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Study shows wind potential

PORT HARDY – When and where the wind blows could be an important consideration in future energy plans.

A recent study that used data from the proposed Sea Breeze Knob Hill Wind Farm near Port Hardy, showed that combining resources makes sense.

The study compared data recorded every 10 minutes in 2007 on Knob Hill with data from the Columbia River Gorge in the U.S.

The study showed that the wind farms windpower capacity complemented one another meaning that Knob Hill could fill in the “gaps” when the Columbia winds were calm and vice versa. This was particularly apparent for the winter months when the load on the power grid is greatest.

“This study really doesn’t have anything to do with our plans on Knob Hill,” said Paul Manson, CEO of Sea Breeze Power Corp. “But it shows the potential importance of wind energy on the northwest coast of Vancouver Island and the Central Coast of B.C.”

That’s because when the wind is blowing here, it may not be in the Columbia River Gorge and elsewhere.

“When it’s blowing in one place, it’s not blowing in the other,” said Manson. “If the two regions were to combine wind resources we could deliver something reasonably stable in terms of predictability. This is very different from the gerneral view of wind power as a local or isolated resource.”

And wind could be combined with other power producers such as hydroelectricity to improve stability.

“Dams in B.C. rely on snowpack for reliability in the coming year,” said Manson. “They are depleting water reserves all winter. Large dams were built on the basis of stable climate conditions but with climate change they are moving into areas of unpredictability. Less snow and more rain drastically affects our resource in hydroelectricity. Wind hedges against catastrophic events in the future.”

But before combining resources could happen, reliable transmission lines would be essential, said Manson echoing the calls by local government for an upgrade to transmission lines to the North Island.

“It’s not just the wind, it’s how we move it to market,” said Manson.

The Knob Hill Wind Farm is expected to begin generating power in 2012.