Local opposition to wind farms could be a stumbling block to relying on that power source instead of building the proposed Maritime Link, a Nova Scotia Power lawyer said Wednesday.
Terry Dalgleish made the suggestion during a provincial Utility and Review Board hearing in Halifax while questioning an interveners’ consultant about “local concerns” surrounding wind farms.
“It would be logical to expect that if wind penetration were to double or triple, or more, from what we’ve seen so far in Nova Scotia, that such concerns would loom larger, right?” the Calgary lawyer asked Paul Chernick.
Chernick, an energy expert working for the consumer advocate, agreed local concerns may increase if more wind farms were built. But the outcry wouldn’t likely be proportional to the amount of electricity being added to the grid, he said.
“If you have more (wind farm) sites, there are more places where you’re going to have to think about whether there are problems,” said Chernick, president of Arlington, Mass.-based Resource Insight Inc.
“On the other hand, as wind penetration rises, and people become used to seeing wind turbines, and accepting them as part of the landscape like they do utility poles, then the initial concerns about how they’ll affect the community … may decrease.”
While Nova Scotia Power’s lawyer pointed to local opposition being an obstacle, other backers of the $1.5-billion subsea cable plan have told the regulator that technical issues and cost are greater concerns.
NSP Maritime Link Inc., the cable’s would-be owner, has told the regulator that the grid would need 750 to 1,000 megawatts of wind capacity to be an alternative to the Link.
The system now has some 300 megawatts of wind. The amount will increase to about 500 megawatts in 2015, when three wind farms and several smaller community-based projects will be operational.
Potentially doubling that amount would give the province a wind capacity that is rarely seen anywhere in the world.
Denmark would be the only place with more wind power if Nova Scotia went that route, a provincial consultant testified earlier this week.
Nova Scotia Power officials have testified they believe it is technically possible to add that much wind power to the grid but further study is needed to determine the potential impact on system reliability.
On the cost front, NSP Maritime Link has said relying on wind farms would cost $1 billion to $1.9 billion more over 35 years than the cable proposal. That includes building natural gas fired-power plants to back up wind generation.
But critics of the Link plan say Emera Inc. and its affiliates have overestimated the amount of wind power that would be needed, used rosy load projections and are also off on their cost projections for other options.
Consultant Levitan & Associates, for instance, said wind or other power imports may cost ratepayers less in the long run than tapping into hydroelectric power from Labrador’s Muskrat Falls project.
Richard Levitan, the firm’s president, told the board Wednesday that the Link idea “has merit.” But he said it is “disappointing” that the proponents haven’t done a more detailed study of the project and alternatives.
“This is an extraordinary project and it rises to the level of meriting the most rigorous financial, engineering economic and econometric assessment,” said Levitan, whose Boston firm is working for the consumer and small-business advocates.
The board has until the end of July, under a government-imposed deadline, to rule on the Link plan.
The hearing, being held at Saint Mary’s University, enters its ninth day today.
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