatives, but it comes at a critical time for the Nova Scotia government.
The government wants to boost the amount of electricity produced in the province by wind, solar, tidal and biomass technology to about 20 per cent by 2013, up from 11 to 12 per cent today.
Nova Scotia Power has already signed deals with several wind companies for the more than 240 megawatts specified in its call for proposals last year.
Nova Scotia wind developers at the conference said they haven’t yet experienced delays in buying the equipment.
Reuben Burge president of RMSEnergy, based in Pictou County, is installing 34 turbines at Dalhousie Mountain, about 25 kilometres west of New Glasgow.
He has already purchased the turbines from manufacturers in Ontario and Quebec, he said.
Mr. Burge wants the wind turbines, which come with short-term warranties, to be running smoothly for the next 25 years.
“This is going to require a strong maintenance team to keep them going,” he said.
There are 41 wind turbines in Nova Scotia, providing enough electricity for about 17,000 homes. By the end of 2009, the extra 240 megawatts of green energy produced by wind will deliver enough electricity for 60,000 homes.
The conference continues today.
By Judy Myrden
4 June 2008
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