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P.E.I. could be using more wind power: Summerside utility

Maritime Electric’s claim that P.E.I. can’t integrate more than 30 per cent of P.E.I. wind power into its energy grid was called into question during the P.E.I. Energy Commission hearings Thursday.

Terry Murphy, who presented on behalf of Summerside’s municipally owned electric utility, said the city of Summerside is currently generating 50 per cent of its energy from wind power.

And he believes this number could go even higher.

“One might ask how it was concluded that 30 per cent is the upper limit,” Murphy told the commission Thursday.

“We would suggest that the use of energy storage systems would permit this number to increase even more.”

Summerside’s electric utility currently buys nine megawatts of wind power from a privately owned wind farm and produces another 12 megawatts of wind energy from its own turbines. The utility is now using electric thermal storage units housed within its customers’ residences to store excess power generated by the wind turbines for later use.

When the wind is blowing, especially at night when electricity demand is lower, the thermal storage space heaters and hot water heaters are used to ‘charge’ excess energy, which can then be released later when needed.

Murphy told the commission it should examine this storage model and others involving hydro before accepting long-time claims from Maritime Electric that only 30 per cent of P.E.I.’s energy can come from wind power.

“We would encourage the commission to become more active in understanding the value of energy storage and how it can overcome some of the present concerns, such as the timeline on the need of a third power cable (from P.E.I. to New Brunswick) and the percentage of wind that could be developed on P.E.I.,” Murphy said.

Carl Brothers, who later presented on behalf of Frontier Power Systems Inc., said he also believes the potential exists for further wind energy to be used in P.E.I.

He said more research and development should be done to look at the true potential of wind energy use in the province.

“There’s huge potential there for additional energy… We’ve said 30 per cent is the limit. I’m not sure it’s the limit because we don’t know.”

Brothers pointed out that Hydro Quebec has experts who claim it can only integrate 10 per cent of renewable energy into its energy grid.

“Prince Edward Island is getting 30 per cent, Summerside is getting 50 per cent and Hydro Quebec can only get 10 per cent? It’s a bit silly,” he said.

“I don’t know the number, but I know it’s bigger. We just need to get some research working on this to figure out what it is.”

The energy commission will travel to Summerside for more public meetings on the cost and management of energy in P.E.I. The next meeting is scheduled for Feb. 27 at Three Oaks High School at 6:30 p.m.