Producing enough energy for power-hungry Ontario is one challenge the province will face in coming years.
Making sure this power actually gets to where it’s going is a whole other matter.
“You can well imagine that at some point the wires that carry all this electricity are not going to be sufficient,” said Tim Taylor, Ontario Power Authority (OPA) spokesman. “There are technical reality constraints.”
Currently, there is a grid capacity restriction in the Hydro One transmission facilities of 450 megawatts in the area between London and Windsor – an issue that would limit the amount of wind turbines built.
However, Taylor said a planned $600-million project will increase capacity across the province.
“The major constraint (in Chatham-Kent) will be largely alleviated when the Bruce to Milton transmission line is completed, and it’s expected to be early in the next decade,” he said.
For anyone confused by what exactly Bruce and Milton have to do with Chatham-Kent, Taylor said power comes out of the Bruce area two ways: through southwestern Ontario, and also east through Milton.
“If we increase the capacity of the Bruce to Milton line, it means some of the capacity does not have to come south through your system,” he said.
Taylor said while it takes time for such projects to develop, it doesn’t mean that additional power can’t be planned for in advance.
“Once we have our sights set on an actual in-service date for that transmission line, we may well be in a position to begin to attract more renewable capacity in those areas that are currently constrained,” he said.
The draft request for proposals for renewable energy supply (RES III) will be released this month and involves approximately 500 megawatts.
Taylor said the province also has to deal with infrastructure for other existing energy sources, such as nuclear and coal.
By 2025, the OPA hopes 40 per cent of the province’s energy will be renewable, through sources such as hydro, biomass, solar and wind.
Right now, that figure sits at approximately 20 per cent.
“Wind is a very big contributor to that,” Taylor said. “Wind doesn’t blow all the time, so you have to have other generation resources.”
He called Ontario’s course of action a realistic approach to meeting the target.
However, he rejected using the term “subsidy” to describe incentives available to wind energy companies.
“We represent the ratepayers, so our goal is to keep costs down,” he said.
“(Our programs) give some assurance to developers that, over a period of 20 years, they can be certain they’ll make a reasonable rate of return.”
Taylor called it public policy that the private sector will play a role to ensure the public sector “is in the game.”
He said Ontarians are beginning to come to grips with infrastructure challenges not only in electricity, but also water, sewers and roads.
“It’s one thing to deal with these things on a macro level,” he said. “It’s certainly an entirely different thing to have the community understand the issues, deal with the issues and respond to the issues.”
Tom Storey, of Storey Samways Planning, said while some residents are concerned about hundreds of turbines popping up in Chatham-Kent, only so many projects will actually be approved.
He appreciated the way the energy capacity issue was being looked at.
“I think its a good practice. They’ve taken a conservative approach as to what the grid can handle,” he said. “In order to accommodate the potential down here – given the wind regime and what would be an acceptable density of turbines – I think they will have to spend a lot of money improving the system.”
Storey said other countries recognized the need for renewable energy some time ago.
He estimated there are close to 100,000 wind turbines already built around the world.
“Despite reports that certain jurisdictions are cutting back on their approvals or on subsidies, it may be a sign they’ve reached their goal,” he said.
By Trevor Terfloth
9 June 2008
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