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NB Power is generally less enthusiastic about the potential of wind and has been open about that. In his own presentation to the same committee, NB Power President Keith Cronkhite told MLAs wind often performs poorly on crisp cold winter days when it is needed most and that makes it difficult to rely on. "We don't have that wind diversity that says we can always count on wind blowing regardless of the conditions," said Cronkhite. "Based on technology that we see today it will not solve for those cold days in the winter."
A wind farm proposed by Saint John Energy on the western outskirts of the city is finally under construction despite a refusal by NB Power to allow use of its nearby transmission lines to transport the electricity the windfarm will generate.
NB Power cited legal constraints for the rejection and although it has added an estimated $6 million in costs to the Burchill Wind Project, Saint John Energy is proceeding anyway.
“Saint John Energy made a business decision to move forward with building our own line connecting the Burchill Wind Project to our distribution system,” said Saint John Energy’s Jessica Delong in an email this week.
Saint John Energy is one of NB Power’s single largest customers.
It is hoping to generate up to 150,000 megawatt hours of electricity per year from 10 windmills, enough to replace about 15 per cent of the electricity Saint John Energy buys from NB Power.
That will save it “millions of dollars each year,” according to Saint John Energy President Ryan Mitchell.
The wind project is a sign of Saint John Energy’s emergence as an outspoken champion of renewable energy in New Brunswick. And increasingly the municipal utility has displayed a willingness to work around and even against NB Power to pursue that vision.
Louise Comeau with the New Brunswick Conservation Council said environmentalists have taken notice.
“I know very well, Saint John Energy is a progressive utility that wants to do good things,” said Comeau. “And they should be supported in doing it.”
In an appearance in front of the legislature’s standing committee on climate change in January, Mitchell told MLAs he believes the public wants action on the environment and claimed wind generation could deliver on that if unleashed.
“There is significant opportunity to develop low-cost onshore wind energy” said Mitchell.
“Climate change action is not only supported but is expected and it presents an opportunity for, I’ll suggest a war time-like effort or call to action that could prove to be a real province building initiative.”
NB Power is generally less enthusiastic about the potential of wind and has been open about that.
In his own presentation to the same committee, NB Power President Keith Cronkhite told MLAs wind often performs poorly on crisp cold winter days when it is needed most and that makes it difficult to rely on.
“We don’t have that wind diversity that says we can always count on wind blowing regardless of the conditions,” said Cronkhite.
“Based on technology that we see today it will not solve for those cold days in the winter.”
The sharply differing views by the two utilities are showing up in other forums as well.
Last week Saint John Energy filed evidence sharply critical of NB Power in an upcoming Energy and Utilities Board hearing that will, in part, deal with wind energy issues.
NB Power is seeking approval for rates and charges it needs to operate its transmission system and one proposal is to raise fees to “wind power generators” that cover the costs of balancing their up and down output.
NB Power has the responsibility to fill gaps caused by rising and falling wind generation in New Brunswick, northern Maine and Prince Edward Island and is proposing to raise what it charges by 366 per cent, from $0.44 per megawatt hour to $2.05.
Saint John Energy’s evidence, prepared by US consultant John Dalton, questions that increase and suggests NB Power is in danger of undermining the development of wind energy in the province by exaggerating the cost of coping with wind generation on its electrical grid.
“Overstating these costs can forestall the development of a critical resource that can play a valuable role in allowing New Brunswick to achieve its carbon reduction goals,” said Dalton in his presentation.
Neither NB Power nor Saint John Energy would comment further about that criticism in advance of the full hearing in April.
The Burchill wind farm is scheduled to be completed and generating electricity in December.
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