A renowned wind power expert says the Saskatoon area is the right place to built a $43-million wind farm he says could be funded by individuals without costing city taxpayers.
“I’ve known for a number of years that there is enormous wind resource stretching from Texas all the way up to Saskatchewan,” said James Glennie, the founder of Saskatoon Community Wind.
“When I arrived here a lot of people were talking about energy and people ask me why can’t we get more power from renewables?”
Glennie’s idea is to set up a 10-turbine wind farm just outside of Saskatoon and sell the electricity the farm generates back to the City of Saskatoon. The multimillion-dollar project would be entirely funded by interested individuals in Saskatoon who not only want to see more renewable resources, but also want to see a good return on their investment, he says.
“The wind industry is a relatively mature business and it’s very low risk and it’s a good reliable resource. I know that $43 million sounds like a lot, but when you put it in the context of $2,000 each from between 20,000 people, it’s not that much,” Glennie said.
Glennie moved to Saskatoon last summer. Before moving to Canada, he headed up large-scale wind power non-profits and lobby groups in New Zealand, the United States and United Kingdom.
He also previously worked for the Wind Energy Institute of Canada and says Saskatoon’s wind power resources are undeveloped.
Glennie estimates the project could create clean electricity for 16,000 people and the greenhouse gas reductions would be the equivalent of taking 10,000 cars off the road.
Saskatoon has had a troubled history with wind turbines. The wind turbine proposed atop the Saskatoon landfill died after the city’s administration said it will cost too much. The landfill wind project also raised the ire of many area residents, who said the turbine would be too loud and would pose health risks.
Glennie said his community initiative would avoid many of those pitfalls. It would be built outside of the city, away from any residential development, and because it would be financed by community members, there would be more accountability when it comes to environmental concerns.
Rick Retzlaff, an engineer at the University of Saskatchewan who was critical of the landfill turbine, says Glennie’s idea is feasible, even though more detailed work needs to be done.
“I think it’s a very interesting, cool idea. Let me start off there,” Retzlaff said. “However, the area around Saskatoon doesn’t generally have good wind resources so they will need to make sure they do a proper wind assessment before they go forward.”
The study done on the landfill project said the wind at that site was only marginal, but Retzlaff did admit there were likely places near Saskatoon where the turbines could run more efficiently.
Glennie says the idea is still in its infancy and he is in the process of gauging public support, but as a trained financial analyst he believes the economics of the project are sound.
“Wind energy is growing really rapidly around the world today and it’s doing that because it works. I am very confident that it can work here,” he said.
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