Environment Canada is not giving up on a plan to put wind turbines on Sable Island, despite the fact the project is over-budget and years behind schedule.
Jim Abraham, the director general of weather and environmental monitoring, said the project is still worth the money in order to reduce how much is spent on diesel fuel to run existing generators.
“It has its costs, but it certainly has its benefits. There will be pay back in the fuel savings. It’ll be over a longer period of time then we had originally anticipated, of course, ” he said Monday.
“But the environmental benefits will be immediate and the opportunity to apply this approach, or a modified approach from our lessons learned, to another remote area. We’ll take advantage of that.”
Environment Canada is hoping to harness the wind power on Sable Island to help power its installations on the Island.
But, so far all it has to show for the $1 million already invested is five turbines recharging a bank of batteries. That reserve power isn’t being used yet.
The project still needs another $660,000 investment and two more years’ work.
Abraham said the project is behind schedule because “Sable is a harsh place,” listing hurricanes, winter storms, sand blowing around and sea spray.
The project was first delayed by concerns over the safety of the birds that live on the island, among them the endangered roseate tern.
Environment Canada wanted to find a way to keep the birds from being struck by turbine blades or from colliding with the turbine towers and guy wires.
Once they figured a way to do that, they ran into technical problems. When engineers tested the system five years ago a key part of the system failed.
They’ve been working trying to redesign the system ever since to make it more robust and able to weather the rigours of Sable Island.
“We found out very quickly once the system was being tested that one of the parts failed. It may have been due to the environment, may have been due to the engineering design,” Abraham said.
“Nonetheless, the technology of today we’re confident will enable the system to be resilient.”
Abraham said it currently costs about $200,000 a year to keep the generators fueled.
The hope is wind power can cut costs by about 30 per cent or about $65,000 a year. The turbines are now scheduled to be working by 2013.
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